HC Deb 22 July 1897 vol 51 cc815-26

(1.) If the medical officer of any district has evidence that any person in the district is suffering from an infectious disease attributable to milk supplied within the district from any dairy situate within the district, or that the milk from any such dairy is likely to cause any such disease to any person residing in the district, such medical officer shall visit such dairy, and the medical officer shall examine the dairy and every person engaged in the service thereof or resident upon the premises, or who may be resident in any premises where any person employed in such dairy may reside, and if accompanied by a veterinary inspector or some other properly qualified veterinary surgeon, shall examine the animals therein, and the medical officer forthwith report the results of his examination, accompanied by the report of the veterinary inspector or surgeon, if any, to the local authority or any committee of the local authority appointed under section fourteen to deal with such matters.

(2.) If the medical officer of any district has evidence that any person in the district is suffering from any infectious disease attributable to milk from any dairy without the district, or that the milk from any such dairy is likely to cause any such disease to any person residing in the district, such medical officer shall forthwith intimate the same to the local authority of the district in which such dairy is situate, and such other local authority shall be bound, forthwith, by its medical officer, to examine the dairy and the persons aforesaid, and by a vetereinary inspector or other properly qualified veterinary surgeon to examine the animals therein, previous notice of the time of such examination having been given to the local authority of the first-mentioned district, in order that the medical officer or any veterinary inspector or surgeon appointed by such authority may, if they so desire, be present at the examinations referred to, and the medical officer of the second-mentioned local authority shall forthwith report the results of his examination, accompanied by the report of the veterinary inspector or surgeon, if any, to that local authority or any committee of that local authority appointed under Section fourteen of this Act to deal with such matters.

(3.) The local authority of the district in which the dairy is situated, or any committee appointed for the purpose, shall meet as soon as practicable and consider the reports together with any other evidence that may be submitted by parties concerned, and shall either make an order requiring the dairyman not to supply any milk from the dairy until the order has been withdrawn by the local authority, or resolve that no such order is necessary.

(4.) Where proceedings are taken or any ender is made under this section by the local authority of a district other than a burgh, it shall not be competent to appeal against the said proceedings or against the said order to the county council.

(5.) The local authority may, if the dairy is within the district, require the dairyman not to supply milk either within or without the district, and shall give notice of the fact to the local authority of any district within which they believe milk to be supplied from such dairy.

(6.) Any such order shall be forthwith, withdrawn on the local authority, or their medical officer on their behalf, being satisfied that the consumption of milk from the dairy is no longer likely to cause infectious disease.

(7.) It shall be open to any local authority or dairyman aggrieved by any such resolution or order, or withdrawal of order, to appeal in a summary manner to a sheriff having jurisdiction in the district in which the dairy is situated, and the sheriff may either make an order requiring the dairyman to cease from supplying milk, or may vary or rescind any order which has been made by the local authority, and he may at any time withdraw any order made under this section. Pending the disposal of any such appeal the order shall remain in force.

(8.) If any person refuse to permit the medical officer or veterinary inspector of the local authority of the district, or of another district concerned, accompanying such medical officer or veterinary inspector, duly authorised by a warrant from a sheriff, magistrate, or justice of the peace having jurisdiction in the district in which the dairy is situate, to make examination as above provided, or, after any order has been made under this section, supplies milk in contravention of the order, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ten pounds, and, if the offence continues, to a further penalty not exceeding five pounds for every day during which the offence continues.

(9.) Provided that—

  1. (a) proceedings in respect of the offence shall be taken before a sheriff having 817 jurisdiction in the place where the dairy is situate; and
  2. (b) a dairyman shall not be liable to an action for breach of contract if the breach be due to an order under this section.

10. Nothing in or done under this section shall interfere with the operation or effect of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts 1878 to 1886, or of any order, licence, or act of the Privy Council or the Board thereunder, or of any regulation, licence, or act of a local authority made; granted, or done under any such order of the Privy Council or the Board, or exempt any dairy, building, or thing, or any person from the provisions of any general Act relating to dairies, milk, or animals.


