HC Deb 15 June 1933 vol 279 cc358-61

5.15 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 15, line 28, at the end, to insert the words: but no authority shall be granted to a person where facilities are already provided by an authorised seller of poisons. Part II of the Bill extends the facilities for selling the poisons which come under its provisions, and it is felt by my hon. Friends and myself that unless there is some safeguard of the kind we propose and if there is an extension of facilities such as is provided for here, there may be wholesale abuses in connection with the sale of poisons. We suggest that where there are facilities under Part I of the Bill those should be sufficient instead of multiplying the number of persons who are to have facilities under Part II.

5.17 p.m.


I cannot support the Amendment because it would cut right across the principle of the Bill. This legislation is required in regard to three matters, first the protection of the public in connection with the supply of poisons; secondly, the necessity that agriculturists and horticulturalists who desire to obtain poisons for agricultural purposes under proper protection should have facilities for doing so, and, thirdly, the power of local authorities in regard to saying who shall and who shall not sell these poisons and thereby to guard the public without undue interference and also to give the great medical and veterinary professions proper facilities. I think if the Mover of the Amendment carefully considers the application of his Amendment to those three definite essential purposes and also the general application of the Bill, he will see that what he desires to do is quite unnecessary. I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment.

5.18 p.m.


Proposals to this effect have been made on several occasions in different forms and in connection with different parts of the Bill, during the Committee stage. But whatever the wording used the meaning has always been the same. This Amendment again differs in wording from previous proposals of the same kind, but the meaning remains the same. It means that if the Amendment be accepted, local authorities will have to grant or refuse licences under certain ill-defined conditions. They will be compelled to decide whether the facilities for obtaining poisons in a particular area are or are not sufficient, and the area is not defined. If there were, for instance, three ironmongers and two grocers in one street, the authority would have to decide whether in that case there were more than sufficient sellers of poisons under Part II, and if they decided that there were more than sufficient, they would have to make up their minds which of those shopkeepers should have a licence and which should be denied a licence. All the shopkeepers might be equally efficient. A discretion of that kind is not a fair discretion to impose on a local authority.

The Amendment, as the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden)has said, cuts right across the principle and policy of the Bill. The system of licences was imposed by the Act of 1908 and the Departmental Committee found that the system was objectionable. Agricultural and horticultural interests have complained bitterly about the working of the system. The Amendment is opposed by the Minister of Agriculture and agriculturists, I believe, gave evidence before the Committee against the system of licensing. As far as I can gather there is nothing in favour of this Amendment. Even the place at which it is proposed to insert these words in the Bill is not right. The hon. Member wishes to insert the words in Clause 17 which deals with the preparation of the list of poisons for the purposes of the Act, but surely the Amendment would be more appro- priate on Clause 21, which deals with persons other than authorised sellers of poisons, to be entitled to sell poisons in Part II of the Poisons list. I think the Amendment stands condemned on every ground and it is certainly condemned by all who have given close study to this problem.

5.20 p.m.


I am rather surprised at the attitude taken by the Under-Secretary towards the Amendment and especially his criticism of the place at which it is proposed to insert these words. How different his attitude towards this Amendment, from his attitude towards this Amendment moved earlier in the day by the representatives from Scotland. In that case he not only gave way, but he actually fitted in a new Amendment to meet all their demands. There was no question in that case of the Amendment coming in at the wrong place. The right hon. Gentleman put in an Amendment of his own and if he wanted to accept this principle—


I do not. That is the difference.


I know the right hon. Gentleman does not, and consequently the last part of his argument is of no avail. The right hon. Gentleman will agree at any rate with one proposition. We want to safeguard the public against the possibility of authority being given to everybody and anybody to sell poisons. That is the main object of the Amendment. When the right hon. Gentleman complains that it would put power into the hands of local authorities to decide who should and who should not sell poisons, I would ask him is that not the proper thing to do. Imagine authority being given to perhaps a dozen people in one street to sell poisons. Yet such might be the case, if this Amendment is not carried.


I think the hon. Gentleman has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. His Amendment would multiply the number of untrained people who could dispense poisons under any conditions. Under this Bill local authorities are given the power to test and to adjust the opportunities of the public to obtain these necessities and to protect them without unreasonable interference. The Amendment would do the very opposite.


The hon. Gentleman is more learned in the law than I am and surely he must realise the effect of this Amendment. I want to show how sensible our proposal is and to indicate that at any rate some sense can come from this side of the House on some occasions.


I agree—sometimes.


Clearly the intention of the Amendment is to see that the public shall not be able to get poisons at will and at random as it were. Hon. Members know how easy it is in some parts of the country to secure poisons. We thought that by this Amendment we would help the Government in putting the Bill into proper shape and we have been trying to do that all along in connection with this Measure.

Amendment negatived.