§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL,) Yorkshire, Cleveland
, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said that the Bill which the House had expected to take that day was one of the chief measures of the session, while this Bill was of purely departmental importance. If this subject came before the House for the first time or if it raised any question of controversy, then some inconvenience might be caused by this sudden change of scene, but in view of the history and nature of the Bill, he trusted that the 1711 House would not be unwilling to consider its proposals. The Bill had three purposes. Clause 1 brought up to date the Schedule of poisons which was attached to the Pharmacy Act of 1868, in the light of the knowledge of medical and pharmaceutical science which had been acquired in the last forty years. Clause 2 would, he thought, be warmly welcomed by agricultural Members, many of whom he saw in their places. It dealt with the, supply of sheep dips, and weed killers, and preparations for the destruction of insects, which contained poisonous materials an which at the present time technically were under the provisions of the ordinary law. Much inconvenience was caused by the restriction on the sale of these commodities to persons who were chemists, and agriculturists had long desired that some other facilities should be given for obtaining these articles. In fact the present law could not be enforced, and these articles were largely sold by persons. who were not qualified under the Pharmacy Act. Clause 2 provided that where the existing facilities were insufficient—it was not intended to compete with the chemists where they were available to sell these articles —the local authorities might licence traders, other than registered chemists, to sell these articles subject to regulations which were to be made as provided in the Bill. This proposal followed the recommendation of a very strong Departmental Committee which sat on the subject in 1901, and which was appointed by the late Government, and which recommended the change of the law embodied in the Bill. With regard to these provisions, there was little difficulty, and he imagined that there could be no objection. There were also a few other minor matters embodied in the later clauses. But the third main provision of the Bill raised a point which had, in the past, given rise to some considerable controversy. It was found to be necessary that companies which conducted the business of drug stores should be made liable for offences against the Pharmacy Act committed by their agents. That was a proper change of the law which drug stores themselves conceded to be necessary. It arose out of a legal decision that where an unqualified person was selling poisons 1712 in a shop belonging to a drug store company that unqualified person was alone to be punished and the company could not be punished, because it was not a "person" within the meaning of the Pharmacy Act. When, however, it was proposed to amend the law and make the drug store companies liable in such cases, a kee controversy at once arose between the chemists and the drug stores, not on that particular point, but on another one, amely, whether or not drug stores should be allowed to use the title of chemists. On the one hand, the qualified chemist said that he had to undergo a prolonged training, that he had to pay for an expensive education, and that he ought to have a monopoly of this business of dispensing medicine. On the other hand, hon. friends of the drug stores pointed out that they for many yea's past had been carrying on their business without interference by the law, that they supplied a popular need, and that to deprive them of the title hev had long been accustomed to use, would practically destroy their business. On this point a keen controversy arose. There was a babel of tongues. The letter-boxes of Members of Parliament were filled with controversial pamphlets, and the advertisement columns of the newspapers were resplendent with manifestoes on the subject. When he first took up this subject, as representing in this House the Privy Council Office, in whose sphere the matter rested, he was told by both parties that there was only one point on which they were in agreement, and that was that any agreement between them was impossible. However, fortunately, now the case wore a different aspect. The Bill was introduced this year in the House of Lords in a non-controversial form, leaving open this vexed question in dispute between these two important trading interests. The Bill was referred to a Joint Committee of the two Houses, who heard evidence from! both sides, and who were thoroughly representative. This Committee reported the Bill to the House of Lords very closely in the form in which it now stood. Since that time there had been prolonged negotiations with the organised chemists, with the representatives of the drug stores, and with the representatives of the cooperative societies, and to-day he was 1713 happy to be in a position to state that all three parties were reconciled with one another, that they all accepted the Bill in the form in which it was now before the House, subject to some amendments of detail of a very technical character, which it would be his duty to move in Committee. Under these circumstances, as this long controversy was now at an end, he trusted the House would consider this a favourable moment to assent to the Second Reading of the Bill. He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
said he had listened with interest to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, because he remembered the controversies to which he alluded which took place at the time of the last election. He recollected that he had a very long interview which chemists in his then constituency, and he came to the conclusion that while something could be said on their side of the question there was a good deal to be said on the other. There did not appear to him to be the slightest hope of any agreement being arrived at between the two contending parties, but now he understood that an agreement had been come to. He had, however, had two communications from different people interested in the Bill, and he would like to ask the Under-Secretary a few questions in regard to them. The first communication he had was from the Grocers' Association in London. They objected to certain provisions of the Bill, and regretted that grocers should be allowed to sell poisonous substances, provided they were wrapped in a label which bore the name of a certified chemist, and they asked him to move an Amendment to this effect when the Bill got into Committee This was an extremely technical Bill and he replied that he did not think that anyone who was not an expert in the question should move an Amendment dealing with such an important subject as the sale of poisons. He did not know whether the Grocers' Association was in the right or in the wrong, but what he wanted to ask the Under-Secretary was whether, in view of the fact that 1714 the sale of poisons was a very important matter to safeguard, there was any foundation for the complaint of the Grocers' Association, whether he had looked into the matter and whether any alteration should be made in the Bill. Then he had an appeal from the chemists in his constituency, in which they said that at last this matter had been agreed to, subject to an Amendment to be introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary. He thought, before they passed the Second Reading of the Bill, they ought to have some indication of what the Amendment was, because it seemed to him that the Bill at the moment was not an agreed one, but that it rather resembled the Education Bill, which was brought in as an agreed measure, but when they got into Committee they found that it was the reverse. This, therefore, was not an agreed Bill; that was to say, the chemists did not agree except on the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman would introduce an Amendment which would suit their aims and objects. He did not wish to say a word about the Amendment, he did not know what it was, but they ought to know. It must not be forgotten that no doubt there was considerable grievance on the part of the chemists, and while he quite agreed that a company could not be prosecuted for committing any offence committed by its servants, that commonly the servants would be prosecuted, and that that wanted altering, it seemed to him that nothing should be done which would prevent large chemist companies continuing a business which they had carried on for a considerable time. They had been a very great boon to the poorer classes on account of the high prices charged by chemists, whereas they could now go to places like Boot's Stores and get drugs at prices much more reasonable. While they ought to safeguard the rights of the chemists, they ought not to give them a monopoly which would allow them to charge excessive prices. He did not wish to offer any opposition to the Bill, and he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to secure an agreement on the question. He hoped the Home Secretary, who had not spoken, would inform them what was the Amendment which it was proposed to move, 1715 so that before they went to a Second Reading they might have some knowledge of what they were assenting to.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
said he only desired to add an observation to what had been said by his hon. friend, and the Under-Secretary would acknowledge that he was intervening in the debate with no desire to consume the time of the House, because a year ago he waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, as a member of a deputation which called attention to the undoubted grievance which was then felt by chemists. He only rose to ask how far the chemists the hon. Gentleman had mentioned could be relied on. He had heard some of the chemists in his constituency expressing a little doubt as to the Amendment it was contemplated to introduce in the Bill. He could not pretend that he was in entire agreement with what had fallen from his hon. friend as to the quarrel between the chemists and the corporate body, but he would venture to say, in qualification of what had fallen from his hon. friend, that chemists who had undergone a highly specialised education in order to fit themselves for their occupation felt it a very great grievance that they were not to enjoy the same status as medical and legal practitioners. The Government should indicate in a general way what the nature of the Amendment which it was proposed to put into the Bill would be, so that the House in giving it a Second Reading, should not be in the dark, but able to feel, having the advantage of the assurance of the Under-Secretary, that they were not failing in carrying out the pledges they had given to their constituents.
