HC Deb 26 June 1900 vol 84 cc1099-107

As amended, considered.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N. R., Thirsk)

In moving the clause which stands in my name, I have no quarrel whatever with the promoters of this Bill. They asked for this very clause, and my quarrel is with those who have prevented their getting the clause they desired. The clause which stands on the Paper in my name is not my own drafting; it is taken from the Leeds Corporation Bill of last year. I may therefore call it the Leeds clause. I do not want to raise the whole question of the milk clause, or whether inspection is a good thing. That has nothing to do with the point I am raising. My point is a very small one. It is simply the question of what licence or warrant should be held to justify the invasion of the district of one local authority by the inspectors of another local authority. On that particular point, which is the whole issue between us the difference between the clause in the Bill and the Leeds clause is simply that the former allows such an invasion on the authority of one justice, while the Leeds clause provides that the petty sessions should be required to authorise such a raid, and it must be proved that the outside authority, in whose jurisdiction the dairy is, has not done its duty. I do not lay any stress on the difference between one justice and two justices. The important point of difference is that the system in the Bill contemplates each corporation acting for itself by its own inspectors raiding outside districts, whereas the clause I propose suggests that the municipality should get what it wants by compelling the outside authority to do its duty, and should only itself act in default of the proper local authority. If we look at the object to be attained, we shall see at once which of these two roads is the better road by which to attain that object. Our object is to prevent consumption by human beings of milk from cows suffering from tuberculosis. If municipalities act by their own inspectors they can stop the consumption of that milk only in their own boroughs, whereas if we can induce the outside authority, in whose district the dairy with the suspected cow is, to act, they can stop the consumption of the milk in any part of the country. There is power under the Dairies, Cowsheds, and Milkshops' Order, as amended last year, by which every authority can stop the mixing of such milk with other milk, and prevent the use or sale of that milk for human food, If the corporations, or any one of them, by having such power as I propose to give to Oldham, can, by threatening to take steps if it does not do its duty, induce the outside authority, in whose district are condemned cows, to do its duty, they will save not only their own constituents but the whole human race from the danger arising from the consumption of the milk of these tuberculous cows. Surely that is a result which is very desirable, and by the system which I suggest this could be done without friction between local authorities. If a local authority is in default it cannot complain if another authority sends its inspectors into its district. If an authority is in default it cannot be hard for another authority to say "You shall not affect our citizens." But where a local authority is not in default, it cuts at the very foundation of the principles of local self-government that its district should be invaded by the inspectors of another authority. If the proper authority will act, that is, the authority in whose district the disease is we can get by one inspector what, under the system proposed in the Bill, would require the joint action of the inspectors representing every local area in England. If we work as the Bill suggests we should, 500 inspectors may have to inspect the same cow, and institute 500 prosecutions with regard to that animal. The farmers of England do not desire knowingly to sell milk from cows suffering from tuberculosis of the udder. But even if they did, or if they were ignorant, either the Leeds clause or the model clause would stop them. This is not then a farmers' question, but the farmers have a right to ask that, if we can reach our destination equally well by either of two roads, we should choose that road which trespasses least on them. By She clause I am proposing, we should embarass the farmer the least, we should stop the sale of his milk by one inspection, and we should do it better, more quickly, and more wisely. I have only one other point to make. We are told, not by the corporations, not by the county councils, not by the urban or sanitary authorities, not by the outside authorities, and not by the farmers, but by a certain gentleman at the Local Government Board, that these "model clauses" as they are called, are sacred, and must be put into every Bill brought forward by a corporation asking for powers to deal with this important matter of the milk supply. These model clauses are supposed to derive their sacred character from the fact that they were agreed upon at a conference. I was there, and I know what that understanding arrived at was. If it was being loyally carried out in spirit and letter I should have nothing to say. The origin of that conference was that certain corporations last year brought in private Bills containing clauses calculated to secure that there should be no danger from the consumption of English milk. Under these there would have been no English milk to consume. The agricultural Members naturally threatened to oppose such an attack on their constituents by every means within the rules of civilised political warfare. The promoters of the private Bills appealed to the God of Health in the shape of the President of the Local Government Board. We invoked the aid of the patron saint of farmers— the President of the Board of Agriculture. By the intervention of these two high authorities a conference was arranged at which everybody was represented except the outside authorities whose districts were to be invaded by the inspectors of other authorities, and whose authority was to be flouted. At that conference a compromise was arranged. In that as in every compromise the peaceful people like the Member for South Somerset and myself gave way a great deal, and the aggressive corporation agents yielded something. Clauses called model clauses were agreed on, and we who represent the rural districts agreed that we would not oppose the Bills if the powers of inspection and prosecution were cut down within the limits of the model clauses. In return we understood that the Local Government Board would assist us in opposing any Bills which asked for greater powers than were contained in those clauses. Everybody understood that the powers in those clauses were to be the maximum powers which the corporations might have either inside or outside their own places, not the minimum powers which they must have. The grievance which the representatives of the farmers, or of urban, rural or district councils, or county councils, complain of is that the Local Government Board has thrown all its weight into the scale against them before the Police and Sanitary Committee. The Local Government Board will not allow corporations, for the sake of peace with their less powerful but quite as sensitive and sensible brother authorities, to ask for powers of invasion less drastic than those of the model clauses. They must be forced to abandon their own peaceable proposals, drop their clauses, and take instead the model clauses as to invasion which are sure to produce friction. Oldham, for instance, asked for the Leeds clause, which I have shown is as good for preventing danger from milk, and far better in preventing friction with farmers. On account of certain objections of the Local Government Board, Oldham has been refused these moderate powers, and has been compelled to take the full powers of the model clauses. Against that I appeal to the House, and I move the reinsertion of the clause that was in the Bill.

A clause (Limitation of powers outside borough)—(Mr. Grant Lawson)—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time," put.

*MR. McKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

I rise for the purpose of explaining what was the action of the Police and Sanitary Committee, before which this Bill came. So far as I am aware the description the hon. and learned Gentleman has given of the relations between the Police and Sanitary Committee and the Local Government Board is quite fanciful, and certainly it is not according to my recollection of what occurred in respect to the history of these clauses. He rightly stated that the issue between this clause which he proposes to introduce, called the Leeds clause, and the clauses as they now stand in the Bill is a very simple one, but nevertheless I trust the House will bear with me while I endeavour to show that the issue, though simple, is really very important. Upon the merits of the milk clauses there is no dispute on either side. The Committee, who had all the evidence before them, came unanimously to the conclusion that if the Leeds clause were adopted instead of the clauses which now stand in the Bill the same end would not be served. Let me explain shortly the difference between them. The object of the milk clauses is to prevent the sale of contaminated milk for human consumption within the borough. In order to effect that object the clauses provide for the inspection of cowsheds whence the milk comes, whether inside or outside the borough. They also provide for inquiry, and for power to the corporation to compel any person supplying milk from an infected cow to show cause why an order should not be made against him in order to prevent the continuance of that supply. So long as the milk is supplied from within the borough it is quite clear that the proper authority to enforce the law would be the corporation. The difficulty is when the milk comes from outside. Three classes are then affected. First of all there are the consumers; then there are the purveyors of the milk—the farmers and dairymen; and then there are the local authorities. I wish to show very shortly that so far as the purveyors are concerned they will be better off under the clauses as they now stand than under the Leeds clause. It is quite obvious that the general effect of the milk clauses would be to set the law in operation on mere suspicion. When there is no real cause for the suspicion, against a farmer or dairyman it is desirable that as little notoriety should be given to that suspicion as possible. If you make the officer act on the order of one justice there will be very little harm to the farmer in the event, after investigation, of its being found that there was no case of tuberculosis in his dairy. In the case of a single justice granting the order the inspection would take place immediately; but if you have to get an order from justices in petty sessions it means delay of a fortnight or a month, and during that interval the farmer is under suspicion. It is impossible to keep that suspicion private, and consequently if the Leeds clause were adopted you would run the risk of doing an injury to a farmer who, as a matter of fact, had no case of contamination in his dairy. The Committee came to the conclusion that so far as the farmer was concerned it would undoubtedly be better that the inspection should take place quickly on the order of one justice, and not wait until the case had been inquired into in court after a delay of a fortnight or a month. The second class concerned are the local authorities. The Committee desire to respect, and I believe the Local Government Board also desire to respect, the independence of local authorities. But the independence of the outside authorities would be interfered with, whether the Leeds clause be adopted or the existing clauses retained. The only question between us is whether the independence of the local authorities should be interfered with on the order of one Justice or of two Justices in petty sessions. The Committee were convinced, by the evidence they heard, of the overwhelming importance of the milk clauses. If it is desired that they should be carried into effect it is of extreme importance that the procedure under which they are to be put into use shall be as quick and simple as possible. What is the procedure proposed by the Leeds clause? You have first of all to get the order of two justices sitting in petty sessions which means delay and notoriety. Before the justices can issue their order they have to be satisfied that the local authority of the district has not dealt with the case, and I would ask hon. Members familiar with the procedure of the Court how that evidence can be got. It is proposed that the justices shall not have power to issue an order until they are satisfied "that the local authority of the said district has not already dealt with the case, or, having power to deal with the case, has been requested by the corporation to deal with it, and has neglected or declined to do so." The Committee went into the details of the Leeds clause, and they were satisfied if that clause was introduced into the Bill it would be practically impossible for the corporation ever to get an order outside the borough, or, if they did get it, it would be after such an extreme lapse of time that its practical effect would be very slight. Under these circumstances the Committee decided that, the point in dispute being merely a question of the ground upon which outside interference should take place, the case was established for allowing the clauses as they now stand to be accepted, and the Committee have in every case brought before them adopted the same clauses. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he was only asking for the corporation what they originally desired. The hon. Gentleman has been misinformed on that point. The corporation desired the model clauses, but were threatened with opposition, and in order to meet the opposition they agreed to introduce the Leeds clause, and on that the opposition was withdrawn. The corporation have acted loyally on their undertaking, and have not taken any steps to suggest the acceptance by the House or the Committee of the model clauses, but as a matter of fact they desired the model clauses and not the Leeds clause to appear in their Bill. This is the third time this question has been raised in this House this session. On one occasion there was a division and on the other occasions no division, but in each case the opposition has arisen from precisely the same quarter, and although I do not blame the hon. Gentlemen for taking every step in their power, I trust the House will not be misled into thinking that there is any really substantial opposition to the model clauses.

*MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)

The hon. Member has spoken as if the Corporation of Oldham were opposed to the insertion of the model clauses by the Committee which considered the Bill. I wish to state, on account of representations made to me within the last day or two, that that is quite incorrect. They put the Leeds clause in the original form of the Bill, not. because they liked it, but because opposition was threatened. Now, after the other clauses have been inserted, they have the strongest desire that they should remain there. I unhesitatingly oppose on public grounds the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite. In the first place, I prefer the model clauses to the Leeds, clause. In the second place, I think the Committee are perfectly right in trying to secure uniformity on this matter. Further, on behalf of the constituency I represent I ask that they should not be put in a worse position than other towns which have had Bills before Parliament this session. The hon. and learned Member drew a picture of a splendid milker which had been visited by 500 inspectors.


Not all at the same time.


Well, I leave that point. I wish to point out in conclusion that the attack of the hon. and learned Member, which is nominally on the Local Government Board, is practically an attack on a Committee of this House which I think has done splendid work. I earnestly hope that the House will support the decision of the Committee.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)

I understood the hon. Member to say that the proposal of the Oldham Corporation was to put in the Leeds clause. I had my attention drawn to the original Bill at the beginning of the session, and I can state that they did not put in the Leeds clause, but put in something of their own. That is what we objected to, and my hon. friend very truly said that the model clauses were drawn up to prevent this wholesale inspection without the authority of the justices having jurisdiction in the locality, giving power to the medical officer and the inspector to go and see the premises. I hope that my hon. friend, after hearing this, will withdraw the motion.


I am not at all inclined to accept this version of what happened in the Oldham Bill. In the Report of the Standing Committee it is expressly stated that the promoters desired to have these clauses.

MR. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)

said this was a question of centralisation or decentralisation. He quite admitted that there might be a case for interference where the local authorities had a dispute in this matter, but where the local authorities were found to be absolutely agreed he could not see why the Local Government Board should come and interfere. He could not understand why the procedure of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897, had not been adopted in regard to the inspection of dairies and the sale of milk. The right of appeal, such as the hon. Member for Thirsk wished, was provided for in Clause 60 of that Act. He could not see why the Local Government Board denied in England the right of appeal which had already been granted in Scotland.


said this was not a question of centralisation or decentralisation. It was nothing more nor less than a question of public health, and he hoped the hon. and learned Member would proceed no further with his opposition.

Question put, and negatived.

Ordered, That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the third time.—(Mr. Caldwell.)

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.