§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [24th July], "That the Bill be now read the third time".
§ Question again proposed.
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The Bill as it now stands, no doubt, contains one or two provisions, which, if properly enforced, are calculated to put down adulteration, but, on the other hand, it contains much that is reactionary and bad. The discussion which had taken place on it must have convinced hon. Members that it belongs to that class of legislation which is known in America as Grainger's legislation. Its main points are offered ostensibly as a boon to the farmers, and its most thorough-going provision is that which prohibits the enrichment of margarine, with the object presumably of increasing the price of butter. But I venture to assert that the foreign producer of butter will benefit twice as much as the home 254 producer from any increase. In its present shape I do not think the Bill satisfies any section of the House, and it certainly does not satisfy agriculturists, for even the hon. Members for East Somerset and South Molton have ceased to regard it with a friendly eye. But it will benefit one class of Her Majesty's subjects, the lawyers. It will render worse confounded the confusion that already exists with respect to the adulteration laws. The first part of the Bill is aimed against the importation of four articles of food. The Customs are directed to take samples of such articles when imported, and if they are found to be adulterated provision is made for the prosecution of the importer. That, at first sight, seems a very desirable provision. But we have been told again and again that the first clause of the Bill only regularised a practice which had been in operation for several years. I personally have no doubt that what has been done in the past has been legal. In 1896–97 963 samples of imported food were taken by the Customs, 45 of which were found to be adulterated. In 1897–98 1,271 samples wore taken, 25 of which were adulterated, and in the six months ended October, 1898, 612 samples were taken, of which only two were found to be adulterated and none doubtful. That shows that under the non-regularised system, which has boon in force for the last two or three years, the importation of adulterated articles of food has been put a stop to, and that there is no necessity for the Bill, and that not much benefit is to be expected from the enactment of the first portion of it. The Customs officials are authorised to seize articles of food suspected to be adulterated, and a proviso is inserted to the effect that an article shall not be deemed to be adulterated by reason of the addition of preservative or colouring matter of such a nature or quantity as not to render it injurious to health. But what machinery is provided to enable the officials to judge whether the addition of some foreign substance is or is not injurious to health? A subsequent clause entitles the Board of Agriculture to declare what mixtures or foreign substances are injurious to health, and public analysts throughout the country are instructed to have regard to the decision of the Board on these points. But what machinery has the Board for deciding these important 255 questions? Let us suppose that the right hon. Gentleman, or his successor, declares that the admixture of a small amount of borax with butter is injurious to health. Analysts would have to act accordingly. Under Clause 3 of the Act of 1875 the addition to an article of food of any substance injurious to health is a serious crime, punishable in the first instance with a penalty of£50, and on a subsequent conviction subjecting the offender to six months' hard labour. But is it to be imagined for one moment that any person convicted on the evidence of an analyst acting on such an instruction from the Board of Agriculture as I have indicated would be subjected to any such penalty? Why, I believe that any judge would at once knock such evidence on the head. And while the Board of Agriculture may declare the addition of borax to butter to be injurious to health, the Bill actually takes no power to prevent the use of borax as a preservative for ham or bacon, although the Irish Members pressed the Government to adopt such a step. Analysts, as defined by the Food and Drugs Act, do not include the chemistry department of Somerset House, and those officials would continue to declare their views of adulteration independently of any instructions that might be issued by the Board of Agriculture. All this lands the law into a state of inextricable confusion, and there is no standard on which we can fall back. For years traders have been most anxious to have extended to the Food and Drugs Act the provision of the Margarine Act, which declares that an invoice shall be regarded as a warranty. When the Bill was introduced it was so drafted that we were under the impression that an invoice was to be taken as a warranty, but on the Second Reading we were undeceived, and we learnt for the first time from the right hon. Gentleman that it was not in his intention that an invoice should be considered to be a warranty. In Committee upstairs an Amendment was inserted in the measure constituting an invoice a warranty, but on Report, at an hour of the morning when nothing could be made known to the public through the ordinary channels of information, the decision of the Committee was reversed. In this matter the traders had great cause to complain of their treatment, for although the right hon. Gentlemen said he 256 would leave the matter in the hands of the House, he made the strongest possible speech in favour of reversing the decision of the Committee, and his learned colleague, the Solicitor-General, followed that up with another speech equally strong. When the right hon. Gentleman took this action he was himself introducing an Amendment which would have done away with all danger of constituting an invoice a warranty. It was intended to enable persons giving these warranties to be prosecuted in a court having jurisdiction in a place where the offence was committed. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward a MSS. Amendment for the purpose, and this illustrates the slovenly manner in which the Debates have been conducted. One of the two offences in the Food and Drugs Act most severely dealt with is the false labelling of an article by the manufacturer, and under Clause 27 of the Act of 1875 the penalty for such an offence is£20. Now, nothing could have, been more logical and proper than to allow the MSS. Amendment to apply to this clause, and had that been done, while it might not have adequately protected the retail vendor of the article, it would have enabled the manufacturer to be prosecuted. But that was not done, and as we had no opportunity of studying the words of the Amendment, it has been carried in a less satisfactory form than it would otherwise have assumed. The Bill alters the law as to warranties and invoices, and nothing is done to remedy the grievances so long complained of. It has been held that the label on a can of syrup with the words "guaranteed as pure," is not a warranty, and that a running milk contract containing a clause that the milk shall be pure milk is not a sufficient warranty, unless a separate guarantee is sent with each consignment. It has been held that a printed warranty is not a written warranty. Now all of these things might have been cleared up if any desire had been shown by the right hon. Gentleman to reach the adulterator and punish him. I will give another example of the unfortunate way in which traders have been treated in the consideration of this Bill. Under the Margarine Act an invoice is a warranty subject to certain safeguards. I put down an Amendment upstairs, to provide that it should be a good plea in a prosecution for infringement of the law that the provisions of the Margarine Act had been complied with. The right hon. 257 Gentleman put down an exactly similar one, and on the faith of that I withdrew mine. He certainly formally moved it, but in the face of a small amount of opposition he withdrew it at once, and, of course, left me in the lurch. I tried to raise the question on Report, but you, Sir, considered that I was not in order. There is, again, the provision in the Bill which inflicts the penalty of imprisonment for a third offence, although the first two offences may have been of a purely technical character, and have been committed by persons other than the defendant and against his orders. I will not discuss this or the clause prohibiting the sale of margarine containing more than a certain percentage of butter fat, although it will deprive the inmates of our poorhouses and metropolitan asylums of some of the small portion of butter they have been allowed in the past. Let me give one other instance of this Grainger legislation. It was proposed to make it obligatory to place upon each can of condensed separated milk the words "Bad for babies". But the right hon. Gentleman objected, not because he had not the fullest sympathy with the proposal, but because the addition of those words would necessitate the label being printed in too small letters. [Mr. LONG: No, no.] That is certainly what I understood. And, in passing, I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is another article quite as bad for babies as condensed milk, and that is separated uncondensed milk, which, unlike the former, is not made more nutritious by the addition of sugar. As the right hon. Gentleman, however, distinctly promised consideration of this matter, I would call his attention to the fact that pure milk from the cow is about as bad for the baby as anything could be and it is necessary to water it down, unless harm is to be done to the infant. What, however, we want to strike at is the manufactured article. It is more pleasant for me to turn now to the features of the Bill which make improvements in the law of the country. The Amendment to Clause 19, introduced at the instance of the hon. and gallant Member for Rye, is a distinct improvement, and is calculated to do more to check adulteration than a thousand prosecutions by Customs officials. In Clauses 2 and 3Amendments of great importance were introduced, imposing on the Local Government Board the same duties with regard to adulteration in 258 the case of various foods as those imposed upon the Minister of Agriculture with regard to all agricultural products. In those clauses provision is made for the appointment of public analysts of approved competency by the local authorities, and if the local authorities do not put this provision into force the Local Government Board can send down their own inspectors and put the law in motion at the expense of the local authorities. With regard to the taking of samples, an extremely moderate standard is fixed; one sample being taken for every 5,000 inhabitants. That involves only one visit at one shop every five years for the purpose of taking a sample. The returns of 1882 show that even with that moderate standard the local authorities did not enforce the Act at all, whilst many others only took half-a-dozen samples for the purpose of keeping up appearances. The Local Government Board under this Bill have power to compel the local authorities to carry out the Adulteration Act and to increase the standard upon which they work. Do they propose to raise the standard and to compel the local authorities to carry out the Food and Drugs Act? In the absence of the smallest sign from the representative of the Local Government Board that it is the intention of that Department to enforce these powers, I do not expect much in the way of suppression of adulteration from them. But this I do not mind, because the present occupants of the Local Government Board may not always be there, and it may be that in days to come we shall have a President of that Department who will take some little interest in attempting to put down the adulteration of food in this country by getting at the wholesale offender. If they had gone against the wholesale adulterators in the past and stopped these adulterated goods at the port of entry I believe by this time they would have prevented adulteration to a very large extent. One of the gravest blots on this Bill is that no attempt has been made to put down adulteration by attacking it at the fountain-head. This Bill does not deal with the whole question of food—it only deals with about four articles—and I do not intend to divide the House upon it at this stage, but I do say that if the measure, instead of being sent upstairs, had been thrashed out by a Committee of the whole House, it would no doubt have shared the fate of many 259 other Bills that have been lost this session in the massacre of the innocents.
§ * SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
I am glad that the hon. Member does not intend to divide the House at this stage, and I agree very much with his criticism upon this Bill, because, after all, he has probably given more years to the consideration of this question than many others of us have given months. He has been engaged in considering the laws of adulteration for the last 20 years, and therefore speaks with authority in this House. He has pointed out that the Bill has many defects, and with that I agree; but, on this occasion, I should prefer to deal with some of the advantages we shall derive from it, if it passes. We shall get better inspection at the ports of entry, which will be of great advantage in putting down adulteration of those articles which are imported from abroad. What is wanted—as my hon. friend has said—is to get at the large adulterators, and to prevent the small retail trader coming under the heavy penalties provided by this Bill. The small traders will find that, in a great many cases, they will be liable to very severe penalties and punishments, and the one fault that I have to find with the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is that he has not protected them more than they have been by the measure as it stands at present. I think we might have given the small trader greater protection under the warrant and invoice clause, and I hope that even now my right hon. friend will be able to see his way to do something more in that respect before the Bill passes into law. In my opinion the best part of the Bill is the third clause, which practically insists on the law being enforced all over the country. The great difficulty in the past has been that it has been permissive, and that while in one district the law was enforced, in another it was not. The result was, that however active the Local Government Board might have been, they have always been unable to get the local authorities of the country to enforce the law universally. That will no longer exist, and in this respect the most important step has been taken since the Adulteration Acts have been passed. This Bill insists that this Act shall be carried out in a proper manner, and if the local authority does not put it into force the Board of Agri- 260 culture or the Local Government Board can step into the locality with its own inspectors and take samples, and charge the local authorities with the cost of the duties which they have been compelled to undertake. Such a course must inevitably put down a great deal of the adulteration of food. We shall have in the future two authorities looking into this matter—the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture. I tried all I could to prevent there being two authorities, because I do not believe in the efficacy of two authorities. I would rather see this Bill governed by one. I would even rather have had the Board of Agriculture by itself. The Local Government Board will I fear do very little and the Board of Agriculture a very great deal, and I hope that in the future this Act will pass entirely under the direction of the Board which shows most energy. I do not think the Board of Agriculture is an ideal body for the work, but while the present President is in power I am quite certain he will do everything to make the Bill a success. I hope that, looking at it in that light, we shall have from it a larger amount of benefit than we have had from any previous Act of the same kind, and I hope before it finally becomes law the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to lessen, if possible, the oppressiveness of the Bill upon the small shopkeeper. It is a serious matter that many of those small traders—sometimes widows, and sometimes men who are in entire ignorance of what they are selling—that they should be made the victims of the administration of this law. I think that there ought to be in every case full opportunity for a man to clear himself by referring to producers of the article which he has sold, so that he may not by any technicality in the Act be made to suffer when he is not the real cause of the crime of which he has been convicted. I hope some amelioration in that position will yet be brought about before the Bill is placed upon the Statute Book.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I have only one word to say upon the point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I voted against my right hon. friend when, the other day, the Bill was amended with respect to the invoice warranty. I did so because I had very prominently in my mind the great number of small dealers in my own constituency, and I cannot but feel for them in the difficulties 261 in which they have been placed in regard to the prosecutions for the breach of this Act, when they are innocent offenders. How can a small dealer know whether the ingredients of the food he sells exactly correspond with the requirements of the law? I know small shops where small portions of provisions are prepared for the factory people, and I cannot but ask myself how these poor people are to be responsible for what they have sold. My right hon. friend says he will do what he can to render the invoice a safeguard to the small trader, and to provide that the invoice shall have the force of a guarantee. The small trader cannot insist upon a legal guarantee from the person of whom he buys, but an invoice specifying that the article he buys is in conformity with the Act would safeguard him.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