§ MR. WINFREY (Norfolk, S.W.)
desired to say, as the Member placed in charge of the Bill of the Pharmaceutical Society, that after the negotiations which had taken place with regard to the Government Bill the clause dealing with chemists was now considered quite satisfactory to the Pharmaceutical Society. The clause which it was proposed to introduce had been placed before the largest meeting of the Society that had ever taken place, and they expressed themselves as being quite satisfied.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said the point was an extremely technical one, and not easy to follow. The effect of the clause as it would appear when amended was that a drug store must have a duly qualified chemist in charge of the actual dispensing of the medicines containing the scheduled poisons. That was the present law, and would be continued, but in addition to that a drug store company must also have a superintendent to manage the poisons department of the company. This superintendent must be a director of the company if the company wished to use the title of chemist and druggist. If the company had got only one shop, the superintendent and the dispenser would be one and the same person, but if the drug company had a number of shops, it must have a duly qualified chemist as dispenser in each shop to dispense such medicines, and must also have a general manager of the poisons department, who was a qualified chemist. The drug companies and chemists agreed to that as a reasonable solution of the whole question. The title pharmacist was limited to chemists and druggists individually registered, but the drug stores which conformed to all the conditions could still retain the title chemist and druggist.
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
asked for a little more information on one or two points. Clause 2 had not been explained very adequately. The point he was anxious to safeguard was that no undue difficulty should be put in the way of agriculturists and horticulturists obtaining weed-killers and sheep dips, or whatever might be required for their purposes. It was also essential that no onerous conditions should be put upon those who sold these things. At present, these articles could be sold by anybody without a licence. The clause in question went further than was necessary in restricting the sale of these articles. Vendors had to get a licence from the local authority, and to conform to any regulations which the local authority made. The Bill said the local authority in granting 1717 a licence should have regard to the reasonable requirements of the public. He did not think that was quite a fair way of putting it. The local authority might say: "One very good sheep dip is being sold by so-and-so, therefore we will not give a licence to somebody else to sell another dip" which, in the opinion of some qualified to judge, might be just as advantageous. He did not think it should be in the power of a local authority to withhold a licence for such a reason as that. He thought a licence ought to be given whenever it was applied for. With regard to Clause 3 it was very satisfactory to hear that the quarrels between the retail chemists and the drug stores had been compromised. The compromise seemed very fair all round. With regard to Clause 5, the Home Secretary would remember that he addressed a Question to him recently with reference to the sale of vitriol, and the right hon. Gentleman assured him that the control of the sale of vitriol was a point that was going to be carefully safeguarded in this Bill. Subsection (2) undoubtedly dealt with the sale of vitriol, but at the same time he did not think that labelling it poison and taking the name of the purchaser would be sufficient to make the procuring of vitriol more difficult than it was at present. It would be of considerable advantage if the hon. Member would inform them what the regulations were likely to be under the proposed Order in Council. Outrages of vitriol throwing had been far too common of late, and he was sure that the House would be willing to adopt any method which was considered advisable to make the purchase of this substance as difficult as possible. If the answer of the hon. Member were satisfactory on this point, he would not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said this Bill had come on so suddenly that he had not had time to look up his papers dealing with two different interests the representatives of which had asked him to watch the Bill and see that certain guarantees, if possible, were given before it was passed. He was not opposing the Second Reading. Among the interests which were being touched by the Bill were those of the sellers of weed 1718 killers and sheep dips. These preparations were chiefly sold by ironmongers, and in his own district there was some feeling between the chemists and ironmongers in regard to this matter. In boroughs of the class which he represented, there was a large rural area together with an urban area, and there was an intimate connection between the surrounding country and the town. There was keen competition between the ironmongers and the chemists, and he should like to know from the Undersecretary whether, under the Bill, the sale of weed killers and sheep dips by ironmongers would be stopped. He was inclined to think that that would be a rather harsh measure which would be resented by agriculturists near country towns. He practically agreed with his noble friend opposite on this matter, and he would be greatly obliged if the Undersecretary would deal with the question he had put.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
said it was very important that agriculturists throughout the country should not be put to any kind of inconvenience in regard to obtaining weed killers, sheep dip, and similar preparations which they required. What would be the difference between the law as it now existed and as it would be made by Clause 2 in regard to the ordinary agriculturist? He was not a chemical expert, but he ventured to suggest that there were certain sheep dips and weed killers which contained substances other than "arsenic, tobacco, or the alkaloids of tobacco," mentioned in the clause, though he saw in the same clause that—His Majesty may by Order in Council amend this provision by adding thereto or removing therefrom any poisonous substance.That seemed to him to be an unnecessary and possibly harsh restriction. Take his own experience. He had used a substance, which was composed of some poison or other, he did not know what it was, to rub on the backs of his cattle. This had the effect of preventing the water-fly settling upon them, thus giving the animals relief and preventing them from galloping about the field to escape the insect. It would be an unnecessarily harsh restriction if a farmer could 1719 not purchase the substance except at the place of a registered chemist. As he read Clause 2 he would not be able to purchase it elsewhere unless an Order in Council was obtained. That Order in Council, he presumed, would go to the county council, from the county council to the district council, and from the district council to the person who desired to sell the particular preparation. That was a very lengthy process, and it was hardly necessary to place a restriction of that kind in the Bill. He should like the Under-Secretary to tell them what would be the actual effect of this clause upon the agriculturists of the country, whether it would make any serious difference in their opportunities to purchase these necessary articles containing poisonous substances which every farmer had to use at some period of the year, and whether he could not see his way to removing or altering subsection (1) of Clause 2, by making it a little more feasible for agriculturists to obtain these preparations. Another point which he desired to raise was with reference to subsection (3) of Clause 3. He understood that chemists' companies were to be registered as chemists and druggists, and not as pharmacists, and that this had been agreed upon by all parties concerned, and therefore no objection was made to that provision.
