HC Deb 03 June 1921 vol 142 cc1475-8

1. In oases to which this Sub-section applies the sanitary inspector of a local authority who is required by the terms of his appointment to devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office or to the duties of that office and of any other office or offices held by him under any local or public authority, shall not hold office or be appointed for a limited period only and shall be removable by the authority with the consent of the Minister of Health or by the Minister and not otherwise.

This Sub-section applies to-

  1. (a) the sanitary inspector of a county borough where any portion of the salary of the sanitary inspector was paid out of moneys voted by Parliament before it was constituted a county borough;
  2. (b) the sanitary inspector of a county district any portion of whose salary is paid out of the county fund of the county in which the district is situate and charged to the Exchequer contribution account:

Provided that where more than one sanitary inspector is appointed by a local authority the foregoing paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Sub-section shall apply only to the senior sanitary inspector as determined by the local authority.

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I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "In cases to which this Sub-section applies the" and to insert instead thereof the word "A."

The principal thing in this Clause as regards sanitary inspectors is the change of name from "Inspectors of Nuisances" to "Sanitary Inspectors." That in itself does not better the position of the sanitary inspector. The change of name does not put him in any better relationship to the local authority which employs him. As far as the principle of the Bill is concerned, I am in perfect agreement with it, and on principles of equity and justice I hold that the local council which has jurisdiction over a sanitary inspector should not dismiss him except with the consent of the Ministry of Health, for the simple reason that under this Bill the Ministry of Health is partly responsible for the salary of the sanitary inspector. It is a very limited outlook for the people appointed by local councils who have the effective carrying out of the sanitation laws of this country that the responsibility of the Ministry of Health should be limited to the extent that the Ministry is partly responsible for the payment of salaries. Security of tenure should apply to every sanitary inspector whether the Ministry of Health is partly responsible for his salary or not. Otherwise the inspector may be dismissed at the end of 12 months by a majority decision of the local authority. The local council can conveniently forget to re-appoint the inspector should it suit their purpose to do so, and he is thereupon driven practically from his employment. There have been occasions in the history of local councils in this country where individuals who have been dominant on the councils, have in their own private interests exercised effective control over the council, and have interfered with the effective carrying out of the duties of the sanitary inspectors. It is not a just or fair condition of things, where an individual is employed by a local council to carry out the sanitary laws and is doing his work effectively, and thereby possibly mulcting owners of houses in expenses that can be justified in accordance with those laws, that that individual finds himself in disfavour with these people, and they are in a position either to dismiss him or to forget to re-appoint him. My purpose in moving the deletion of these words is that every sanitary inspector should have security of tenure—that at least no local council should be empowered to dismiss him except with the consent of the Ministry of Health. He is carrying out the duties placed upon him by the Ministry of Health; he is carrying out the laws of the country as passed by this House, probably at the instigation of the Ministry of Health; and if he is carrying out his duties effectively, the Ministry of Health should be partly responsible for his retention in his position. The difference between the chief sanitary inspector and the ordinary sanitary inspector is only a question of degree. It is only a question of the Government being partly responsible for the man's salary. The moral relationship to the Ministry of Health of the chief sanitary inspector and of the sanitary inspector are the same. The moral obligation of that man, whether he be partly paid by the Ministry of Health or wholly paid by the local council, is the same.

What is the position of the sanitary inspector who is honest in carrying out his duties, if at the same time, because of his honesty, he runs counter to the private interests of certain individuals who dominate the local council? He is dismissed. He may have been a sanitary inspector for years. He is not in a position to turn his hand to any manual labour, and his dismissal from any local body will prejudice him as regards getting a position with any other commercial body or private employer. This House should not pass a Bill containing Clauses which lay an individual in such circumstances open to be placed in so unfair a position.


I beg to Second the Amendment.


I agree with nearly all the arguments used by the hon. Member, with a view to the omission of these words. We have already passed exactly similar words in Clause 1, with regard to medical officers of health. I entirely agree with the hon. Member's arguments as to the importance of security of tenure, and that is the object of the Bill. It was, however, absolutely essential, if we were to get this Bill through, that we should make concessions to those authorities which, some years ago, bought their freedom by refusing to accept any grants from the Government. If we had not made that concession, we should not have succeeded in obtaining their assent, and the consequence would have been that the Ministry of Health would be unable to help us. It applies only to a few local authorities. Further, in any circumstances this Bill only deals with present sanitary inspectors and officers of health. The object of the Bill is to place existing sanitary inspectors and officers of health in the same position as those who will be appointed hereafter by the Local Government Board. When one wants to secure a large and very useful measure affecting the public health of the country, one is compelled sometimes to make concessions which one would rather not have made. That is the case with regard to those few sanitary inspectors who are excluded from the advantages of the Bill by the fact that their local authorities have entered into an arrangement with the Ministry of Health that they should have freedom of action. Therefore I beg hon. Members opposite, realising that it is better to have four-fifths of a loaf than no bread, to accept the Bill as it stands, without insisting on an Amendment which is certain to wreck the whole Bill.


I appreciate the hon. Baronet's explanation. I have no desire to wreck the Bill, and am in entire agreement with its main fundamentals. I shall therefore withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the words "hold office or".—[Sir P. Magnus.]