HC Deb 03 May 1937 vol 323 cc819-24

4.37 P.m.

Mr. Wedderburn

I beg to move, in page 26, line 1, to leave out from "authority," to the end of line 5, and to insert: other than a county council shall have power to enforce, within their area, the provisions of any slaughter-house scheme for the time being in force and, with a view to the enforcement of the scheme, any person authorised in writing in that behalf by a local authority having powers of enforcement under this Sub-section may, on producing his authority, enter and inspect at all reasonable times any such premises in the area to which the scheme applies as the local authority have reason for believing to be premises used for carrying on a slaughterhouse; but nothing in this Sub-section shall authorise the entry or inspection, on behalf of a local authority, of any premises outside the area of that local authority. This is a small Amendment, like the one with which we have just dealt. It gives similar powers in respect of slaughter-houses and schemes under Clause 23. If we did not pass this Amendment a local authority might be surcharged for the expenses it incurred in co-operating with the Commission in carrying out decisions under these reorganisation schemes. Hon. Members will be glad to know that the powers conferred by the Amendment are not mandatory.

4.38 p.m.

Brigadier-General Brown

The Minister said that this was just the same principle, dealing with a very different thing. If I understand it aright the permission is given to local authorities to deal with a scheme itself. It says in the Amendment: shall have power to enforce, within their area, the provisions of any slaughter-house scheme. When you look at Clause 26 to see what such a scheme may mean, you see, in paragraph (b): (b) to acquire such products of the slaughtering of livestock at that slaughterhouse (other than butcher's meat) as may be determined by or under the scheme, and. This is a very big power for a Commission to delegate to a local authority, and raises a much more important principle than the last Amendment. This Amendment deals with a very different case of delegating authority. The Commission ought to retain their authority at least as far as slaughter-houses are concerned. We have never yet had a definition of what the exact position is to be, and the Minister has always refused to give us one. In those circumstances the Commission will be handing over to local authorities some uncertain power which may be exercised to an unknown extent. That is very dangerous. I am quite willing to agree to the general point, as I think the local authority ought to have the power of looking after markets and so forth.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

A slaughter-house scheme may conceivably operate over a very wide area and therefore quite a substantial number of separate local authorities may be involved. Each of them is to be given power to enforce schemes within its area. I want to know what assurance we are to have that the different local authorities will enforce the same scheme in the same way in different parts of an area to which the scheme applies. There seems to be a complete lack of any centralised authority for a scheme. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have not much love for centralised slaughtering schemes, but if there is to be enforcement there ought to be uniformity. It seems to me that we will have a great lack of uniformity under the operation of the Amendment. My right hon. Friend said that this arrangement had worked very well in respect of diseases of animals, but in that case he does not have several individual authorities operating the same scheme. Some words ought to be added to make sure that there will be co-ordination in the working of the same scheme.

Sir Robert Tasker

Would not many of these schemes be better if there were a definition?

4.41 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I would submit to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) that it is only possible to have a variety of local authorities within the area of any slaughter-house scheme where you have more than one slaughter-house as part of a scheme. If you have only one great experimental slaughter- house, that will be within the area of one local authordity. If a central scheme deals with other slaughter-houses apart from the big central one, which will still have to continue its business and form part of the central scheme, there will not be a variety of local authorities operating and enforcing such by-laws, except so far as they are enforcing bylaws on slaughter-houses within their own particular areas. I am hoping that where we have a really big central experimental slaughter-house we will not have little fiddling slaughter-houses operating everywhere around the area. If Part IV is to be of any value at all there will have to be central slaughterhouse schemes and not a multiplicity of slaughter-houses here, there and everywhere.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

It the hon. Member will look at Clause 24 he will find that it is contemplated that there may be other slaughter-houses in the area, and in that case there are all sorts of things you may do. In the case, for example, where you give from time to time, in relation to any premises approved as aforesaid, such directions with respect to the classes and number of animals which may be slaughtered on the premises as the Commission consider desirable, surely, you want to have some central control, and not have a local authority giving orders which are in conflict with what the Commission has already decided upon. We are asking for trouble and confusion unless we allow one authority for one central scheme.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

The Minister said that this Amendment is similar to the previous Amendment, but power is delegated to authorities who do not appear in the first Amendment. I think they should appear in the second Amendment.

4.44 p.m.

Major Dorman-Smith

I understand that a scheme will he prepared in its entirety and will be submitted, and that there are various formalities and so on, but if there is no possibility of a scheme being varied by local authorities, then I agree that what has been pointed out is a situation that we must avoid. But how can a scheme be carried out unless everybody knows how it is to be carried out?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

There can be no doubt at all that no local authority can vary a scheme. The scheme is one scheme for the whole of the area to which it applies. It cannot be amended at the instance of any local authority, no matter what its jurisdiction is. For that reason I think hon. Members are perhaps a little over-apprehensive of the possibility of lack of uniformity in this matter.

The object of the Amendment is, as my hon. Friend said, exactly the same as that of the one that preceded it. It is to enable the officers of local authorities to enforce parts of the scheme which apply to their particular duties. If hon. Members will look at Clause 27, they will see that it deals with the cases where the Commission's functions can, by delegation, be entrusted to local authorities or joint boards. If the Commission actually does delegate its functions to a local authority, of course, such a local authority would have to discharge the duties delegated to it, with all the Commission's powers, and for that reason I think that, if hon. Members will put this Amendment in its proper place in the Bill, namely, in Sub-section (2), they will see that there can be no lack of uniformity. The object of the Amendment is to prevent inspectors, on the one hand appointed by the Commission and on the other hand appointed by local authorities, performing the same duties in the same area. For these reasons, I hope the Committee will let us have the Amendment.

4.47 p.m.

Mr. Barnes

I do not think the Minister's explanation quite explains why he is deleting the simple language already in Sub-section (2) of the Clause arid substituting this rather involved language. I would like to have from the Minister his explanation of the advantages of the new language, and, apart from the assurance that we shall obtain uniformity, we have had no such explanation. If we turn to Sub-section (2), which it is proposed to delete, we see that the language there is very clear and specific. It says that the local authority shall have power to enforce the provisions of the scheme within the limits of the local authority's jurisdiction. I am not necessarily opposing the Amendment. What we desire is a clear explanation from the Minister of its advantages and the significance of the language which it substitutes for the language in the Bill, in so far as it contains the words: the provisions of any slaughter-house scheme for the time being in force.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I think the short answer that I can give to the hon. Member is that I am advised that the new language is more apt to clothe with the proper authority officers of local authorities who may wish, at the instance of their bodies, to co-operate with the Commission in this matter. The Amendment sets out in somewhat greater detail the powers which are now to be conferred upon the officers of the local authorities. It is clear that a local authority inside its own area can authorise a proper inspector who will have the powers with which inspectors are normally clothed to enter into any premises which it is desired to inspect.

Mr. Barnes

Does this intervention of local authorities cover their public health powers only?

Mr. Morrison

No. The real instance that I can imagine where a local authority inspector could effectively co-operate in the enforcement of a slaughter-house scheme would be as follows: If under the scheme certain slaughter-houses within the area of the local authority have to be closed and then the ordinary health or sanitary inspector employed by the local authority, going round the area, finds that in fact one of them is open, he can, as a common informer, if the law is left as it stands, without any Amendment prosecute such a person criminally before a bench of magistrates, but if this Amendment is accepted, it will enable the local authority itself, acting in its own right, to enforce the provisions of the scheme instead of prosecuting in a criminal proceeding. The language used is, as the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) says, a little more involved in appearance, but I am advised that it is more apt to clothe the officers of local authorities with the necessary authority and also to prevent any doubt as to their functions vis-à-vis the officers of the Commission.

Brigadier-General Brown

Does this Clause give the local authorities the same powers as the Commission have under Clause 26, paragraphs (b) and (c), which give permission to sell and so forth? Would not a local authortiy get those powers which the Commission have under that Clause?

Mr. Morrison

No. My hon. and gallant Friend can rest quite assured upon that point All the powers to which he has referred me in the previous Clause arise out of this scheme and can only be vested by the scheme in whomsoever they are vested.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.