§ MR. SCOTT (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said they were told that this was an agreed Bill, but there was a clause in it the inclusion of which in the agreement he could not understand. He referred to subsection (4) of Clause 3, which insisted that before a business carried on by a company could be described as a chemists' business, there must be one director of the concern who was a duly registered pharmaceutical chemist. Take the position of Whiteley's Stores, or the Army and Navy Stores, or any other of those great organised businesses, each with a chemist and druggist department. How was one man, who had received a University education perhaps, and had become a qualified chemist, to take part in the administration of those huge businesses? He thought such a provision ought not to be forced on any concern. By all 1720 means let them provide further protection for the public, but in the carrying out of an organised business it was no part of the duty of the House to inflict such a condition upon these great business undertakings. They had some knowledge of the attitude sometimes taken by the Pharmaceutical Society, who caused to be inflicted on those who sold anything which came under Pharmaceutical Acts a fine of £5 or £10. There was no appeal against that. A person was at once brought up to the County Court. He had even known cases in which a fine had been inflicted though the article sold was not poisonous. Articles which usually contained poisons, in order that they might be sold by co-operative societies and stores had the poisons removed from them, but many people who carried on stores and had sold these preparations with the poisons removed had been unjustly fined because there could be no appeal, and the fines were collected by the County Court. He himself had considerable doubt about giving these societies increased powers. Let them give the public authorities or the public inspectors all the assistance they could, but they ought not to give over to committees of chemists or any other body the power to inflict penalties and administer the law of the country
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
thought the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down were just. He understood that subsection (4) of Clause 3 was being modified, but he gathered that the change did not apply to the point raised by the hon. Member below the gangway. To require that a qualified chemist should be placed on the board of the Army and Navy, Harrod's, Parker's, Boot's or other companies' stores was to put upon them a very onerous obligation indeed.
§ LORD BALCARRES
asked whether the Army and Navy Stores had agreed to have a qualified chemist on their board because they had a chemist's department? They knew 1721 what compromises were in vague conversations and how different they were when they came to be reduced to the precise language of the draftsman in a Bill. The chemist's department in these big businesses represented an infinitesimal fraction of those businesses, and it was very unfair to ask those big companies to bring on to their boards men who very likely would be perfectly useless on general commercial questions in order to qualify for the term "chemists," which he should say those companies were as much entitled to use as any great firm. That was a point which required consideration. The Under-Secretary had revolutionised Clause 3 by Amendments proposed to subsection (4), but until those Amendments were on the Paper they could not know what their purport would be. There were two points to which he wished to advert. One was the effect of this proposal on the ordinary business man who sold these substances in the country districts; and, secondly, as to the extended powers which the Home Office was going to take upon its shoulders Tinder the Bill. Everyone knew that in agricultural districts these poisons were now sold by the local "vet.," and the veterinary surgeon, though not always qualified to take that title, knew what these articles were. He knew what the ordinary proportions were and he dealt in articles which were as a rule made up for him by some respectable chemist in a neighbouring town, and he almost defied the Home Office to say that the scandals which had been caused in the last few years by the illicit use of poison could in the smallest percentage of cases be traced to these country veterinary officers. It was not with them that the scandal began nor upon them that these severe measures should fall. The scandals began in the bogus urban chemist's shop. That was where poisons were improperly bought, and it was against them only that it was really necessary to invoke all these immense powers. As the Bill was drafted, the ordinary veterinary surgeon, who for years past had been in the habit of supplying sheep dip to farmers, would have to obtain a licence. He did not see why the local authority should be allowed to prevent 1722 this man from selling these poisons unless it could be shown, and it had not been shown, that it had been the cause of scandal in the past. His real objection to the way the Bill was drafted was that a general scheme was laid down by Parliament, and that actually within the four corners of the Bill the Government took to itself the right to abrogate all or any portions of the Bill. By subsection (3) of Clause 1 the Home Office was entitled to lay down the most minute conditions governing the trade of men who dealt in those poisonous substances.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
The Home Office has never dealt with the question of poisons or medical questions. They have always been the business of the Privy Council.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said they had not the experts. The Home Office was the Department dealing with explosives. There were two items in Schedule 1 which were material ingredients of the most dangerous explosives in the world. He was not going to attack the Home Office. He was going to criticise the growing tendency of this Government to take the right in its Bills to abrogate what Parliament had settled. He thought the Home Office could make regulations of a far-reaching character. Apparently he was wrong, and it was not the Home Office but the Privy Council, but it made very little difference. Let the House consider the six sub-heads on which regulations were to be made: first as to the granting of licences and the selection of authorities which had that duty; then the duration, renewal, revocation, suspension, extension and reduction of such licences. That seemed to ensure that a poor man who had got his licence was to have no 1723 peace. It said that all kinds of regulations might be made about keeping, inspecting and copying the register of licences, and the keeping, transporting, and selling of poisonous substances. That really was giving a Government Department too much latitude. He was not opposed to making proper regulations for dealing with these poisonous substances, but he thought a Government Department at Whitehall, in drawing up its regulations, was often apt to overlook the difficulties. A man living in the country might safely keep his poisonous substances in a manner which would be intolerable in London. He knew cases where local authorities had! themselves kept substances of a highly dangerous character in a box by the side of the road for years, and no objection had ever been taken. It was known it was there, but it was not dangerous because it was in an out-of-the-way part of the country, and the material was concealed in a wood. Now they made a precise declaration which would apply to London just as much as to the wild lands of some country parish, and the regulations were bound to be harassing. The only safeguard that the public had was that the Order in Council was to be placed before Parliament, but what was the good of that? There was no protection in it. It was a purely nominal affair. Questions might be asked on it, but that was no check upon the Privy Council, which had not a representative in the House of Commons. But the Department also put restrictions in Clause 5 on the sale of certain mineral acids, which they said must have the word "poison" on the outside of the bottle, and the name of the person who sold it. That was a perfectly futile regulation. Everyone who had been interested in the cases which had recently occurred, and which had been wholly urban, knew that where a man had been charged with having failed to mark "poison" outside, the label had got wet and had come off. They should deal with these matters in a much more specific manner, and insist that the bottle itself should be marked and not a label stuck on which might come off in a moment. They had power to make new regulations. Clause 2 took special power at any time to revise or withdraw the regula- 1724 tions which had been made, and there was a penalty of £5. He had received a good deal of correspondence with regard to the Bill, and a good many of his correspondents were unaware that an agreement had been arrived at. They viewed the Bill, if not with hostility, certainly with some suspicion. If Clause 3 had been agreed to so much the better. It put a long and tiresome controversy out of the way. But he was quite sure the Under-Secretary ought to give adequate time before any further stage of the Bill was taken.
