§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. GEORGE HARVEY
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I know that it is some sort of sacrilege for anyone who has served on the London County Council and has been associated with London boroughs, as I have been, to raise any kind of objection to the requirements of the London County Council as set out in this Bill. I feel a certain amount of temerity, but I think that I may be able to make out a case for the reconsideration of certain Clauses. It says on the back of the Bill, "to confer further powers." It is those further powers that have caused me to table an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. Two Clauses, in particular, strike me as unfair to the trading community of London. Those Clauses, I understand, originated in the Borough Councils Committee, and they have been fathered by the London County Council, with the object, I take it, of helping the London boroughs and the town clerks thereof further to justify their positions. The powers that are vested in the London County Council are steadily increasing year by year—a little at a time probably, but it is constantly going on in the same way as Orders-in-Council have a tendency to grow, so that the authority of Parliament has a tendency to get less.
I often think that traders are exploited to some extent for the benefit of officials. Many of these little traders cannot look after themselves as the big traders can, and I find that the attack which is made on the trading community generally resolves itself into an attack on the little man. When everybody is being asked to do everything possible to keep down the cost of living, and everyone is trying his hardest to help the country to recover 1357 from the crisis through which it is passing, any further attacks on the trading community are somewhat unworthy. With regard to Clause 17, within the last day or two a concession has been made by the London County Council which ought to be read and recorded, because it was given to me with some semblance of official backing. It says:The London County Council is prepared to give an assurance to the following effect in the event of the opposition to this Bill being withdrawn.That is a passage which I do not like.Any by-laws proposed to be made by the Council in pursuance of Clause 17 shall not extend beyond the scope of Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1925, subject to the inclusion of by-laws to deal with two additional matters, namely:The Public Health Act, 1925, specially excluded London, and in proposing to make by-laws in pursuance of this Clause, the Council meets the difficulty of a good many of those who objected in the first instance. But if Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1925, were made to apply, in my view and in the view of those who have been advising me, Clause 16 would not he necessary at all. The London County Council stated with regard to Clause 17 that some 60 provincial boroughs had adopted by-laws under the powers given to them under the Public Health Act, 1925. When they were asked to give a list of those 60 boroughs, the number resolved itself onto 17. These were written to, and only three had thought fit to utilise the power to create by-laws.
- (i) Arrangements to ensure cleanliness, etc., in transport: It would be understood that transport does not include conveyance within the curtilage of the customer's premises.
- (ii) Power to require in cases in which food is wrapped in paper or other material, such wrapping shall be clean and otherwise reasonably satisfactory."
Clause 16 refers to further registration requirements, and Sub-section (2) is in the nature of an attempt to browbeat the small trader. It expressly excludes clubs, hotels and restaurants. I should have thought that the Statutory Rules and Orders of 1924, No. 1432, under the Public Health Act, referring to meat, were the last word in that connection. Those Regulations set out in detail the sanitary arrangements of shops, stores, and other places in which meat is sold or exposed for sale, and one would have 1358 thought that ample provision would there have been sufficient without further attacking traders who are trying to do their best to cope with very difficult conditions. Under this Clause, all meat shops have to be registered if they deal in potted, pressed, pickled or preserved meat, but there is no definition of those commodities in the Bill. It sometimes happens that meat traders do press and pickle meat in their shops. I have personally nothing to do with meat shops, but I take an interest in the traders in my constituency, and I say that to require a meat shop to be registered, when some little back street restaurant is exempted, for the manufacture of sausages and suchlike, is rather unnecessary in these difficult days.
There is already such a host of inspectors in connection with these traders that it might be worth while for the sake of those who do not know much about it to refer to them in detail. The following officers have the right to inspect meat traders' premises—the meat inspector, the sanitary inspector, the medical officer of health, the shops inspector, the inspector of weights and measures, in some cases the factory inspector, the inspector from the Ministry of Labour, the inspector from the Ministry of Health, the inspector under the Foods and Drugs Act, and the juveniles inspector. Now it is proposed to add the sausage-making inspector. Therefore, the trader has to submit to 11 inspectors. That list does not include the gentleman who inspects him with reference to his local rates, and the gentleman who inspects him with reference to his Income Tax. With these two added, the trader has the delightful number of 13, which makes him lucky or unlucky, however you like to regard him as a trader in London.
I would like to ask the authors of the Bill whether, as they have attempted to make a concession on Clause 17, they would be prepared to carry their proposals to Clause 16, as they might fairly well do. It is all very well to say that these are Committee points. They are not. A question of principle is involved which ought to be discussed on the Floor of this House. The time is arriving when over-inspection is becoming the bugbear of all who attempt to carry on business. I am one of those who will leave no stone unturned to protest in every way possible against the increase 1359 of these inspections. I have heard it said to-day that "we shall soon have one in every three people an inspector or official of some sort or another, and that the other two will be on transitional benefit."
I do not want to make a long story out of this but I am most emphatic in my opposition to this Bill as it stands. It can be put right if the Members of the House wish. Probably they will carry it if we do object, but, all the same, I did not mean to let this opportunity pass without registering a most emphatic protest against the Bill as it stands. I look upon it as a sample of officialism and how to hamper trade. The County Hall takes its cue from others, and the borough councils, jealous as they frequently are of the London County Council—and I have had some experience of it—are always anxious to emulate the antics of the London County Council officials. Sooner or later this House will have to take cognisance of the hampering of traders by officials. Sooner or later it will have to be one of the questions discussed under the heading "The New Despotism." This is a small sample of it. Every little encroachment made by these local authorities, including the London County Council, is made almost imperceptibly, but, as in this Bill, the cumulative effect of those encroachments becomes more and more evident, and before very long it may not be a pleasant thing to be in business in London.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
The case for the Amendment has been stated admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Bennington (Mr. G. Harvey), but there are one or two points which I would like to emphasise. Frankly, I am sorry to be opposing a London County Council Bill, because no one has greater admiration for the amazing administrative efficiency of that body, but I was astonished when I read the two Clauses we are particularly considering at the moment. Clause 17, upon which they are now ready to give an undertaking, indicates an extraordinary mental approach. They want to make by-lams to secure sanitary and cleanly conditions, etc., under powers which have no limitations at all. They are seeking a power of dictatorship in regard to these by-laws 1360 from a line of approach which I frankly regret.
The other day, on the Committee stage of another Bill, I referred to what I called the "modern spirit of noseyparkerisna" in legislation and administration, and while I think I could make out a reasonably good case for Socialism and a reasonably good case against Socialism, I do not think anyone could make out a case for capitalism in chains. It is absurd to expect the system of individualism to provide people with employment if we do not give traders a chance of carrying on business without excessive interference. That does not mean, however, that I am opposed to proper control against abuses.
In 1925 I was privileged to play a fairly active part on the Committee stage of the Public Health Act, that very sensible and useful Measure introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), who, I am glad to see, is now on the Treasury Bench. In Section 72 of that Act there are admirable provisions applying to the rest of the country, but, unfortunately, not to the metropolis. For various technical reasons the Act as a whole, with one exception I think, does not apply to the metropolis. That Measures insures that food is prepared under conditions of cleanliness, and that Section provides every reasonable precaution one can want without such unnecessary control as is proposed in Clause 16 of this Bill. It will be a very bad thing if our liberties are gradually sapped, not by general Bills passed by this House but bit by bit by provisions hidden away in the Clauses of private Bills. When such a Clause is considered in detail it is discussed before only a very small body of Members upstairs, who hear a number of witnesses; but the fundamental legislative principle does not receive adequate consideration from the House. Whatever provisions appear in a Bill such as this should have general application, and it is of great importance to the liberty of the people that any such provisions should be challenged at the moment when they are introduced. At the present time it is not easy for anybody to make a living in trade, and, after all, we have been able to carry on without these provisions in the past. Even if there was a strong case for them it is very unfor- 1361 tunate that they should be proposed at a moment when industry is so harassed.
I appeal earnestly to those who are the sponsors of the Bill to make some reasonably generous offer which will enable us to withdraw our opposition. I do not doubt that many of the other povisions of the Bill are valuable and necessary. None of those who are opposing this Bill desire to hinder the London County Council in their splendid and beneficent work, and do not want to imperil the other povisions of the Bill, but for the reason so admirably stated by my hon. Friend, and after the one or two arguments which I have adduced, I hope those responsible for the promotion of the Bill will give us some reasonable undertaking with respect to Clause 16 similar to that which they have given in the matter of Clause 17, so that our opposition may be withdrawn.
