§ Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill he now read a Second time."
This Bill also represents an agreement, arrived at between farmers and traders after long discussion. The existing law in regard to fertilisers and feeding stuffs, embodied in the Act of 1906, has proved unsatisfactory both to farmers as being 1652 ineffective in preventing adulteration and also as being very unfair to the traders. In 1923 a Departmental Committee was set up, with Lord Clinton as Chairman, to make recommendations for an amendment of the law. The Committee reached a unanimous Report on broad lines of reform, and recommended that a further Committee should be set up to deal with the technical details which should be embodied in the Schedules. That Committee, again, had the advantage of having Lord Clinton as Chairman, and representatives of the merchants and agriculturists were among its members. They, too, reported unanimously, last year.
The existing law, which has proved unsatisfactory, provides that an invoice is given to the farmer, and that invoice acts, firstly, as a warranty to the purchaser, and, secondly, as a means for the local authority to bring criminal proceedings against the merchant or manufacturer in case the analysis shows that there has been fraud in the description of the fertiliser or feeding stuff supplied. In fact, this double use of the invoice has, on the one hand, prevented the purchaser from making analyses himself and, on the other hand, it has caused the purchaser to withhold his co-operation, which was necessary for the official sampler to obtain the requisite materials for the analysis upon which criminal proceedings could be founded. And the reason why farmers were not ready to allow these official samplers access to their fertilisers and feeding stuffs was that they did not wish to find themselves called as witnesses in criminal proceedings.
The new Bill proposes improved machinery. It puts two obligations on the seller or manufacturer. In the first place, he must supply to the purchaser a statutory statement containing specified particulars as laid down in the Schedules. This statutory statement will enable the purchaser to have analyses made for testing from the point of view of warranty and where the description proves not to be accurate it will enable the purchaser to get civil redress. The second duty thrown on the seller is to supply before dispatch the prescribed description by markings or otherwise, referred to in the Register. Inspectors will, in future, be allowed to get their samples not from 1653 the purchaser, but from the producer or merchant before the products leave his premises. That is a much more satisfactory system, because it will for the first time allow the inspectors of local authorities to get the necessary information on which to found criminal proceedings against fraudulent traders, and it will be fairer to the honest trader because there is a good deal of danger that during transit and storage samples may have lost their identity or the product may have changed its character. Whereas the Act of 1906 was limited in its scope the Schedules of the new Measure specify its exact application. They lay down the necessary particulars which will enable the farmer to know exactly what he is buying and for the first time to get an effective comparison of value. The Schedules will be open to amendment on the advice of an Advisory Committee, subject to the fullest Parliamentary control when new developments or knowledge may reveal where variations in the Schedules are necessary. I think the Bill is needed to ensure better justice and greater efficiency alike for the agriculturist and the trader, and I 1654 hope it may be given a Second Reading as a non-contentious Measure.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.