§ MR. IDRIS (Flint Boroughs)
said very little was obtained by the chemists on the joint committee, but having regard to the urgent need for legislation a compromise had since been arrived at with everybody concerned as far as he could judge. The Joint Stock Companies Association and the Co-operative Stores agreed to, and such companies as John Barker and Company strongly supported these restrictions. The regulations which might be made as to the substances which might be put in and taken out of the Schedule by the Government Department were objectionable to him, as also were a good many of the powers given under the Schedule, but to some extent he found in other countries, such as France and Germany, Government Departments undertook this duty and the work was done remarkably well. He had had as an interested party several times jointly with others to make representations to the Privy Council, and he had come to the conclusion that business was done there remarkably well, and the publication of these proposed regulations would certainly enable those who objected to them to make representations-to the Government Department, and in all probability they could obtain modifications if necessary in the public interest. The noble Lord had spoken of the licences applying in all towns, even in London. There were not many sheep in London. He believed they were intended to apply only to agricultural districts where it was said farmers found it difficult to obtain these poisons. The inspection of the books of licence-holders was an absolute necessity for the public safety in order to trace 1725 cases of criminal poisoning. In nearly all cases of poisoning by arsenic the poisoning went on until several members of a family had been killed before it was suspected. It was not until there had been a large number of deaths that the suspicion of neighbours was aroused and inquiries were made. In the country it was quite a common superstition among horse-keepers that arsenic gave horses a glossy coat. The present state of the law was simply chaos with regard to the sale of poisons. There was no sufficient check on anything, and the restrictions in this Bill were very much in the public interest. Some people were not satisfied with the measure—in fact, many chemists were far from satisfied with it. The only thing in the Bill in favour of chemists was that in future they would be able to call themselves pharmacists. Many of the details would be best threshed out in Committee. He could assure the House from a close study of this question that the Bill contained nothing prejudicial to the public interest, whilst on the other hand it was very necessary for the protection of the public. He hoped the Bill would receive a sympathetic reception. One hon. Member thought there ought to be a more stringent restriction on the sale of vitriol, but having regard to the many interests concerned he thought they had chosen the best compromise. They had given the makers of agricultural poisons and the purchasers of them every possible facility and they had protected the title of "chemist" to some extent.
§ MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
asked the Government to make it quite clear that it was not intended by Clause 2 to make it more difficult but easier to obtain poisons necessary in agricultural pursuits, and he appealed to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office to see that the Orders in Council were issued with the utmost despatch. It Was, for instance, very important that fruit-growers should be able to get the materials for their spraying. Probably a great deal of the mixture used would be used this winter for winter spraying, and it was of the utmost importance that they should be able to obtain it before it was too late. He hoped also 1726 the Government Would see their way to extend somewhat the exceptions to the Act, because there were a variety of substances which, although not of general use, were very valuable in certain isolated cases. There were one or two diseases with which fruit-growers had to contend in which it was almost necessary to use cyanides of different kinds. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bear that in mind and consider whether it was not also possible to extend the list to certain well-recognised animal medicines, which one found or ought to find in every well-conducted stable. He did not think it ought to be necessary to go to a chemist to obtain those things. It was sometimes difficult to obtain what one wanted, and it was inconvenient always to have to go to a registered chemist. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make this point quite clear, because the agriculturists of the country Were very eager to have Clause 2 placed upon the Statute-book this year, and that he would see that no undue delay occurred before the Orders in Council were issued and the advantages of the clause obtained.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE (Inverness Burghs)
suggested that in the exceptional circumstances the Under-Secretary to the Home Department should either put the terms of the new clause on the Order Paper or furnish them to the Press, so that everybody interested would see exactly how the matter stood. He thought the House would agree that some regulations in the way of licensing were necessary. In many part? of the country some of these poisons were kept by grocers and general storekeepers, and if the person who had charge of them was careless there was a danger of the bag containing the ingredients of sheep-dip, for example, bursting and the contents getting mixed with other goods sold in the shop. It was certainly necessary that the local authority, which was acquainted with the character of the persons who retailed those poisons, should be consulted as to whether they were suitable persons to hold a licence. The Bill was an immense improvement and produced some order out of chaos. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had been able to announce an agreement on this long-argued question.
§ MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
said there were two reasons why he supported this Bill. In the first place it was a Bill that had come from another place, where he was sure it had received full and ample discussion and consideration; and in the second place no guillotine Motion had been put upon it. He also supported the Bill because he understood it was a compromise arrived at between the chemists and the drug store companies. Like other hon. Members, he had had during the last two years innumerable communications, not only from his own constituents, but from all parts of the country, urging him, on behalf of the chemists, to resist the Bill before the House; and he had also had representations from the companies, pointing out that their demands were just and asserting that the chemists were most unreasonable people. It was very difficult to know what was right and proper in these matters, but as they had been assured by the Under-Secretary and hon. Members opposite who spoke for the Pharmaceutical Society that the Bill was satisfactory, as non-experts they did not need to indulge in much criticism on the Second Heading. He did not think it was quite reasonable of the hon. Member for Ashton to state that he strongly objected because one director of these trading companies had to be a qualified chemist. This Bill was a compromise, and therefore, neither side could hope to get all they wanted. They had an instance of the difficulty of arranging a compromise in the case of the Education Bill, which was now in a very parlous condition. If the representatives of companies in the House were going to oppose the Second Reading or criticise it because they could not get everything they wanted, and refused to budge to meet the chemists, then he thought they must rather despair of getting any legislation on the subject. From what he had heard he thought this was a fair compromise, and therefore, he should support the Second Reading. As regarded Clause 2, subsection (1), which laid down that those who were to be allowed to sell certain poisons were to have a licence from the local authority, he most strongly supported that pro- 1728 posal. The people who sold those poisons ought to be under some supervision, and he could imagine no better body than the local authority to have the supervision of these people. He presumed that in towns the authority would be the borough council, and in the counties the county council. One hon. Member had urged that the list of poisons sold by these people ought to be extended, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be very careful in extending the list of poisons which might be sold by these more or less irresponsible people, because, although they were licensed, they were not like properly qualified chemists. He did not think that dangerous poisons should be put into the hands of inexperienced people in view of the risks which the last speaker had pointed out might arise if these people were allowed to continue as in the past to store and sell these things. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in his reply would state why Ireland was to be treated differently from England and Wales in this matter. If he could explain subsection (a) of Section 6 he would be obliged, because a more outrageous instance of legislation by reference he had never read. The subsection was as follows:—For the reference to the Pharmacy Act, 1868, there shall be substituted a reference to the Pharmacy Act (Ireland), 1875, and the Pharmacy Act (Ireland), 1875, Amendment Act, 1890, and the reference to regulations made under Section 1 of the first-mentioned Act shall not apply.Was it reasonable at five minutes notice to ask the House to criticise such a subsection as that? There was only one other point which he wished to raise. It was a point which, though it might be impossible to deal with it under this Bill, it would be advisable to include if time could be found to do so. He meant that some means should be found to deal with the extensive use of morphia and other drugs which had unhappily become very prevalent in this country, not only among men but also among women. He noticed that Section 5 of the Bill said—It shall not be lawful to sell any substance to which this section applies by retail, unless the box, bottle, vessel, wrapper, or cover in which the substance is contained is distinctly labelled with the name of the substance and the word 'Poison,' and with the name and address 1729 of the seller of the substance, and unless such other regulations as may be prescribed under this section by Order in Council are complied with … .Subsection (2) of the same clause said—The substances to which this section applies are sulphuric acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, soluble salts of oxalic acid, and such other substances as may for the time being be prescribed by Order in Council under this section.Though perhaps when this Bill was originally introduced the question which he raised now was not in the minds of the promoters, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could see his way to include in the list of substances, with respect to which regulations might be made from time to time by Order in Council, morphia and other things which were used in the drug habit. They had been trying to legislate about drinking, and they had not agreed as to the means to be taken to decrease it, but really the drug habit in this country was insidiously, and without the whole nation knowing, doing nearly as much harm as drinking. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way, either in this Bill or in some other way, to introduce such measures as would diminish the facilities for obtaining these drugs from chemists and other people, he would do more than could be done by any Licensing Bill to promote morality and upright conduct in this country.