§ Sir CYRIL COBB
It seems to me that I have to meet two points; first, the bylaws in Clause 17, and, second, the point contained in Clause 16. I would say straight away that I am quite willing to meet the point about the by-laws. It is quite clear that Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1925, will meet our case, and I can quite well give an undertaking to base the by-laws which we shall draw up in due course on that section of the Act. When I say they will be on the basis of that Act I mean so far as that Act will carry us. The transport of meat will have to he dealt with by by-laws, but when that Act was passed that question of transport had not matured, and there was no such problem as now exists. Therefore, we shall have to devise a bylaw which will regulate meat transport, but I need hardly say that that can be easily settled in Committee upstairs. The London County Council have never failed to take the opportunity to consult all the persons concerned when by-laws are to be made, and it must also be remembered that the Minister of Health has to sanction those by-laws, as in the case of other local authorities. Therefore, I think the point made with regard to Clause 17 is thoroughly safeguarded. I am quite willing to give the undertaking for which I have been asked.
Now we come to Clause 16, and on that I cannot meet the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) or the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. G. Harvey). We must have registration, 1362 and must have the necessary powers to see that such registration is effective. Clause 16 deals with ice-cream and sausages. We have had some experience with ice-cream, but not so much experience with sausages. We have registered ice-cream makers since 1928, but we have not registered sausage makers. We have found that our powers in regard to ice-cream makers are not sufficient if we are really to exercise the power of registration. Every ice-cream maker in the county of London has to be registered, but that does not prevent him from making his ice-cream under uncleanly and insanitary conditions. We can do nothing against the ice-cream maker unless he refuses to be registered and yet makes ice-cream; in that case we can proceed against him. We can also proceed against him if he poisons somebody and information of it is brought to our notice through the medical officer of health. Otherwise, we cannot touch him. We cannot take him off the list of registered ice-cream makers, and cannot refuse to register him even though we know from the beginning that his premises are uncleanly and insanitary. Therefore it is necessary for us to have the power for which we are asking under this Bill.
Next we come to the sausages. There is no registration of sausage-makers. So far as we are able to deal with them at all, we are obliged to fall back upon the ordinary regulations of the Ministry of Health regarding food and on the Public Health Act, London, 1891. Under that Act any medical officer of health or sanitary inspector may at all reasonable times enter any premises and inspect and examine any animal intended for the food of man which is exposed for sale or deposited in any place for the purpose of sale or preparation for sale; also any article, whether solid or liquid, intended for the food of man and sold or exposed for sale or deposited in any place for the purpose of sale or preparation for sale. There is a very wide power for inspectors to inspect all butchers' shops and all places where meat, either raw or cooked, is offered for sale. Those are the only powers we have at the moment. Therefore, we are in a worse position with regard to sausages than with regard to ice-cream, for we do not know in all cases where the premises are situated in which sausages are made. [Interruption.] And other kinds of preserved meats, et cetera 1363 —anything which is for the food of the people. What we want to do is not to protect the trader but the food of the people. It is a public health question. We do not always want to be prosecuting, but we want to prevent injury to the public health by the sale of food which is prepared in insanitary and uncleanly conditions. Therefore, we want to have the same powers in regard to sausages and preserved meats, et cetera as we are now asking for in connection with ice-cream. That is the whole case we have to make.
The opposition with regard to the bylaws can be met, as I have said, but on Clause 16 I cannot give way. It can be adequately discussed in Committee, however, and alterations can be suggested there provided that the Clause still preserves to us the power which we want as sanitary authority—or, rather, the power which the borough councils want, because it must not be forgotten that this particular legislation is not for the London County Council but the borough councils of London and the City Corporation, and they have ail agreed that it is needed in order to round off our powers of preserving the health of the people. Another argument used against this Bill is that it is likely to harass traders and will involve the appointment of a large number of additional inspectors. That is not the ease. No extra inspectors will be needed to carry out the provisions of this Bill. The premises dealt with are already inspected for other purposes, and the parts of those premises where sausages and other preserved foods are manufactured will have to be registered. Not only will there be no need for the appointment of more inspectors, but there will be no further expense incurred by the inspectors who will take over the work under the Bill. The inspectors will inspect butchers' shops in the ordinary way under the Public Health Act, and they will find out whether there are places on the premises they inspect where sausages are made. In that case, the premises will have to be registered. If the inspector finds that a certain shop is not on the register, and that sausages and preserved foods are being made on those premises, this Bill provides the usual remedies.
1364 These powers are necessary to keep traders up to the mark. A great many municipal authorities have adopted bylaws of this kind, although, in many cases, it has not been found necessary to put them into operation. The obvious reason for that is that, if traders know that these powers exist, and can be put into practice they are more careful as to the way in which they carry on their businesses. I think I have now covered all the points which have been raised in the discussion. There are many matters dealt with which are not contentious. Some of the Clauses which are contentious can be dealt with in Committee upstairs, and I ask the House to adopt the Second Reading of this Bill, because it is a Measure which is absolutely necessary in order to carry on efficiently the work of the London County Council.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Member for West Fulham (Sir C. Cobb) tell the House what powers he is asking for under this Bill which are not already provided under the Public Health (London) Act, 1891?
§ Sir C. COBB
Under the Act of 1891 it is not necessary to register places where sausages are made. We want a register of all the places where sausages are made in order that the inspectors may inspect those premises.
§ Mr. G. HARVEY
The hon. Member for Fulham (Sir C. Cobb) seems very particular about having shops inspected where sausages are made, but he does not say anything about restaurants.
§ Captain ELLISTON
I ask for a hearing in speaking for the first time on the subject of this Bill. In my opinion, Clauses 16, 17 and 18 are of vital importance not only to the people of London but to other communities. I was very surprised when I heard the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. G. Harvey) suggest that those Clauses were a further encroachment on the rights of the small trader. On the contrary, I believe that those Clauses have been brought forward in response to a public demand. The success of preventive medicine has educated people in the preservation of health, and they expect the public sanitary authorities to protect them by seeing 1365 that they receive wholesome food supplies. The public require a guarantee that the foods which they consume are manufactured and stored in suitable premises in order to be kept free from the danger of contamination.
We have been told that the adoption of this Measure means more bureaucracy. No doubt hon. Members have heard of food being stored in stables and of ice-cream being made in crowded tenements and even stored under the bed. If what is proposed in this Bill is bureaucracy then we want more bureaucrats. Those who are supporting this Measure believe that it contains ample safeguards, and that its enforcement would involve a minimum interference with trade. Under Clause 16 the applicants for registration of their premises have a full opportunity of submitting their case to the local authority, and where there is an adverse decision they have an appeal to a, court of summary jurisdiction, and, if necessary, to Quarter Sessions. The by-laws which can be made under Clause 17 must be considered by the sanitary authorities and confirmed by the Minister of Health. Even then the firms and persons affected can make representations to the London County Council and to the Ministry of Health.
I suggest that the opponents of this Bill ought to be satisfied by the fact that no powers are being asked for which have not already been tried in the provinces. It has become almost customary for Clauses of this kind, like musical comedies, to he produced first in the provinces. We get a more enlightened public opinion in our great provincial towns than we do in London, because there the people take a greater interest in municipal affairs. It is the fact that the powers provided for under Clauses 16 and 18 have already been conferred by Parliament in Preston, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and other large towns, and the by-laws provided for in Clause 17 have been adopted by Croydon, Leeds, Oxford, Rotherham, Wakefield, and elsewhere. I am surprised that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) is denying to the people of London the same priviliges as are now enjoyed by his own constituents. The hon. Member for Kennington has expressed anxiety for the small trader, but what about the rest of the 7,000,000 1366 people who reside in London? As long as food is manufactured in insanitary surroundings, has the hon. Member for Kennington no pity for those who have to face the danger of food poisoning? I hope the opponents of this Measure will allow it to be read a second time, and await the Committee stage for a fuller consideration of the objections which they have raised.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
As the representative of a London constituency, I support this Bill. I am amazed at the attitude which has been taken by those who are supporting the Amendment for its rejection. There are a number of Clauses in this Measure which concern different parts of London in which the borough councils are deeply interested, and, although they may not be of great importance to London as a whole, they are of great importance to the particular district concerned. It seems to me that, after the very clear explanation of the object of this Measure by the hon. Member for West Fulham, in reply to the objections raised by the two hon. Members who are opposing this Measure, they might agree to withdraw their opposition.
