Motion made and Question proposed—
That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. Long).
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. W. LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
Mr. Speaker, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I am glad that it will not be necessary for me, at this very inconvenient hour, to occupy the House very long, nor will it be necessary for me, I hope, to indulge in any very extensive arguments in advance of the general principle of the Bill, because all who have 1434 studied the law affecting the sale of food and drugs have agreed that some Amendments are required, and to a very large extent there is an agreement as to the form those Amendments should take. Perhaps it would be convenient if I remind honourable Gentlemen of the history of this question. More than 15 years ago the people interested in the trade expressed a general desire that there should be some alteration in the law, but even before that time honourable Members in this House, and outside, had advocated reforms. It was not until 1892 that a deputation waited on the honourable Member for Ilkeston, and pressed upon him the necessity for some alterations. This was followed by a large deputation of Members of Parliament who waited upon Mr. Shaw Lefevre, at that time President of the Local Government Board, and, finally, owing to the pressure brought to bear by those deputations, and to numerous suggestions that were made, the Committee was appointed, over which the honourable Member for Ilkeston presided. He presided over that Committee so long as the Government of which he was a Member remained in office, and after the last general election the honourable Member withdrew from the chair, and his place was taken by the honourable Member for South Tyrone. The Committee sat for three years, and heard 63 witnesses. They reported in 1896, and it is upon the Report which they presented, and upon the evidence which was taken before that Committee, that the legislation now proposed by the Government is founded. I think I shall be able to show, by one or two quotations from the Report, that the Committee found in the main that it was not so much an amendment of the law that was required as an improvement in administration. To put it roughly, they found that when administration was vigorously conducted, diminution in fraud and adulteration followed. Upon the question of adulteration the Committee, in their Report, said—While the evidence shows that the law in relation to food adulteration needs amendment in some important points, it is satisfactory to your Committee to have ground for stating that where the Acts have been well administered they hare been most beneficial hi diminishing adulteration. Forms of adulteration prior to the passing of the Act of 1875, such as the introduction of alum in bread, and the colouring of confectionery with poisonous material, have almost disappeared.1435 In a subsequent passage the Committee said—According to the evidence, very considerable differences exist throughout the country as to the efficiency with which local authorities exercise the powers conferred on them by the Acts. It has been stated that in the year 1893 there were 50 towns in England, with populations ranging from 60,000 to 135,000, where not a single sample of butter was submitted for analysis at the instance of the local authority.They go on further to refer to the fact that in some districts the duty devolving upon local authorities to appoint public analysts has not been performed, and, consequently, the administration of these laws has fallen altogether into disuse in those districts. Evidence to the same effect is to be found in the figures annually presented to the Local Government Board. These figures show that in proportion as the number of samples examined increase the percentage of adulteration decreases. Thus, in London in 1887–88, the number of samples examined was 753, the number of adulteraions 142, the percentage being 19. In 1896–97 the number of samples examined had risen to 2,038, the number of adulterations was 205, the percentage having fallen from 19 to 10. The experience is the same in Birmingham, Manchester, and other places. In Manchester and Salford the figures in 1887–88 were:—Number of samples examined 24, number adulterated 13, percentage 54; in 1896–97, number of samples examined 389, number adulterated 41, percentage 11. I need not trouble the House with further figures, because they all point in the same direction. Since I, in my capacity as President of the Local Government Board, took up this question, and became responsible for the Bill which I am now asking the House to read a second time. I have received a great many memorials from various bodies. I have found that in some quarters there exists a misapprehension as to the real force that is behind the present agitation. It has been erroneously thought that the demands for the Bill came exclusively from the agricultural districts, that this was, in fact, an attempt on the part of the agricultural community to secure some protection for their own industry against competition which they thought to be unreasonable and unfair. I can assure the 1436 House that that is not the case, because for every one demand for legislation which has been made to me by an agricultural community there have been half a dozen demands made by bodies who have nothing to do with agriculture. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce came to me by deputation, and pressed upon me in the strongest possible terms their conviction that nothing but the most drastic legislation would meet the case. Certainly the Manchester Chamber of Commerce cannot be called an agricultural body. The Association of Liver pool Grocers, who cannot either be called' an agricultural organisation, hold similar views, and pressed them upon me with equal force; and the Butter Association of the Metropolis, which represents a large trade, has expressed the opinion that strong legislation is absolutely necessary. I think this is sufficient, without other evidence which I could give to the House if required, to show that on the Report of this Committee, on the evidence given by the Local Government Board Returns, and on the strength of the pressure put upon us by bodies which cannot be called agricultural, requesting drastic legislation, we are justified in asking the House to deal with this question, which has displayed considerable points of difficulty, but which, I believe, we are now in a position to settle in a satisfactory manner. I cannot suppose, how ever, that it will meet the demands of those on either side who hold more extreme views. There are some who hold that very severe measures should be adopted. On the other hand, there are some who hold that there ought to be no interference, and who say that, on the whole, the consumer is pretty well able to look after himself. We have divided our Bill into two parts, the first part dealing with specially agricultural products, and the second part dealing with the general law of food and drugs, but, before dealing with the two branches of the Measure, I desire to say it has been stated that the protection which is asked for against fraud is unreasonable and unjust. I do not think the people engaged in this trade in our country can be blamed for the demand which they have made, because a very cursory examination of the laws of other countries will show that those countries have gone great lengths in the legislation they have passed in order to 1437 protect their industries. I hold in my hand a Return of the various legislation existing in different parts of the country, and I find that extremely drastic legislation has been resorted to in the case of the manufacture of margarine, and that practices which are allowable here are prohibited in many Continental countries. The Government, however, are at one with the Committee in a great portion, at all events, of their finding—that you can do what you want, and put an end to fraud, without legislation of so stringent a character as that which other countries have thought it necessary to adopt. I imagine that as regards this question we shall all agree upon two simple propositions. One is that we ought not to interfere by legislation with a legitimate industry which produces a wholesome and valuable article of food in great demand, especially among the poorer classes of the country, and which they are entitled to have and buy freely and openly so long as it is sold in a straightforward manner. I imagine we shall also agree to the further proposition that the law of the land, as it is now to be found on the Statute Book, must be obeyed and carried out, and that, if it is possible to secure it, trade must be conducted on honest and honourable principles. Taking these two propositions as conditions which must be antecedent to any legislation, I think it will be well for this House to give a little time and attention to this subject. It will not be difficult to alter the law by tightening it up in two or three directions, and by conferring on the Government Department some power it does not now possess to do all that is required, without having resort to those more drastic measures which other nations have thought it necessary to adopt. What we propose in our Bill is to take samples at the port of embarkation of certain articles of dairy produce, such as butter, cheese and milk. We have already some evidence in our Department of the advantages to be gained from this system of taking-samples. In 1896–07 963 samples were taken, of which 46 were found to be adulterated and 42 doubtful. In 1897–8 1,271 samples were taken, 25 were adulterated and 11 doubtful, while from April to October, 1898 612 samples were taken, and of these only two were adulterated and none doubtful. These figures 1438 show that a satisfactory result has followed from the policy which we have pursued up to the present time, through the Customs, with the consent of the Treasury, and there is every reason to believe that if this policy be regularised and carried out in the future, equally good results in an even larger degree will follow. It was proposed in a Measure introduced on a previous occasion to detain at the port the condemned articles if they were found to be adulterated, and to communicate with the people to whom they were consigned. That has proved, however, an altogether insufficient means of dealing with the difficulty. I will only give the House one single case in proof of this statement. There was a firm which imported some of the articles of which samples were taken for analysis, and on three separate occasions those samples were found to be adulterated. The firm was warned on each occasion, but the warning had no effect whatever. Finally, the retail dealer was summoned, and ho escaped on the plea that he bought the goods as pure butter on a warranty from the very firm which had been cautioned three times by ourselves. That is only one of the many instances that could be advanced, but it is just the sort of case for which these stronger measures are necessary; we want to deal with people caught in what is, undoubtedly, fraudulent trading; to make them liable to have proceedings taken against them, and, in the case of a third conviction, to ensure that the penalty is heavy enough to check their practices.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
I imagine that it was all eaten. While the sample is being taken and analysed, the stuff is being dealt with, and that is one of the difficulties with which we have to contend, for the adulterated produce is thus sold. Now, we ask that we should have power to proceed against the people who are responsible for the introduction of the adulterated article. With regard to the home trade, we propose that the power of carrying out the Act shall rest with the local authority, as it does it present, but, in addition to that, how- 1439 ever, we propose that the Department with which I am connected shall have the powers, if I may so put it, to guide the local authorities, and urge them to carry out energetically the powers which they possess. We do not stop there. We also ask Parliament to give us power to take steps ourselves, to see whether the work is being done, and if we find that it is neglected, to do it ourselves, charging the local authorities, of course, with the costs that are incurred. In that respect, I believe, we are asking for a very valuable power. It has worked well in other matters in which my Department is concerned, and I do not hesitate to say that we have found many instances in which local authorities, at first reluctant, for various reasons with which I need not trouble the House, to put in force the powers which they possess, and to take advantage of Acts of Parliament which enable them to do good work for their localities, have changed their policy after having been visited by a Government Inspector who has discussed the matter with them and with their officers, and have proved willing to take steps which they were not willing to take before, because, possibly, they did not realise the advantages to be derived from them. I believe that if the Department is given the power we ask for in this Bill we shall be able to secure the uniform administration of these Acts all over the country. And this is, after all, even more desirable than any change in the law. At present you have one local authority which does its work well, and hard by you have another which does nothing at all. You may succeed in driving fraud out of one district, but you only drive it into the adjoining one, and therefore the man who is unable to deal fraudulently in the one place finds an open field for his labours close by. We want to ensure that the administration, of the Act shall be universal, and that it shall be equally vigorous in all parts. I believe that result will be gained if we secure the power which we now ask Parliament to give us.
*THH PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
No, certainly not. That would obviously be useless, be- 1440 cause while the sample was being analysed, and before it could be pronounced to be either pure or adulterated, the produce might go bad.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
Instead of keeping the article until it has gone bad while the analysis is being made, and having, in consequence, to pay for it if it is found to be pure, we propose to make personally responsible the person who sells it, and if he sells what is wrong, and is detected in so doing, then Parliament is asked to give us the power to see that he is punished. That is better than the detention of the goods, which would involve considerable risk of wasting them should they be found to be all right upon analysis. While we ask for powers to improve the administration, we also ask for some slight alteration in the law affecting some of these articles, and it is when I come to deal with this question that I find myself in the greater difficulty, because so many of those who are interested in it are anxious that our legislation should be of a more severe character. What we propose is, that there should be a limitation of the amount of what is called butter in margarine.