moved, in Sub-section (1) after "within," to insert "or without." He observed that the acceptance of this and the subsequent Amendment would put the Bill back into the position in which it was introduced by the Government, and' supported by the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Ireland in the-Standing Committee. The Bill as it now stood embodied the decision arrived at by the Standing Committee, and he had no doubt the Lord Advocate would tell them that he had been endeavouring to give effect to the decisions of the Standing Committee. But he had not done so, for he had already taken out of the Bill a clause which was agreed to by such Committee. Therefore, they were in the position that this question was as open for reconsideration as were other questions where he had reversed the decision of the Committee. By the clause as originally introduced the law of Scotland in regard to an infected milk supply was placed on the same footing as the English law. It was provided that, when it was ascertained that an infectious disease existed in a burgh and that the disease originated in a milk supply coming from the outside, the local authority could issue an order to prevent the milk from coming into the burgh. This was a most necessary power, and no one could maintain that a town ought not to be able to protect itself in this way. The provision was supported both by the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General. He moved the first of the Amendments of which he had given notice, the others being consequential.


proposed, in Sub-section (1), after "within," to insert the words "or without."


said this was the clause which, certainly as much as any other, excited the general attention of the Committee. The hon. Member was perfectly right in saying that the clause was not in the Bill originally, but on the other hand, it was made clear that the Government desired the Committee to take its own view, and would be satisfied with the decision. The whole question was what should be done when a burgh was suffering from the existence of an infectious disease arising from, the causes outside its own territory. The whole point of the discussion raised was whether the burgh's authority should go into the outside territory and by their own officer make inspection of suspected premises. For the county authority, it was urged that this would be an interference with their jurisdiction, and that it would be better to make representation, and that the executive action should be through the local authority. The matter was fully discussed in Committee, and the clause was carried by 19 votes to 11. He felt himself bound to uphold the decision of the Committee, and he should therefore vote against the Amendment, though it was perfectly true that in Committee he voted in favour of the Bill as it originally stood. But hon. Members would bear him out when he said that to-night he had not endeavoured to reverse the decisions of the Committee, only in cases where there were narrow divisions in Committee, he had allowed the House to settle the question untrammelled. In this instance there was a considerable majority, and he thought, as a matter of good faith, he ought to uphold the decision of the Committee.


was exceedingly sorry to find the Lord Advocate taking this line, because this was a question that had excited a very great deal of public interest throughout Scotland. There had been cases of deaths from the consumption of infected milk in Dumfriesshire, half-a-dozen people having died through the sale of milk from an infected dairy; and again, in his own constituency, 12 persons had died from a similar cause. The Lord Advocate was taking a very great responsibility in refusing to give additional powers for dealing with matters of this kind, when he knew how strong was the demand that local authorities should have such powers. In a circular just issued Mr. Littlejohn, of Edinburgh, dealt with cases such as he had referred to. He was a high authority, and his experience amounted to this, that the law was insufficient to deal with such questions, and he gave approval of an Amendment on the lines of that proposed by his hon. Friend. Something ought to be done, he did not care whether by this Amendment or that of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh. Probably the latter would better meet the case. What was desired was that the local authorities should not be powerless where they knew that milk was being supplied which was spreading infectious disease. Surely this was a power which ought to be given to the local authorities under a Public' Health Bill, and he thought the Bill would fall short of what was hoped from it if it did not confer that power. He was sorry the Lord Advocate should be content to leave the law as it was.


The clause goes beyond the present law.


said that the milk came into the burgh from the county, and if the burgh authority had no power to move in the county, there was no protection against this spread of disease. He was exceedingly sorry the Lord Advocate did not see his way to compromise in the matter and meet the demand that existed.


said there were on both sides of the House not a few Gentlemen who desired some reform in this matter on the lines suggested in the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh. He hoped the Vote on the Amendment now before the House would not preclude a discussion on that of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh.


said the objection to this Amendment was rather based on the conflicting of local authorities. It was felt, and no doubt with reason, that the overlapping of authorities led to friction; but what was far more important was that it led to delay. What was required was that there should be in reserve a power of immediate and summary action, and that was not likely to be obtained when there was friction between the local authorities. He hoped he would be able to convince the Lord advocate that the Amendment he was about to move would meet the question better than that of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark.


said that this was one of the most important questions in connection with the Bill. It was perfectly true, as the Lord Advocate had said, that he was adhering to the decision of the Committee; but the majority on the point was not large. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would leave the matter to the House, and not make it a Government matter. He hoped that if the Lord Advocate could not accept this Amendment he would accept that of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh.


was glad to hear the Lord Advocate express his intention of adhering to the clause in the Bill. It seemed to be much more workable than the one which was in the Bill originally. Whereas under the Bill as originally introduced they would have a cumbrous procedure, by which the local authority in a burgh would have had to go to the sheriff to get authority to go into a dairy and then take proceedings, the local authority of a particular area could proceed upon information that reached them, and could act properly and sufficiently. He thought the clause as it stood in the Biil was eminently workable, and it was one which the rural authorities were willing to work under. He was perfectly certain that the right way to secure the best interests of county districts and burghs alike, and of the population of burghs especially, was that they should put the responsibility upon the local authority within whose area the dairy was situated.


said what they wanted was power to stop the danger, and he trusted that the Lord Advocate would not permit any obstacle to be raised so as to interfere with what was for the public safety.


doubted whether it was true, as had been alleged, that a large quantity of milk supplied to London came from Scotland.