There is another fact of which I would remind the House, and that is that these Clauses have been specially put into the Bill at the request of the London borough councils. I should say that, if any local bodies represent the small trader almost more than any other public bodies, they are the borough councils of London. I venture to assert that on every borough council you will find large numbers of small traders, but now we are asked to turn down these Clauses, which have been placed in the Bill at the request of the London borough councils. I am afraid that, great as the knowledge of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) may be of the needs of Croydon, he has sadly mistaken the needs of London in interfering in this matter.
There is a third point, to which reference has just been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston). The Mover of the Amendment seemed to ignore entirely the needs of the consumers of food in London. I have great sympathy with the small men, some of whom, in Finsbury and the adjoining boroughs, are carrying on the 1367 business of ice-cream vendors and businesses of that kind; but, when those people are faced with the difficult housing conditions in which they are working, and in which some of them carry on their business, there is a distinct temptation to carry it on under conditions which could not possibly bear the investigation of inspectors of this kind. In choosing between the claims of the consumers and the claims of those who produce these goods, it seems to me that the claim of those who consume the goods must come first. On these grounds I very much hope that the House will not be led to endanger the Bill by accepting this Amendment.
§ Mr. SUMMERSBY
Several hon. Members have said that the town clerks and other officials are unanimously in agreement with the proposals embodied in these two Clauses. I am associated a good deal with local authorities, and I must deny that statement. Only at midday to-day I was talking with the town clerk of a London borough. He referred to one disagreeable duty which he 'said was most unfair, but which, according to a by-law, he had to do, and he considered that, if this Bill goes through as it is, matters will be even worse in that direction. The London County Council say that Part III is not really the important part of the Bill, and that it is a shame to hold it up on that account; but what about the 150,000 people who are going to be harassed by this Bill? It is a very important matter to them, and it is on their behalf that I speak. It is like telling a man to put his big toe in a vice and screw it up, but it does not matter about the rest of his body.
In my opinion, these proposals will go a long way, in view of the present trend of affairs, to make it impossible for the small man to live. I am not a manufacturer of sausages or ice-cream, either separately or together, but I know a little about the difficulties of business, and it must be remembered that these small traders who may be unable to comply with demands for putting in new machinery which may be considered ideal may have to go out of business. It must also be remembered, with all respect to the large distributors and multiple stores, that they do not take the part in public life which the individual trader does. He 1368 pays 10 per cent. of the rates; he subscribes to all the local charities; he is the man to whom almost everyone goes when they are in trouble. In my opinion, he is a very important member of the community, and one whom we should, if possible, protect from being more or less victimised by additional Acts of Parliament.
The London County Council admit that they have at present considerable powers. By virtue of the powers contained in the Public Health Act, 1875, the Ministry of Health in 1924 prepared, and obtained Parliamentary sanction by statutory Order for, certain Regulations entitled the Public Health (Meat) Regulations, 1924. Those Regulations stated in detail the sanitary requirements which may be demanded with respect to shops and stalls and other places in which meat is sold or exposed for sale, or deposited for the purpose of sale, or for preparation foe sale, or with a view to future sale. As regards penalties, there is already power to inflict a fine not exceeding £100 for each offence, and, in the event of a continued offence, a penalty not exceeding £50 a day. It might be thought that those powers were quite strong enough, but it, seems to me that, if they are not adequate, we have no assurance that these further powers will be deemed to be adequate, and the time may come when they will have the power to compel the butcher to make himself into sausages.
I know it is considered by some to be a greater honour to be a member of the London County Council than it is to be a Member of this House, but, nevertheless, this House should retain the final voice in these matters. Those who have read the Bill will be aware that the London County Council wishes to make its own by-laws, which is a step in the direction of taking away authority from this House. You were not in the Chamber, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when the list of inspectors whom these people will have to put up with was read out, so I will read it out again. There is, in addition, another inspector, who was overlooked by the hon. Member who read the list. The list is as follows:
and the inspector who was forgotten is the police inspector who comes to tell the unfortunate wife that her husband has committed suicide.
- "(a) the meat inspector,
- (b) the sanitary inspector,
- (c) the medical officer of health,
- (d) the shops inspector,
- (e) the inspector of weights and measures.
- (f) the factory inspector,
- (g) the inspector of the Ministry of Labour,
- (h) the inspector of the Ministry of Health,
- (i) the inspector of food and drugs."
Seriously, as a business man I speak with a certain amount of knowledge of industry, not only on the distributive side but also on the creative side, and I take second place to no one in my concern for this country in its race with other countries. Many of our troubles in this connection al e caused by our own actions, owing to the fact that the first thing that so many legislators and members of town councils want to do is to make new laws and restrictions making it more difficult for their fellow men to get a living. To-day, if a man wants to take a factory or a shop, by the time he has got over all the difficulties and has understood all the laws, if he is a man of strong health he can stand it, but if he is not a man of strong health his health fails, and he says it is not worth while and he will give it up. It is no use our grumbling and saying that our industrialists, manufacturers, distributors and others are not enterprising. They are as enterprising as those of any other country in the world. But when we continue to shackle them with all kinds of restrictions and by-laws, instead of helping them, it is indeed a wonder that they are as enterprising as they are.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to join with other London Members in saying that these Clauses are wanted quite unanimously by all the representatives of London. I believe there is not a representative body in London which is not in favour of these regulations. I live quite close to premises which are used for this sort of purpose. Before there were any regulations, our Medical Officer of Health was continually telling us of things that happened with which he had no power to interfere whatever. I am sure there is not a single Member here who wants putrid food sold to the public. It is only through the action that has been taken by the county council that we have been saved up to the present. We are only being asked to allow an extension to two industries which at present get through 1370 the net, as the result of which some very bad cases of poisoning have happened. It it very easy for us to go to a refreshment room and pay 6d. for an ice and know that it is approximately correct.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the ice cream business is already covered. The existing regulations are repealed and fresh ones are being brought into force.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I rely on the statement of the hon. Gentleman who spoke for the county council. The hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) does not know everything. I would give way to him on Tariff Reform any day, because he knows that from A to Z. The trouble is that, when anyone knows one subject thoroughly, he gets it into his head that he knows every other subject. The hon. Member does not know this, and he does not know London as well as some of the rest of us do. Those of us who have bad experience in this sort of industry are very glad that the county council has brought these proposals forward. We do not want to harry anyone, nor to worry anyone, but at the same time we do not want anyone to give us dead dogs or cats as potted meat or sausage and we do not want dead horses cut up. If these places are registered, we shall have a better chance of knowing what a sausage is than we do at present. I am very glad to find myself able to support the hon. Member for Fulham (Sir C. Cobb).
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL-JOHNSTON
In claiming the indulgence of the House as one making his first speech, it gives me considerable satisfaction to speak in support of this Bill, having had the honour of being a member of the London County Council for some 10 years. In spite of what has been said about our aspirations, and the parallel that has been drawn between the House and the County Council, my experience has taught me that the relations between the two ends of Westminster Bridge are of the most harmonious description. I am not going to enlarge on points which have been already stressed but I should like to draw attention to Clause 16. I think this has rather been neglected. All the speeches that have been made in opposition to the Bill have stressed the hardship of these Clauses, and I wish to call attention to the safeguards that are laid down in Clause 16. In the first place, if a man 1371 applies for a certificate to sell ice cream, sausages, preserved meat or fish and is refused, or if his certificate is taken away from him, he has a right to appeal from the decision of the London County Council. He can first of all go to a court of summary jurisdiction and, if he is not satisfied with the decision, he can go to quarter sessions. One must acknowledge that that is a tremendous safeguard for the rights of the subject. The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Summersby) made the point that we were trying to draw into our net 150,000 new people who were going to be treated under the Bill. He is wrong, because the 150,000 people that he spoke about are already inspected. What we are asked to do is to have additional powers granted to us beyond the right of inspection that we already have. I thank the House for having listened to me and I hope the Bill will get its Second Reading.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
In the first place, let me congratulate the hon. Member on his most auspicious entry into our Debates and express the hope of the House that he will extend his range from the narrow scope of a private Bill to wider topics. I do not intervene to take any side in this discussion, but simply in order to offer such assistance as is in my power to enable the House to arrive at a decision and to state one or two matters in the experience of the Ministry of Health which may assist the House in arriving at that decision. I notice in the first place, having very carefully listened to the course of the Debate, that the issue has been narrowed down by the statement of the hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the London County Council to the single Clause relating to ice-cream and sausages. The powers sought for by the County Council under this Bill are certainly not without precedent, even on this Clause which raises so much contention. Many previous cases are known in which the powers have been granted. Secondly, there is no record that I could offer to the House for its assistance of these powers having caused any difficulty or friction or dissension or complaint of injustice in the past, and powers that have been found useful and have given rise to no complaint in pro- 1372 vincial cases may well be useful and necessary in the Metropolitan area. That consideration seems to me to suggest itself. Perhaps this may be one of those cases in which it has been rather useful to try out these powers on the smaller areas, and then, since I can tell the House that they have not been found to give rise to any difficulties, it may not be unreasonable to extend them to the bigger areas as well.
