§ 11.29 p.m.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 26th February, 1951, entitled the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Amendment) Order, 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 314), a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th February, be annulled.This Order provides that milk powder shall be deemed to be meat in substance, and it will be my contention that that is a swindle on the public. The words in the Order, concerning pork and meat sausage, are as follow:any milk powder used in the manufacture of pork sausages, pork sausage meat …shall be deemed to be equivalent to five-thirds of its own weight in meat for the purpose of assessing the meat content…with the reservationthat the quantity of such milk powder…does not exceed 6 per cent. of the total weight of the product…That is a most astonishing provision and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can give us some explanation tonight of such an astonishing proposal. It really is remarkable that milk powder shall be deemed to be meat. There is a prescribed minimum meat content for sausages, and I think that the public have a right to rely upon that prescribed minimum not being grossly misleading. The prescribed minimum, I would remind the House, appears in an amending Order of last year—No. 1764, and there, the minimum meat content for pork sausages is to be 65 per cent., of which at least 80 per cent. shall consist of pork; and for beef sausages, the minimum meat content is to be 50 per cent of beef.
The position is a good deal worse than I have described it with reference to the addition of milk powder which is called meat, because this amending Order retains a measure of dilution which also appears in some previous Orders. That is that in the case of meat sausages, fats and vegetable oils shall be deemed to be meat for the purpose of assessing the meat content, providing that it does not exceed 25 per cent, of the prescribed minimum meat content. In the case of beef sausages, the minimum prescribed beef content is 50 per cent., and that is what the public would assume is the amount of meat; but when it is announced that 25 per cent. 1696 of that is fats or vegetable residue, deemed to be meat, and a further 10 per cent. for milk powder, also deemed to be meat, then there can be very little meat left in the sausage. I am not over-stating my case when I say that this is a gross swindle upon the public.
The explanatory note to this Order is also entirely misleading, because it says:The actual meat content may not be reduced in this way below 55 per cent. in the case of pork sausages and 40 per cent. in the case of beef sausages.I think that is a ridiculous way to draft the Order, to say that milk powder shall be deemed to be meat and vegetable fat shall also be deemed to be meat. Would it not have been far better, in any case, instead of putting milk powder into sausages, to have given it to the pigs and produced some pork which would have enabled the Minister to produce a decent sausage? I really think that the Ministry of Food seems to have gone rather mad on this in an endeavour to conceal the very small amount of meat that is going into the sausage.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Lieut-Commander Gorney Braithwaite (Bristol, North-West)
I beg to second the Motion which was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), to whom, if I may say so, the whole House owes a debt of gratitude for his assiduity in probing this very curious Statutory Instrument. No. 314.
The sausage is a cherished British national institution; a homely article of diet. At one time—I regret to say about the time when the Home Secretary was a greatly respected regimental policeman, a function to which he has returned in the last 72 hours; and I am sure that he has commended himself to all those whom he has incarcerated in that capacity—the sausage was a thing of ridicule. Comedians in pantomime coupled with it that other honourable British institution, the mother-in-law.
It is a sad reflection to me and many of my hon. Friends to notice the retrogression in the quantity and reputation of the British sausage. The Parliamentary Secretary, who has already had to deal with one Prayer this evening, and who has endeared himself to the House during the time he has been in office, recalls to us that he succeeded another 1697 Minister who made certain deleterious references to the agricultural industry, which all of us at the time regretted, and none more than the Prime Minister, who promptly removed him from office.
I would beg the Parliamentary Secretary to act, when he replies, on the advice given to the House and the Government only yesterday by one of our most respected colleagues, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent. South (Mr. Ellis Smith), who I am sorry is not in his place—at least, I cannot observe him—who uttered these resounding words:Last week a number of us on these benches felt most humiliated because very serious allegations were made from the Opposition Front Bench and no attempt was made to reply to them. I am very concerned about this, not only from a national point of view but from the point of view of our Socialist Party. If we are to defend our Ministers in the country, if we are to defend the policy for which they are responsible, then debates, and especially serious allegations, should be replied to at the time, point by point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1363.]The Parliamentary Secretary, who is still in the early stages of what we are confident will be a distinguished Parliamentary career, will, I hope, when the time comes for him to say a few words to us, bear that in mind. While I have one or two points to put to him, as did my hon. Friend, I understand that other of my hon. Friends are anxious to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to expand on this important matter of the content of the British sausage. The Order, which I hold in my hand, says, inter alia, that' Milk Powder' means milk, partly skimmed or skimmed milk, buttermilk, or whey …
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
Yes, the hon. Gentleman will perhaps complete the quotation when he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It seems years since some of us read it and more years since some of us recited it. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and congratulate him on his election a year ago and look forward to hearing from him again.
