HC Deb 21 April 1898 vol 56 cc646-7
MR. HENRY J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, in view of the fact that the chemical officers of the Inland Revenue are appointed referees in disputed cases of adulteration under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, and that water is specially excluded from the operation of that Act under Clause 3, will he state whether it is in any way the duty of the chemical officers to undertake the analysis of water for sanitary purposes and act as referees in disputed cases, and under what authority the chemical officers of the Inland Revenue recently analysed the water taken from a well at Maidstone known as Prosser's Well, and in their report expressed the opinion that the water was not liable to contamination; whether, as a consequence of such report, the application to the Court to close the well was refused; is he aware that this well is in close proximity to houses in which no less than 14 cases of enteric fever occurred during the recent epidemic; and, whether, seeing that the report was not signed by the chief of the laboratory, the action of these chemical officers was sanctioned by the responsible authority?


Under Section 70 of the Public Health Act, 38 and 39 Vic., cap. 55, the magistrates are empowered, if they see fit, to cause water of which complaint is made to be analysed at the cost of the local authority. In cases of difficulty the magistrates occasionally ask for the assistance of the Government Laboratory, and it has been the practice for many years, when such assistance is asked for by the court, to undertake an analysis of the water. In the present instance the justices at Maidstone requested the assistance of the Government Laboratory, and it was given, in accordance with the usual practice. With regard to the latter part of the Question, I understand that evidence as to the possibility of danger arising from the local surroundings of the well, was given before the court by the medical officer of health, and that the magistrates, on consideration of all the evidence before them, decided to refuse the application. The action of the Laboratory officers was not specially sanctioned by the Board of Inland Revenue in this particular instance. But those officers undertook the analysis at the request of the magistrates, in accordance with a practice which has for years existed with the approval of the Board.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Notts,) Rushcliffe

Did not the report of the officers go far beyond their powers?


I think, perhaps, it did go beyond their authority.