I would like to confine my observations upon this subject to the fact that it has seemed to me strongly in the course of the Debate that here is a very definite matter in which it is necessary to adjust two substantial interests. The first interest, which is the most substantial interest of all, is the matter of public health, with which, naturally, I am concerned. I could not help but be impressed by what was said by several speakers in the Debate upon the big interests of public health which are certainly involved in the powers now sought by the London County Council. On the other hand, I have been impressed by the fact that there are here the interests of, what I would call, very legitimate trading the adequate protection of which the House will be concerned to safeguard. One comes to the conclusion that the adjustment of those two interests is a matter which needs very careful thrashing out, and the sort of thrashing out which ought to be given by a Committee rather than by our Debates on the Floor of the House. I do not know whether I shall carry the House with me in this, but I would observe that I have come rather to the conclusion in this Debate that we should be well advised on this occasion not to reject the Bill as a result of the general discussion we have given to it to-night, but to consider the general discussion as giving notice of the important interests involved, and to leave it to a committee to adjust those interests in order to protect the big public interests to which I have called attention. I think that the Bill contains many things in the interests of the good government of London, and it would be a little out of proportion to reject the whole Bill when you can adjust those matters in Committee.
§ Mr. CASSELS
I regret very much, as a, Member of a London constituency, that I shall have to go into the Lobby to vote 1373 against the Bill being read a Second time. One of the troubles of the General Powers Bills which the London County Council put forward in this House is that they deal with a variety of subjects, and then, if objection is raised to any of them, we are unmistakably told that we are endangering the Bill. That is exactly what we want to do. We want to endanger the Bill and bring the fact very forcibly to the notice of the promoters that in Committee they will have to give very careful consideration to the points which have been raised in the course of the Second Reading Debate, and not merely answer one or two objections which may have been raised in the Debate.
There are one or two points, perhaps, which have not been referred to, and to which I would like to draw attention. There is in Clause 16 an arrangement whereby registration is required of places where they manufacture ice-cream and sausages, and I wish to draw the attention of the House to a very serious part of that Clause. Not only is registration required, butIf a sanitary authority are satisfied that any premises registered or sought to be registered with them pursuant to this section are unsuitable for the purpose for which they are registered or sought to be registered, they may serve upon—That indicates that a new legal tribunal will be set up in the form of a sanitary authority with no experience of legal procedure, and that it will have in its hands the destiny of a trader, small or large. It means that probably a trader may be summoned to appear before his competitors in business who may be members of the sanitary authority. They are not going to observe even the ordinary elementary legal principles of other tribunals. They are going to shift the onus on to the miserable creature 1374 who is brought before them, and, unless he proves to their satisfaction that his premises are suitable, they are going to put him off the register, or decline to register him. It may well be that unless he can find the money in order to go forward on appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction, and from there to the Court of Quarter Sessions, the man may be put out of business merely upon the decision of the sanitary authority. It is altogether wrong in principle. It is idle for the London County Council to say that they are already doing it in regard to other matters. I am not sure that they are doing it satisfactorily. They deal already with other interests in that way. Are they desirous of getting into their hands and under their control the whole of the industry of London? It is not right, and it is time that a halt was called.
(as the case may be) a notice to appear before them not less than seven days after the date of the notice to show cause why the sanitary authority should not, for reasons to be specified in the notice, remove the premises from the register or refuse to register the premises (as the case may be), and if he fails to show cause to their satisfaction accordingly they may remove the premises from the register or refuse to register the premises (as the case may be).
- (a) the person on whose application the premises were registered or the occupier of the premises; or
- (b) the person applying for such registration
It is said that you will be able to stop the manufacture of poisonous sausages and prevent ice-cream from bringing anybody's existence to an untimely end, if only you get the Bill passed. There is ample provision in the law of the land to deal with unwholesome food. You can prosecute an individual who puts upon the market food which is unfit for human consumption. Why does the London County Council in the interests of public health desire to have such a full and complete inspection of everybody's premises? Reference has been made to the number of inspections already possible under the various authorities. It may well occur in the course of a morning that a man may pull down the shutters of his shop and very soon have an enormous number of customers on his premises. They may all be inspectors under something or other, and a poor, unfortunate customer, standing at the back of them, who wants to buy a pound of sausages will be unable to do so. There is a further serious consequence of this over-inspection. It may well follow that you may find that inspectors are not inspecting for the purpose of seeing whether the premises are sanitary. Inspectors, like a lot of other officials, aye, and public bodies, have bees in their bonnets, and, having bees in their bonnets, under the cloak of public health, under the control of the sanitary authority, who may well be prepared to, eat out of their hands, they are ready perhaps to say that these premises are unsuitable for registration, or that they 1375 ought to be removed from the register, because they do not happen to possess, shall we say, some type of machinery which the public authority think very suitable for the manufacture of that particular form of food.
The trades concerned in this matter are alarmed at the increase of the powers which are sought by the London County Council. The meat trades object to it, the grocery trades are not in favour of it, the theatres and music halls where ice-cream is sold are protesting against it. Why is it, if the council are so full of a desire for power, that they are doing nothing in regard to restaurants where food is prepared for consumption? Let the London County Council invite some of its inspectors to go there; but no, they pick out the meat trades, the ice-cream factories, and the theatres, and then they say that their inspectors or the sanitary authority inspectors shall be permitted to have a roving commission to go on to these premises just to see whether they are conducting their trade in a proper manner. Something has been said on behalf of the small trader. There is a great deal to be said for the big trader. He does not want the whole of his premises continually roamed over by inspectors under various labels. He has enough of it already, and I suggest that we should indicate to the London County Council by our vote to-night that this particular part of the Bill is not required, is not desirable, is objected to by very strong interests. We ought to have the interest of the public health at heart, but we are prepared to object to this and to say that the existing law is quite sufficient, even for the Landon County Council.
§ Dr. O'DONOVAN
There is an interest which has not been referred to to-night. We have heard the interests of the sausage and its makers, we have heard the interests of the shop and the shopkeeper, but we have had no reference to those poor individuals who have the whole of Clause 18 devoted to them. I have no objection, as a London Member, to any attempt made by which the food of any sort consumed by the poor shall be brought up to the standard that our own wives demand in the kitchens of our own houses, and I would be the first to say that the public 1376 health work done by the borough councils, their town clerks, and their medical officers of health in London is an example to the world; but in every oitment, however healing, a fly can find its place, and it is as well that someone should try to indicate to the House a rather objectionable fly in this very healing ointment presented as a Bill.
We are instructed that "every medical practitioner" shall, if he suspects, do certain things. It is extraordinary that the Bill does not say "every registered medical practitioner," and we shall perhaps find herbalists, bone-setters, and faith healers, on the strength of this wording, saying that they claim the status of a medical practitioner. Then I have thoughts to which I desire to give utterance, and I have thoughts which I suppress, but in this Bill every medical practitioner, and no one else, not even a maker of sausages or the landlord of insanitary premises, shall sign his suspicion if he suspects or becomes aware of food poisoning. I am accustomed to notifying smallpox if I believe it to be present, but that I should be compelled to notify the suspicion of disease that crosses my mind is rather too much.