The Order continues:…which has been concentrated to the form of powder or solid by the removal of its water.1698 That seems to be a most sinister suggestion. I am disturbed by the reference to the removal of water from milk. It savours far too much, to me, of the activities of the National Coal Board, and I think the House ought to know—certainly my hon. Friends desire to know—just what this milk content is to be. Perhaps I might have the hon. Gentleman's attention for a moment. Is this milk, I ask, to be tuberculin-tested? Would it be cows' milk at all? Is there not a possibility it might be goats' milk or even reindeer milk. In view of the existence of the Socialist Government, might it not have to be asses' milk?
I think the House should be reassured on this point, and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) who has great knowledge on this subject, will, I hope, intervene a little later, because I have a feeling he also is anxious about the exact meaning of this paragraph. He has the technical knowledge. We were all pleased to see him join us a year ago from Luton and his broadcast to the nation was of great value. The women who listened to his medical advice morning after morning on how to reduce their figures must now feel very much concerned about this Order. It is possible that not all hon. Members have a copy of the Order in their hands. Therefore, I shall read from it:A person shall not by way of trade prepare or manufacture or sell or have in his possession for sale any description of specified food mentioned in column 1 of the First Schedule to this Order the meat content of which is less than the minimum meat content prescribed as respects that description in column 2 of the said Schedule.Happily, there is a proviso, and it is the proviso to which I will draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary in particular:…any milk powder used in the manufacture of pork sausages, pork sausage meat and pork slicing sausage…It is a very well drafted paragraph. It is a distinct improvement on Bills nationalising various industries. Unfortunately, hon. Members have made me lose my place and perhaps I might read the paragraph again so that the whole of it may be at the disposal of hon. Members:…any milk powder used in the manufacture of pork sausages, pork sausage meat and pork slicing sausage and beef sausages, beef sausage meat and beef slicing sausage shall be 1699 deemed to be equivalent to 5 3 of its own weight…Here, I am in some difficulty. You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have the Order in your hand and you will see that it is so printed as to have what is described in France as a" double entendre." The words might mean 5s. 3d. It could be, but I think it is 5 / 3rds of the weight…for the purpose of assessing the meat content of any of the said products, if the quantity of such milk powder so used does not exceed 6 per cent. of the total weight of the product, and(ii) any fat of vegetable origin used in the manufacture of beef sausages, beef sausage meat, or beef slicing sausage shall be deemed to be meat for the purpose of assessing the meat content of any of those products, if the total quantity of such fat so used does not exceed 25 per cent. of the prescribed minimum meat content of the product.It is somewhat comforting to make one's way through that mass of verbiage to paragraph (2), which contains these resounding and revealing words:This Order may be cited as the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Amendment) Order, 1951; and shall come into operation on the 4th day of March, 1951.For 10 days we have enjoyed the socialised, syndicalised sausage, and now the House has to make its way through this difficult, complicated language. But we are grateful for the explanatory note, although it says, in brackets,This Note is not part of the Order, but is intended to indicate its general purport.The House will mark that. Here is the general purport, which is no part of the Order.This Order permits the manufacture and sale of pork sausages and beef sausages of less than the prescribed minimum meat content, where the deficiency in meat is compensated by the use of milk powder…The Government have been very good in this explanatory note; it is made perfectly clear:…in the proportion of 6 parts of milk powder to 10 parts of meat. The actual meat content may not be reduced in this way below 55 per cent. in the case of pork sausages and 40 per cent. in the case of beef sausages.That brings me to the next point I desire to raise with the Minister. I am sorry that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture is not here—he was here some time ago to deal with another Order—for his presence would have been of great value 1700 to us. There was a written Question put on 5th March by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), who invariably shows a great pertinacity on these matters, about meat which had been destroyed as inedible by the Ministry of Food. It is possible the Minister has not got it in front of him. It is a tabulated statement, it is very valuable and is to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 5th March, Vol. 485, c. 19.
Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-North-wood)
In the complete absence of any interest by the Government in this matter, which, after all, does concern the country, would my hon. and gallant Friend be so kind as to speak a little louder? They are not interested over there, but we are.
