HC Deb 08 December 1920 vol 135 cc2363-7

(1) No person shall sell offer for sale supply or deliver any clinical thermometer unless the thermometer has been tested approved and marked in accordance with Regulations made under this Section by the Minister:

Provided that this Section shall not unless the Minister by order directs to the contrary apply to an offer to sell a clinical thermometer for export from the United Kingdom or to the sale supply or delivery of a clinical thermometer if the thermometer is intended to be and is thereafter exported from the United Kingdom.

(2) If any person acts in contravention of this Section he shall be liable on summary conviction in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding ten pounds.


I beg to move to leave out the Clause.

This is one of those extraordinary provisions that have got into this as an outcome of D.O.R.A. It seems to be one of those extraordinary forms of protection not desirable to the most arrant Tariff Reformer. There is no difficulty about it. You can send these thermometers to Kew I understand and you can get them marked satisfactorily without it being insisted on that you must get them done. I hope the Minister will agree to this deletion.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will retain this Clause. It is quite the most useful Clause in the whole Bill the only Clause really worth having. I did hope at one period that we would have had an Amendment to the title of this Bill to make it read the Clinical Thermometers Bill with this Clause standing alone. It is a provision very much needed. A doctor told me that before the War 40 per cent. of the clinical thermometers manufactured in this country were unreliable and inaccurate. He told me he went to one patient and happening not to have his own thermometer asked the patient if he had one. He had and the doctor took his temperature with it. He found it to be 103 and packed him off to bed. Later he took his temperature again with his own thermometer and found it was normal while the other was still 103. Either one was wrong or they both were. If you were travelling abroad the one thing you never buy is a British thermometer. It is an awful bore buying a foreign one because you have to convert it from Reaumur or Centigrade into Fahrenheit. This was because of the notorious unreliability of British thermometers. During the War the Government came to the conclusion that they should test thermometers and they established a testing station at Kew which is really valuable. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will retain the Clause because it is most important that clinical thermometers should be accurate.


As a very confirmed Free Trader, I hope that the Government will maintain the Clause. If there is one thing on which they ought to have a guarantee, it is that of clinical thermometers. Laymen experiment with clinical thermometers. I have done it myself, and because I believe it is simply common sense and nothing to do with Protection, I hope the Government will maintain the Clause.

Question "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'supply' ['sale supply, or deliver'] stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.


I beg to move in Sub-section (1) after the word "sale" ["offer for sale"], to insert the word "or."

We feel, by having the words as they are now in this Clause, they may be the means of creating a great deal of irritation and, in some respects, persecution of people who have no responsibility in these matters. The object was to provide if any person shall sell or offer for sale any clinical thermometers. We think that sufficient protection so far as the object of this Clause is concerned. After all, the servant of a business firm may deliver a clinical thermometer, and it is absurd to suggest that an errand boy, or anybody of that description, who goes through the form of delivering the article should be liable to prosecution under this Clause. So long as the public is protected adequately, we feel that the Clause gives the proper means of proceeding against those who have committed an offence.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Colonel WILSON

As explained in Committee, this word "deliver" would not apply in any way to those people to whom my hon. Friend has alluded. There is not the slightest intention nor can it be read into the Clause, that it would apply to an errand boy who is delivering a clinical thermometer. The word "deliver" was deliberately put into the Clause to cover the case of a person in this country as an agent of a manufacturer abroad, who, of course, cannot be got at. It is the agent of the foreign manufacturer whom it is desired to get at.


Would not that particular case be covered by the word "supply"?

Colonel WILSON

Not necessarily. Amendment negatived.


I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert a new Sub-section— (3) This Section shall apply to Scotland with the substitution of 'the Scottish Board of Health' for 'the Minister.'


I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "with the substitution of 'the Scottish Board of Health' for 'the Minister.'"

On a matter of this particular kind it is very important we should have the same Regulations made by the same authority and enforcing the same stamp of efficiency.


I think my hon. Friend's suggestion is a really good one.

Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.

Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.


I beg to move after the words last added, to insert a new Subsection— (3) Provided that the total expense in any one year under this Section shall not exceed five hundred pounds. I hope the Minister will be able to accept it. I do not suppose the Minister intends to appoint a very large staff, but I think it is just as well that we should have it clear that the House knows what expense it authorised. I think £500 will be more than ample.

Lieut.-Colonel HILDER

I beg to second the Amendment.

Colonel WILSON

This Amendment is quite unnecessary, as this Clause does not entail a charge of a penny extra on the Exchequer or on the rates. The cost of testing these clinical thermometers is 3d. A fee of 3d. is charged at Kew where they are all tested at the National Physical Laboratory. The total number tested at present is over 30000 weekly. While the pre-war charge for testing was 1s. the present charge is 3d., and in that charge is included all expenses including overhead charges-everything and everybody.

Amendment negatives.