HC Deb 19 June 1925 vol 185 cc998-1004

(1) This Section applies to any room, not being a room to which The Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, as amended by any subsequent enactment or any regulation made under The Public Health (Regulations as to Food) Act, 1907, applies, in which food is sold or is prepared for sale, or is stored or kept with a view to future sale.

(2) The occupier of any room to which this Section applies shall not permit the room to be used for the purpose of selling, preparing, storing, or keeping any food unless the following requirements are complied with, that is to say:—

  1. (a) No sanitary convenience shall be in the room, or shall communicate directly therewith, or shall be so placed that offensive odours there from can penetrate to the room;
  2. (b) No cistern for the supply of water to the room shall be in direct communication with or discharge directly into any sanitary convenience;
  3. (c) Every inlet and opening of any drain or pipe for the conveyance of sewage or fæcal matter which is in the room shall be efficiently trapped;
  4. (d) The room shall not be used as a sleeping place, and no sleeping place shall communicate directly with the room in such manner as to cause unreasonable risk of contamination to food in the room;
  5. (e) The room shall, except in the case of a room used as a cold store, be adequately ventilated.

(3) The occupier of any room to which this section applies shall—

  1. (a) cause the walls and ceiling of the room to be whitewashed, cleansed, or purified as often as may be necessary to keep them in a clean state; and
  2. (b) prevent any unnecessary accumulation or deposit of refuse or filth in the room.

(4) The occupier of any room to which this Section applies and every person engaged in any such room shall take all such steps as may be reasonably necessary to prevent risk of contamination to food in the room and to secure the cleanliness of the room and of all articles, apparatus, and utensils therein.

(5) The medical officer, sanitary inspector, and any other officer of a local authority duly authorised in writing by the authority in that behalf shall have power at all reasonable times to enter and inspect any room to which this Section applies for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of this Section are complied with.

(6) If any person acts in contravention of or fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Section or hinders or obstructs an officer of a local authority in the exercise of his powers or duties under this Section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding twenty shillings for the first offence or not exceeding five pounds for any subsequent offence, and in either case to a daily penalty not exceeding twenty shillings.

(7) In this Section the expression— food" includes every article used for food or drink by man other than drugs or water, and any article which ordinarily enters into or is used in the composition or preparation of human food, and flavouring matters and condiments; room" includes any shop, shed, store, outbuilding, or cellar; sanitary convenience" includes urinals, water-closets, earth-closets, privies, ashpits, and any similar convenience.—[Mr. H. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

1 P.M.

I do this in the absence of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), whose name, together with mine, is on the Order Paper to move the Clause. This Clause is one which has been suggested by the Royal Sanitary Institute, which is the chief agency for the promotion of sanitary reforms, and the official body for the examination and certification of sanitary inspectors in this country and throughout the Empire. Anything, therefore, which they suggest is entitled to the most careful and serious consideration. There is a Parliamentary precedent for this Clause, because in the Nottingham Corporation Act, 1923, Clause 92, is substantially the same as this. The House, I think, will agree with me that it is very desirable that we should take every conceivable step to prevent the contamination of food, and the object of this Clause is to isolate food from the causes of contamination.

It is provided that any room in which food is sold, prepared, stored, or kept for future sale shall be isolated reasonably from any sanitary conveniences, and that it shall not be used as a sleeping place; that any unnecessary accumulation or deposit—refuse or filth—shall be avoided, and that every step shall be taken to secure the cleanliness of the room and of all articles, apparatus and utensils there in. Power is given to the medical officer, the sanitary inspector, or any other officer of a local authority, to enter at all reasonable times, and make sure that the room in which the food is stored or prepared is kept in a proper condition. The occupier shall cause the walls and the ceilings of the room to be whitewashed, cleansed and purified as often as may be necessary to keep them in a clean state. In most cases traders are complying with these provisions already, but you get the exceptional case, and it is desirable the standard of all should be brought up to the standard of those who conduct their business properly. For these reasons, and the others I have mentioned, I beg to move the Clause.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

As I understand it this Clause is very necessary. Some years ago we used to hear that some of the smaller traders like ice-cream men took their tin cans and kept them under their beds, and that sort of thing. That was most undesirable, and totally against modern practice in relation to these matters. Although things, we understand, are not nearly so bad now, I still hope that the President of the Board of Education will accept the proposed new Clause.


I am hoping that the Government will see their way to accept this Clause. [HON. MEMBERS "Agreed."] Do I so understand from the right hon. Gentleman?


I will hear what is said.


Then, first of all, let me say that the Royal Sanitary Institute knows exactly what is required in a Bill of this kind so far as the contamination of food is concerned. The points seem to me to be these. There are provisions now for dealing with food that is found in an unsound state, but there is no provision for dealing with food, in the way suggested in this proposed new Clause, intended for human consumption. I welcome very much a provision of this kind and I should like to see it accepted.


I very gladly welcome this new Clause. I hope it will meet with the approval of the House and become part of the Bill.


I welcome this proposed new Clause, I think it is a very important and necessary Clause from the public health point of view. I should, however, just like to ask the Minister if he thinks that Sub-section (4) is sufficiently carefully drawn up. It-states that Any room to which this Section applies and every person engaged in any such room shall take all such steps as may be reasonably necessary to prevent risk of contamination to food. Would this cover a person recovering from an illness, say from scarlet fever, or a person suffering from an infectious skin disease? I wondered whether Subsection (5) would cover the cases to which I refer, which says that The medical officer, sanitary inspector and any other officer or local authority duly authorised in writing … shall have power at any time to enter and inspect any room… Does that mean that these officers have to be authorised in writing for every visit, or will it be taken to mean that any such officer shall receive a general instruction from his local authority and proceed under the Act? The point I want to make is this: The sanitary inspector in going his round of visits or passing a place might see something that is absolutely wrong from a sanitary point of view, and may enter the room without authority. The people may question his authority. By the time he has walked back and got his authority the nuisance or the insanitary condition has been removed, and the case is finished with. Would a general authority given to any officer be covered by this particular Clause?


Let me say, as to the Clause in general, that the Government are quite prepared to advise the House to accept it. As to the point raised by my hon. Friend, I think Subsection (4) would clearly cover cases of infectious disease. I am not prepared off-hand to give a legal opinion, but I think that is so; and with the same reserve as to not being prepared to give a legal opinion, I should say that Subsection (5) does mean that an officer of a local authority has to be authorised in writing. What is intended is that the medical officer or sanitary inspector shall be the ordinary official to do the work. They have not got to be authorised in writing to do it as it is part of their business; but if for any reason it is necessary to put a locum tenens, or some other officer, in charge, he must be put in charge by a definite act of the local authority.


Whilst welcoming the Clause as a whole, I would like to draw attention to the fact that Sub-section (4) will possibly create some difficulty. The obligation to maintain the cleanliness of the room and of the utensils is laid not merely upon the occupier or the employer or the proprietor, but upon any person engaged in the room. As under the Bill the word "room" will include a shop, a shop assistant engaged in a room where food is stored will be liable for the cleanliness of the room and the utensils. It seems to me that is a responsibility that ought to belong solely to the employer or his agent. Supposing a shop assistant failed to notify the manager or the proprietor that a room had not been whitewashed or cleansed. If the Clause went through in its present form, I take it he would be liable to be prosecuted. On the other hand, if his employer took strong objection to any representations that he made, he might possibly lose his job. While appreciating the principle of the Clause, I hope that particular point will be safeguarded.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to

Clause read a Second time.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the following new Sub-section: (8) Nothing in this Section shall apply to the sale, storage or keeping for future sale of any food so packed or bottled as to eliminate risk of contamination. While welcoming the principle of the Clause as it stands, I think it is so widely drawn that in certain cases it may conceivably inflict undeserved hardship on some small tradesmen or small householder in the neighbourhood of a town, or in a village near a main road, who desires to sell ginger beer or bottled mineral waters. As the Clause stands it would prevent him storing a case of mineral waters in some outhouse which, although not actually used for the purpose of a sanitary convenience, might be connected through an open roof with another part of the same outhouse where a sanitary convenience is situated. I do not think there would be serious risk of contaminating mineral water or ginger beer in such outhouse; in fact, I think there is very much less risk of contamination than there is by exposing water to being stored in a room where there is a sanitary convenience; and, as I read it, under Subsection (7) water for subsequent use in the preparation of food might be stored in a room where there was a sanitary convenience. I hope the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) and the hon. Member in charge of the Bill will accept this Amendment. It is not intended to try to overcome the object of the Clause, but to cover certain difficulties which may arise in rural districts, for although the Bill is permissive, rural district councils can adopt it.

Lieut.-Colonel HENDERSON

I beg to second the Amendment.


I cannot quite make up my mind whether to agree to this new Sub-section or not. Superficially, it sounds quite all right and perfectly reasonable; but, on the other hand, if tinned or bottled foodstuffs were stored in a dirty place the tins or bottles might become very filthy, and when they were opened there might be a risk of contamination of the food or drink before it was consumed. I really doubt whether we ought to agree to this addition to the Clause, because I am afraid we might get, in a minor degree, some of the evils we are trying to avoid.


I do not think the Government could advise the House to accept this Amendment as it stands. It would exempt from the operation of the Clause all tinned foodstuffs as well as all bottled fruits. No one wants to subject to vexatious restrictions the small man who lays in a dozen or two bottles of mineral water or ginger ale to serve out at cross roads on a Bank Holiday; but, after all, every power given to a local authority does pre-suppose common sense on the part of that authority. If we are going to confine the powers we confer on local authorities to those which they cannot use unjustly, I think local government legislation would become impossible. This Amendment is, I think, far too wide, but if between now and the Bill's appearance in another place my hon. Friend will consult with me, we will see whether there is any safeguard which can be put into the Clause to meet his quite narrow point. One really does want in these things to follow precedent. As my hon. Friend who moved the Clause has said, it is already in a Nottingham Local Act, it is already in force in Croydon, and it is already in force in that leader of civilisation, Hastings, and I think there is always a danger in attempting to modify Clauses which have been carefully worked by the local authorities.

Captain BOURNE

I am glad to hear the Minister say he will look into this question when the Bill goes to another place. I am rather afraid that this Clause as drawn might prevent small general shops in the country village from selling such foods as are hermetically sealed in tins. Personally I welcome this Clause, and I think it will do much good. I can, however, assure the Mover that we did not intend to go so far, and I am sorry the Clause was not put down at an earlier stage of the Bill, because a discussion shows that it may give rise to problems which the drafter of the Bill does not foresee. I hope the Government will look into this matter in all its bearings in another place.


In view of what has been said, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.