If I suspect food poisoning, in that hard-hearted language of the terms of the law, I must notify it by certificate forthwith. If that notification were for the good of the public health, I would notify, not on paper, but by telephone, and for public health measures such notifications are in fact accepted and acted upon by my brethren on the preventive side of medicine. But I gather from what has been said by the most distinguished representative of the London County Council that he is out to punish those who poison Londoners, and the suspicion of a doctor, put upon paper, may be the first instrument by which the wheels of punishment are put in action. We are to be the first cause, under a penalty of 40 stripes save one, to initiate punitive measures, and that is made the plainer since there is thrown upon the shoulders of the Minister of Health the responsibility of setting out the certificate by which such notification shall be made.
That is to say, no note signed by a qualified practitioner shall be sufficient, 1377 but there shall be a detailed certificate so that those suspicions can be weighed up, and I would ask you, Sir, to put yourself in the position of a simple, honest practitioner of medicine who commits these suspicions to paper, and someone dies. These matters are matters of great doubt and controversy quite often, and yet in its zeal, and proper zeal, for guardianship of the public health, the proper authority may decide to have an investigation; and what is the position then of a doctor who has committed his suspicions to paper when he is being cross-examined in the box by the most skilful counsel that the food trade association can put up to humble his suspicions to the dust? It is a very difficult position for the humble, suspicious doctor.
Furthermore, there is perpetuated in this Bill an extraordinary wrong—first of all, the wrong that a doctor can be assessed at two separate values. I am worth under this Bill 2s. 6d. if I am a practitioner free and untrammelled, but if I take service under an authority and become a medical officer, or if I work for nothing in a dispensary or hospital, my suspicion or opinion is worth, not 2s. 6d., but 1s. It would be better if that inheritance from the past were not reborn in this Bill. I notice secondly that although the practitioner must notify forthwith, nevertheless there is no arrangement for payment forthwith, and it is the practice of many local bodies to accumulate these small debts, these half-crowns or shillings that are very acceptable to very young doctors starting in practice, and then to send a cheque six or nine months afterwards, when the doctor has left the hospital to which he was attached, and the cheque for the suspicion, or belief, or notification becomes a derelict. An act which is compulsorily done forthwith should be paid for forthwith, but with the customary kindness to administration, those officials who receive these certificates are given 12 hours before they forward them to the Council. If you can be kind with the right hand, you can also be kind with the left.
It is not uncommon in difficult cases for doctors to be called in consultation, and hitherto, in cases of notification, there is no compulsion upon a consultant to notify. He gives his opinion to the doctor in attendance, and that is his 1378 liability, but this Bill says "every medical practitioner attending," and in drawing all the doctors in, it misses the most useful source of information by its very precision of words, for often food poisoning is not known until death, and the practitioner, or rather the doctor who diagnoses food poisoning at its deadliest and most dangerous point, is not the medical practitioner in attendance, but a pathologist, and a pathologist who might let us know at the very beginnings of a fatal epidemic is by words excluded from this Bill. I have every sympathy with the purpose of the Bill, but in this particular Clause I would ask the House to remember that you are throwing upon my profession, without intention, a certain criminal responsibility. You are making us the initiators of criminal prosecutions on suspicion, for a fee of 1s., and there is no defence in the Bill for an honest mistake made by a man who may not be a shining light in the healing art.
§ Mr. TINKER
I occupy a somewhat unique position in this Debate as I am the first Member outside the London area to take part in the discussion. May I, therefore, assume the part of a referee and decide which way the vote shall go. The Amendment for the rejection of the Bill contains six names from the other side of the House, whilst the promoters of the Bill consist of five Conservatives and one Liberal. A Labour Member may, therefore, be said to have an open mind on the question. I certainly have, for before to-night I had not the slightest knowledge of the contents of the Measure, but as I listened to the discussion I began to take some notice. Clause 16 gives certain powers for protecting that section of the community which eats ice-cream or sausages. I think they have a right to expect that the best conditions should prevail in the manufacture of these articles, and the House of Commons, I believe, will do its best to protect them. Ice-cream I know is often made under very bad and sordid conditions; the poor people who buy it do not know exactly what they are getting. In the case of the second article one never knows how it is made, and one has always grave doubts as to what he is eating. Probably hon. Members who are asking for the deletion of this Clause have never been in the position of having to eat the article in question. 1379 They are able to buy a much better article, at a much better price. But many poor people cannot afford to do that, and they should be protected just as the rich people are protected.
I am going to give my support and vote to the promoters of the Bill. The hon. Member who moved it made a clear statement as to why it was introduced, and I understand that it has the unanimous support of the majority of the London County Council, which must have examined the question in all its bearings and understands the needs of the people. The hon. Member who moved the rejection said that a shopkeeper might be putting up his shutters and find that he had got an inspector inside. It is ridiculous to ask the House of Commons to believe that there will be a whole host of inspectors necessary. We have been told that not one extra inspector will be needed, nor will there be any additional expense. All the London County Council desire is to see that the food of the people is not contaminated. I hope that hon. Members outside the London County Council will give wholehearted support to the Bill because it gives a good lead to the whole of the country.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I oppose the Bill but from a somewhat different angle. I do not oppose the Bill because I am against the food of the people being kept clean. That is altogether wrong. I oppose the Bill because of the methods adopted. Clause 16 has been avoided during the Debate. The hon. Member who introduced the Measure referred to the places where ices were manufactured, but if you read the Bill it is the places where ice-cream is sold, a total different thing altogether, that have to be registered and licensed. It means that in the houses of entertainment in this country we shall not he allowed to sell ice-cream in the stalls during the interval unless we are registered and licensed. Hotels, clubs, and restaurants are exempt, but places of entertainment are not. The ice-cream that is sent across to the theatres and music halls from these restaurants in containers can be made without a licence but the theatres and music halls where it is sold have to have a licence. The restrictions which the London County Council put on the 1380 entertainment industry are more than any average business would put up with, and it is absolutely ridiculous to ask the industry to go cap in hand to the London County Council asking for a licence to sell ice-cream in the stalls in containers to members of the audience.
I have another objection to the Bill which I think will appeal to hon. Members of the Labour party. Clause 19 places in the hands of the London County Council the power to prevent anything in the shape of food being given as prizes at bazaars or sports without a licence. If you have your little tea fight you cannot give a cake as a prize unless you are registered. These two Clauses want amending, and I hope the promoters of the Bill, in common fairness, will alter Clause 16 so as to exempt theatres and places of entertainment and also alter Clause 19 so that it shall not interfere with any ordinary entertainment. Hon. Members who have had such an experience of D.O.R.A. will, I hope, reject any attempt to introduce any more of that lady's old tricks on to the community at large, and if only for the sake of showing some respect for the liberty of the subject and resentment at all these restrictions I shall have pleasure in supporting the rejection of the Bill.
§ Mr. JAMES DUNCAN
In rising to address the House for the first time, I intervene at this moment because I have been a member of the London County Council and was on the Public Health Committee at one time. In 1926 the suggestion was made by that committee that ice-cream vendors should be registered. I opposed the proposal, and it was dropped because there was not sufficient evidence that a case could be made out. My contention was that unless there was a definite case of food poisoning by ice-cream, legislation should not be promoted. Unfortunately during the next year, when there was a hot summer, there were some cases of food poisoning which were attributed to ice-cream. The Public Health Committee of the county council again considered the matter, and in those circumstances I could not resist any longer. In the General Powers Act of 1928 Clauses dealing with ice-cream were included. But those Clauses have not been effective, and in the present Bill, Clause 16, Sub- 1381 section (1) (a), paragraph (i), has been inserted to deal with the matter.