Question put, "That the words `or without' be there inserted."

The House divided: —Ayes, 31; Noes, 127.—(Division List, No. 327.)

Amendments made: In Sub-section (3) leave out "as soon as practicable," and insert "forthwith." In Sub-section (6) leave out "consumption of."—(Lord Advocate.)

In Sub-section (8) leave out "refuse," and insert "refuses." In Sub-section (8) leave out the words "duly authorised by a warrant from a sheriff, magistrate, or justice of the peace having jurisdiction in the district in which the dairy is situate."—(Mr. Caldwell.)


moved at end of Sub-section (9) to insert— (c) The medical officer of any district, or the local authority, may in any case in which such medical officer considers it necessary or expedient for preventing the spread of infectious disease, apply summarily to the sheriff, or to a magistrate, or justice of the peace, for a summary warrant or order to stop the sale of any milk which such medical officer may deem it necessary or expedient to stop to prevent the spread of infectious disease, and the sheriff, or magistrate, or justice of the peace, as the case may be, may without previous intimation grant a warrant or order accordingly, and the local authority shall pay the value of the milk so stopped if it should be afterwards found that the same was free from infection. He claimed that this did not alter the clause as it stood, but was supplementary to it, and that it afforded in addition a prompt and summary proceeding in cases of dire necessity. The point of the Amendment was that it went for the milk itself rather than for the inspection of premises and animals. In case of violent outbreak of disease, such as scarlet fever, there should be a power to promptly interfere with the sale of milk from the dairy to which that disease had been traced. There had been in his own constituency a case of fifteen deaths traced to two deliveries of milk from one dairy. According to the clause as drafted, it would take from four to seven days to get the procedure to work. What they wanted was a procedure that would deal with the outbreak in so many hours. ["Hear, hear!"] This Amendment did not involve any conflict or friction between the different local authorities. He suggested a permissory authority given for purposes of extreme emergency, which a trained' medical officer of health could alone judge of, and the reponsibility would rest with his local authority. There was no mandatory direction proposed, and the Amendment did not run counter to any of the propositions in the clause.


was sorry that his hon. Friend did not introduce this Amendment in the Committee, so that it might have been discussed there. But he could not accept it as it stood. It did not say what sheriff they should apply to, and it left the position doubtful as to the local authority. Besides, it allowed the medical officer and the local authority to interfere with the proceedings in the district of another locality; in fact they could go to the sheriff and make an ex parte application. This was rather a strong measure. They should bear in mind the effect it would have in inflicting a greater injury than a loss in the sale of milk, because the knowledge that disease existed, if spread about, might lead to the ruin of a man's business. He invited his hon. Friend to reconsider the matter, and draw up an Amendment setting this matter right. It could be moved for him in another place where the whole question would be considered, and where they were not, as he was, trammelled to support the decision of the Committee.


asked whether there was no hardship imposed in having this power of self-protection taken from Scottish towns? It was very doubtful whether the special powers of the Glasgow Police Act would not be overridden by this Act outside the boundary of Glasgow. If they could be assured that there was no doubt that their powers of self-protection remained undiminished, that, of course would take away what seemed to be the danger of the clause, as it now stood, without some such Amendment as that proposed. But in any case, apart from the case of the big towns that were protected by their own Police Acts, it appeared to him that there was a necessity for some more speedy machinery than that contained in the clause; and that would be provided, if not in the most perfect form, by the proposal of the hon. Baronet opposite, at any rate in a form which might be made perfect. If the Lord Advocate approved of the principle of granting more perfect protection, his course would be to accept the Amendment and incorporate it in the Bill, and in another place he could secure the necessary modification to put it in a state in which it would be perfect and consistent with other sections.