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
My hon. Friend, whose advent in this House we were delighted to see, the distinguished son of a distinguished father, has made an intervention that I value. It was made with friendly intention. But I realise that it is the duty of hon. Members to address you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when we are called by the Chair, rather than our hon. Friends below the Gangway. Perhaps my hon. Friend would study the OFFICIAL REPORT in the morning. [Interruption.] These interruptions make it difficult for me to get on. May I also apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), whose voice I heard? He represents what used to be part of my old constituency, Holderness. He is the son of one who has occupied many high offices in the State—Minister of Education at one time, afterwards a Viceroy of India, later Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and now a most respected Mem-"ber of another place. How, beneficial very often is heredity in our political life.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman might keep a little closer to the Order which we are discussing.
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
You will recognise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that heredity plays no small part in the production of sausages, though not apparently in Socialist sausages. They appear to be hybrid. When I was interrupted I was talking about the amount of meat and rabbits destroyed or used for other than human consumption. In the 1701 first nine months of 1950—the right hon. Gentleman had not the complete figures at that time—it had reached serious proportions. His reply states:Home killed 4,848 tons"—
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
If you will be good enough to allow me to develop my argument, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think you will see that it is extremely relevant. The housewives are looking to us to scrutinise this matter. Our constituents are more than disturbed about it. What I want to put to the Minister is this: when we have had such disappointments from the Ministry of Food, what guarantee have we that the meat is in fact pork and beef slice which form the ingredients of these sausages? The amount of meat destroyed or used for other than human consumption was worth, according to the Minister's reply, £845,000. Frozen was worth £34,200. canned £51,800.
§ Mr. Molson (High Peak)
Clearly, it will be necessary to provide some explanation why sausages are, in future, to be diluted with milk, and it will be relevant to consider why there is this shortage of meat which can alone justify the dilution of sausages. If so much has been destroyed, that is surely one of the points which may be advanced by the Government as justification.
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
I think that, as always, my hon. Friend has put the matter with such crystal clarity that I cannot possibly improve on it. He has put his finger on the weak spot in the sausage. Here we have a whole lot of meat considered unsuitable for selling in the ordinary way to housewives. What I want to ask the hon. Gentleman is whether he can assure the House that in no circumstances have any of these ingredients been inserted—and that they will not in future be inserted—in the constituents described as pork, beef slice, and so on.
My only object in rising was to second, as formally as possible, the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton 1702 Coldfield. I well remember his coming into the House in 1935. He is a most valuable Member, and never more so than when he is probing these various Statutory Instruments which, in those happier days when our own party were in office, were not inflicted upon us. As they are inflicted upon us, we must not flag in our duty.
I am sorry to see the Government benches so sparsely occupied. I have a feeling that hon. Members opposite are losing their interest and assiduity in their Parliamentary duties. I think that is known. I say it more in sorrow than in anger. We are more than well remunerated by a generous nation for our duties here, and to see this entire lack of attention or attendance is to me lamentable.
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Frederick Willey)
I am sure the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) does not expect me to accept his invitation to reply, point by point, to the various matters he raised. I was surprised that the hon. Member did not take the occasion to refer to the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments in which he has always taken a great interest, and of which I was privileged once to be a member.
In this Order we have endeavoured to meet the views of the Select Committee on a previous Order. I was also surprised, and disappointed, that he should talk about a gross swindle upon the public, because what we are doing in this case, in reply to a request from the trade, is to restore pre-war trade practices. The hon. Baronet is now saying that the meat trade are swindlers. He is complaining of a gross swindle, when all we are doing is to allow the trade to follow their pre-war practice.
§ Sir J. Mellor
What I said was that in the previous amending Order the Ministry provided a minimum meat content which was described as so much in the case of pork sausages and so much in the case of beef sausages. On that the public are entitled to rely. In this Order it is provided that a certain proportion of that minimum meat content may be made up of milk powder and an even greater proportion of that minimum meat content may be made up of any fat of vegetable origin which may also be deemed to be 1703 meat. That is what I say is a swindle, and I repeat it.
§ Mr. Willey
It is more than unfortunate, and it is a matter to which I shall have to call the attention of the trade and which we shall have to consider with the trade.
§ Mr. Willey
It is most unfortunate that remarks like that should be made. As the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) will remember, the question of vegetable fats was discussed in the last amending Order. I explained to the House then that this was a pre-war practice. I will explain in a moment, and I will give chapter and verse for it. that this is no more than the restoration of a pre-war practice.