As regards "sausages or potted, pressed, pickled, or preserved meat, fish or other food," of course there is not, as much experience. Nor have I known of definite cases of food poisoning from any of these articles. None the less I think there is a case to go to a Committee upstairs, for I am sure that the London County Council would not bring this proposal forward unless they had some definite case to put before the Committee. The evidence which I have is from the Medical Officer of Health of Kensington. It is certainly not definite, but definite evidence can be presented later. What the medical officer says is an indication of what will be stated. He says:As regards sausages and preserved food, few articles of food are so likely to be contaminated and to spread serious food poisoning as sausages, cooked foods, etc. In the case of sausages the skin masks decomposition. The other foods mentioned, unlike butchers' meat, are generally eaten without being washed or cooked after they leave the shops.He adds that a large number of provincial towns already have these powers and that they have worked very smoothly for a long time. These proposals have been opposed by several hon. Members, and representations have been made to me and probably to others by the Grocers' Federation and the meat trade, but only by the central bodies of those associations. Not a single member of those trades in my constituency has raised any point with regard to this Bill. The only representations that have been made to me on behalf of Kensington have been made by the Medical Officer of Health in favour of the Bill. In those circumstances I am supporting the Second Reading, and I hope that the Bill will go to a Committee where the details may be considered.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I do not agree that we should pass this Bill because a body like the London County Council asks for it. It seems to me that it is rather our duty to stand between the county council and the public, and to be sure that we do not grant the council powers which may be inquisitorial or oppressive. If the Bill did what it professes to do, there might not be so much objection to it. The marginal note of Clause 16 is 1382 thoroughly misleading. It is "Registration of premises for sale, etc., of ice cream and preserved food." One might dismiss it and say that preserved food is a thing with which special care ought to be taken. But you read the Clause, and you may think that you understand it until you come to Sub-section (7), where you are told:The word 'preserved' in Sub-section (1) of this Section includes preparation by any process of cooking,in the case of meat or fish. Therefore we realise that the Clause means that if anyone sells any cooked food or meat or fish, except in a registered place, he is guilty of a criminal offence. I do not know whether an egg is meat. Some people think it is. If it is, and anyone sells a boiled egg except in registered premises, he is guilty of a criminal offence. Then take such harmless things as shrimps. I suppose every confectioner in London sells potted shrimps, and shrimps come within this Clause, as they are potted fish. Therefore anyone who is going to prepare and sell potted shrimps at once walks within this Clause and can, be punished for an offence if he does that without having first been registered. It seems to me that that sort of power is oppressive, and not reasonable. To try to get a Clause of that sort through under this description of preserved food is thoroughly misleading. It is not preserved food at all. It includes potted food and cooked food of any kind, and anyone who makes a single sale of any one of these things, except in registered premises, is guilty of a criminal offence. There is a further objection to Sub-section (3) of this Clause, about the sanitary authority being the first judicial authority to deal with these matters. The sub-section says:If a sanitary authority are satisfied that any premises registered or sought to be registered … are unsuitable.In other words the body which is already satisfied that the premises are unsuitable is to be the adjudicator. They are the people to serve a notice on the applicant to appear before them and then they are to decide whether the premises are suitable or not. What chance would there is of a fair hearing? It is an amazing proposition that the accuser who is, ex hypothesi, already satisfied that you are doing wrong, has to decide 1383 whether you have done wrong or not. If yon want to get things put right you have to go to the expense of an appeal to a court of justice. One sees all sorts of possibilities of very harsh treatment of people who may be brought within the Clause. From personal experience one knows how these powers given to local authorities can be abused to an extreme. A great number of inspectors are employed, and their duty is to go round, and the more cases they bring to light the better pleased their employers are. I remember a business with which I was concerned being ruined by all sorts of unreasonable provisions being imposed. A building was wanted for some manufacturing process. Something of the slightest kind would have been sufficient, but we were made to put up a building with thick walls, reinforced with concrete. The builder said, "If you took it up to Heaven and dropped it, it would come down solid." The money which had been collected for carrying on the business was nearly all spent on the erection of that building, with the result that very soon the business came to an end. Inspectors were there, day in and day out, and having had some experience of the way in which these powers are enforced, I shall vote against this Bill because I think that Clause 16 of it is thoroughly unreasonable.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I had no intention of intervening in this Debate had it not been for certain references made by an hon. Member below the Gangway with regard to the sale of ice-cream. As a member of the borough council in my constituency I happen to know something about this matter and I have been very surprised to find that the London County Council have not already some of the powers which are sought in the Bill and which seemed to be so much objected to by certain hon. Members. Only recently in Walsall we have adopted new by-laws with regard to ice-cream selling and registration on lines practically identical with those indicated in the Bill. Those by-laws have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Health and are now in operation. It seems to me that the London County Council are behind the times in not already having such powers to deal with this very important question, because it is, to my mind, vitally important that a building in which ice- 1384 cream is sold should not only be registered but should be sanitary. I think that much of the opposition to the Bill is more or less factious; it seems to me to arise from jealousy of the London County Council. All the points which have been raised are committee points and I feel that the House ought to give the Bill a Second Reading and allow the details to be thrashed out upstairs in Committee.
§ Mr. McENTEE
Like at least one other hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate, I came into the House to-night with an unprejudiced mind on this question. I represent a constituency which is outside the London County Council area, and I, personally, hold no brief for the London County Council. I had the pleasure of working for that body on their permanent staff for 18 or 19 years, and the treatment which they gave me when I was about to leave their service was, if anything, such as might prejudice me against them. I listened with some attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Cassells) and that of my fellow-countryman, the hon. Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan). I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Mile End because he is my fellow-countryman, and because he belongs to the profession to which my father belonged. The hon. and learned Member for North-West Camberwell represents a profession from which I have suffered a good deal, and I might be expected to have a natural Prejudice against him on that account, but, having read the literature which has been distributed both for and against the Bill by interested parties, I have tried to make up my mind upon it without prejudice on either side.
I have, as I hope every other Member has, the desire to preserve the ordinary member of the public from food poisoning and from the ill-effects of adulterated food. As a member of a borough council I know the limitations of the powers which such bodies possess and the difficulties under which sanitary authorities labour. I sympathise, therefore, with the London County Council in their desire to get these powers. The sanitary officers in my own district have given me ample evidence of the need for such powers. I have heard of a case of meat being stored 1385 under a bed in a one-room tenement occupied by a large family, and I have heard of ice-cream being stored under similar conditions, both in the constituency which I represent and in which I have lived for a number of years, and also in the constituency which was formerly represented by the hon. and learned Member for North-West Camberwell. I feel that every public body ought to have the power to discharge effectively the duty imposed upon them in regard to these matters, and that duty cannot be effectively discharged without powers such as are sought by the London County Council in this Bill. It should be remembered also that the Metropolitan boroughs are unanimously behind the London County Council in their desire for the Bill. Such unanimity as there is in favour of the Bill is indeed very rarely obtained.
I am interested in the case of the ordinary person who buys food and has no opportunity of examining the conditions under which it is prepared. The hon. Member for Central Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Denville) spoke of the inconvenience to proprietors of cinemas, music halls and other places of entertainment, but that inconvenience is altogether outweighed by the consideration of the positive dangers to the public which at present exist, and which would be to a large extent abolished by the passing of the Bill. If I may say so, the Bill itself is somewhat loosely and even badly drafted. Defects have been pointed out in it which I think would be admitted even by those who are in favour of it, but I have not heard one argument to show that there are defects in the Bill which could not be set right in the Committee. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill said that the London County Council would be prepared to consider favourably any reasonable suggestions for the improvement of the Bill. In view of that promise; in view of the fact that there are so many useful Clauses in the Bill, quite apart from those mentioned to-night and in view of the necessity for protecting the lives of children and adults, I hope that hon. Members may see their way to withdraw their opposition to the Bill and trust to the Committee to remove anything which may be considered objectionable in the Bill and to improve those parts of it 1386 which may be found to require improvement.
§ Sir GEORGE HUME
I think we all listened with great interest to the brilliant forensic effort of the hon. and learned Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Cassels). The unfortunate thing about it was that, apparently, he was badly instructed. All the time he made the point that a bigoted and overpowering authority was going to handle this matter but, as has been explained, the London County Council is not asking these powers for itself. The London County Council is acting on behalf of all the sanitary authorities of the London area and the City as well. These powers will be exercised by the sanitary authorities. You have here a unanimous demand as far as London is concerned. One of the Members on the other side tried to make out that this was a question of principle. The London County Council is merely asking on this occasion that we should extend to London facilities which have been given by this House to various other authorities throughout the Provinces. They are enjoying them now, and no inconvenience has arisen from the use of those powers.
