HC Deb 11 May 1875 vol 224 cc510-3

Clause 21 (Proceedings against offenders).


moved, in page 7, line 5, after "by," to insert "the Inland Revenue Department, Somerset House, whose certificate shall be final." He believed the trade were extremely jealous of the certificate given by the analyst at Quarter Sessions, but would be contented with the certificate of the Inland Revenue Department.


said, his hon. Friend in his Amendment had somewhat confused the function of the Judge and analyst. He could not accept it, on the ground that it proposed to leave the final decision on questions of adulteration with the Department of Somerset House. That decision must rest with the Courts of Law. He would prefer that the hon. Member should allow the hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) to put his Amendment on the same point, as it seemed to him to meet it better. He was willing on the part of the Inland Revenue Commissioners to undertake the duties of analyzing, without, however, giving to their decision any character of finality if it could be challenged on any subsequent analysis.


said, it was admitted that there were very few competent analysts to be found, and believed that there had been several miscarriages of justice throughout the country. Speaking on behalf of traders he had to say that they were not at all disposed to object that their goods should be thoroughly examined; but they desired that the examination should be made thoroughly, certainly, and sensibly. In the majority of cases the examination had been neither thorough, nor certain, nor sensible. In one case a gentleman who had filled the office of high sheriff of the county of Anglesey had been fined for selling the finest green tea, and in the county of Northampton several traders had been fined for selling coffee adulterated with acorns. Some samples of the coffee were sent to London to be examined, and it was found that there was not a particle of acorn in the coffees, whereupon the local analyst admitted that he had made a mistake. In regard to cocoa persons had been charged with adulterating it with sugar, flour, and honey—in no civilized country was it prepared otherwise—and on the certificates given there had been many convictions. He believed that all pepper contained a certain amount of silica; but a certificate had been given that a sample of pepper contained 1 per cent of siliceous matter, on which a trader, but for wiser counsels prevailing, would have been fined. Personally, he should rather like to see all the analyses which might be necessary under the Act left to the Department at Somerset House. This would be a cheaper and more satisfactory course than the one proposed in the Bill. He quite agreed in the observation that if the chemists at Somerset House were made the sole analysts for the purposes of this Bill, it would largely prevent adulteration, while the ratepayers would be gainers by the change. He did not think that it was fair that the same magistrates who in Petty Sessions had the appointment of the local analysts should afterwards at Quarter Sessions determine appeals from the reports of those persons. He should therefore support the Amendment.


remarked that the scarcity of competent analysts now complained of was owing to the sudden demand for their services, which was the consequence of recent legislation. It would, however, be every year less and less felt. The personnel at the laboratory at Somerset House consisted of a principal, a deputy principal, eight permanent assistants, and eight temporary assistants, and it was impossible that such a staff could get through the enormous amount of work that would be thrown upon it under the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), and it could not be increased without great cost to the country. With regard to the finality of the Somerset House certificate, the view of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was, in his opinion, the true one. An analyst was not a Judge, nor had he to find a trader guilty of adulteration. He had simply to report upon the samples submitted to him. The method of appeal provided for England was not so satisfactory as that provided for Scotland; but the proposed Amendment was not the way to remedy matters. In Eng- land the appeal was to be from Petty Sessions to Quarter Sessions, whereas in Scotland it was from the Justices to the Sheriff. He suggested that the County Court would be the most suitable court of appeal.


said, that in accepting the proposal that all the analyses should be conducted at Somerset House the Government were incurring considerable responsibility. He should wish to know what security the Government had that the assistants at Somerset House were properly qualified for the discharge of such important duties as were about to be thrown upon them by this Bill, because it was evident that the salaries they received were not such as the first chemists in the country would be entitled to. He, however, should not divide the Committee on the Amendment, because he merely wished to point out to the Government the dangerous responsibility they had taken upon themselves in accepting this Amendment.


said, he was willing to waive his Amendment in favour of that of the hon. Member for Leicestershire.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved, in page 7, to leave out line 6 and to end of Clause, and insert— By persons to be appointed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who shall thereupon make the analysis, and give a certificate to such justices of the result of the analysis; and the expense of such analysis shall be paid by the complainant or the defendant as the justices may by order direct. He was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman had accepted his Amendment.


would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicestershire, and Her Majesty's Government were quite aware of the responsibility they were taking upon themselves by so doing.


observed, that the analyses conducted at Somerset House would command the confidence of the country.


said, he was glad the Government had consented to give a better security for the skill and competence of the analysts, inasmuch as practically the decision of the Justices would always be governed by the analyst's report.


said, he thought cases might arise in which it would not be desirable to make either the complainant or the defendant pay the expense of the analysis, and that some discretion in this respect ought to be left to the Justices. Up to this time the public had not had confidence in the analysts, but he hoped the result of the debate would be to restore that confidence. He thought the Amendment would be better without the alteration of the hon. Member for Leicestershire.


was of opinion that the terms of the Amendment were too vague. He suggested that the words "the chemical officers in the employment of the Inland Revenue" should be substituted for the words "some persons to be appointed by the Commissioners."


suggested that the clause should be withdrawn for the present in order that the Government might have an opportunity of re-considering it.


said, he thought it of importance that analysts should be examined as to their literary as well as their scientific qualifications.


approved of the suggestion that the articles should be sent to the Inland Revenue Office for examination.

Amendment, with the substituted words, agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

And it being now five minutes to Seven of the clock, the House suspended its sitting.

Th House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present, House adjourned at ten minutes after Nine o'clock.