§ MR. VIVIAN (Birkenhead)
said the co-operative societies had for the last two or three years resisted the passing of this Bill, but what was called the compromise had given them all the satisfaction they required. There were just two points he wished to deal with. First of all the Bill did not prevent cooperative bodies from carrying on the business of chemists and druggists. The first portion of subsection (4) of Clause 3 gave ample power to carry on business. There was no restriction of any kind in that direction. The other point had reference to the question of title. There had been some difference of opinion on that point between the promoters of the Bill and the co-operative organisations. The chemists protested against the use of the personal title of chemists or pharmacists by corporate bodies, but they were willing that these bodies should use any title 1730 which would place before the public full information of the fact that they were carrying on this business. They might therefore adopt such names as "Drug store," "Drug selling department," "Pharmaceutical department," "Department of chemistry," "Dispensing department," "Sale of medicines and drugs departments," or even "Pharmacy and drugs department." The cooperative bodies said that that was sufficient to meet their views, and they had no desire to trench on the personal title, so long as they were able to carry on this particular business. The second portion of the subsection left them free to carry on business under such titles as he had mentioned. There remained, therefore, no substantial difference between the co-operative bodies and the chemists. Personally, he objected to all kinds of restrictions. He sympathised with the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London on that point. In what he had said he had expressed the views of 1,500 co-operative organisations. He believed he had also expressed the views of the Army and Navy Stores, and similar institutions. The powers contained in the clause would amply serve their purpose.
§ MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)
in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill said he especially favoured the measure because it dealt with the subject raised by his hon. friend the Member for Blackpool. It was most desirable that steps should be taken to remedy the evil which had come to be known as "the drug habit." He thought it would be some consolation to his hon. friend to know that this Bill did something to stiffen up the law with regard to the sale of morphia and other preparations.
§ MR. FORSTER
said it was provided for in this way. Clause 1 said—Schedule A. to the Pharmacy Act, 1868 (which specifies the articles to be deemed poisons within the meaning of that Act), is hereby repealed, and the schedule to this Act shall be substituted therefor.The schedule of the Act of 1868 did not contain any reference to opium 1731 or any of the preparations derived from opium. The schedule of this Bill included "Opium, and all preparations or admixtures containing 1 or more per cent. of morphine." Section 17 of the Act of 1868 stated the conditions under which it was unlawful to sell poisons, and by applying that Act, as amended by the Bill now before the House, to opium they were really making a very drastic alteration of the law which he most heartily welcomed. There was not the slightest doubt that the drug habit was largely on the increase. It was one of the most insidious and deplorable diseases to which man or woman could succumb, and anyone who knew of its ravages could not feel other than grateful to those who were making it possible to do something to deal with the question. He knew something of the evil of the drug habit. He happened to be a member of a voluntary committee which was formed to inquire into the genuineness of one of the cures for inebriety which had been established in the Metropolis. Their proceedings were full of interest. The committee had before them cases in which, so far as they were able to tell, an absolute cure had been effected. The stories of misery which were told by the people who had been cured almost brought tears to the eye, even of a hardened politician like himself. He, for one, would feel real gratitude for any opportunity of doing something to make more difficult the acquisition by those unhappy people of the drugs which they abused. That reason would make the Bill acceptable to him if there was no other. He supported the suggestion that vitriol should be included in the schedule. He would be very glad to see the conditions of the sale of these drugs stiffened.
§ MR. HEDGES (Kent, Tonbridge)
wished to call attention to the latter part of subsection (4) of Clause 3, which he did not think was necessary. Chemists jealously guarded the use of the title "chemist," and it appeared from the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead that corporations and large companies who had been taking that title were no longer desirous of using it. Under the latter part of Clause 3, the monopoly of the use of the title "chemist" had been taken 1732 away, and the title of "pharmacist" was given instead. It was not altogether fair to men who had served a long apprenticeship and who had after study passed difficult examinations, to deprive them of this title of "chemist" and give them that of "pharmacist," a term which would be obscure to the man in the street.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said that the Bill had come on so suddenly that he had been unable to ascertain what was the full opinion of his constituents on the subject matter of the Bill, although he had had a great deal of correspondence about it. There were many more points of interest in the Bill than those to which the Under-Secretary had referred. He was not particularly interested in Clause 3, which seemed to him to deal with some compromise as to trade regulations between chemists and druggists. He was afraid that compromises were not much in favour just now; and they were apt to be made between two branches of a trade, as in this instance, without any real consideration for the interests of the public. The fact that a compromise had been made between the two branches of this particular trade—the chemists and the druggists—did not recommend the Bill to him. The really important part of the Bill was Clause 2. As he understood it, the clause did away with the restrictions that now existed with regard to the sale by tradesmen of sheep dips and other poisonous substances used for agricultural and horticultural purposes. Was there any other country in the world, except our own, which imposed so few restrictions on the sale of poisons of the sort referred to in the Bill? Why should the general health of the community be disregarded, and proper scientific precautions not be taken, and this widespread sale of poisonous substances be allowed, because it was a little more convenient to the farmer to get them from the nearest grocer's shop? It seemed to him that they were now proposing to give a very dangerous relaxation of the law with regard to the sale of poisons, such as would not be permitted in any other country, certainly not in France or Germany whose examples were so often quoted. A large class of 1733 people were required to qualify themselves by a long course of study and by obtaining University degrees after strict examination, before they could enter upon a certain business, in which they were entitled to certain privileges. Was it fair to those people to sweep away the whole system under which they had obtained those privileges simply because agricultural constituents of certain hon. Gentlemen Would find it a little more convenient to have free trade in poisons carried on by ignorant persons? After all, would other professional people, like his friends who Were members of the Bar, and their medical brethren who had passed severe examinations and qualified themselves for those professions, like the restrictions on the practice of their professions swept away, and be told that their work could be done equally well by unqualified men? Were these dangerous poisons to be spread over the country Tinder the guise that they were useful for agricultural or horticultural purposes? He felt very strongly that the restrictions instead of being relaxed should be carefully guarded so as to prevent the ordinary uneducated man selling dangerous poisons, even on the ground that it would be a benefit to a particular industry such as agriculture. Clause 4 interfered with the existing provisions relating to the Pharmaceutical Society; it considerably modified its power of granting their certificates; and it would be convenient to know what other changes were proposed. The scientific qualifications and tests of professional skill Were to be taken away, and instead, licences were to be granted by local authorities. Was it reasonable that the House should leave it to an Order in Council to say what was a local authority in which this very important power of granting a licence was to be vested? Parliament itself should lay down what Was the local authority whose licence Was to be in substitution for a scientific education. While he would not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give the House time enough to consider these matters before they took the Bill in Committee.