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Why?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
I will tell the House why in a moment. We have fixed the limitation at 10 per cent. I need hardly tell the House that I have no particular fancy for 10 per cent.; it might be either 8 per cent, or 12 per cent., so far as I am concerned, but the main reason why we have taken 10 per cent. is this. On the best evidence I could get, either from analysts conversant with these things, or from the manufacturers of the articles. I am convinced that the very best margarine one can get may have in it anything from 2½ to 5 or 6 per cent, of butter fat. I have, therefore, taken a figure of which it cannot be said that it will put an end to, or interfere with, the manufacture of the very best margarine. Professor Thorpe, the Government Chemist, has expressed himself very strongly 1441 upon this point, and I believe that the experience of those who know how margarine is made goes also to confirm the view which we take, namely, that a percentage of this kind, while it will limit, as we believe, and render far more difficult the sale of one article in the name of another, will, at the same time, in no way interfere with the proper manufacture and production of an important article of food. Now I have had to deal with the evidence of a number of people who are connected with this trade, and who say that there is a considerable sale of an article in which there is a great deal more than 10 per cent, of butter fat. There is an article which, I am told, is known as "mixture." I confess that, until I had looked into this interesting question of margarine, and butter substitutes, I was not in the least aware of what a "mixture" was. I had always believed it to be various kinds of butter, put together in order to make the good sell off the bad, and that an article was thus produced which some people were willing to buy. But, instead of that, it appears what is called a "mixture" is margarine which contains a much larger amount of butter fat than would be possible if it were sold at the ordinary price of margarine. I am assured that there is a very considerable demand in certain districts for this article, and the evidence I have been able to get hold of convinces me that there would be very little demand for "mixture" or for margarine which contains more than 10 per cent, of butter fat if it were not for the fact that it is sold as "mixture," and not as margarine. The majority of people who buy it buy it as "mixture," and not as margarine, and, therefore, are willing to give a slightly better price for it. I have here a letter written to the "Grocer" newspaper, in which a firm of wholesale grocers say they have branches all over the kingdom at which with two or three exceptions, they sell margarine. They say they cater for the working classes, and have never yet been able to make any headway with "mixtures" when sold as margarine. 0ur inexperience is that about 90 per cent, of the margarine sold is that charged to the public at from 3½d. to 6d. per pound, whereas "mixtures" are sold at pure butter prices, 10d. to 13d. per pound. Evidence was given before the 1442 Committee in the same direction. Mr. Lovell said he did not think that mixtures of margarine and butter were sold as such. Mr. Hudson expressed the same opinion with regard to parts of Scotland where he traded, and a deputation from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, which came to express their views to me, stated their belief that 75 per cent, of the mixtures imported or manufactured in this country-were sold as pure butter. If that is the case, and if it be true, in the first place, that the majority of this stuff, which is either made in this country or is brought from abroad, is sold for that which it is not—is sold for butter—and if it be true that you can produce the very best article at a moderate price so as to meet all the demands of those classes w ho like to have this butter substitute on their tables, I do not think that anybody can object to our action as being unfair or unreasonable in limiting the amount of butter to be found in margarine to 10 per cent. It enables a good article still to be produced, while, at the same time, it places a check upon fraud, and limits all unfair and unjust competition. Now, Sir, I am aware that many people' believe that no steps of this kind will be effective unless you altogether prohibit the colouring of margarine to resemble butter, and the admixture of butter with margarine. I can only say that I have looked very closely into this subject myself, and I am satisfied that if it were wise to prohibit the colouring of margarine when you allow the practice in the case of other articles, it would be fatal to the margarine industry, because the article would be presented to the purchaser in a colour which would make it appear altogether undesirable. If you desire to destroy the industry altogether, you are entitled to demand that colouring shall be prohibited; but there are those of us who think that margarine might still, be supplied as an article of food. From my experience, and from the evidence which I have been able to collect, I gather that margarine without colouring would not be attractive to the people to whom it is sold.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
Well, without colouring, and in its natural condition, it would not commend itself to the judgment of the public. We are asked to prohibit the colouring of margarine so as to resemble butter. I believe that to be a misdescription. I do not think that margarine is coloured to resemble butter. It is coloured for precisely the same reason as butter: to make it look attractive, and to induce people to buy and to consume it. So are milk and cheese. The result is the same: they are coloured in order to make them attractive, and to induce people to purchase them. I confess I am as strong as anybody in my desire that this fraudulent dealing, of which too much undoubtedly exists in this country, should be stopped. I cannot for the life of me, however, understand why the colouring of margarine, a wholesome and popular article of food, should be prohibited, when the colouring of butter, cheese, or milk is to be allowed. I will go further. I do not believe that this House would be responsible for so great an injustice. I believe the House will admit that if colouring is allowed in respect to one article of food, it should be equally allowed in respect to another; and from what little I know of the dairy industry, I question very much whether it would be altogether in the interests of the farmer that the colouring of margarine should be prohibited, supposing that the prohibition is to be extended to his own produce. I do not believe you can justify the demand for prohibiting the colouring of one article alone, when it is admitted that the colouring produces no bad effect, and is in no way deleterious, but is simply applied for the purpose of making it more attractive to the people who consume large quantities of it. No doubt it becomes more like butter because it is coloured as butter. But we believe we can prevent this unfair competition without resorting to a plan which we do not think to be fair. We are also asked to prohibit altogether the mixing of butter with margarine. Here, again, nobody wants, I believe, to interfere with a legitimate trade. No one wants to prevent the manufacturer of margarine turning out the best article he can. If we can stop fraud without either interfering with the quality of the 1444 article, or prohibiting colouring, then we are entitled to ask the House not to listen to an extreme proposal of that kind. I know that, amongst many agriculturists, these views are held with considerable force, and that many people believe in them, but I can only say that, having given the subject the most careful examination, I have satisfied myself that prohibition of colouring and admixture are not necessary. I also believe that if we tried to prohibit colouring in regard to one thing, we should be driven further along the road, and be compelled to do things injurious to the dairy industry. I only want to say one or two words with regard to that part of the Bill which deals with the general law relating to food and drugs. Some 11 or 12 recommendations have been made at various times by the representatives of grocers and others, and were also recommended by the Committee to which I have already referred. We have dealt with seven of these. One is rendered unnecessary, owing to a subsequent change in the law. There are only two which we have to deal with in this Bill. There is a small misapprehension with regard to Clause 17; it is thought that we mean to give invoices the same legal force as a warranty already possesses. But it is not intended to do this. We hold that it would not be wise to give an invoice the same value as is given to a warranty. Invoices are filled in, I believe, in large numbers without the caution which is necessary in regard to warranties, and we believe that the right to produce an invoice as a warranty would strengthen the power of defeating the law against fraud. Neither are we prepared to recommend that the assistant shall be made punishable for offences under the Act, nor that there shall be certain additions to the qualifications of analysts. On the whole, while there is nothing novel or heroic in the Bill, I believe that it embodies a practicable proposal, and that it will enable my Department, in co-operation with the local authorities, to deal with fraud which exists to a larger extent than many imagine, while it will not interfere with a legitimate industry, or curtail the supply of an essential and popular article of food which we think the people are entitled to have so long as it is sold under its own name, and under the law as it at present exists. 1445 We think that we can secure that the law shall be obeyed, and that justice shall be done by this Bill when its rough edges have been polished off. I hope this House will read the Bill a second time. If in Committee it is not materially altered, it will enable us to do all which the Select Committee thought desirable, and all that the majority of reasonable-people in this country desire.
§ On the return of MR. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Lough.)
§ *MR. LOUGH
In rising to move the rejection of this Bill I desire to say that I do not disagree with anything whatever the right honourable Gentleman said in introducing it. He said, truly enough, that the chief fault to be found with the proposals of the Government was that these were not drastic enough, that they do not go far enough to check all adulteration. That is my opinion about them. I do not think that there is anyone in this House who believes that this Bill will check adulteration. My name is on the back of a Bill drawn by the honourable Member for Devon-port, dealing with this subject, and if that Bill has a fault it is because of its drastic character. It deals solely with the subject of the adulteration of food, and it includes all kinds of food. I am absolutely in favour of applying the strictest measures you can wisely apply to what is certainly a very great defect in our present system. The fault I find with the Bill introduced by the right honourable Gentleman is that it is not an adulteration Bill at all. It is a Bill, as I think I shall be able to show, which interferes with existing arrangements of local self-government in the country; it is a Bill to interfere with the free importation of food, and which affects some of the greatest interests in the country. It is a Bill to raise prices and to protect the agricultural interest. It is a purely protective Bill, conceived in a bad spirit of protection, and that is the reason I ask this House to reject it. The Bill is very curiously constructed. It is divided into two 1446 parts, as the right honourable Gentleman said. The first and longest part of the Bill deals with a number of provisions which I will describe to the House, because they were not described by the right honourable Gentleman who introduced the Bill. There are eleven clauses in the first part of the Bill, which contain some exceedingly curious provisions, and to which I shall invite the attention of the House of Commons. The right honourable Gentleman has not explained why the Board of Agriculture has come into this matter at all. It is the duty of the local authorities to enforce the Food and Drugs Act, and the local authorities are under the Local Government Board. I believe the representative of the Local Government Board is in the House. Can that right honourable Gentleman explain why this matter is not kept still in the charge of the Local Government Board, and why has the Board of Agriculture taken it up? The Board of Agriculture runs all through these eleven clauses which form the first part of the Bill. Under the Bill the Board of Agriculture has power to interfere with the Commissioners of Customs at the ports of entry throughout the Kingdom. The Commissioners of Customs are only to act by the direction of and in consultation with the Board. Why should not these duties be left to the Commissioners of Customs alone, under the supervision of the Treasury? Why should the Board of Agriculture interfere thus at the ports of entry? The Board of Agriculture appears again to claim the right to stop carriers on the public roads and to examine anything in their carts. The Board of Agriculture claims the right to appoint officers to enforce these drastic provisions in their own interest, and, although not directed against adulteration—in every part of the Kingdom, and to charge the cost of these officers to the local government of the locality. I say that is a very far-reaching proposal. And, finally, the Board of Agriculture claims the right, under the Bill, to enter into every business place or shop of any person who may be described as a wholesale dealer, and to see that he keeps a register of all sales of those articles mentioned in the Act, and if he does, and that register is not posted up, the most drastic powers can be put in operation against 1447 that unfortunate person. These are only specimens of the far-reaching proposals embodied in this Bill. And we ought to ask what is the reason that so much is demanded in this Bill. After all, there is no concealment in the Bill, although there was great concealment in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman who introduced it. If you look at the second clause you see the object of all this. In that second clause the idea of checking adulteration is given up altogether, and we read these words—The Board of Agriculture may, in relation to any matter appearing to the Board to affect the general interests of the agriculture of the United Kingdom.—that is the key to the whole situation. It is anything that affects the interests of the agriculture of the United Kingdom. It is no, longer the interests of the whole population against adulteration. It is the interests of a particular class in the United Kingdom against all the rest of the people—a broad claim of right under that clause I have quoted, to do any of these things I have described, if the Board of Agriculture considers it to be in the interests of the agriculture of the United Kingdom. I claim that the idea of adulteration of food is completely abandoned in that clause, and that the right honourable Gentleman is trying to advance the interests of a single class at the expense of all the rest of the Community.