I am surprised that there should be such an opposition raised here at the present moment. I think that the battleground is rather badly chosen. I am one of those who sympathise greatly with people who object to fussy over-inspection, but here we are dealing with a matter which is of vital importance to the health of the people. It is vitally important that the food of the people should be prepared in sanitary surroundings. Nothing has been said here to-night about the trader himself. You may have two traders side by side, one exercising no precautions and taking no care, and another taking every precaution and trying to produce the food under completely sanitary conditions. The dice is loaded against the man who takes the precautions as compared with the other man. I am surprised that there are so many Members who are prepared to fight hard and run the risk of upsetting a Bill of this kind, carrying so many passengers on board, and to throw it over for the sake of somebody who is preparing food under dirty conditions.
There were other points made, but I think the London County Council is per- 1387 fectly willing in Committee to listen to reason. We have already met the opponents of Clause 17 very fairly. There may be differences about the machinery suggested in Clause 16, but I should have thought it was to the interest of the alleged delinquent that before he was proceeded against he should have an opportunity of coming and talking with members of the borough council. A tremendous case has been made by my legal friends about the terrors of the poor individual being dragged up before them but I should have thought it much better that he should have an opportunity of putting his case before he was brought before an outside court. I think it has been very much exaggerated, and, in view of the general situation and the subject matter with which we are dealing, and the willingness of the County Council to listen to any Amendments which may be desired in committee, I ask the House to let the matter go before the committee, where it can be thoroughly thrashed out, seeing that there is no new principle, that these powers are given to other authorities and that nobody has attempted to show why if those other authorities enjoy them, the London area should not do so also.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Captain FRASER
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Sir G. Hume), the Minister of Health and other speakers have made much of the point that these powers are enjoyed by a number of authorities throughout the country. They stress that, and make it one of their principal arguments. As a fact, the powers are enjoyed by a number of authorities, but they have been put into force by only three, so that we have not had a wide experience to show whether the powers are desirable. The Minister of Health suggested that the mere fact that we had not heard that they had caused trouble or inconvenience showed they were the right powers to be applied in this enormous area of London, but in only three places have they been tried, and only for a short time, so that there has not been any opportunity to see whether they are causing trouble or not. The Minister of Health said that the Bill ought to go to a Committee, because the two parties with regard to whom there was an argument might there thrash it out. He said that those two parties were the 1388 various traders concerned, who disliked the restrictions to be imposed, and the authorities. I think he has ignored one party to the dispute who is of even greater importance than the other two. The right hon. Gentleman is in very truth Minister of Health, but he has also his national responsibilities, which are even wider than the immediate purview of the Ministry of Health, and the health of the nation in its general sense can sometimes be of more importance than the health of the nation in its medical sense.
Nothing has been said about the taxpayer or the ratepayer. According to the Minister of Health, the only parties are apparently those concerned with health and the traders. For my part, I put my name to the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill because of the four Clauses, 16 to 19 inclusive, and I oppose it on a question of principle and not on Committee points. I may mention some of the smaller details of the Clauses to illustrate how badly they are drawn and how objectionable the principle is when worked out. It is the principle I object to, not Committee points, and the principle is that at this time we ought in this House to think very seriously before we add to the burdens which traders or consumers have to bear. Unquestionably, these four Clauses will add to the burdens of those who prepare our food, and will therefore add to the cost of food. Let that not be forgotten. It will add also to our rates and taxes, and thereby make life more burdensome to the taxpayer and the ratepayer.
It is argued that this Measure has been brought into effect in other areas, and that therefore it should be applied to London, but may I point out that when these Clauses were brought forward in Committee upstairs and applied to other areas, there was not the financial stringency that there is now? There was then expectation of better times, and the hope that we might be able to support greater and greater progress in the direction of so-called preventive medicine. There was a, case for trying out these devices whereby food might be made better, but now I ask the House to consider very seriously whether, by this Measure, which has not been proved a success, and for which it has not been proved there is even a. need, we should cause further 1389 public expenditure by the Ministry of Health, the London County Council or the local authorities? I think that the time does come when these additions to expenditure do more harm than good, for they are cumulative in their effect. The hon. Member for West Fulham (Sir C. Cobb), who spoke for the promoters, said there would not necessarily be new inspectors, and that the inspectors would take it in their stride. I can only say that they must have been striding lethargically in the past if they have time to take this in their stride. My own experience is that whenever you place new powers in the hands of authorities, the time very soon comes when you require a new staff to exercise them. I cannot help thinking that this Bill will involve a substantial increase in expenditure.
Let me say one word about the Clauses to show why that is so. The first Clause suggests the setting up of 28 new registers. The old registers will be taken over and, of course, some of these traders are already registered and will be taken over in the new registers. The 28 new registers will have to be made by the clerks in the borough council, certain of the existing traders who are registered will have to be revisited for the purpose of the new register and additional traders at places where food is prepared or sold will have to be visited by the inspectors. Additional inspection will have to be made before the register is completed. That must mean additional inspectors and additional cost. By Clause 17 the county council may make regulations. They will consult every interest. More officials of the County Hall will consult people, taking up their own time and the time of the people consulted. That will mean cost. I will leave Clause 18 and pass to Clause 19, which says that foodstuffs offered for prizes shall be deemed to be foodstuffs offered for sale, the object being to give the authorities power to deal with those foodstuffs in ease they should be capable of producing food poisoning. Further interference, further inspection, further expense. All that means more expenditure of money.
May I now draw attention to Clause 18? That Clause is worth a little attention. It provides that every medical practitioner shall inform forthwith the medical officer of his sanitary authority if he suspects or becomes 1390 aware of a case of food poisoning. What is food poisoning? We want to be sure that what we are doing is workable. The mere fact that it has been tried in three districts in this country and that no complaint has been made does not show that it is workable. There are various forms of food poisoning. There is botulism, a very rare form and one that is hardly contemplated by the promoters of this Bill. It has only occurred in this country once, I think, in the last decade. No inspector could find it, because it takes 18 months to grow in a sealed container and you have to find out why that sealed container was not cooked enough 18 months before in order to trace its origin. That is one of the most violent poisons that can be found in food.
Then there are those forms of poisoning which are due to poisonous substances being added to food, either for the purpose of preserving the food, and which in excess become poisons, or which are due to accident. Many cases of so-called food poisoning arise from these causes, but they are all very slight. The inspectors, if they find them, or the medical men if they report upon them would be going on an entirely blank trail if they were to make any inquiries about them. Then there is the commonest form of food poisoning, at which, doubtless, this Measure is directed, which is produced by the Gartner bacillus. That particular bacillus exists in clean as well as in dirty surroundings. The mere removal of dirty surroundings will not remove the possibility or the probability of that bacillus being present. It is present in certain kinds of meat and rodents. It is also present in human beings. It poisons immediately because the bacillus has put poison into the tissue of the meat, and subsequently the poison enters into the human being who has absorbed it. No inspector can find that out by a mere insistence upon cleanliness. Moreover, there are persons who are carriers of this particular bacillus. They become immune, but they can transmit the bacillus to any food they touch. If food is kept in a filthy room it is liable to be contaminated, and it is equally liable to become contaminated in a perfectly clean kitchen if 1391 the cook is a carrier of the Gärtner bacillus.
This Measure will not do what is claimed for it. We say, in the first place, that it will be too great an expense and that we cannot afford what may have been desirable two or three years ago; secondly, there is no proof that it will be of the slightest use, and, thirdly, there has not been time over a wide enough area for full criticism and complaint to have come forward. We ought to come to the conclusion that now is not the time for the House to sanction this further invasion of liberty and this further expenditure of money on a wholly nebulous proposition. What are the symptoms of food poisoning and what will the medical man do about it? There are two kinds of food poisoning symptoms, namely, those that are acute and those that are chronic. The most notable symptom of the acute form is that distressing and almost universal complaint, stomach ache. Medical gentlemen in this House will not deny that every stomach ache suggests food poisoning. Therefore, every stomach ache is a case of suspected food poisoning. Medical men are being asked to notify a suspected disease, but never before has a medical man been asked to notify a disease which is so ill defined as that of food poisoning. It is not a specific disease. It is a complaint to which we have been accustomed and to which our grandmothers were accustomed, and it is a complaint which is normally cured by taking a dose of castor oil.