§ MR. B. S. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)
thought there were certain provisions in the Bill which ought to be 1734 amended before it became an Act. Although the drug habit was increasing in this and all other countries, this Bill would not do much to interfere with it. It simply made it illegal that certain things should be sold except by a qualified chemist, but the whole mischief was the ease with which the latter could sell articles which were injurious to health. He was not sure that there was not greater harm in the drug habit than in the drink habit, but both were so harmful that it lay upon Members to do everything they could to restrict the sale of them. There was an article sold to-day called "chlorodyne" which was labelled "poison." When he was chairman of the largest asylum in London a poor creature was brought there who had taken large quantities of this mixture, very much to her detriment. He asked her how she got the stuff, and she said that it was true it was labelled "poison," but she could go to a chemist and although he would only sell her a bottle she could go on to other chemists and get more. Although the dose was only about twenty drops she had taken two or three teaspoonfuls many times a day, and of course it had the effect, which most of these drugs had, of turning her brain. He was hoping that the Government would introduce into a Bill of this kind provision making it more difficult for the general public to get drugs of a dangerous character. What often happened was that a patient got a doctor's prescription for morphia or some other drug of that character, and although it might be years old it was hawked about from chemist to chemist, and what was an excellent thing for the complaint the patient was suffering from at the time, proved most dangerous when it was taken permanently. Although the prescription was two or three years old the chemist would supply a bottle of it, and often the person producing the prescription said he was going to the South of France, or for a sea voyage, and he should like half-a-dozen bottles, and very often he got it. He knew of a person who had a prescription for chloral in rather heavy doses, and he had a great deal of trouble in getting a large quantity of it at a time, but the stores supplied half-a-dozen bottles on the plea that 1735 he was going yachting to Norway and Sweden. The person who obtained that quantity, he need not inform the House, was not any better for it when he came back. He was hoping that it would be quite possible for the Government to insert some clause to make it absolutely necessary that a doctor, in giving a prescription of a dangerous character containing a poison, should affix a date, and make it illegal for a chemist to dispense that dangerous drug after a month had elapsed. This was not merely his own opinion, but from repeated conversations with eminent medical men he knew that would be popular with the healing profession. The danger was now being rather accentuated by the putting up of most dangerous drugs in compressed or tabloid form, and people were using them because they could get them so easily. He had said before, and he repeated that he believed the love of drugs was as bad as that of drink and if they could get an opportunity restricting this traffic it was their duty to do it, and he believed that no measure would be more useful to the community than one which would make it more difficult to get the drugs which were so popular among the drug-taking fraternity. He entirely agreed with the last speaker as regarded the naming of the authority which should have this important duty put upon it under the Bill. He thought it should not be left to an Order in Council, but ought to be decided by the Government. He congratulated the parties to this dispute on coming to a fair compromise, but he hoped, before the Bill became an Act, some clause would be inserted which would make it more difficult for the drug-taking population to secure drugs, so that they should not get them with the same amount of ease with which they could get them now. Although it might not be known, he was sure that a very large portion of the misery and disease which certain classes of our population were suffering from to-day was owing to their having taken, at some time in their lives, drugs which did not. show the bad effects at once; and in regard to the well-being of our people no measure would be of greater or wider use for the benefit of all than a measure which 1736 would restrict the facilities for getting these dangerous compounds. He did not think it was necessary for him to say anything more, except again to ask the Government to insert the local authority that should have cast upon it the important duty of giving a certificate to the person who might dispense these articles, and not leave it simply to the machinery of an Order in Council, under which different authorities might be named. He also-hoped the Government would see their way to put something in the Bill to restrict the sale of those articles which were sapping away the lives and happiness of our people.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said it was quite correct that Clause 2 of the Bill made the sale of poisonous substance? more free, but those who objected ignored apparently the exact state of the facts. All over large tracts of country the law, as it was at present, was set at defiance, and had been for years. He did not so much mean set at defiance as broken by general consent, owing to the enormous necessity for the supply of these drugs. What was the position? Hon. Members who lived in the country knew perfectly well that there were large districts in Ireland where the town was so small that a properly qualified druggist and chemist could not exist. Were they going to say to the poorer farmers in such districts that they should not be allowed to get sheep-dip and preparations of that kind? A substance which had not been mentioned, but which he thought ought to be mentioned, was sulphate of copper. There were hundreds of tons needed where no chemist was likely to have it. Sulphate of copper was required for spraying potatoes, and it was sold in every store in every country town. The result had been that in large districts of the country the Act of 1868 had been for many years a dead letter, and these necessary poisons were sold for the convenience of everybody. It was recognised by everyone that convenience must override the law. He was stating what was an absolute fact; and, therefore, he thought the Government were perfectly right in bringing the law into 1737 harmony with the facts of the case. He thought the Government, so far from curtailing the rights given under Section 2, ought to extend them to all these substances which were commonly used by the country people for the destruction of fungi, or for sheep-dips, or spraying potatoes or fruit trees. He thought all these ought to be included under Section 2, and it ought not to be left to the Lord-Lieutenant in Council to investigate this question. What was the use of leaving the Lord-Lieutenant to inquire whether sulphate of copper was useful when everybody knew it was? Clause 2 was an absolute necessity for the convenience of the rural districts, and in those districts cases of poisoning were exceedingly rare. Whenever there was a case it was generally rat-poison that was used, and seldom anything else. Clause 2 did not apply to rat-poison or anything containing strychnine. He thought the clause was necessary, and hoped the Government would stick to it.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said that owing to this Bill being brought on them at short notice, it was very difficult for some of them who were interested in the subject, and who represented another part of Ireland than that represented by the hon. Member who had just sat down, to deal with the matter. At the same time, they were entrusted with the task of trying to elicit from the Minister in charge of the Bill what compromise had been concluded with regard to the chemists and druggists in Ireland. He understood from the new clause read out that it only referred to chemists and druggists in England and Scotland, but anyone who turned to the end of the Bill would see that a certain portion of the measure applied to Ireland, and he understood that great dissatisfaction had been evinced among certain sections of the chemists in that country with regard to Clauses 2 and 3. The Under-Secretary, in reading out the new clause, made no mention whatever of how it would be affected by Clause 7, which said that the provisions of this Act, relative to the regulation and sale of certain poisonous substances for agricultural and horticultural purposes, and to restrictions on the sale of 1738 certain mineral acids, should apply to Ireland with certain modifications. Clause 2 dealt chiefly with the poisons which were used in the production of agricultural articles—sheep dip, and so on, and it would be found there that so much of the Pharmacy Act, 1868, as made it an offence for any person to sell or keep open a shop for the sale of poisons, unless he was a duly registered pharmaceutical chemist or chemist and druggist, and conformed to the regulations under Section 1 of that Act, should not apply to poisonous substances containing certain materials, such as arsenic, tobacco or alkaloids of tobacco, to be used exclusively in agriculture or horticulture. Clause 2 was rather obscure, in so far that the Act to which it referred, the Act of 1868, had twenty-eight clauses, and in considering Clause 2 of this Bill it was necessary to go through the whole of the Act of 1868 to see what portion of it referred to the sale of these poisons. That, taken by itself, was a matter of considerable labour, but, in the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced, it was an absolute impossibility. He would like to ask, was Ireland included in the compromise referred to?
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said the later clause affecting the position of chemist and druggist companies did not affect Ireland.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
replied that if that were so, a large section of the chemists of Ireland thoroughly objected to the Bill. He had understood that some arrangement had been come to by which Clause 3 would be extended to Ireland. If that was so, it would be acceptable to the chemists. The only part of the Bill which referred to Ireland was Clause 2 and a part of Clause 6 referring solely to the sale of articles connected with agriculture and horticulture. If only Clause 2 was applicable to Ireland, he would like to ask whether there was anything in the Bill to allow the right of sale to be extended to those who were connected solely with horticulture and agriculture in Ireland. There was a grievance touching these great seedsmen and rose-growers and fruit-growers, having the right to sell the 1739 various articles enumerated in Clause 2, which affect their particular branch of horticulture. They had an expert knowledge in the cure of the various diseases from which fruit trees and other things suffered. In the readjustment of the Bill, before it came to the Committee stage, he hoped the Government would make some arrangement whereby these large and established firms would be able to sell these articles, which they were able from their expert knowledge to certify were the best remedies for the diseases to which he had referred. He would like to know also whether it was not the fact that certain restrictions were to be put on those who had sold these potato sprays and sheep dips in Ireland, because in some of the out-of-the-way districts in Ireland some restriction ought to be put in force. The danger was in those districts, not where these things were sold in packets, but where they were supplied in smaller quantities, where packets were broken up, perhaps by a small child of the shopkeeper, in which case some of this poisonous material might be left on the counter in close proximity to food and other articles of consumption. He had been told that the restriction to be placed on the sale of these articles would take the line that they would not be allowed to be sold in any shop where food or drink was sold. But whether that suggestion had been accepted by the Government he had not been informed. The hon. Member for East Mayo had spoken quite truly when he had stated that in certain out-of-the-way parts of Ireland there was not a certified chemist within reasonable distance. But even where there was, the prices charged by the registered chemist for these articles were much higher than those charge by the druggist. Co-operative societies also had sprung up and grown rapidly in Ireland during the past few years, and they claimed a right to be allowed to sell these articles, done up in tins, bottles or parcels, in their particular localities. Although the Bill, so far as Clause 2 was concerned, was of as much interest to Ireland as to any other part of the United Kingdom, not one word, in the course of two hours discussion, had been said by Ministers as to how it affected Ireland. He really thought that the Vice-President of the 1740 Department of Agriculture for Ireland, who, he understood, had charge of that part of the Bill, should have been in his place and given the House some enlightenment on that matter. He did not oppose the Bill, and should not divide against the Second Beading, but unless some explanation was given he hoped some of his friends would oppose it and insist on the Vice-President being sent for immediately.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said that most of the points which had been raised were such as could only be settled in Committee, and it was obviously impossible for him to discuss them that day. With regard to the general principle of Clause 2, it was one of the most important clauses in the Bill. The purpose of that clause was not to impose restrictions on the sale of weed-killers and sheep-dips to farmers, but, as he said in moving the Second Reading, to enable agriculturists and horticulturists to get those articles which contained poisons more freely than they were now able legally to do. Ironmongers and others who now sold those commodities did so illegally, and were liable to prosecution at any time. Although in recent years few prosecutions had taken place, yet between 1896 and 1901 there were 749 prosecutions by the Pharmaceutical Society, mainly, he believed, in cases of this character. In some parts of England the sale of these articles was restricted absolutely to chemists through those prosecutions. Under the Bill, other persons who were to sell these commodities were to be licensed and were to conform to the requirements of the Act.