§ Dr. Hill (Luton) rose——
§ Mr. Willey
I intend to give way, but I want to complete the point I am upon now, which is that if pre-war sausages containing milk powder were sold as beef sausages and pork sausages by the trade, then if it be a gross swindle by anyone, it was a gross swindle by the trade in the practice they followed before the war. That is the short point. I am not subscribing to this view at all. I take great exception to the description of this practice of the trade as a "gross swindle."
§ Dr. Hill
The hon. Gentleman will recall that the point was not that vegetable oil is used in sausages, as it has been for many years, but that in an Order which seeks to tell the public what is the percentage proportion of meat, vegetable oil is deemed to be meat for the purposes of that proportion.
§ Mr. Willey
The difference between the position before the war and now is that by reading this Order, the public should learn exactly what are the constituents of a sausage. Before the war, although vegetable fat and milk powder constituted part of sausages, I doubt very much whether the public had any means of discovering that.
I want to give shortly the history of the introduction of this Order, because I think it is unfair to the trade to slander it in the way it has been slandered tonight.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the sausages which are now prescribed under this Order have the same meat content as sausages before the war?
§ Mr. Willey
I have answered the point, I now want to deal with the history of the Order. On 16th February, the Committee of the Sausage Manufacturers' Federation approached the Ministry and asked whether they could have permission to restore their pre-war practice—[Interruption.] This is a permissive and not a mandatory Order. Hon. Members should come to the House having read the Order.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
There are no copies in the Vote Office. How do we know what it is all about?
§ Mr. Willey
The noble Lord is fully aware of it, because the hon. and gallant Gentleman beside him read practically the entire Order.
§ Lieut. - Commander Braithwaite rose——
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is within the recollection of the House and it can easily be shown whether he read the Order or not. That is the only point he dealt with and that is the only point on which I shall give way to the hon. and gallant Member. On 16th February, the Committee of the Sausage Manufacturers' Federation took this up with the Minister, and in their letter they said:The practice of including milk powder in meat products whilst not general in pre-war days was followed by a number of individual manufacturers, and the custom was, and is, quite common in the United States of America and on the Continent.They went on to say that the resulting sausage was both palatable and nutritious. The position of the Ministry then was that the trade had made application for the restoration of a pre-war practice. This is information accessible to any hon. Member. In the "Meat Trades Journal" there is an article on the matter which says:Considerable work was carried out at the Smithfield Institute in 1933–1934 regarding the use of milk powders in meat products. It was found, rather to our surprise, that pork sausages prepared with the addition of milk had better keeping qualities than those which were prepared without it. This was due to the fact that the slight increase in acidity appeared to retard the growth of organisms.1705 There is little doubt that the inclusion of milk powder in addition to the normal meat content does provide a smooth texture and a most palatable product. This is an article written after the introduction of this Order.
§ Sir J. Mellor rose——
§ Mr. Willey
That is the position. The trade asked us to restore the pre-war practice. We could not maintain that milk powder was in short supply. So far as milk is concerned, we can now say that although the demand is much greater than ever before, supply has matched that demand. What, then are we to do to the meat traders? Are we to say that because we have a silly foolish Opposition in the House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order"]—we should not discuss this matter reasonably; and, although we are convinced that nutritionally a case can be made out, and we are advised by the trade and from our own experience in this country before the war and from experience in the United States and the Continent that this is a palatable sausage, because for a political stunt we think the Opposition might pray against this Order without consulting the trade, we should not do what on the face of its appears reasonable. This is a matter which makes discussion with this trade increasingly difficult.
§ Mr. Molson
The hon. Gentleman said something about it being difficult to discuss the matter with the trade. What is the difficulty?
§ Mr. Willey
This is what makes it difficult. This is the second occasion on which I have replied to a Prayer against an Order which has been straightforwardly meeting the trade in a reasonable request, and each time the Opposition has prayed against the Order without consulting the trade concerned.
§ Mr. Molson rose——
§ Mr. Willey
If the Opposition are going to try to make political capital out of every such progressive step we are going to take in the relaxation of controls, we shall have to tell the trade that we will have to take greater care in disposing of these matters. One of the things which pleased the trade about this matter was the expeditious way in which it was handled.
§ Mr. Watkinson (Woking) rose——
§ Mr. Willey
We were complimented in getting the Order out with so little delay, and apart from a lot of irrelevancies and partisan matters which might prejudice our relations with the trade, nothing has been said tonight which would indicate the need of hon. Gentlemen opposite to raise the matter.
