HC Deb 30 November 1931 vol 260 cc754-5
38. Sir F. HALL

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will take steps to require that all butter, wholly or partly of Russian origin, sold to the public in this country, shall be distinctly marked as such in order that people may know that they are buying a commodity produced tinder conditions of labour not recognised in this country?


The draft Order in Council under the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1926, which was laid before Parliament on the 10th November, and of which I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend a copy, lays down certain requirements with regard to the marking of all imported butter with an indication of origin. This draft. Order does not, however, require Russian butter to be specifically marked as such, and there is no power under existing legislation to make such a requirement, because the alternative mark "foreign" is allowed by the Act at the option of the person applying the indication in the case of every foreign commodity which is the subject of an Order in Council.


Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the conditions under which butter is produced in Russia; and does he not think that some steps might be taken to make an alteration of the Order so that the country of origin might be known?


That course would entail, as I have explained, additional legislation.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the fact that 20 children in the South of England were seized with disease after eating butter the origin of which was not known?


That is a matter for the Ministry of Health.


Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether, if butter were made from imported milk, it would be branded foreign or English?


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting a shilling duty on butter? He would get it through this House in one day's sitting.

43. Sir W. DAVISON

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether any steps can be taken to expedite the coining into operation of the Order-in-Council under the Merchandise Marks. Act, 1926, with regard to the labelling of foreign butter with a description of origin, seeing that the Order made a short time ago is not to come into operation till next May and meanwhile it is impossible for the public to know whether they are buying British or foreign butter or a blend of both?


The period during which a Draft Order-in-Council under the Merchandise Marks Act, 1926, has to lie before Parliament and the minimum period which must subsequently elapse before the Order becomes operative, are fixed by Statute and I have, therefore, no power to take such steps as those suggested by my hon. Friend.


As the right hon. Gentleman is going to introduce a Bill in the course of the next few days, would it not be perfectly easy to put a Clause in that Bill reducing the period under which these Orders have to lie on the Table of the House?