§ VISCOUNT HELMSLEY
asked if the restriction would apply to the sale of patent medicines which were specially excluded from the Act of 1868.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said they did not come within the purview of the clause. Clause 2 dealt only with those commodities which were used for agriculture, and which contained particular poisons as ingredients, such as arsenic, tobacco, and alkaloids of tobacco. The precarious position of the present 1741 sellers of these poisonous materials for agricultural purposes must be dealt with. On the one hand, it was obvious that they ought to extend the existing legal facilities. He thought that all Members of the House must agree to that. Even the Member for the Scottish Universities, when he came to consider the matter more closely, especially if he read the Report of the Departmental Committee of 1901, could not fail to come to that conclusion. On the other hand, it would be very inadvisable to throw open the sale of poisonous materials, some of them very poisonous, to all and sundry without any restriction at all. Therefore they proposed to require a double check. One was that the local authority should license the trader who was to sell these materials, so that only persons of repute who could be properly trusted to take precautions should get these licences; and, secondly, these poisonous materials were only to be sold in accordance with the regulations which were to be made by Order in Council for the safeguard of their storage and use.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said the local authority was to be determined by Order in Council, but it would be carefully considered whether it would be possible to insert a precise designation of the local authority in the Bill. He would consult with his right hon. friend the Lord President of the Council on this matter. This was not a Home Office Bill; it was a Privy Council Bill, and he was speaking not as Under-Secretary for the Home Office, but as representative in that House of that Department. The hon. Member for Mayo had said that this Clause 2 ought to be enlarged, and that the poisons which were specified there should be added to, and he had mentioned one or two materials which were sold for use in agriculture. By an Order in Council other materials, which at any time might be brought into use for those purposes, could be added to those specified in Clause 2 of the Bill. He hoped that he had made it quite clear that it was not intended to restrict farmers in obtaining these 1742 articles, but to enable them to do so more easily, and this had been warmly welcomed by chambers of agriculture throughout the country. The hon. Member for Blackpool brought up the question of morphia. This Bill did make a change in the law; it took morphia out of Part II. of the Schedule of the Pharmacy Act of 1868, and put it into Part I., and thereby furthered restrained its sale. It might be said that the whole of the Pharmacy Acts ought to be amended so as greatly to increase the restrictions on substances such as these. That was a question which ought to be dealt with, if at all, after inquiry and with the aid of expert knowledge, but all the restrictions provided by the existing law which applied to the most deadly poisons, like prussic acid for example, would now be applied to the sale of morphia. The hon. Member had asked him how far the Bill applied to Ireland, and whether the compromise arrived at with regard to Clause 3 would extend to that country. Ireland had its own code of Pharmacy Acts, and the Pharmacy Acts which they were amending did not apply to Ireland at all. They had their own Orders in Council made by the Irish Privy Council. His right hon. friend did not originally propose to apply the Bill to Ireland; but there was a great desire on the part of Irish agriculturists that Clause 2 should be extended to their country, and it was in accordance with that desire that that extension was made. Clause 5, which dealt with comparatively small points, also applied to Ireland. Clause 3 which dealt with the vexed question of companies which were chemists and druggists, did not apply to Ireland, and communications consequently had not passed between the Government and the chemists and druggists and the companies of Ireland as in England. It would be difficult, he did not say impossible, to adapt the Irish Pharmacy Acts to the purposes of the Bill. It would mean legislation by reference of a complicated kind. But if it was desired that Clause 3 should apply to Ireland, he would be happy to take representations on the point into consideration. There had been communications with the Irish Government, but he was not convinced that 1743 there was the same agreement in Ireland as in England with regard to Clause 3. He need hardly say, however, that if there was a general desire among Irish representatives that the clause should be extended to Ireland, with the necessary modifications, of course, the Government would be very glad indeed to do all in its power to meet their wishes. The Government's own desire was to arrive at a general agreement of this character. The adaptation to this particular Bill of the Irish Pharmacy Acts would be a matter of much complexity, and hon. Members must not complain if the clause consisted of legislation by reference of a somewhat complicated character; that would be inevitable. The noble Lord the Member for Chorley had asked how far there was a real compromise in England, and had suggested that the compromise was on the basis of vague conversations which might break down. When the Government had drafted the clause it was submitted to the various parties. He held in his hand three letters with reference to this matter. He submitted the clause as proposed by the Government to the organised representatives of the various parties, and he had a communication from the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain saying that they would agree to the clause as it would stand when the suggested Amendments were inserted; and he had a letter from the Companies Chemists Association, which included the Army and Navy Stores, the Junior Army and Navy, Harrod's, Spiers and Pond's, Boots' Cash Chemists, and all the other protagonists in this fight, and also a letter from the Cooperative Union, which represented the co-operative societies of England and Wales. The whole of these bodies unanimously accepted without any reservation whatever the clause as it would be when amended by the Government proposals. The hon. Member for Inverness had suggested that the House should have an opportunity to consider the precise terms of the compromise. He would hand in Amendments to-night in order that they might appear on the Order Paper tomorrow, and in ample time for the Committee stage. He thought that this Bill, which was of a technical and detailed character, would properly be dealt with 1744 by a Standing Committee rather than by the Committee of the Whole House. He had no doubt that the Standing Committee would consider it in a spirit of goodwill and with a desire to pass the Bill. It was a measure which raised no element of party controversy. He thought that all sections of the House desired to see an end put to this long standing dispute, and he trusted that, as the Bill had already passed the House of Lords, before very many days had elapsed it would have passed through the House of Commons.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said he agreed that it was most undesirable that these preparations sold for the purposes of agriculture should continue to be sold by persons in defiance of the law. But there was another class they must think of at the same time, namely, those people who had the right to sell these sheep dips and potato spraying mixtures to agriculturists, and who had actually been disposing of them in various districts for many years. It would be a very serious thing, when this Bill passed, if anybody might be allowed to sell these commodities in their immediate neighbourhood. It would be an interference with what had been an undoubted monopoly of qualified persons—a monopoly which they had enjoyed for many years, and out of which no doubt, they had made a very good income. There was no doubt that such persons ought to be considered. He was not content to leave entirely to the local authority, especially as they had not been informed what that local authority was, the absolute right to say whether or not any person should be allowed to sell these things. He was sorry to say that no matter what the measure was, if it applied to Ireland, politics and religion were sure to enter into its administration. And he could quite realise the case in which a local authority, say a rural district council, if it were fixed upon as the authorty who was to have the administration of this Act, might decide that a certain individual should have the right to sell these materials, and so perhaps pay off an old score against the person who up to then had been the only one who had had the right to sell these commodities. 1745 There should be some stringent provisions for regulating that part of the measure. He thought also that where an individual was refused a licence he ought to have the right of appeal to some tribunal which he might consider more impartial than the local authority. He objected very strongly to the extensive powers which were left in the hands of the Privy Council. There was the further objection that the regulations which they framed were to be laid on the Table of the House, so that there might be an opportunity of considering them. So far as that safeguard was concerned, it might as well be left out of the Bill altogether. As had been pointed out by hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, everything that was done under the Bill was handed over en bloc to the Privy Council. They had become accustomed to this kind of legislation; none the less he thought that it was extremely harmful and retrograde. There were many things in these subsections which he was firmly convinced ought to be kept in the hands of the House. For instance, the regulations as regarded the granting of licences: he thought that the House, and not the Privy Council, ought to lay down the various classes of persons to whom these licences should be given. He certainly thought the House should fix definitely what the local authority was to be, which should have the carrying out of the Act. He desired that the Bill should pass into law, because in theory, at any rate, there was nothing contentious about it, but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman again to consider before the Committee stage whether he could not, with the assistance of the draughtsman who had so skilfully drafted that gem of draughtsmanship, sub-clause (a) of Clause 6, a gem in the way of legislation by reference, include the compromise which had been arrived at on Clause 3. This was a very excellent opportunity of trying to clear up the differences and difficulties which had existed quite as much in Ireland as in this country. It was hardly reasonable to complain of the non-attendance of any Minister to answer for the Irish part of the Bill, but at any rate they had a grievance, inasmuch as they had no one on the Treasury bench who could give them any information whatever with reference to what 1746 it was intended to do on the various points which applied to Ireland alone. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them ample time, before the Bill went into Committee, to communicate with interested parties and formulate Amendments, and that there would be full discussion in Committee and on Report.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time and committed to a Standing Committee.