§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I was interested in the Parliamentary Secretary's cryptic description of his negotiations with the trade. It seemed to me that the whole basis of that description rested upon the fact that he could assure the House that this sausage had a normal meat content to which milk or curds or whey had been added. I should like to ask him what is a normal meat content? What does "normal" mean? I will willingly give way if he will answer the question. Perhaps he will tell the House what he means by normal, because it seems to me that, in the course of the last few months, we have had a very considerable variation.
§ Mr. Willey
Perhaps I may help the hon. Member. I explained that this was an article which appeared in the Meat Traders' Journal after the Order was made, so that "normal meat content" in this article means the present meat content as prescribed by the Order. [Interruption.]Really, this is not fair. This is a trade journal, and it is most unfair to create the impression that they are distorting the facts. This journal could have been available to any Member of the House, and in the article there are set out precisely the percentages prescribed by the Order.
§ Lieut-Commander Braithwaite
On an point of order. It is extremely difficult to hear either the Minister or my hon. Friends owing to the constant interruptions among the Government Whips, who are supposed to be mutely inglorious.
§ Mr. Nabarro
As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted by a Government Whip, who evidently has not been in the House long enough to learn a few 1707 manners — [Interruption] — the Parliamentary Secretary is evidently extremely disingenuous in his explanation. He now says that it is the "present" meat content to which he refers. Does he mean the meat content before the making of this Statutory Instrument or after it? Does he mean a meat content based on 65 per cent. of pork, or on a 55 per cent. only, content of pork? [HON. MEMBERS: "He does not know. "] Does the Parliamentary Secretary wish to answer? It would seem that he is unable to define what is meant by "present."
The point I am pursuing is that it is only a few months since my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) prayed against a Statutory Instrument which had the effect of increasing the meat content in a pork sausage from 55 to 65 per cent. On that occasion, my hon. Friend pointed out to the Minister of Food that the Order appeared to mean one of two things: either that the meat would be available to provide a higher meat content in the sausage while making available at the same time the same general quantity of sausages to all the people, or, alternatively, that fewer sausages would become available due to the higher pork content. Then the overall number of pork sausages available would steeply decline. In fact, the second has proved to be the case.
On 26th February—the date has some significance because it was the date that S.I. No. 314 was made—I asked the Minister of Food a Parliamentary Question about the sausage which has been vernacularised as a "Webb sausage." On that occasion, I asked the Ministerwhy this delectable morsel, vernacularised as a 'Webb's special,' has completely disappeared from the market?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1738.]I asked the right hon. Gentleman why it was that nobody could buy this pork sausage. The Minister replied by telling me not to be silly and that the sausage could be bought anywhere. He went on to say that the content of his "Webb sausage" was 65 per cent. pork. That was on 26th February, yet on that very day he issued his Statutory Instrument reducing the pork content of the sausage to only 55 per cent. Which was right, the information in the reply to the Parliamentary Question, or the Statutory Instru- 1708 ment? I suggest that there has not been a genuine error in this case by the Ministry of Food, but a deliberate attempt to mislead the House and the country. One of these two statements must have been correct.
It appears in the light of the Statutory Instrument that it has always been the intention of the Minister of Food to reduce the meat content in these sausages, and substitute milk powder, whey, or some other deleterious matter, the exact: dietetic value of which my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) will no doubt comment upon in a short time. This matter reveals a serious artifice and, if not that, the gravest dishonesty on the part of the Minister of Food.
The housewife in Britain is finding the greatest difficulty in providing a staple diet for her family. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food said recently when questions were being asked, "Why drag meat into everything?". But the average housewife is getting eightpenny-worth of poor meat and two stale eggs a week, and now she is to be denied sausages. The miserable pittance of those sausages which will be available, is such a wretched quality as to be almost inedible. The meat content is reduced to such a low figure that there is no longer any nutritional value.
I say that my hon. Friends are performing an important public duty in praying against this Order. The nation is underfed, and here we have a further Order which represents nothing but a further slide down the slippery slope to Socialist starvation.
§ 12.17 a.m.
§ Mr, Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
The Parliamentary Secretary, in purporting to reply to the case made by my hon. Friends, introduced the startling new constitutional doctrine of chiding the hon. Baronet who introduced the Motion for moving it without consultation with the trade. It is surely a remarkable thing for a Minister of the Crown, or his deputy, to come to the Box and suggest that hon. Members are wrong in exercising their right to move to annul delegated legislation without prior consultation with outside interests. I have often believed that the Socialist Party was so tied up with vested interests in this country that it could not see straight 1709 on any important national issue, but there are other hon. Members in this House who take a different view of their Parliamentary duties; and so far as we on this side are concerned, we hold ourselves free to carry out those duties as we think right and proper without let or hindrance from any vested interest operating outside this House.
