HC Deb 04 April 1889 vol 334 cc1670-6

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

The taking this Bill to-night is altogether unexpected. We are now approaching the most serious part of the Bill, and I really think some time should be given for consideration. With that view I beg to move that the Chairman do Report progress.

Motion made, "That the Chairman do report Progress."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)


I hope the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press that Motion. The Bill is a very simple one and excites a good deal of favourable interest, as was evidenced last Wednesday, when I presented a Petition in its favour signed by 80,000 persons. I hope the hon. Member will allow us to proceed.


I make the Motion out of no hostility to the Bill, but simply because I, in common, I am sure, with many other Members, have no knowledge of it.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I quite sympathize with the hon. Member's motive in making the Motion. I have myself often made protests against rushing legislation in this manner, though I am bound to say the reason does not lie in the same degree against this Bill. I would rather add my appeal to that of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, that the Bill may be allowed to proceed. The hour is not late, and we might go on a little further. I have myself some question to raise in relation to Clause 7. I am certainly not anxious to have such heavy penalties imposed without due consideration, and shall be inclined to propose the substitution of £10 for £20.


The question has been put that the clause stand part of the Bill.


In this respect the Bill is based on the provisions of the "Public Health Act, 1875" and the Margarine Act. I did not think this Bill should be more or less stringent than those Acts, and therefore I inserted the £20 penalty. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Member.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

I hope the hon. Member will withdraw his Motion and allow this most useful and necessary Bill to go forward.


If there is a general desire to proceed I will not stand in the way.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

*MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

Are not the penalties in the Bill illusory after all? Have not the magistrates under the Summary Jurisdiction Act the right, which they usually exercise, to reduce penalties to a nominal amount for a first offence?


The hon. Member is quite right, and I do not think it is advisable to leave no discretion and say the penalty shall be £10 or £20. We give a maximum, but in ordinary circumstances the magistrate would enforce a penalty under that.


Is it not well to specify that the penalty shall not be less than a certain amount?

MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

Will the Attorney General say if in such cases there is an alternative of so many days' imprisonment in default of fine? Perhaps I ought to know without asking the question?


I am afraid I ought to know, but my recollection of the clauses of the Summary Jurisdiction Act is not sufficient to enable me to answer.

Clause added to the Bill.

Clause 7.

Motion made that this Clause stand part of the Bill.


On this I would like to suggest to the hon. Member in charge of the Bill that there are other kinds of flesh of inferior quality, such as that of dogs and cats, the sale of which, under the guise of wholesome meat, it is desirable to prohibit. I do not suggest that part of a dog or cat could not be mistaken for a joint of beef or mutton, but there is this difficulty, that the provisions of the Bill are directed against the sale of horseflesh, in a form which I might call in puris naturalibus—in its simple and raw state as killed. But there is no provision for preventing a butcher or other person from selling horseflesh made up in a different form that would conceal its real character. Has the hon. Gentleman considered if his Bill meets such a case?


The object of the Bill is principally to protect poor people who go to low butchers' shops and ask for pounds of meat. They are served with pounds of horseflesh, with pieces of mutton or beef fat skewered on to disguise it. The fat of horseflesh is easily distinguishable from that of beef or mutton; it is the lean of horseflesh that is palmed off upon these poor people. Of course, the hon. Member alludes to horseflesh made up into sausages. I have gone into the question, and I may say that I intend sausages to come within the scope of the Bill. It may interest the hon. Member to know that there is no difficulty in detecting horseflesh in sausages and polonies. In order not to waste time now, I will only refer the hon. Member to an article by Dr. Bell, of the Inland Revenue Department, in the Chemical News of January 14, 1887, in which he will find out how horseflesh may be distinguished, and I will tell him that not only the flesh of horses, but also the flesh of mules and of asses, which is included in the Bill, may be recognized anatomatically, physically, and chemically.

Clause added to Bill.

Clause 8.

Question proposed that the Clause stand part of the Bill.

*MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

I observe that the local authorities here appointed are the Commissioners of Sewers, the Vestries, and the District Boards, and to them the medical officers are to report. Now the County Council is about to appoint a Medical Officer of Health for the whole of London, may I suggest that he may have concurrent power with these other local officers, and that they should perform this function under the supervision of the County Council? I hope the hon. Member will not object to words being inserted to that effect, such words as "under the supervision of the County Council."


No one could assent to that. Concurrent authority should always be awarded where it is possible. Concurren authority has the effect of taking away authority from both parties. Unquestionably, in a large town like London authority should be exercised by authorities within a limited area.


But the officers might act under County Council supervision.


No. I think, surely, the Local Authorities may be trusted, and can act better individually within their own area.

Clause added to Bill.

Clause 9.

Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I think the Committee would be glad to hear from the hon. Member who, I must admit, is exceedingly learned on the subject with which his Bill deals, and possibly has a reason for an unusual course. He has said that the object of the Bill is to protect poor people from being imposed upon by being sold horse flesh instead of other food. If horse flesh is, when kept, not so labelled it is to be liable to be seized. But why, by this Clause 9 is the Bill not to be extended to Ireland and Scotland? Are not our poor people equally exposed to this imposition, or are we to accept the doctrine of Dr. Barr as the Chief Secretary does, that it is not quality, but quantity of food that is there regarded?


I may tell the hon. Member that I have taken great pains to acquire information in regard to England, Scotland, and Ireland; and, so far as that information enables me to judge, there is at present no sale of horseflesh in Scotland or Ireland. I gathered my information from inquiries made at Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick, and Waterford; but, of course, if the hon. Member can show me the slightest reason for extending the Bill to Ireland, I have no objection to its extension.


I think the hon. Member had better follow the precedent of the Coercion Act, which is intended to be permanent, whether there is crime or not. This Bill is intended to be permanent, and though no horseflesh is sold now, the time may come when it may be.

*Ms. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I hope the hon. Member will agree to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton), made, I suppose, with a view to horseflesh finding its way into the Lord Mayor's Banquet at Dublin.


Without agreeing with the correctness of the analogy, the right hon. Gentleman has certainly shown good reason why the Bill should extend to Ireland and Scotland. Though horseflesh is not sold now, it may be hereafter. I hope, therefore, my hon. Friend will not object to the clause being struck out. It will also be desirable, I think, on Report to insert a clause to make it clear that the Bill applies to horseflesh when mixed with other matter or alone. It is quite possible that the contention might be raised that the Bill only applies to horseflesh when sold alone.


If the Bill is made applicable to Scotland and Ireland the clause will have to be amended that deals with the exercise of power by the local authorities. As it now stands it has reference to England only.


On Report the necessary alteration may be made.

MR.ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I quite agree that the Bill should apply to Scotland.

Question put. Clause omitted. Clause 10 added to Bill.

New Clause.

This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and ninety.—(Mr. Knowles.)

Clause read a second time and added to Bill.

Bill reported; as amended to be considered upon Monday next.