I am very unwilling to trench upon the time of the House, but I have not hitherto taken any part in the discussion of the Bill. I desire to make one general observation and one or two special ones. The general observation I desire to make is, that there seems to be a tone of exaggeration as to the evil which it is attempted to meet. The figures brought forward by the hon. Baronet show that the evil of adulteration is not by any means an increasing one, but a rapidly diminishing one, and that it is a very difficult thing to say what adulteration is. It does not follow that because a certain ingredient is added to a given article it makes the article any worse in quality. I live amongst a large population which, I suppose, uses a great deal of what is called margarine, but I have never heard a single complaint of people being "done." I think this is another case of that kind of legislation which is generally characterised, when it is passed by the Party sitting on this side of the House, as grandmotherly legislation. It seems to be taken for granted that all buyers are fools and quite incapable of judging the articles they buy. Throughout the Discussion as well as in the general constitution of this Bill, there appears to be a distinct exaggeration as to the value of butter. I had almost begun to think that butter was something sacred, and that there was a kind of law of the Medes and Persians that butter, and butter only, should be used. Butter is only a fat, and I cannot see why there should be anything parti- 262 cularly sacred about it. I have occasion to live a good deal in the country, and I am bound to tell the agricultural Members that I find great difficulty in getting good butter. Whether agriculturists cannot make it or won't make it I don't know, but the fact remains that the only butter worth buying is the Kiel butter. I would warn hon. Members that they are giving margarine a great puff, because people will conclude that an article which they are so much afraid of, and which cannot be distinguished from butter, must be as good as butter. When I listened to the Debate on the clause relating to imprisonment I felt that a very serious feature had been added to the Bill. I would ask I the right hon. Gentleman to consider again the wording of that clause. The smaller people are to be punished. That is the spirit of the Bill in these clauses. By the clause relating to the admixture of butter with margarine the House has taken a new and dangerous departure in dictating to the people what their food shall be.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I should not be doing my duty to the small shop-keepers in my constituency if I did not press upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of guarding the innocent small traders—a class which suffered greatly when the decision was arrived at as regards the invoice and warranty. These persons are not skilled in chemistry; they have no desire to be guilty of any fraud; they are very much in the hands of the wholesale dealer. I hope my right hon. friend will see his way to give them greater security than the Bill at present affords. I am not sure that severe penalties always accomplish their object. I believe myself that more moderate measures are the most effective. This Bill will do great good, and the public health and safety will be increased by it, but I thought it my duty to point out this blot in the Bill.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)
I desire to support the appeal which has been made in favour of greater protection being given to the innocent retail dealer. I think the cause of the retail dealer has somewhat suffered from the form of the Amendment which was adopted by the Committee upstairs, and 263 by the introduction of the word "invoice." I do not know exactly what "invoice" means; there may be an invoice which in effect amounts to a warranty, and there may be invoices which do not amount to warranties. The right hon. Gentleman might consider whether after the word "warranty" in the clause words to this effect could not be added: "Or any document describing the value, substance, and quality of the article in question in such terms as to amount to a sale by description, within the meaning of the Sale of Goods Act, 1893." If these words are added the position of the retail dealer will be precisely the same in a criminal as in a civil court. There is a real and substantial injustice in drawing a distinction between the rights of the retail dealer in a civil and in a criminal court. These words that I have suggested would not in any way vitiate the general object which the law intended to enforce, but would do substantial justice to the class of whom I am speaking.
§ MR J. H. JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
We have heard a great deal about the small shopkeeper and the innocent retailer, but where does the public come in? They are the people for whom we are legislating, and they are the people to be protected, even though the I small shopkeeper may unfortunately suffer some injury—I cannot call it "wrong"—in our efforts to protect the public. With regard to this celebrated Clause 8, is it pure benevolence on the part of manufacturers of margarine which makes them desirous of mixing a more expensive product with it? Or have they the ulterior motive of desiring to sell the mixture at a price exceeding margarine price and approaching, if not equalling, butter price? The reason for this clause is perfectly clear. You must, in the interests of honest trading, draw the line between margarine and butter, and it is necessary that that line should be a very broad one. What I really rose for was to remind the right hon. Gentleman of an undertaking he gave the other night with regard to the important question of labelling separated milk. An assurance was given that he would consider the question in the course of the passage of the Bill through the other House. The difficulty appeared to be that the labels would have to be very small, 264 but I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it cannot surely be said to pass the wit of man to devise some means of carrying into effect an object which he desires quite as much as I do myself.
§ MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
If the last speaker had as intimate an acquaintance with the small shop-keepers as I have, he would have a very much higher opinion of them than he apparently now possesses. In the constituency in the East of London which I represent, there are thousands of small shopkeepers who struggle hard for their livelihood, and I strongly deprecate the suggestion that they are anything but honest men. It is only a fair suggestion that the wholesale houses who supply the commodity in which these people deal should be held responsible instead of the small shop-keepers, who have to sell a great many articles for the contents of which they are not in the least responsible. If it was decided that an invoice should be taken as a warranty, no reasonable cause of complaint would exist. It is extremely hard and unfair that the whole burden of defending a prosecution should rest with these unfortunate traders. I also think the Bill is a little too drastic in regard to the imprisonment clause. Its effect will undoubtedly be to punish small traders and allow the large dealers to escape. Generally speaking, the Bill has been accepted as a perfectly satisfactory measure with these two exceptions, and I hope opportunity will be taken before the Bill passes into law to remedy these defects.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, South)
I do not think this discussion has been altogether fruitless. I am glad my hon. friend on this side of the House does not think it necessary to go to a Division, because, although there are many objections to be taken to some of the provisions, I think certain clauses will prove of considerable value in checking adulteration and fraud. Upon Clause 8, I should like to say that I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the opposition to that clause comes from the margarine manufacturers. This is the only clause in the Bill in which it is proposed to prohibit the sale of an article which is not poisonous and is perfectly fit for human consumption. It is an article which is 265 very agreeable to the taste, and yet it is to be prohibited altogether. That is an exceptional piece of legislation which does not reflect credit upon this House. We ought to regard this question from the point of view of the public, and I am inclined to reject the decision of the Committee upstairs. In my opinion we should have greater security against fraud if we attacked the fons et origo mali, the wholesale dealer, rather than the retailer. I still join in the appeal made to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, when this Bill goes to another place, to use his influence to improve the wording of the clause to protect the innocent retailer. I do not wish to disparage the zeal or judgment, or the skill, knowledge, and tact shown by the right hon Gentleman in charge of this Bill, for I think we are all indebted to him for the way in which he has addressed his mind to the subject before the House. My objection is to bringing the Board of Agriculture into the question at all. The Bill is primarily a Bill to protect the consumer from fraud, and I cannot see any reason for the introduction of the Board of Agriculture, which can only be interested in preventing or diminishing competition. If the intention is to diminish competition, then the proposal is not fit for this House to adopt, for it savours of the nature of Protection. I think it would have been much better if we had devoted our attention entirely to adulteration, for the Board of Agriculture creates a double authority. The question has been put to the Government whether the Local Government Board intend to use their powers under this Act to appoint inspectors, or whether they intend to leave that duty to the Board of Agriculture. No answer was given to that question, and I am afraid we must conclude that the Local Government Board will leave this duty to the Board of Agriculture. It is said that the local authorities have not efficiently discharged their duties in the past, and that now we are going to supervise them and stimulate them into action; but the function of dealing with the local authorities is one which belongs naturally to the Local Government Board, because that body is already the supervisor of the local authorities, and it is in touch with them. It has a medical staff which is already concerned with matters of public health, and I submit that we should 266 find it easier to deal with the local authorities if we were to continue this function in the hands of the Local Government Board rather than place it in the hands of the Board of Agriculture, which is a new authority, with which the local authorities are not acquainted. I regret the decision which the House has come to to create a second authority in this matter, and I cannot but think that serious inconvenience will result from the substitution of the Agricultural Board for the Local Government Board. However, although the Billis undoubtedly open to these criticisms, I agree that it does contain some good provisions, which may turn out to be a real protection to the poor consumer, who may get a better article than he has done hitherto.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
I desire to thank my hon. friend for the statement which he has just made; for, notwithstanding the criticism which has been made of this proposal, on the whole there seems to be a general opinion that the Bill contains much which is good, and that it will effect a desirable change in the condition of things existing at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has reverted to the old argument that the Board of Agriculture ought not to be the authority for some of these purposes. Upon this subject I desire to repeat the reply I made at a very much earlier stage of the Bill. It is not necessary now to discuss whether the Local Government Board or the Board of Agriculture is the most suitable Department; but I am bound to remind the right hon. Gentleman that if the Board of Agriculture has been improperly introduced into this Departmental work, it is not with us that the responsibility rests. The first time steps were taken in order to deal with the adulteration of certain articles in connection with the main and staple articles of food and dairy produce it was done by the Government with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was associated, and with the assent and upon the initiation of the late Leader of the Opposition; and, with regard to those duties we shall have to carry out, we have only put upon a permanent basis the system commenced under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman, not only with the approval, but on the initiation, of 267 the then Leader of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire. Whatever suspicions hon. Gentlemen opposite may have in connection with hon. Members on this side of the House, I am sure they will not associate any views of that kind with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire. I would rather hope that the fears expressed by the right hon. Gentleman as to the way in which the Board of Agriculture will carry out their duty may turn out to be unfounded, and that we shall act in the future as in the past, from no desire to bolster up home products, but to secure fair and open competition, and from a desire to see that the pure article at home shall compete against a pure article from abroad, and that its value shall not be depreciated by the adulterated article, which ought to be sold as an adulterated article and not as something very different. Some of the remarks which have been made have deserved the descriptions given to them by the right hon. Gentleman in reference to their main points. It has been pointed out that a third offence under Clause 8 may lead to imprisonment, and the same clause also provides that an invoice may, like a warranty, be pleaded in defence. I think it would be quite unnecessary for me to go into the reasons which led us to take this course. I have already admitted that it is a form of legislation which we have adopted with regret, and we have adopted it only upon the recommendation of the Commitee. From the evidence of experts of all kinds we have been convinced that, unless some power of this kind is introduced into the Bill, there will be a continuation of that kind of fraud which has resulted in the production of a particular article of which I believe 99 per cent, has been sold as a pure article when it is not pure at all. The right hon. Gentleman said the effect of this clause would be to make it impossible to improve that article and sell it in a better form. I contest that argument, because the evidence from all sources goes to show that the very best article which the public wish to buy as margarine can be produced under this Clause 8, and there is nothing in it which will interfere with the production of a first class article. The hon. Member for Bolton says he has made a new discovery—that the effect of this Bill is going to in- 268 crease and popularise the sale of margarine. Those are opinions which I expressed long ago, and there is no new discovery about it. The hon. Member asked me to give particular attention to the fact that this Bill would increase the sale of margarine, but that is the view I have expressed from the very beginning. It is because I believe it will lead to the selling of margarine for what it is, and not for what it is not, that I have included in the Bill the powers which it now contains. With regard to imprisonment, I told the House there were precedents for our proposal, and I justified the reasons for the clause. So far from this being an additional penalty of the poor man as compared with the rich man, it is precisely the reverse. It is well known that the wealthy producer despises penalties which consist solely of fines, for the wealthy man who has determined to make and sell a fraudulent article can go on manufacturing it with impunity and does not mind paying the fine a dozen times over. It is only when he knows that he runs the risk of imprisonment that he will realise, whether he wishes it or not, that in the long run it is the best policy to be honest, and that he had better abandon practices which otherwise he is not apparently inclined to give up. As regards the question of invoices and warranty, we have as a matter of fact made a very material change in the operation of the law in regard to wholesale dealers. In the first place I propose on behalf of the Government to have inserted in another place a provision which will give power to take samples at the place of delivery. That will be an effective change in the law. The penalty at present for giving a false warranty is £20. We propose to raise it for the third offence to £100, with power also to inflict imprisonment. That ought to have a very material effect in preventing the giving of false warranties. We have also decided to carry out the suggestion of the hon. Member for Durham. At the present time if a retailer is prosecuted for selling an adulterated article, and he succeeds in shifting the responsibility on to the wholesaler on the ground that he received a false warranty the wholesaler must be followed to the place where he is to be found, in order to institute a prosecution. The change we propose is that the local authorities may be able to institute a prosecution against the giver of a false warranty in 269 the locality where the proceedings against the retailer were commenced. The effect of that will, of course, be far-reaching. We further propose to introduce another Amendment into the Bill. At present if a retailer claims he is innocent and produces a warranty from the wholesale dealer it rests with him to show that the giver of the warranty is the guilty person. That seems unfair, and we propose that the onus probandi shall be thrown on the accused person, and not on the retailer, who ought not to be called upon to prove not only his own innocence but the guilt of somebody else. Nothing else remains to be referred to except the question of warranty and invoice. I entirely associate myself with the remarks which have been made on both sides of the House in reference to the small dealer. I must, however, demur to the words which fell from one of my hon. friends who suggested that an imputation had been cast upon the small dealer. I am confident none of us for a moment intended to cast the smallest reflection on the small dealers as a body. I believe after a somewhat exhaustive examination of this question that the great majority of small dealers will not be affected by this legislation. I believe the majority of them are honest men, anxious to carry out their business honestly. The effect of the Amendment introduced in Committee upstairs was that any person accused of an offence under the Adulteration Acts, and the Margarine Act, should, on producing an invoice, be entitled to be discharged. The opinion of experienced men was, however, against the proposal. The local authorities themselves were unanimously against it, the judicial authorities who were consulted held that it would afford a means of escape, and make the law inoperative; and the medical officers of health took the same view. The day after this point was decided on the Report stage I received letters from retail dealers approving of the decision arrived at, and one retail dealer stated that no honest men who took the trouble to look after his own affairs had any reason to fear it. At the same time I acknowledge there is a practical difficulty connected with this question. The words introduced in Committee making an invoice the same value as a warranty would make it impossible to administer Clause 19, but the speeches in support of that change were directed to a 270 totally different object. The speeches made at the deputations which waited upon me with reference to the point all went in a different direction. The hon. Member for Swansea suggested that an invoice should be made a warranty, but there is plenty of doubt as to whether there should or should not be a distinction between different kinds of invoices. It is suggested that an invoice which contains special words which appear to indicate that the seller guarantees the article he sells shall be held to be a warranty; but there has been diversity of opinion among those who administer the law. I have, however, been very much impressed by what I have heard during these Debates. I have listened to the helpful suggestions of the hon. Member for Swansea, and I hope that before the Bill reaches the Committee stage in another place, we may be able to have words introduced which will clear up any doubt as to the legitimate use of an invoice. On the other hand I am not prepared, while we are engaged in tightening up in other respects legislation with regard to this particular kind of offence, to introduce a provision which would enable a person to escape even though he committed frauds in a wholesale way. I hope that admission will be sufficient to meet the suggestion made to me. The only other matter to which I need refer is the description on the labels on tins of preserved milk, about which the hon. Member for North West Sussex is very anxious. I would remind my hon. friend that any declaration so definite as that such food is unfitted for infants should be very cautiously considered. There is a very great difference of opinion as to whether this food can be described as unfitted for infants. But I am not an authority on the feeding of infants, and I am not prepared to say what is the best advice that should be given to parents charged with this responsible duty. If, however, any form of words can be devised which will not ask Parliament to make a declaration which it would be undesirable to make—because Parliament ought not to give a declaration of that kind its authority unless we are quite certain it will not be contested—I shall be very glad, as I promised my hon. friend, to insert the necessary Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the staff of the Local Government Board, which is to carry out this Bill. I am not 271 aware that there is any particular difficulty in the matter. At the present time, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in Departments like the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture, no matter how careful we may be, a great deal of work must run onlines which at times may overlap. The work of one Department is often the work of the other; but there will be no difficulty whatever in carrying out the particular duties imposed by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman asked what staff we were going to appoint. That is a matter to which it is impossible to refer at present; but I think the right hon. Gentleman and the House may rely on it that the powers conferred by this Bill will not be used to harass either small or large traders, or to interfere in any illegitimate way with any industry. But, at the same time, we have a solid determination to make use of the new powers which we have asked Parliament to give us to put down fraud, to put an end to illegitimate trade, and to secure for the public what it is entitled to have—a supply of pure unadulterated articles of food, and that prices shall not be charged for these articles to which, on their merits, they are not entitled. Those are the lines on which we hope to work, and I believe that the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture will, if Parliament sees fit to pass this Bill subject to the changes I have indicated, be able to effect very material alterations.
§ Question put, and agreed.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.