HC Deb 15 July 1949 vol 467 cc888-90
Mr. Orr-Ewing

I beg to move, in page 9, line 6 after "section," to insert: prohibiting or restricting the use of any premises for the manufacture, storage or sale of food or". I raised this matter in Committee, and the Minister said that he would look into it to see whether the position was exactly as he had stated it to be. Under certain conditions, if a responsibility is laid upon somebody trading in or storing food to carry out certain structural alterations, that individual has a right of appeal. If he is not fully satisfied his case could be examined. But the case I raised upstairs was based on the fear that, while the examination of the Ministry into the manner in which food is stored is welcomed, yet the position may arise under this section in which the owner of the premises might say, "I think that this particular place is now free of infestation," and the Ministry would say it was not.

So long as premises are not free of infestation nothing is allowed to go into it or come out, and the individual concerned is completely debarred from carrying on any trade. If the premises are still infested it is right that he should be so debarred, but if there is any possible doubt about whether he is right and the Ministry is wrong, there should be some form of appeal to enable the man to restart in business. I appreciate the point made in Committee that we could not have a continual flow of foodstuffs going in and out of premises which were suspected of being infested, pending the decision of an appeal. But I do not think it is beyond the wit of man to say that an individual who feels he is being wronged should have some form of appeal against the order. That is quite a different thing.

I am not suggesting there should be freedom to move stuff in and out of infected premises pending the result of an appeal. I do say that the man should have the right to go to appeal and to say, "My advisers or my scientists"—because some of these problems are highly scientific—"tell me that the premises are quite clear. I have done everything I am supposed to do and I wish to re-start, but you say I must not, because something else should be done." I think it would be only fair to insert something of the nature of the Amendment in the Bill. I hope we shall get some encouragement from the Minister, and that he will accept this Amendment.

Mr. J. Morrison

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not think I can add anything to what my hon. Friend has said. There may be a loss of income to the user, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept our Amendment.

Mr. T. Williams

I did give the hon. Member an assurance after the Committee stage that I would look very carefully into this. I thought at the time that we had the same point of view. Since then I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter with various associations that are likely to give directions, and I have received from them an undertaking that the moment a direction has served its purpose, it will be instantaneously withdrawn.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Are they to be the sole arbiters? That is the point. If we can get some assurance from the Minister that they themselves will not be the sole arbiters, but that there will be some undertaking about general consultation—some review of the position—then I think that will be quite satisfactory. That is probably the intention, but if the right hon. Gentleman could say so, I think it would be helpful.

Mr. T. Williams

The assurance I am giving, or trying to give, perhaps vaguely, is that the trade associations themselves are the people with whom we discussed the matter, and they agreed that, so long as a direction that has served its purpose is immediately withdrawn, nobody will be punished thereby.

Mr. Turton

I do not think that that is entirely satisfactory whilst it is not in the Bill. I agree that it binds the present Minister of Agriculture. However, it does not bind his successors. It is one of those nice assurances given by well-meaning Ministers that have no validity in an Act of Parliament. Knowing the Minister of Agriculture, I know that he will always implement his assurance, but I do not know what the Prime Minister may do; there may be some change in the Ministry, and there may be another Pharaoh and everything may go entirely differently. That assurance, therefore, is completely wiped out. I do see the Minister's difficulty about the Amendment, but I think that before we part with the Bill we ought to have some surety for a form of appeal for a business, the livelihood from which may be lost on quite insufficient grounds. I should like the Minister to consider this matter before the Third Reading. We want more than a verbal assurance. We want a written assurance in this Bill.

Mr. C. Williams

I am sure the Minister is at the moment in conference on what my hon. Friends have said. I wish he would consider that. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton) has just said about the Minister. I have agreed with that on many occasions. However, it is a most unsatisfactory position that we are dependent, not on legislation which is passed, but on an assurance not in the legislation. From that point of view my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should endeavour at some stage in the passage of the Bill to get an assurance inserted of the sort the Minister has given, so that the Minister's good wishes are expressed in the language of the Bill. That is all we want. The right hon. Gentleman can do it if he will.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In partial gratitude and with great hope, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.