HC Deb 25 February 1896 vol 37 cc1066-8
MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture, whether the word "butter," being defined in the Margarine Act, 1887, is, in the view of the Board of Agriculture, a false trade description within the meaning of The Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, when applied to butter adulterated with margarine; and, why is it that a Customs entry being under the Merchandise Marks Act, 1891, a trade description, the Board of Agriculture do not put in force the power of forfeiting adulterated butter at the port of entry under the powers given to them by the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, and the Customs Consolidated Act, 1876, Section 42?


The application of the word "butter" in relation to butter adulterated with margarine, either in the Customs entry or otherwise, would be the application of a false trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Acts, and if, upon the arrival and examination of goods, the officer of Customs was satisfied that there had been an infringement of the law in this respect, it would be competent for him to detain them, with a view to proceedings being taken for their forfeiture, if the circumstances justified it. The difficulty in the way of the adoption of this course, however, lies in the fact that until an analysis of the butter has been made, it is impossible to say that it is adulterated, and goods of a perishable character could not well be detained in the absence of special information as to the existence of adulteration. The suggestion of the hon. Member will doubtless, however, receive the consideration of the Select Committee which has now been re-appointed.


asked whether butter taken for analysis and found to be adulterated was confiscated under the powers of the Customs Act?


said, it was impossible to seize adulterated butter because, in the opinion of his legal advisers, there was no fraud on the part of the consignees, with whom they alone were able to deal.


asked whether any steps were taken by the Department to trace adulterated butter from the merchant to the retailer?


replied that that was the duty of the local authorities, to whom the Department communicated the fact that adulterated butter was in circulation, and left them to deal with the retailers.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the statement in relation to the samples of foreign butters taken by the officers of Customs at certain ports of entry to the effect that 713 samples have been sent to the Government Analyst, who has reported 98 of them contain substances foreign to butter; that 70 samples represented importations from Germany, of which 27 were found questionable; and 159 from Holland, of which 56 were found questionable; what power does the Board of Agriculture possess in dealing with these adulterated substances; and have any prosecutions or confiscation of these commodities occurred; and, if not, what steps do the Board intend to take?


It is at the instance of the Board of Agriculture that samples of foreign butter are now being taken by the officers of Customs, and I am, therefore, officially cognisant of the facts to which the hon. Member refers. The Board are empowered to prosecute offenders under the Merchandise Marks Acts in cases relating to agricultural produce; but I am advised that in none of the cases in which on analysis there has been reason to believe that the goods contained an admixture of margarine were the circumstances such as to justify the prosecution of the importer or consignee by the Board, or the detention and forfeiture of the goods by the officers of Customs. We propose to continue to sample and analyse the goods, and to bring the facts under the notice of the importers and the local authorities, so as to prevent, if possible, any infringement of the Margarine Act; and in the meantime the whole subject will receive the attention of the Select Committee now sitting.

Back to