The further kind of food poisoning manifestation is the chronic one. There is not the acute abdominal pain, but there is loss of appetite, lassitude, what the old woman who goes to the doctor calls "wind round the heart, doctor," and a bad taste in the mouth. Those are symptoms of food poisoning. Any person who goes to a doctor with those symptoms will inevitably cause him to suspect food poisoning, and he will have to notify it. Moreover these manifestations, whether in the acute or in the chronic form, may recur in the same patient at very frequent intervals, and the doctor must notify every time. He must do it forthwith. Speed is so essential, that the local authority must have the notification within 12 hours. The doctor will get 1392 2s. 6d. a time. Notification of stomach aches, 2s. 6d. a time!
It is unworkable and absurd. On every ground Clause 18 ought to be withdrawn. I do not think that the mere patching up of these four Clauses in Committee will really meet the case. My friends and I contend that these four Clauses are undesirable. There are not a great many deaths from food poisoning. There are a few fatal cases. Even the County Council in the defence of their proposals only tell us that there were 11 deaths in three years. Yet this vast machinery is to be set up to prevent the recurrence of those cases. I would not mind expenditure to save life, but the accumulation of this kind of expenditure threatens life by making life intolerable for our people. I was told recently of a tramp who was proceeding along the highway, became exhausted and fell by the wayside. A good Samaritan picked him up, took him into his house and summoned a doctor. When he came to, they consulted him about what they found upon him. They found that he was wearing a heavy coat of mail, and he said, "I am wearing that to protect myself lest I should be stabbed." He was carrying a heavy lifebelt, and he said that that was to prevent him being drowned in case he fell into the sea. He also carried a heavy rope, which he said was necessary in case he should be found on the top of a house that was burning so that he could let himself down. The poor man was nearly dead from exhaustion because of the burdens he was carrying to ensure safety against every evil to which flesh is heir.
That is the position of this land. We are in the position in which the addition of these burdens one after another is making life intolerable; and, unless the House is prepared to say that it will not allow an extension without an extremely good case is made out, there is very little hope of promoting economy. It is difficult enough to economise by taking away services that exist. It is a little easier to stop new services being put forward. Here is a new service for which no real case has been made out, and at this time I beg the House to join us in offering opposition to the Bill, because these four Clauses are unacceptable and ought to be opposed. We are not trying to wreck the county council Bill. Its im- 1393 portant provisions can go through swiftly if the county council will leave out these four offending Clauses. They are not their babies at all; they have been asked to take them over by the Town Clerks' Association. The town clerks persuaded the appropriate committees of the Metropolitan Borough Councils that they needed more power, and what council does not like to be told that it will have more power?
§ Mr. LOGAN
I was rather amused at the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser); his illustrations were really a treat. I thought that he was going to tell the story of the medical practitioner who, having examined his patient in the bedroom, was at a loss to diagnose the disease until looking under the bed, he espied a saddle; then, with a knowing look, he stated, "Poisoned by eating horseflesh." The hon. and gallant Member said that there had not been many deaths from food poisoning in London. I do not know how many deaths there have been, but I know the benefits from the sanitary point of view which we have derived in Liverpool from registration under the Public Health Act. Has it ever struck hon. Members how much uncleanliness there can be in a great city like London in the production of ice-cream and foodstuffs, and what suffering from diarrhoea can be caused to little children through eating unclean food? You are very much behind the times in London, much as you talk about being progressive. London to me is a sink full of iniquity from the point of view of public health, for it seems that you are only now beginning to think about the question of registration for ice-cream manufacturers and the producers of other foodstuffs.
I was amazed to find that clubs, hotels, and restaurants are exempt. When you come to deal with music-halls and theatres there is always a great outcry; but when you go into a theatre or a music-hall where they sell ice-cream you have a right to know that it has been made under clean conditions. You go there to pass an hour or two away, not to pass your life away. I have heard the story regarding wind round the heart to which the hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras referred. If you eat food that is not fit, however, you 1394 will have more than wind round your heart. The state of things that makes the production of that sort of food possible ought not to exist. I have seen some of the filthy places where ice-cream is made and the filthy barrows from which it is sold, and it is ridiculous that London has not the power to guarantee the purity of the ice-cream which is sold within its borders. It is almost a burlesque that we who come from places which are not supposed to know so much about hygiene should have to come to the enlightened House of Commons and tell it that it is necessary that ice-cream should be made under proper conditions and not in stables where donkeys and mules are housed. The sanitary inspector should have a right to inspect the places where it is made to see that they are clean.
You allow health visitors to see if houses are clean and not over-crowded, and yet if you buy an ice in London you are not able to tell the dainty lady who buys it whether it was made in a stable or in a palace. Hon. Members talk about expense. We in Liverpool have not found that the officials have been overtaxed by going round and making inspections. If one or two officials did die from over-exertion, I do not think that it need matter; you could always get plenty more. There is no danger of that, however. I have never seen any of them catch a chill through running about too much inspecting places where ice-cream is made. There is just as much danger in preserves. The genesis of disease due to bad food is to be found in dirty places. Where a place is clean, there will be no breeding of disease. Where it is dirty, there will be disease, and, unless there is proper inspection, there can be no clean supply of food.
My contention is that in both instances the London County Council and the sanitary authorities of this great city are perfectly justified, from the point of view of the public health, in asking for these powers. Where there is cleanliness there is health. London demands cleanness in the pictures which are shown in the cinemas; children must not be allowed to see the unclean. Is there not greater danger from unclean food than even from unclean pictures? While pictures which are unclean may be shown to adults, food which is unclean may be sold to adults and to children. I say 1395 there ought to be cleanliness all round in the interests of the general welfare both of this city and of the nation, and I welcome what the London County Council are doing in promoting this Bill.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
I do not desire to say anything upon the position which has been taken up by either side in the Debate on this Bill. I rise more particularly to ask the representatives of the London County Council if they will not also include within the Bill other items affecting the wellbeing of many inhabitants of London and adjoining towns which have hitherto been neglected or forgotten. A few weeks ago I asked the Minister of Health when the present overlapping in the administration of local government law in England and Wades and the County of London would be remedied. In his reply he stated that a committee were considering the question, and that when they had formulated their conclusions a consolidating Act dealing with local government in England and Wales, as well as London, would be brought forward by the Government and put on the Statute Book. It is well known to those of us who are in the legal profession that in many respects the law dealing with local government in England and Wales as a whole is totally dissimilar from the local government law under which the County of London is administered. I am a little sorry that the London County Council have not waited until that Committee could report before asking for these powers, under which there may be possibly more overlapping when the new Measure for England and Wales is put on the Statute Book. I desired the Minister of Health to bring the deliberations of that Committee to an early conclusion and he gave me a promise so to do and surely it is not too late to ask the county council to wait if by doing so they avoid overlapping and so save the pockets of the taxpayers and ratepayers. An example of this overlapping is to be found in the law dealing with frontages. My legal colleagues will know that the definition of ownership in regard to the frontages of houses is in a disputed position, and that a definition is required if equity is to prevail. Secondly, if a ratepayer in the borough of Stepney is ordered to quit his house under the provisions of the London Building Act, which requires that 1396 the house must be kept in a state fit for habitation and also requires some perhaps special conditions, it is the duty of the London County Council to provide alternative accommodation for the tenant which they, however, only accept if obtaining a quid pro quo from the borough council or the landlord. The tenant may be a poor widowed woman who is paying her rent regularly who cannot afford to fight either borough council or the London County Council; she is therefore between the Devil and the deep sea, because she has not the money to compel the borough of Stepney to provide alternative accommodation, nor has she the power to fight the London County Council.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Part II deals with the acquisition of land by the county council, and on that land which they acquire there will probably be dwelling houses.
Again I most earnestly ask those who are promoting this Bill to wait for the report of the Committee. By doing so, they would save thousands of pounds by removing overlapping and also eliminate waste and extravagance in many towns and cities in Great Britain, and would make the law dealing with local government much more suitable and useful. They could also remove many of the anomalies which are bearing upon poor people in the poorest parts of London and in adjacent towns to London. I will not say a word about the matters on which some of the experts have pronounced to-night, but I do suggest that the consolidation of the local government law for England and Wales and its adjustment with the separate local government law for London would be advantageous both from the point of view of economy and the service of the people of London, and as essential as a vital step forward in British citizenship.
§ Mr. G. HARVEY
In view of the desire of the Minister of Health that the matters which we have raised should be thrashed out in Committee upstairs, and in view of the desire of those who object to the Bill not to hamper in any way any reasonable operations on the part of the 1397 London County Council, I desire to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed.