HC Deb 21 April 1948 vol 449 cc1813-4
53. Sir John Mellor

asked the Minister of Food why the Seizure of Food Order, 1948, S.I., 1948, No. 724, provides that the Crown shall retain any expenses of seizure out of the proceeds of sale by the Crown of an article of food, even when the owner has been acquitted of any offence alleged in respect of that article; and why in making this new Order he failed to respond to protests against a similar provision in the superseded Order.

Dr. Summerskill

The Order empowers the Crown to retain expenses incurred in connection with the sale, but, in practice, we do not now exercise this power if the owner is acquitted.

Sir J. Mellor

Does the hon. Lady recollect that in the Debate on the superseded Order, on 26th November, she said, according to HANSARD: I would not, for one moment, say that an acquitted man might not experience some injustice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 1567.] Does she still adhere to that statement?

Dr. Summerskill

Certainly, and as a result of that we have not deducted any expenses from acquitted men over the last year.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

Why does the hon. Lady maintain the law which she so consistently disregards? Why not bring in a new order, and drop this provision?

Dr. Summerskill

After an order has been made, and we come to administer it, we have the right to waive certain legal rights, and we are doing that in this case.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Have the Ministry any right to charge a citizen for a mistake made by the Minister or the Department?

Dr. Summerskill

No, and we do not so charge. I have already said that over the last year we did not deduct any expenses.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Then why retain the legal right?

Sir W. Smithers

The whole thing is a farce.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the hon. Lady say whether this money is also exacted in a case where there is no prosecution at all and where, therefore, there cannot be an acquittal?

Dr. Summerskill

In all cases where there is no prosecution we do not deduct expenses.

Sir J. Mellor

So that attention can he drawn to this very unsatisfactory question of delegated legislation, I beg to give notice that I shall tomorrow night move a Prayer to annul this Order.