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
§ *MR. LOUGH
I admit a large and important class. It is almost as large as other classes I could mention, in this country and in Ireland. I would rid myself of the charge of any want of sympathy with the agricultural class, for I do not think anyone could understand the Irish situation without feeling deep sympathy with the agricultural interest. But the Bill tries to secure those interests in the wrong way. It wants to exclude foreign food and to exclude competition.
§ *MR. LOUGH
Yes, the tendency is in that way. I say that every obstacle which is presented by the Board of Agriculture, this right of examination by the Board of Agriculture of business 1448 premises, this right to stop carriers' carts, this right to call on every man who is a wholesale dealer to keep an account of every transaction he makes —all this is against freedom of trade, and is in the interest of a particular class of the community at the expense of all the rest of the community. I say this is a wrong way to promote the interests of agriculture. There is only one way of promoting the interests of agriculture, and that is that the agriculturists should learn that they have got to meet the competition of the agriculturists of other countries. What is the object of the right honourable Gentleman in this Bill? He wants to force the people of this country to eat the bad butter that is made at home instead of the good butter that is made in Normandy.
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
§ *MR. LOUGH
Honourable Members may cry "Oh!" but I will answer every question that is properly put to me. This is a Bill to provide that every difficulty is put in the way of importing butter from abroad. If the Board of Agriculture suspects that anything is wrong it can take samples.
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Quite right.
§ *MR. LOUGH
The Board of Agriculture throws a stigma on the products', and an honourable Member says "Quite right." I don't think he means that it is quite right for the Board of Agriculture to do this. My contention is that an independent authority ought to do it. I have not the slightest objection to the Commissioner of Customs, who is an independent authority, stopping anything he pleases in the shape of food imported into the country. But I want that stoppage to be in the interests of the whole population and not, as under this Bill, in favour of a particular class. The particular branch of commerce I am interested in is tea, and the examination by the Board of Customs of the importations of tea has been of the greatest service, and has put a stop to the importation of unsound tea. I object to the representatives of one particular interest having the right to go to the port of entry and torment anybody who imports food into this country. I do not object to the provision that examination should be made 1449 at the port of entry, but to the Board of Agriculture making it. The other provision to which I strongly object is that which compels everybody who is called a wholesale dealer to keep a register, and to keep that register posted up regularly. The words of the Bill are, "if he wilfully makes any entry which is false, or fraudulently omits to make any entry.'' Why, there are in many parts of this land wholesale dealers who can neither read nor write.
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Manufacturers are compelled to keep a register.
§ *MR. LOUGH
The honourable Member should not have interrupted me. I have not said that the manufacturers do not keep a register. But we have gone as far as possible in that sort of legislation. We have, already, this clause against manufacturers. But when these wholesale dealers—who might only sell 201bs. Of stuff worth five shillings—do not enter on a register their sales, under this Star Chamber clause in this Bill, they expose them selves to very serious penalties. There is a great deal about margarine and margarine cheese in this Bill. What is wrong with margarine? A right honourable Gentleman who sits on the front Bench opposite told me a few days ago that he had visited a margarine factory, and that nothing could be more whole some as a food than margarine; that it was in excellent food, and was turned out at a third of the price of butter. Why should there be any stigma cast on food made in this country? The Bill casts a stigma on margarine, and compels everybody who sells it to keep a record of it. I say it is very unfair treatment to a class of the population whose feelings we ought to respect. There is one other provision in the Bill to which I wish to call attention, and I hope this criticism will not hurt the feelings of its Friends in the House. There is a clause in the Bill which prevents the improvement of margarine, which was the 1450 clause which occupied the right honourable Gentleman longer than any other clause of the Bill; that is, the clause which prevents more than 10 per cent, of butter fat being put into margarine. Why on earth should we approve a provision of that kind? What is butter fat? I believe that butter fat is the main constituent, the principal ingredient, of butter; it is the best thing in butter. Therefore, I would say we ought to pass a law to put as much butter fat as possible into margarine. The more butter fat the better the margarine will be. I think the Government ought to use every inducement to make the manufacturer put in butter fat. What do the Government do? They will make it an illegal offence in this country to have any more than 10 per cent, of the genuine article in this mixture. I think that is a most extraordinary provision. I do not believe that this House will lend its approval to that provision in any case, and it is a most extraordinary example of the strange provisions which are found brought into this Act. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have stated that I object to the Board of Agriculture being introduced into this matter. The President of the Board of Agriculture has disappeared now. He has left the Bill in charge of the honourable Member who represents the Local Government Board. Well, I want the Local Government Board to still remain the authority over the local authorities throughout this country. I see no reason why the Local Government Board should be pushed aside under the Bill and the Board of Agriculture substituted. Then, Sir, I object to this drastic clause I have mentioned. I want the examination at the port of entry to be done by the Customs, and I think that this clause which I have called the Star Chamber clause, which enables the Board of Agriculture to go and examine the books of a man, appoint officers in the local districts, and charge the expense of these officers to the Local Government of the locality I think these are very far-reaching proposals. There is not one of these proposals in the Select Committee's Report upon this Act. The right honourable Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, said that he had carried out 11 recommendations of the Committee in the second half of the Bill. I ask the House to 1451 observe that I have not said a word against the second part of the Bill. As a matter of fact, it does not make the law stronger than it is at present; it rather ameliorates the law in two or three cases. I have no objection to the second part of the Bill. I see by the face of the honourable Gentleman who represents the Local Government Board that that portion of the Bill is drawn with his full approval. I approve it also, but it is a mere bagatelle. The main part of the Bill is the first part, which gives these drastic powers that I have stated to the Board of Agriculture. That Board, Sir, is the most retrograde of all the Departments of the Government. It has worried the people of the country over the rights that it has got with regard to the muzzling of dogs. It does not discharge, as far as I can make out, any part of its duties satisfactorily or effectively. Neither the Ordnance Survey nor the Importation of Cattle Regulations, which are under the Board of Agriculture, command the support of the population of this country. Therefore I look with considerable jealousy at the great demand which the Board of Agriculture is making in this Bill for an extension of its powers; and, in accordance with that feeling, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.
§ *SIR C. CAMERON
I rise to second the Amendment, and I do so not so much from great animosity to the first part of the Bill as from my dislike of the second part. I entirely share the feelings which my honourable Friend has expressed with regard to the transference under this Bill of powers to the Board of Agriculture. When I came into the House and saw the right honourable Gentleman the President of that Board explaining this Bill, I remembered that in 1874 or 1875 the first Adulteration Bill was brought in in charge of the President of the Local Government Board. I recollected that, when this Committee was appointed at my suggestion, it was, in the first instance, presided over by my honourable 1452 Friend the then Secretary of the Local Government Board, and afterwards by the present Secretary to the Local Government Board. I remembered that when, last year or the year previous, an Adulteration Bill was introduced, it was introduced by the President of that Board. Certainly it does seem to me most suspicious and absolutely unaccountable that at this hour of the day we should have this Bill introduced in charge of the Board of Agriculture. Is it because the Secretary to the Local Government Board, or the President of that Board, does not understand the subject, or does not understand it so well as the President of the Board of Agriculture? Why, Sir, a more lamentable exposure of ignorance of the whole subject than was shown by the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture in his speech never, in all the course of my experience, fell to my lot to witness.
§ SEVERAL HONOURABLE MEMBERS: No.
§ *SIR C. CAMERON
No! Well, I intend to make that assertion good. A Member of this House comes down to legislate on the subject of butter and margarine, and confesses that he did not know what a "mixture" was until he heard an explanation the other day. It absolutely takes one's breath away. I was just expressing my astonishment that the task of dealing with adulteration should have been handed over from a Gentleman who, at least, had the advantage of presiding for several years over a Select Committee on the subject, who understood it wholly and thoroughly, to a Gentleman who confessed that until the last few days he did not understand what "mixtures" in the butter trade meant. Why, it is one of their standing grievances that they are obliged to sell a mixture of, it may be, 50 per cent, of margarine and 50 per cent, of butter, not as what it is—as it would have been in the case of chicory and coffee—not as a mixture of butter and margarine, but as what it is not, as margarine. I am one of those old-fashioned people who think that we should legislate on some definite principle, and it seems to me you should adopt, in dealing with margarine and butter, the same principles which you adopt in dealing with chicory and coffee, 1453 or any other mixture, and until you do so you will never have any satisfactory legislation on the subject of adulteration. Then, again, the right honourable Gentleman went on the say that it was not intended under this Bill to make an invoice a warranty, and he said it would be explained in some subsequent section of the Bill. Well, I have looked it through, and I confess I cannot find any explanation, but I know that that is one of the most important questions connected with the whole subject of the sale of foods and drugs. And the right honourable Gentleman went on to say that an invoice would never do for a warranty, and an invoice was not n document written with deliberation, but written often in a hurry. Was he ignorant that in the case of margarine an invoice is a warranty? Was he ignorant that in the case of feeding stuffs for cattle and fertilisers, not only is an invoice a warranty, but a circular, an advertisement, is held to be a warranty? And this from the right honourable Gentleman who has charge of this Bill, and is going to settle the whole question to the satisfaction of everyone Well, Sir, as to the examination at the Customs, I have no objection. I know that at the instance of my honourable Friend here (Mr. Kearley) some seizures of a mixture of margarine and butter were made; and I have always contended that if you want to put down adulteration, you must not go to the huckster who does not know what ho is doing, but you must go to the fountain head for evidence of fraudulent acts—go to the wholesale manufacturers. Why, in this Bill, there are to be found no powers of the sort. The right honourable Gentleman spoke about the warranty. Let him ask his honourable Friend beside him, and he will tell him that the difficulty is not to get at the retailer. What you want is the manufacturer; you want to get at him, and that is what the Bill does not provide for. I would have the provisions as to seizures in the Customs, which have effected so much good in the case of tea, and have been applied to butter, applied to everything. Now, the right honourable Gentleman is acting simply in the interests of the public. He wishes us to secure a better supply of butter, and a better supply of milk. Then why does not he carry out the recommendations of the Committee? 1454 Take the case of milk. I am one of those who have always found that the bulk of the traders are the men who are most opposed to adulteration. They consider it to be an unfair form of competition, and they desire to deal very harshly with the black sheep among them. I was a member of the Committee on Adulteration, presided over by my honourable Friend, and I had letters from the Glasgow Dairy Association suggesting that the standard of fat in milk should be raised from 2– to 3 per cent. I had suggestions from the Manchester Dairy Association that an extension should be made of the power of seizure of milk in transit, and on every hand it has been my, lot—and for many years I have taken a special interest in adulteration—to find the utmost and most honest desire on the part of the great majority of traders of all the respectable and associated members of a trade to put an end to adulteration. Now, the right honourable Gentleman said that he wishes to put an end to the adulteration of butter. Bui does ho? When I heard my honourable Friend behind me cheering away when everything was said in disapprobation of margarine and in praise of butter, I wondered, did he remember that one of the most constant and most complained of adulterations of butter was water? And the Committee, of course, took cognisance of it, and though they did not report that a standard should lie fixed by them, what they said was that—Having regard to their proposal for the constitution of a court of reference, your Committee have not thought it necessary to give any recommendation upon the question of a standard of water in butter.That points to the fact that they thought the court of reference, which was by their recommendation established, should in the first instance fix a standard at which admixture of water with butter should be considered adulteration. Well, the right honourable Gentleman defended himself for not having made the colouring of margarine an offence. That is one of the two recommendations of the Committee with which I absolutely and entirely disagree. Apply general principles nil round. Make the admixture of colouring matter in every case an offence and then apply the rule to margarine, 1455 but do not allow butter to be coloured up to any given pitch, and apply a different rule to the case of another article. The right honourable Gentleman does not intend to do that, I know, but there was no occasion, I think, for his defending himself so vigorously for not doing it. The right honourable Gentleman said that he had based this Bill on the recommendations of the Select Committee—the Committee which sat, I think, for four years. It took an enormous amount of evidence— it certainly took during the two years in which I was on it a very large amount of evidence on all sides, and its recommendations, I think, should be treated with very great respect. What are these recommendations? I will take the recommendation of the Committee that in order to ensure the carrying out of the Acts, the County Councils should have their own officers to take samples. He proposes that that duty, which properly devolves upon the local authorities, should be taken charge of by the Board of Agriculture. The Committee recommended in the most unhesitating manner that invoices or equivalent documents should have the force of warranties in the case of all articles to which the Food and Drugs Acts apply. Why should they not? They are so already in the case of margarine and feeding stuffs for cattle. The reform is one which has been long and urgently demanded in connection with the sale of food and drugs generally. But the honourable Gentleman reverses the decision of the Committee—the proposal of his colleague the Secretary to the Local Government Board. In regard to margarine, under the Margarine Act the shopkeeper would not be liable for sale by an assistant of margarine as butter if he could plead proper precautions and instructions to the contrary; but under the Act, as regards butter, the plea of a disobedient assistant is no defence. In fact, the whole thing is such a jumble that, so far from making any improvement in the existing law, it will make matters ten times worse than they were before. Then there was the most important recommendation of the Committee to set up a Board of Reference at Somerset House to fix the standards in the mixture of margarine and butter. This, again, is not given effect to, and I 1456 am sure that when the traders understand that even the small concession of making the invoice an implied warranty is not to be granted, then they will get up an agitation against the principle of the Bill, which will strongly reinforce what I think should be the effort of every representative of an urban constituency, namely, to oppose a Measure, the only object of which is to secure a monopoly at the expense of the urban consumers for a certain class of agricultural producers.
§ *SIR M. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the speech which has just been made by the honourable Member, and I am bound to say that the reasons he has given for opposing the Bill seem to be most inadequate. I am satisfied that the conduct of the Bill could not be in better hands. I understand that the Secretary to' the Local Government Board has given his best attention to the Bill, as well as the President of the Board of Agriculture, and those of us who served on the Committee will remember the attention the honourable Member of South Tyrone devoted to the many points brought before him. Now I am not going to say anything about the second part, of the Bill, but I think the manner in which the honourable Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) has handled the first part was hardly fair to the House. Those who are interested in agricultural matters think it most important that we should have protection against adulteration, so that the public should know when they are purchasing cheese, butter, or margarine. It is a well-known fact that margarine is much liked by a certain part of the community. It has an enormous sale, and to' prohibit the sale would be almost an impossibility for any Government. But we want to know what is margarine and what is butter. Now I should like to say that this Bill does not seem to me to altogether simplify matters. There is a great amount of difficulty to decide what is adulteration and what is not. I remember a few years ago the late Lord Playfair made a speech in this House in which he declared that it was almost impossible to tell which was margarine and which was butter, even if margarine contained 50 per cent, of butter fat. Only the other day, I may tell the House, a sample 1457 of 33 per cent, of oleo was sent to an analytical chemist, and he pronounced it as pure butter; so that if the mixture of butter fat with margarine is not to legally exceed 10 per cent, there will be no end of prosecutions, many of which will be harmful to an industry of great importance in certain parts of the country. What I strongly object to in the Bill is that it is very much harder on the home manufacturer and producer than it is on the foreigner. That may not be the view of some honourable Members, but in my district, in the southwest of Scotland, where we have very large dairy farms and creameries, and where a manufacturer could turn out about 10 tons of margarine a week, the Bill, as it stands, may work very injuriously—to the advantage of the foreign producer. What will happen? A sample may be sent to the Board of Trade, an inspector sent down, proceedings taken, and a conviction possibly obtained. But what will happen if the margarine manufacturer lived on the other side of the Channel? Although no doubt great care would be taken at the port of debarkation, that would not be in any way sufficient to protect the home retailer, because he would have no idea where the foreigner lived, and would consequently be unable to track him. The effect of the Bill will be that it will drive dealers to buy from foreigners, against whom they will be unable to proceed, and that certainly will not be advantageous for this country. I would further suggest that the 10 per cent, referred to in clause 8, if it stands in the Bill, should apply to "added" butter fat. I am very anxious also to mention another point. We know that there is a great difficulty in getting a thoroughly uniform analysis, one analyst arriving at a result by a totally different process from another. If the authorities at Somerset House would lay down certain rules, and see that the whole thing is conducted upon that particular basis, you would have a much more uniform system to work upon, and one which would give satisfaction both to manufacturer and buyer. I am extremely glad that the President of the Board of Agriculture has brought in this Bill. I am very hopeful that it will be carried, and that it will do much good to the agricultural community of the country.
§ MR. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
The Bill now introduced will not satisfy the producer or safeguard the consumer effectively. It is most unfortunate that the Government have thought fit to rush the Second Reading of this important Bill. It was only printed and circulated to Members last Wednesday, and at first there was no intention of taking the Second Reading before Easter. This would have given ample time for the Bill to be considered and discussed in the country before its Second Reading. This is all the more necessary as the Bill is a complicated one, and is, as usual, full of references to other Acts, making it not easy to understand. A Measure of this kind should be simple and clear, and self-contained. For it must be recollected that this Bill will not only have to be administered by local authorities, but will have to be studied by thousands of producers and vendors. As the Bill now stands, it will be useful, no doubt, to lawyers, and lead to conflicting decisions by the magistrates, as is now the case under the present Acts dealing with adulteration. In the first place, I would point out that there is no definite provision in the Bill prohibiting the addition to milk or butter of any matter detrimental to health. At the present time the addition of so-called preservatives to milk and cream is increasing. The more common ones are borax, boracic acid, boroglycerides, benzoic acid, salicylic acid, formalin, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium fluoride. All chemists agree that all of these drugs, if added in excess, are harmful, if not dangerous, to children, and not beneficial for adults. But some, such as salicylic acid and formalin, are, even in small quantities, harmful if taken daily. Formalin is made from fusel oil, the refuse of whisky, and is certainly an objectionable addition to milk, cream, or butter, having a toxic action; and the addition of bicarbonate of soda is to make sour milk appear and taste sweet, while not really averting decomposition. The Council of the British Medical Association, in their report of the 18th January of this year, say, in referring to this matter—The addition of preservatives, such as boracic acid or formalin, to milk by the vendors, whether wholesale or retail, should be 1459 entirely prohibited; such substances are apt to be used to cover fraud; for example, the admixture with fresh milk of stale or separated milk. They do not render the milk sterile, and their habitual consumption is not in itself free from injurious effects on the, individual.In France, no preservatives are allowed to be added to milk or butter except for export to England. In Belgium, no foreign matter may be added to milk or butter. In Denmark, no preservative, except salt, may be added to butter. In Germany the addition of preservatives to butter and milk is considered and treated as adulteration. It would appear, therefore, that other countries have definitely by law protected the consumer by forbidding the addition of preservatives, as being prejudicial to health. The consumer should be protected, and no preservatives should be introduced into milk or butter, either by the producer or the vendor. The consumer ought to get what he pays for, and he certainly does not, knowingly or willingly, ask for, or pay for, doctored milk, butter, or cream. The prohibition of preservatives may cause some inconvenience, but it is of more importance to protect the consumer and the honest trader. Again, the consumer should be protected against the addition of separate milk to whole milk, and the addition of margarine to butter. The provisions contained in the Bill with the object of so doing are either vague or of small value, and leave too much to rules and regulations to be made by the Board of Agriculture. But the most remarkable omission from the Bill is that it does not attempt to carry out the recommendation of the Select Committee on Food Products Adulteration in reference to the colouring of margarine and its admixture with butter. The Select Committee, in their Report, say—However, your Committee cannot but feel that the adulteration of butter with margarine, and the fraudulent sale, of margarine for butter, are greatly facilitated in many instances by the artificial use of ingredients to colour margarine While your Committee are reluctant to interfere with the manufacture of any edible commodity, they cannot, in the interest of honest trading, arrive at any conclusion other than to recommend the absolute prohibition of artificial colouring of margarine to resemble or imitate butter.1460 This recommendation was inserted in the Report upon the Motion of the honourable Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), and was carried by a majority of over two to one, and was supported by the honourable Member for East Northampton and the honourable Member for North Hants. The Select Committee further recommended that the mixing for sale of margarine and butter should be prohibited. In Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, this mixing is not allowed for home consumption. I certainly wish to support the recommendations of the Select Committee which I have just quoted, and I do so on the ground that all articles of food should only be sold for what they are, and should not be sophisticated in order to deceive. In fact, in the interests of the consumer, and in the interest of the honest trader, I go further. It seems to me inadvisable that any article of food should be artificially coloured or adulterated in such a way as to deceive or defraud the purchaser. The custom has grown up of late of producers colouring milk, cream, and butter, and I deprecate such custom in the interest of honest trading, and on the ground that dairy produce should be sold in its natural state, and not altered from its natural condition. This system of colouring milk, butter, and cream is quite modern, and 20 years ago was almost unknown, and certainly not practised in our country districts. I lay it down as an essential principle that a man should know what he is buying, and that the addition of preservatives and colouring matter serves no good purpose and is unnecessary. As to the mixture of margarine and butter, this, too, cannot be defended, and the Select Committee reported against it, and it is surely calculated to deceive and to defraud the consumer and the honest trader. In fact, it is asserted that so skilful has this adulteration of butter with margarine become, that only the most expert analysts can detect it, and even they are unable to do so in some cases. I am one of those who would do nothing to interfere with fair and legitimate competition, and utterly repudiate the suggestion that margarine should be coloured and its sale prevented. In fact, I would withdraw all the harassing restrictions from the sale of margarine, and give it a free sale, so long as it is 1461 not coloured in order to deceive the consumer, or to enable it to be used for the adulteration of butter. "The Grocer," a paper representing the trade, says as regards the defects of the Bill—The fatal stumbling-block in present conditions is the great resemblance of margarine and butter. Our readers' own suggestions to prevent deception amount to this: That butter and margarine should be differentiated, either by colour or by shape and packing, so that there can be no substitution which is not palpably and intentionally fraudulent. The Bill gives no assistance in the way of rendering the two articles distinct from each other— it simply forbids and penalises. The Bill simply says, 'Do right, or we will punish you.' It will worry honest traders with more inspection and prosecution, whilst the real rogues will laugh at the law. We mean that the Bill provides no means of reaching the man who, as our recent 'interviews' have shown, adopts the practice of selling pure butter over his counter, but sends margarine mixtures out to his family customers, who think they are getting butter, and pay for it. We should like less inspection and more prevention. There is ample proof that the practice is demoralising the whole trade.To sum up the main defects of the Bill, I will say that it does not protect effectively the honest producer and trader, or the consumer. The Bill, I venture to say, will not satisfy the agriculturists or the traders; it is one of those half-and-half sort of Measures that never pleases anyone, and will only hamper the producer, the manufacturer, and the retailer, without really effecting its object. In my opinion, this question should be approached from one point of view, and that is to prevent dishonest trading, and to insure that the public at large are not damaged in health or pocket by adulteration of food products. As regards margarine, I feel perfectly certain that the provision made is a complicated one, and, although I appreciate the efforts of the right honourable Gentleman, and I feel quite sure that this Bill is in the right direction, yet, at the same time, I cannot help saying that I feel sorry that he has not thought fit to deal with the question in a more drastic and simple manner, and one which is less calculated to harass the retail trade.
§ MR. JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
I do not intend to trouble the House at length upon this subject, but I am anxious to say a word or 1462 two on this Bill, because I have been intimately connected with a council to which is committed the administration of the Food and Drugs Act. In answer to some remarks which fell from the honourable Member who has just sat down upon the subject of preservatives in milk, I should like to ask the honourable Member who represents Somerset whether he would like to trust a great quantity of milk sent up from Somerset to the tender mercies of the South Western Railway Company on a hot afternoon in July without some small admixture of preservative.
§ MR. JOHNSTONE
I do not know whether the honourable Member superintends the despatching of the milk himself, but I doubt whether those who live nearer to London than Somerset would care to trust their milk to the tender mercies of another railway, to a long journey on a hot afternoon without some small admixture of preservative. The Bill is not a heroic Measure, but, under a somewhat commonplace exterior, there lurks some extremely valuable and useful provisions. I venture to say that the great difficulty experienced by those who really try to administer the Food and Drugs Act, and those who try to put down adulteration, is the present system of taking samples. In the rural districts and the small towns, and also in many of the large towns, the effect of inspectors going into a shop and asking for a certain article of produce does much to ensure the consumer getting a genuine article. Now, if the Board of Agriculture or any other Government authority had power to send round inspectors, and, if they exercised that power frequently, it should be a, good thing; the samples should be taken unexpectedly by unknown people, and where this has been done I have noticed that the percentage of convictions for adulteration goes down very largely in a very short time, and, therefore, we may assume that adulteration decreases. Another valuable power is that given to the local authority to take and analyse samples, and in this respect I somewhat agree with the contention that this power ought to be exercised whether the interests of the agricultural 1463 producers are affected or not, for I think that power should be given irrespective of this consideration. I think it should be a general power, because you have only to look at the returns which come in, more especially from some of our boroughs, to see the good effect upon adulteration of the operation of the Food and Drugs Act. I am sure a great deal may be done in this direction, and I regard this as one of the most salutary and most useful provisions of the Bill. Then, again, I venture to call the attention of the House to the question of standardizing, for there is a provision in this Bill as to the standard of purity of certain articles. If the butter is not up to the conventional standard the presumption of procuring proof of purity will be with the seller, and I think it would be an extremely unwise provision to make one undeviating standard against which the seller shall have no protection at all. The purity of butter and milk depends, to a great extent, upon the condition of the cow, for if a cow was turned out by the roadside in the cold weather of January the milk might be below the standard, and yet there might not have been any adulteration. Therefore, I do not think it is wise and judicious that the standard should be a rigid one. Then there is a great controversy between butter and margarine, and between colouring and no colouring. It seems to be generally agreed on all hands that margarine is a wholesome article of food. I have not myself willingly and knowingly tasted it, but it is very possible that in several hotels in the course of my travels it has been presented before me in the form of butter. I believe it to be a fact that it is extremely wholesome, and it is used in large quantities. I have been told by shopkeepers that the call for it is really a matter of price, and, as it is always considerably below butter in price, there is a great call for it. I am not aware that it wants a great deal of colouring. If I am rightly informed, it has somewhat the colour of dripping, which, in my younger days, used to be very largely consumed by all sections of the population. With regard to this article and to dairy produce generally, if you are going to insist that dealers must not use any colouring matter at all, either in milk or butter, I am sure they will be very greatly hampered by 1464 such a restriction. My own belief is that the public mind is not sufficiently educated to this at the present time, and what the public require is a uniform article with a uniform appearance, for they like to see articles with the same colour put before them day after day and time after time, and if the producer can please them by his slight admixture of colouring to give what the customers have grown accustomed to, he should not be prevented from doing so. What the public want is the same sort of thing day after day. I am sure the British dairy producers would be very greatly hampered and hindered if they found that they were not able to give that slight tinge of colouring matter which enables them to put a wholesome article before the public. If he found himself handicapped in that way, I know his trade would fall off, and there would be a preference for those articles which were not so wholesome and not so sound. Therefore I think that public opinion is not ripe at the present time to deal with this question, and I think my right honourable Friend has exercised a very wise discretion, and has shown courage— which I may say always distinguishes him in dealing with this and all other matters—in going against the wishes of some of his agricultural supporters upon this subject. Although this Bill does not go so far as I should like it, I am convinced that it will be the means of educating the public and educating the consumer to such an extent that eventually both the British producer and the consumer will be able to take the more advanced view of the question which some of us do at the present moment. I shall give my hearty support to this Measure, because I think it is an honest attempt to deal with the question, and I shall, with confidence, commend it to those whom I represent.
§ *SIR W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
This Bill, which was introduced in an interesting statement by the right honourable Gentleman opposite, is one which, after all, is somewhat disappointing. It has taken a good deal of time to prepare, and this is the third Bill introduced. It contains 23 clauses. It was introduced the first time with 10 clauses, the second time with 13 clauses, 1465 and now it conies out in a third edition with 23 clauses, and yet it contains only some of the recommendations of the Select Committee which spent so much time over this business. I do not say that it does not contain several of those recommendations, but some of the greatest importance have been passed over. Some of the recommendations which I think are of extreme value, and which the Committee were especially anxious should be incorporated in any Bill of this kind, are left out completely, and we have not had any detailed statement from the right honourable Gentleman us to why these omissions have occurred. The Bill does contain, however, points upon which I wish to congratulate the framers, and I wish to be perfectly honest in my praise of this Bill in certain respects, because there are some other respects in which I cannot quite agree with the right honourable Gentleman and those who advocate this Measure. One of its most interesting features consists in introducing the system of inquiry at the port of entry, in order to stop the introduction of certain fraudulent food products which now come into this country in enormous quantities. The aim and object of every Bill of this kind ought not to be to protect any particular interest in this country, but it ought to be to protect the consumer. The first principle of any Bill dealing with food products should be to look after the interests of the consumer. Its object should not be to consider one manufacturer or another, or even to throw impediments in the way of the manufacture of food products, for that would be contrary to the spirit of the age. Chemistry is making giant strides, and some day we may be able to carry in our waistcoat pocket sufficient food to last us a week. That time, I hope, will not come during my lifetime, as it would take away legitimate pleasures in which we all indulge from time to time. But chemistry and science are going ahead, and any attempt to put obstacles in the way of the production of palatable articles of food should be resisted, and it is because this Bill, to 1466 some extent, does this, that it does not altogether meet with my approval. But we must not forget that, whilst science is doing a great deal in one direction, it is also doing a great deal to produce fraudulent food products in the other, in the shape of margarine-cheese and certain forms of condensed milk, which are sent here from abroad in large quantities. I think the right honourable Gentleman is doing well in this Bill to take steps at the port of entry to stop these goods being imported unless they carry a true and accurate description of the articles which are brought in. When experiments were tried in the past with regard to the adulteration of tea, which was an article greatly adulterated at one time, nothing stopped it so much as the inquiry which was made at the port where the tea was landed. Out of 403 samples taken not long since, I think there was only one sample which was found to be adulterated in such a manner as to make the article weigh heavier, which was formerly a common form of adulteration. Now the same thing might be done with cheese. If we can stop being introduced into this country for consumption cheese of an obnoxious and inferior quality, made largely of margarine, and which is described in this Bill as margarine-cheese, if we can prevent that coming in under any other name except that which is a true description of it, and prevent it being sold by any other than an accurate description of the article sold, we shall be doing a great deal of good. With regard to impoverished milks, there is also a great deal to be done in that direction. There ii a good deal of milk sent into this country from abroad in the form of condensed milk, which consists of separated milk, and which is very different in its nutritive properties to good milk. These milks are used largely for the nutrition of babies, and honourable Gentlemen interested in young families will do well to be careful not to use some of the brands of condensed milk which are introduced into this country. The fat is taken out of of them, and this process has been described by the analyst of St. George's, 1467 Hanover Square, as a serious cause of starving a large number of infants in this country. I have seen children not flourishing as they ought to have done because these milks have been given to them, and the whole secret of the wasting of these children has been that these milks are separated milk not containing the proper quantity of good healthy fat which milk ought to contain for the nutrition of the body. I think the Bill will do good as regards milk, as it will allow the Custom House officers to interfere at the port of entry. This was one of the strongest recommendations made by the Committee upstairs. We had witness after witness saying that they wanted to stop the importation of these fraudulent articles, and the only way to do it was to stop them at their very entrance into this country, and thus the Bill will do a great deal to discourage trade which is deceiving the people, and is practically robbing the poorest class of consumers. Then I go on to certain other points, and one is about butter. The right honourable Gentleman would have impoverished butter looked after in the same way, and stopped at the port of entry, and, at all events, labelled as containing what it really does contain. I think myself that the right principle in all these cases is not so much to stop the sale of any particular article as to take care that the article is sold under an honest and accurate description. I believe that is the right thing to do with all articles, for the public has a right to have butter-mixtures if they cannot afford to pay for pure butter, and a man has a right to be able to purchase the inferior quality so long as it is supplied under an honest description. On that point there was a large amount of evidence given before the Committee, and a good deal of inclination was shown towards the colouring of margarine, but the sympathy of some of the members of the Committee and the tendency of some evidence was to the effect that margarine should be coloured either a darkish red, a brilliant green, or a darkish blue, so as to prevent it interfering with 1468 home produce. That principle was contrary to the interests of those who wanted this article, for if a working man cannot afford to have butter, we want him to have his margarine served up to him in the pleasantest way, so that it may look as appetising and tasty as possible when it is put on his breakfast, dinner, or tea table. But we do not want it sold to him as butter, and every step ought to be taken to prevent margarine being foisted upon him as butter. Well, now, this leads me to say that when the right honourable Gentleman was introducing this Bill, and referring to these matters, he did not refer to the fact that the Committee upstairs was very strong in their opinion about having some Court of Reference. I know that it is very difficult to carry out in practice, but I think that after three or four years' delay some conclusion might have been arrived at by means of which we might have had a Court of Reference which would have been a permanent authority for fixing food standards. Until we have some such authority as that, we shall never have food standards put forward with the authority the public will accept. We know how easy it is to get eminent experts on either side to give evidence with reference to any subject of scientific dispute, and so until we have some evidence of experts arrayed against one another in a court of justice we shall never have the administration of this Adulteration Act as effectively performed as it ought to be in the public interest. The right honourable Gentleman takes powers in the Bill to establish standards through the Board of Agriculture, but I do not think that the Board of Agriculture is the best body for that purpose. I would rather have such a body as the analytical body which exists in Somerset House, or some body at the Local Government Board, to set these standards. I do not think the Agricultural Board is either fitted by its age or experience, or by its constitution, for being the authority to fix these standards. It is very difficult to settle the standard of pure milk, for instance. Upon this matter we had the most conflicting evidence. A man may sell certain qualities of milk at a 1469 certain season, and at another the milk from the same cows might be declared to be lamentably below the standard fixed by authority. We want the standards fixed by some scientific authority, and someone who is well aware of the manner in which these qualities vary. With all respect to the Board of Agriculture, I do not think it has been long enough in existence for the public to put full confidence in it with reference to a scientific matter of this kind. The right honourable Gentleman has placed upon the Board of Agriculture a most difficult task. Not only will it be a question about milk, but there will be the equally difficult question of the quantity of water and salt allowed in butter. Then there will be other questions which the Board of Agriculture is not fitted to discharge, such as the amount of preservatives to be added to various articles like milk and butter, such as boracic acid, which, so long as it is added to milk and butter in small quantities—much less than a medicinal dose—cannot do any harm. It requires not simply a scientific authority to fix a standard, but you want a board of scientific referees, from whom you can have a statement of authority carrying physiological and medical weight in their decision. I do not think the Board of Agriculture is at all well fitted to consider how far some preservatives may be injurious to health. There are one or two other points in reference to the Bill to which I want to refer, but before I go on to criticise it in one or two other particulars I desire to state that for some two years I learned much on these matters on the Select Committee. I may say that I examined personally the greater number of witnesses who appeared before that Committee. Now, I am convinced of this, from the consideration of the evidence placed before me, that we do not want very much alteration of the laws, for if the laws, as they at present stand, are properly administered, they are quite sufficient to protect the public. The protection of the public against fraudulent food is the one great object of a Bill of this kind. I think that is a proposition to which everybody will assent, and the law is sufficiently strong if it is properly administered; but the law is very badly administered, and in 1470 some parts of the country it is not administered at all. We want some authority by which we can put more pressure upon the local authorities for the proper administration of the law. But the analysis of food has gone on more satisfactorily of late years as compared with former times. Last year throughout the kingdom there was one sample taken for every 619 people, whilst in one group of counties there was only one sample taken for every 7,900 people. This is a point which is greatly neglected in some parts by the local authorities. In some boroughs it is almost as bad as the figures I have just quoted. I have a list of 17 boroughs, where only one sample has been taken for every 6,800 people. Now, that can be improved if you give greater power to the central authority to put pressure on the local authority, such as we have not hitherto had the advantage of. How is that to be brought about? The right honourable Gentleman would do it through the Board of Agriculture. The Committee upstairs were not of that opinion. When this question was raised before the Committee, and a vote was taken, that very proposal was raised, and the Committee was against it, and were in favour of keeping it in the hands of the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board have had considerable experience in this work. They have gone on from year to year increasing the inspection of districts, and they are quite capable, if encouraged, of making the Act more stringent that it is. Now, they have laid down the standard of samples to be taken annually at one for every 300 people. In London we have very nearly attained the standard laid down. One of the most creditable things that Local Government has done for the metropolis is, that the local bodies have taken one sample for every 381 persons, while in the provinces it is one to 693. A good deal to stimulate the Local Boards throughout the kingdom to do the same could easily be done. Now, I think it would do a great deal of good if the Local Government Board had powers vested in them by which they could insist upon the proper administration of the Acts generally instead of its being transferred partly to the inspec- 1471 tors of the Board of Agriculture. While I know that the Board of Agriculture will do their part possibly as well as the Local Government Board, I do not think it is altogether desirable that there should be two bodies to administer an Act like this if it becomes an Act of Parliament. In administering an Act dealing with the question of adulteration you have to deal with a great many interests; and I do not think it would be desirable to have the manufacturers' interests harassed by great many interests; and I do not think that the small shopkeepers and the manufacturers throughout the country would look with confidence to the Board of Agriculture for the administration of the law, for this reason, that there are certain words on the face of this Bill which it would be much better to leave out—e.g., clause 2 begins—The Board may, in relation to any matter appearing to the Board to affect the general interests of agriculture in the kingdom, direct an officer of the Board to procure for analysis samples of any article of food, etc., etc.Those words will create an impression that the Board of Agriculture are not to act from the only motive which a Bill of this character ought to have—namely, to protect the people from the adulteration of their food, but are to act in the interests of agriculture.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
I might remind the honourable Gentleman that it is not intended in the slightest degree to limit the Board of Agriculture in that particular. The interest of the consumer is to be observed, but the action of the Board of Agriculture will be con-lined to those articles which are chiefly connected with agriculture.
§ *SIR W. FOSTER
The words are certainly unfortunate; they are repeated more than once, and I hope they will be amended or deleted before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I do not think those words ought to go out in the form in which they now appear. The principle of a Bill of this character is to secure the purity of the food of the people, and on that principle alone can the Bill be properly 1472 worked. Otherwise, you will have injurious suspicions engendered as to your action. You will have opposition. You will have all the manufacturers of margarine against the Bill, not because it is a bad Bill, but because they are suspicious of it. Now, this Bill gives great powers to the Board of Agriculture with reference to the margarine manufacturers. They are to have inspectors; they are to keep books, not only in the manufactory, but in the warehouse, to keep a ledger of all their transactions. Now, that is a matter which will harass the trade very much. Every adulteration Bill harasses trade in some way or other, and the proper way is to harass trade as little as possible. There is also the other question as to the amount of butter which is to be placed in margarine. I do not agree with the 10 per cent, limit. I believe you can produce good margarine with much less than 10 per cent, of butter. This margarine is made with scientific accuracy, and the taste of butter which it acquires is caused by its being mixed with milk in the process of manufacture, in the course of which it takes up some of the butter fats. But why limit it to 10 per cent, of butter? If it is good wholesome food, why should we not allow 20 or 30 per cent, of butter to be added, provided always that in the interest of the innocent purchaser you compel a label to be put upon it showing the percentage of butter it contains? Then you would have margarine more pleasing to the palate, and better for the digestion, and in times of scarcity the food of our poorest classes would be rendered more palatable. If you apply the same regulation to margarine that you might apply to coffee or cocoa, and declare upon the label the percentage of the butter fats which it contains, you would have a, perfect protection against fraud. With reference to the penalties under the Bill, I am glad that they have been strengthened by increasing the second penalty from £20 to £50, and the third £100. I think it would have been better if you had a minimum penalty for second offences. I should not object if you put into the Bill a penalty of imprisonment for repeated offences, because there are 1473 some people who, for the sake of gain, will continue to deceive their customers and sell noxious foods as pure products, and I think no punishment too great for that class. I hope before the Bill passes through the Committee that we shall be able to add other clauses by which the administration of the law will be strengthened in the interests of the general community. This Bill was only introduced last week, and only within the last few days has it been in our hands. I am surprised to see how little notice has been taken of it in the papers. To-day numbers of traders are hurrying up from different parts of the country, saying that they were not aware that it was coming on so soon, and protesting against the haste with which it is being pushed on. I do think that it is rather hard that a Bill like this, affecting the interests of large trades as well as the interests of agriculture, should be brought in and hurried over so very rapidly. The public ought to have time to study it, and I do hope, therefore, that the right honourable Gentleman will not press us to finish the Second Reading to-night, but will let us have some more time to consider it.
§ *MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
I cannot agree with the honourable Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. I think that great interest has been taken in it for some considerable time. Much anxiety has been shown throughout the country, and many speeches have been made both by honourable Members and others outside this House with regard to the support it was intended to give it, and I certainly hope that the intention will be fulfilled. I was sorry to see that at the outset a Motion was moved for the rejection of this Measure, and I sincerely hope that its rejection will not be carried in this House. Because, although the Bill does not go so far as some would wish, still, in Measures of this kind there will be found powers which do not exist in the present Acts. Now, the interest in this Bill centres round that part of it which deals with the colouring of the different articles of food. The President of the Board of Agricul- 1474 ture has laid down good and sound reasons why he cannot agree to the prohibition of the colouring of margarine, and inasmuch as we cannot prohibit the colouring of margarine we must also allow the colouring of butter. I do not say the materials used for this purpose are in any way injurious to health, but I do see one danger in it. There is, I consider, very great cause for anxiety in the case of the preservatives used. We must remember that cheese and butter are not the only commodities that are coloured. Milk is coloured to a very great extent, and for the purposes of fraud. There is not the slightest doubt about it that colouring means fraud. Good colour in butter means an expensive class of cow and a good system of butter making. The same thing exactly applies to milk, and to a very great extent the practice of colouring milk is adopted for the purposes of fraud, inasmuch as it cannot possess that colour and appearance without land and animals of superior quality. The extent to which colouring is practised is shown by a notice which, I hear from a friend, was exposed in one of the chief shops in a certain costly and fashionable neighbourhood, to the effect—this was during the drought, when butter was short— that there was "no water—no grass— butter dearer." Now that was misleading, because in that particular shop there was hardly a scrap of English butter. It was chiefly Danish butter; but that it was fraudulent butter there is not the slightest doubt. Honourable Members consider that the Danish butter which is sold here is pure. English butter is made in a careful way, and comes from a better class of COW; but that is not so with Danish butter, which is by no means the rich colour that we see it when it is made; all that colouring that we see is artificial. Now, I do not find fault, and the Bill does not find fault, with its being coloured, but I do say that that fact ought to be noticed, and at the end of the clause I would suggest that some words should be put in. I would suggest that at the end of the clause words should be added to the effect that "such butter or milk should be sold only as preserved or coloured, and that the vendor, if required, shall disclose to the customer 1475 the nature of such preservative of colouring. I cannot see that any harm would be done by adding some such words as those to the clause. There are, of course, a great number of subjects in this Bill that must be touched on, but I am not going to be one to delay the Bill by commenting more than necessary on its provisions. Now, something has been said about the standard of milk, and it has been said by some that it is impossible to fix a standard for the quality of milk. When you speak of good, prime, or pure milk, you do not necessarily condemn all other milk; but when people ask for a good, thoroughly sound milk for the use of their children or their households they ought to have it. Separated milk is good in its way for certain purposes, and skimmed milk also; but what I want to get in this Act is an ultimate Court of Appeal. Those who have to deal with these matters in petty sessions know the difficulties which arise out of the evidence, and the varying opinions of the public analvsts. All this points to the fact that there ought to be an ultimate Court of Appeal. And in speaking of a standard of milk—I speak as a milk farmer—it is not fair that farmers should go to the trouble and expense of getting good stock and clean dairies if they are not to get the benefit of turning out a genuine article. I will not refer again to the disappointment and others feel as to the clause dealing with the colour, etc., of the stuff which comes from abroad, but we in England are beginning to take a good deal of interest in the quality of our stock and produce. We spend large sums of money upon the technical education of our people, and we in the country spend as much as we can upon the education of our dairy women in order that they shall be perfect in this work. We are told there that good and pure and wholesome food can only be manufactured through care and cleanliness. While this education is being given in this country, and all this money is being expended, the foreigner is allowed to send in and compete successfully with his stuff, as to which we have no guarantee whatever. The point upon which I desire most particularly to draw the at- 1476 tention of the House upon this question is as to the ingredients of the preservatives and the colouring used, and I hope some words will be added to the Bill to carry out that intention, though they may not be the words that I have suggested.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I find myself tonight in somewhat an unusual position, and that is that I am not going to support the Amendment proposed from this side of the House, but I am going to support the Bill that has been brought in. The Bill goes a good way in the right direction, but I do think, in the interest of dairy farmers, it does not go sufficiently far, and, so far as the traders are concerned, I think it goes rather too far. The great object of the Bill is to' strengthen section 5 of the Margarine Act. Under that section, any trader who has taken reasonable precautions, and who can prove to the satisfaction of the court that he has taken reasonable precautions, to prevent fraud being committed in his shop, is allowed to go free, and the assistant who committed the fraud is liable. I do not know whether the right honourable Gentleman has overlooked "or forgotten the section, but in my opinion it certainly ought to be incorporated in this Act. Now, I have two copies of an agreement here which proprietors of shops compel every one of their assistants and managers of every one of their shops to sign before they employ them, and I have also a copy of the weekly price list—the usual weekly price list which is issued to the managers, and it reminds the managers of that section of the Act, and that if they commit fraud the proprietor will make them, so far as the law allows, liable for the fraud committed. Now, it seems to me that if this Bill is passed in the present form you leave the proprietors of a business which has many branches entirely at the mercy of their managers and assistants. Supposing I am the manager of a large provision shop, and supposing I have made it a paying concern, and done my best for my employer, and at the end of six months I have made an application for an increase of salary, he, having con- 1477 sidered that application, has come to the conclusion that I am not entitled to an increase, but I, convinced that I am entitled, say that I will be even with this man, and that before I leave him I will sell margarine for butter, and get him into a prosecution, and in my own viciousness I do so, there is nothing in this Bill which will make me liable for that act. The opponents of this Bill have got out of the difficulty by saying that it is a piece of class legislation. My honourable Friend the Member for Islington, who moved the rejection of the Bill, ventured to tell the House that the Committee upstairs was appointed largely because of certain resolutions passed by the Chambers of Commerce of London and other parts of the country, and my right honourable Friend who says that this is a piece of class legislation would also attempt to make the House believe that the London Chamber of Commerce, which embraces all trades and manufactures, and the Manchester Chamber of Commerce are composed entirely of agriculturists. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce do not want this Bill to protect the agricultural interest, and I am not now speaking in favour of Irish produce. What I am advocating is the interest of fair trade against profits. The object of this Bill is that the working classes of this country, when they pay their money for a certain article of food, shall get the article for which they pay, and shall not be defrauded. But my honourable Friend and the honourable Gentleman who seconded the Motion for the rejection of the Bill say that the consumers should protect themselves.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I do not think my honourable Friend was present when the honourable Gentleman seconded his Motion for the rejection, but, however that may be, that is one of the contentions of the opponents of the Bill. It may not be the contention of my honourable Friend, but it is certainly the main contention of the opponents of this Bill.
§ *MR. LOUGH
I said that the fault I found with the Bill was that it was not sufficiently drastic in its remedies, and the point I took was quite away from the question of adulteration altogether.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
I fear I cannot satisfy my Friend upon that point, so I will try another. It has been said that it would be a monstrous thing to stop carriers' carts in order to take samples for analysis. You have at the present moment power to stop milk in course of transit, and it is equally necessary that the Government should give power to stop butter in course of transit, because butter, as well as milk, is being adulterated every day. No one, whether margarine manufacturer or agricultural farmer, has seriously contended, since the Committee sat, that fraud is not being practised in this matter. It is because of the continuance of fraud and because of the increase of fraud that this Bill is necessary. The honourable Member who said it would be wrong to stop carriers' carts wants the House to believe that this would be an innovation, and that there are no precedents for it, when, as a matter of fact, there is not a Member in this House who does not know better. Apparently he is in favour of everything that was done in the past, and does not desire any further change. It is only of recent years that samples have been taken by the Commissioners of Customs at the port of entry, and everyone admits that this practice has been extremely useful, especially in the case of tea. But while that is so, the Commissioners of Customs have been only in the habit of taking samples of articles upon which duty could be levied, and which produces a revenue to the country. Because they can get no revenue out of margarine they do not take any samples, and because to do so would put expense on a Department some people say that it should not be done, and that it would be an undue interference with trade. In my opinion, the first duty of the Government, next to protecting the lives of the people, is to see that the industries of the country are not fraudulently interfered with by foreigners. I do not think the Board of Agriculture is the proper body to establish a standard for milk, cheese, butter, and other such articles of food. I should like to draw the right honourable Gentleman's attention to the apparent want of confidence shown in the Government Department at Somerset House by many of the analysts in this country. I have no doubt in the world 1479 that the scientific gentlemen connected with the Government Laboratory are competent for their position, and are men of the highest qualifications, but in speaking on this subject I am bound to pay considerable attention to the opinions of the public analysts, and to say that, judging from the evidence which was given before the Committee, those analysts have not that confidence in the Government Department that one would desire. The effect of clause 4 is that the Government Laboratory will practically establish standards for each article.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
The honourable Member is under some misapprehension in this matter. There is no power in the Bill to enable the Board of Agriculture to establish standards. With the Government chemist will be associated gentlemen able to give the best technical advice, and it is hoped that by means of such a body a common ground of agreement will be afforded for the Government chemist and the local analysts, between whom there has been a certain difference and perhaps jealousy.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
Then the Bill is intended to go much further in the direction of carrying out the recommendation of the Committee than I thought. As the right honourable Gentleman is aware, the recommendation made by the Committee was not that the Board of Reference should be wholly composed of scientists, but that some practical men should be associated with them, so that the trade of the country should not be altogether left at the mercy of scientists, but should be regulated to some extent by those who have practical experience. I am glad to hear from the right honourable Gentleman that although he has not adopted entirely the recommendation of the Committee, he has gone far in that direction. The right honourable Gentleman said he had made every possible inquiry into this subject, and had ascertained the opinions, not only of scientists, but of men engaged in the trade, and had found that the best margarine could be produced with from 2½ to 6 per cent, of butter fat; then why is such a high limit as 10 per cent, named in the Bill? The object of the Bill is to prevent fraud, and yet the right honourable Gentleman leaves the 1480 standard so high in the Bill as 10 per cent., which permits of the perpetration of fraud to the extent of 4 per cent. I hope we shall be able to convince the right honourable Gentleman that 10 per cent, is not an absolutely necessary figure, and get it reduced. To go back to' the Board of Reference, the right honourable Gentleman told us that of the samples taken at the port of entry a certain number were found to be adulterated, and a certain number were "doubtful." I want some explanation as to the word "doubtful" Is it impossible for the Government Laboratory, to whom, I presume, these samples were submitted, to declare whether the article of food is adulterated or not? If so, then the Government Laboratory is not up to date. That is the charge that has been made against it by analysts throughout the country, and I would suggest the strengthening or renewing of the Government Laboratory in such a way as will inspire confidence, and prevent the issue from them of reports stating that samples are "doubtful." Any thoroughly qualified analyst, who pretends to be an up-to-date scientist, ought to be able to tell whether an article of food is adulterated or not, and I do not think it is creditable to a public Department that they should state that a number of samples are "doubtful" Objection has been raised to any provision being put in this Bill prohibiting the colouring of margarine because it would largely interfere with the sale of wholesome food, but I do not know of any agriculturist who is at all anxious to prevent the sale of margarine as an article of food. It is the poor man's butter, and we do not want to interfere with the sale of it as long as it is wholesome; but it was given as evidence upstairs that a very large quantity of margarine sold in this country was not sold across the counter for the purpose of being used in the ordinary way that butter is used. One of the witnesses told us that 70 or 75 per cent, of the margarine sold in this country is used for cooking purposes. If so large a percentage of margarine is sold for cooking purposes, how does the colouring or non-colouring of it affect it? Does the right honourable Gentleman seriously mean to say that a dish cooked downstairs with margarine instead of butter affects him or anybody else when dished up? The reason people connected with the margarine trade desire to have 1481 it coloured is because it enhances the price and facilitates fraud. No matter what is said about making it more pleasing to the eye, the whole question of colouring margarine resolves itself into this—that it is sought by those who sell it to make it more easy to sell it as butter. We do not want it to be coloured blue or any other colour. We want it to be sold for what it is, and nothing else, and the natural colour of margarine, Mr. Speaker, is by no means what the honourable Gentleman below the Gangway said it is. The honourable Member for one of the divisions of Sussex said that the natural colour of margarine was like dripping. That is not so. While it is not exactly white, it is by no means an offensive colour. It is a much more appetising colour than dripping or lard. So long as manufacturers have the power to colour margarine, so long will the door be left open to fraud. I am told by honourable Members who are more interested in margarine than they are in fair and honest trade, that if you prevent colouring you will do an injustice to farmers and dislocate their whole industry. There is not a practical farmer in the country who does not know that the introduction of one or two Jersey cows into his herd would produce the effect which is now obtained by colouring. The Irish dairy farmers will be very much obliged to the right honourable Gentleman if he prohibits the colouring of margarine and butter, and I daresay several honourable Members who represent English agricultural constituencies will be able to say that the dairy farmers in their constituencies will also accept this Bill with satisfaction, even if the colouring of butter is prohibited. If this Bill is to be effective at all, the door must be absolutely closed to the frauds which have been committed for the past 10 or 12 years. I regret that the question of water in butter is not dealt with in the Bill. I want to know what would be the condition of the Irish farmers if this Bill passes in its present form. Great uncertainty prevails at the present moment as to what percentage of water in butter constitutes adulteration, and a recognised standard should be established. Different analysts take different views on the matter, and the trader is 1482 at the mercy of the particular bench of magistrates before whom the case comes. In the view of some public analysts, 14 or 15 per cent. should be the maximum, but in the view of others, 16 and even 17 per cent, is fixed. I think it would be found, on reference to the evidence given before the Committee, that the authorities at the Government Laboratory expressed the opinion that 18 per cent, of added water constitutes adulteration. This Bill still leaves the Irish farmers in their present state of uncertainty as to what the law is. I should like to draw the right honourable Gentleman's attention to the necessity for some definite standard being established. This is a matter of the most vital importance in Ireland. The police, who are the inspectors under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act in Ireland have instituted several prosecutions on this question, and the most varying decisions have been given. One bench of magistrates have refused to convict where there was 20 per cent, of added water, while another bench has fined heavily where there was only 17 per cent. At the present time no butter is allowed to be sold in the Cork Butter Market which contains more than 18 per cent, of water. The trustees of the market do not prosecute where the percentage is higher, but they refuse to allow the brand of the market to be attached to these packages of butter. It may, therefore, be taken that, in the opinion of these well-qualified judges, 18 per cent, of water in butter is adulteration. I agree that this Bill is an advance upon anything we have had up to the present, but I hope that in the two or three particulars where it does not come up to the expectations of myself and others who represent tenant farmers, we shall be afforded an opportunity during the Committee stage of trying to get the Bill amended and to make it more serviceable. The right honourable Gentleman may be assured of this, that the greatest good he can do to the dairy farmer is exactly the greatest good he can do to the consumer. The more good the Bill does to the general consumer the more good it will do to the dairy farmer. During the last six months a consignment of American bacon was sold to a French house. It was transhipped in the port of London and sent to the French port, but was rejected by 1483 the head officer at that port on the ground that an excess of borax had been used for the preservation of the bacon. It was thereupon brought back and sold in London at a considerable loss. While the French apparently object to what they consider an excess of borax being used for the purpose of preserving bacon, it is not on record that any French Health Authority has ever objected to goods being sent over here because they contained too large a quantity of borax. They think that borax is bad for the Frenchman, but good for the English man. Some foreign countries have passed legislation prohibiting the use of borax as a preservative of food. In Brazil there is a special Act of Parliament prohibiting its use. This question is one which, I venture to submit, is well worthy of the attention of Her Majesty's Government. In my opinion, the use of borax has enabled many foreign producers to unduly compete with home producers. They are able, with the use of a very large quantity of borax, to put upon the London market milk and butter apparently fresh, but which is not in the strict sense of the word fresh, because it has been made for some considerable time. These are matters which dairy farmers are interested in, and for that reason I think it is one which should receive the consideration of the right honourable Gentleman. I regret that the right honourable Gentleman has refused to follow the example of foreign countries and have a sentence of imprisonment imposed after a third conviction of fraudulent adulteration. If the fines had been found to be effective for the purpose of stopping adulteration and the fraudulent sale of margarine as butter, we should not be considering this Bill to-day. It is because the fines have not been found sufficient that we have to consider an amendment of the law to-day. The right honourable Gentleman would find that three months' imprisonment, even without a plank bed, would do more to stop the fraudulent sale of margarine as butter than any amount of penalties in fines. I can give the House an instance of one man in the West of Ireland who was fined £10 one week, £20 the next, and was again fined a few weeks afterwards. He did not mind, because the proceeds of his illicit trade in the meantime enabled him to pay these fines. I hope 1484 the Bill will be amended in this particular at the Committee stage.
§ *MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I desire to take exception to the remarks made by the honourable Baronet who seconded the Amendment, and to say that if there is one Member of the Front Bench more than another who displays an intelligent grasp of the subject he handles, it is the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture. There are at least 100 articles covered by the Bill in addition to butter and margarine, which have occupied almost the whole of the attention of the House—and it is my intention to say a few words on behalf of the retail dealer who sells these articles. It is becoming an increasing burden on the retail dealer to satisfy all the Acts of Parliament affecting him, and many Members are pledged to see that he is not unduly harassed in the trade. While we are protecting the consumer, and everyone would wish that we should do so, we ought also to have some little consideration for the retail dealer. The right honourable Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, led the House to suppose that an invoice would not be accepted as a warranty, although in clause 17 the words used are invoice or warranty. The right honourable Gentleman must be aware that in the Margarine Act of 1887, which has been in use for the last 12 years, the same words occur. But in practice under that Act an invoice has always been taken as a warranty, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will in this Bill continue to regard the production of an invoice stating specifically the nature of the article bought by the retail trader as sufficient indemnity to him in selling. The wholesale traders are perfectly able to take care of themselves. My next point is with regard to the liability of assistants. Under the Margarine Act, 1887, if the employer proves that he used duo diligence to enforce the Act, and that the Act was broken by the carelessness or malice of his assistant, he shall be exempt from any penalty. I hope that this Bill will be amended so as to protect the employer who shows due care and dilligence from suffering through the carelessness of an assistant. If the Bill is amended in these two particulars 1485 it will, as a final Measure, meet with universal acceptance on the part of the trades concerned.
MR. PHILIPPS (Pembroke)
The honourable Member who has just sat down has expressed the hope that this Bill will at any rate be a final Measure. The honourable Member for the Horsham Division of Sussex, on the other hand, announced that he was going to support this Bill because he had no doubt that it was merely a step towards another and better Bill to be brought in at some future date. I agree with him that this is not an heroic Measure. I think it is rather remarkable, considering the number of supporters of the Government who have spoken on this Bill, that not one of them has said that it is an excellent Bill, or even that it is a good Bill. The best that has been said for it is a kind of apology for what is assumed to be a step in the right direction. With one or two exceptions each speaker has announced his intention to support the Bill, but no honourable Member has accepted the Bill as a good Measure. Some have said that it will do a little good, and some that it can do no harm; but no one has given the Bill his full blessing. The tone of the right honourable Gentleman in introducing the Bill was also apologetic, but, instead of apologising for the Bill in the same way that his Friends have done— namely, on the ground that it did not go far enough, he has apologised to honourable Members who represent the margarine industry for having ventured to touch their precious trade at all. He used the word "fraud" in connection with the sale of margarine, and not in connection with the manufacture of margarine. For my part I consider that the provisions of the Bill should have been much more drastic. Clause I lays down that margarine or margarine-cheese must not be imported except in packages conspicuously marked "Margarine" or "Margarine-cheese," as the case may require. Adulterated or impoverished butter (other than margarine), or adulterated or impoverished milk, must not be imported except in packages or can? conspicuously marked with a name or description indicating that the butter or milk has been treated. The clause further provides against the sale of condensed, separated, or skimmed milk, 1486 except in tins or other receptacles which bear a label whereon the words "Separated milk" or "Skimmed milk," as the case may require, are printed in large and legible type. What is going to happen if anybody breaks this rule? The clause provides that the importer shall be liable, on summary conviction, for the first offence to a fine not exceeding £20, for the second offence to a fine not exceeding £50, and for any subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding £100. These are maximum fines.
§ [The honourable Member was speaking at 12 o'clock, when, by the Standing Orders, the House adjourned.]
§ And, it being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Thursday.