supported the Amendment. It might not be perfectly drafted, but he quite believed that the Lord Advocate could make it much better if he tried. Though he represented a county constituency and had no interest in any borough, thought it a most important question for he knew from experience of places where milk was supplied to boroughs, that there was a great difficulty in stopping the importation of suspected milk into a place in which infectious disease had broken out. They could not act too promptly in such cases, and he felt that something in this line was certainly necessary, and he appealed to the Lord Advocate to accept the Amendment, and undertake to put it in workable form.


hoped the hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment and put it in order in the House of Lords. At the same time the House must recognise that the right hon. Gentleman had shown a disposition to meet the views some of them held in favour of amendment; and he should prefer not to have a decision by the House which would close the matter altogether, but would rather trust themselves in the hands of the Lord Advocate and see if such an Amendment as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested could not be moved in another place.


said he had great sympathy with the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. The machinery in the Bill for meeting emergencies which frequently occurred in connection with epidemic disease caused by milk was slow, tedious and cumbrous; and the hon. Baronet had argued very forcibly indeed in favour of some more rapid action to check epidemic disease. But he was bound to say that the Lord Advocate had hit on a blot in the Amendment, and it had also occurred to himself. No doubt the money compensation proposed would hardly meet the loss of prestige, that a farmer or dairyman must suffer from having his business stopped summarily. That was a drawback; but perhaps some wider scheme might be eventually proposed to meet this difficulty. At all events, the national advantage might be sufficiently great to counterbalance any drawback or difficulty of that kind, and if a division were taken he should certainly support his hon. Friend in the Lobby.


hoped the Lord Advocate would find some way to accept the principle of the Amendment. ["Hear, hear!"] It commended itself to him in this—that it struck directly at the offending article and prevented its sale not only in the locality in which the disease had appeared but in any other locality. For instance, they might have disease spread from the suburb of a town to the neighbouring county. Under this clause, as the hon. Baronet proposed to amend it, they would be able to go to the dairy and stop the sale altogether. Under present circumstances if they stopped the sale only in a town where the disease was found to have broken out, the farmer might send his milk to another town and spread the disease there. They had, therefore, the evil absolutely unchecked, and extended to many places rather than confined to one. One of the ways of checking the spread of diseases among young people was to go to the sources of the milk supply. This Amendment gave a summary and rapid method of doing that. It might be the means of saving the lives of scores of families, and they ought not to regard the losses of an individual as a barrier to doing a beneficent piece of legislation. He hoped the Lord Advocate would show a willingness to accept the principle of the Amendment, and promise to draft some Amendment in another place which would carry out that principle.


pointed out that in the clause they had passed they had practically given a very strong power indeed to the local authority in which the dairy was situated. The words of the third and fifth sub-sections really covered everything that was required, and to introduce this Amendment would only confuse the issue, and make it more difficult to the local authority to administer the law.


observed that some of the five towns that were outside the Burgh Police Act had got this power already. Glasgow and Edinburgh had it as well as London, and the chief towns of England. He understood the hon. Baronet wished to limit this to the district and not go outside. For instance, he merely desired to go to the sheriff of the town—and not to the county where the milk had come from—and prevent the sale in the burgh. He thought that the best course to take would be to adjourn now, so that the Lord Advocate and the hon. Baronet the Member for West Edinburgh might have an opportunity, before the Bill was proceeded with further, of coming to an agreement as to the form which the Amendment should take. He begged to moved the Adjournment of the Debate.


said that after this question had been disposed of, the Amendments on the clauses up to Clause 145 need not occupy considerable time. When they had got that far he would consent to the adjournment of the Debate. He hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion. If the hon. Member for West Edinburgh would recast his clause in the light of the criticisms which had been passed upon it, he would undertake that it would receive consideration entirely upon its merits in the House of Lords.

Motion for adjournment, by leave, withdrawn.


said he was quite ready to recognise the general sense of the House, and would be content if the principle of the Amendment were accepted in some form. He pointed out that his proposal was distinct from the other, it would grant a power to be held in reserve.


desired to remove any misconception. He desired simply that burghs should have the power to protect themselves from infection from outside, as from infection being spread inside. There was no desire to interfere with authority outside the burgh boundary. Surely he desired that the burgh authority should have power to prevent the supply of infected milk without going through the circumlocutory process of going to another authority what might or might, not take action. In that view, he hoped the Lord Advocate would consider the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved to omit the end of the clause. The local sanitary authority was different from the tramway authority, and he thought the matter of overcrowding in public conveyances was outside the scope of the work of local authorities in matters of sanitation; it should be dealt with in another way.


said this clause was inserted by the Committee, and he thought he ought to adhere to it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 65,—