Hon. Members, and the public, should remember, as my hon. Friend has just reminded us, that the effect of this Order is to reduce still further the amount of meat available to feed the British people. It reduces the amount of meat they can get for their money, and, whatever may be the views of hon. Members who are not performing their duties on the benches opposite, the people of this country feel pretty strongly about that; and people outside this House ought to know that, when these matters are being discussed, only half a dozen hon. Members appear on the benches opposite—of whom half would appear to be Whips, judging from their expressions of lugubrious ineptitude. I hope that the constituents of hon. Members who should be in their places opposite, but are not, will know that fact and that when a matter of great importance to the nation was being discussed, most Socialist Members showed their concern by absenting themselves.
The Parliamentary Secretary, with less than his usual affability, discussed this matter this evening on the basis, among other things, that this was done as a result of a request from the trade; I think that is what he said. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that if he and his Ministry had made adequate arrangements to give adequate quantities of quality meat to the trade, the manufacturers would have wished to use this substitute? Is that his suggestion? If the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to tell the House that he is prepared to make available to the trade meat in lieu of the milk powder and vegetable oils now to be substituted in the sausage, that will put a different complexion on the matter. It is a little misleading, if not ingenuous, for the Parliamentary Secretary to say this is done at the request of the trade, when he knows perfectly well that any such Order is put forward only because of the failure of his own Ministry, with its monopoly buying, to provide the trade with the meat which the trade would rather put 1710 into the sausage and which the consumer would rather have in it to eat.
I think the hon. Baronet the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), whose moderation of language I have often deplored in the past, was quite right when he said this was a swindle, and a swindle which is the responsibility not of the trade but of the Minister whose signature is on this Order. Let me ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look at the matter in this way. The effect, as he knows, of this Order is to authorise a reduction of the amount of meat content in the sausage. That is its purpose, but it is done in a most ingenious way by leaving the prescribed minimum meat content as previously described—leaving, that is, the content, on the face of it, the same amount of meat in the sausage—but using an ingenious legal trick to treat as meat stuff which is not meat at all. If the thing were done honestly, the Parliamentary Secretary would come forward and would reduce the prescribed quantity of meat in the sausage.
§ Mr. Willey
I did make the point before that this is permissive. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is in error about that or is going on to develop his point; but this is purely permissive. The definition, such as he has referred to, would not be permissive at all. It would prescribe a new meat content.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Yes, I fully appreciate that the Order is permissive, and if I may say so, I am nearly as capable of reading the Order as the Parliamentary Secretary; but does he not appreciate that, with the restriction of supplies, for which he is responsible, while in theory provisions of this sort may be permissive, it is the form of permission which is so often economically obligatory upon the trade to accept? Does he not realise that when his Ministry takes upon itself the responsibility of making an Order of this sort, it cannot shilly-shally away from it by saying it is the fault of other people, who are permitted to do this? It is exactly the attitude of the Government which, having enabled the Durham County Council to impose a closed shop by repealing the Trade Disputes Act, 1927, say it is only permissive, and wish they had not done it.
Let me follow up the argument. The prescribed meat content remains. The 1711 definition of meat is altered by the inclusion in this definition of stuff that is not meat. I think the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield, if I may say so again, was absolutely right when he said that was a swindle. Let me put this to the Parliamentary Secretary. The ordinary member of the public does not have the capacity which the Parliamentary Secretary has, nor the technical advisers, in construing these Orders. Indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary, with all his advisers, very often fails to construe them accurately, and so do his advisers. The ordinary member of the public sees in the principal meat Order the prescribed meat content, but unless somebody draws his attention to this amending Order, he will assume he is getting that percentage of meat.
It is being completely unreal and living in an unreal world to believe the ordinary housewife goes shopping and, with a bag over her arms, closely studies Statutory Instrument, No. 314. Does the Parliamentary Secretary think he is living in this somewhat unreal, but no doubt wholly Socialist, world? I see the Whip has woken up. I hope that now he will be able to maintain rather more silence than he was able to maintain when he was asleep. If the Parliamentary Secretary were desirous properly to authorise —and I appreciate the permissive quality of the Order—reducing the permitted content of meat in sausages, the proper thing to do would be to reduce it directly and openly by authorising the reduced meat content and not by calling stuff meat that has nothing whatever to do with meat.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary another question; is he satisfied that it is an honest thing to call something meat which is not meat, and then to say that it represents not only its own weight but a great deal more—five-thirds? After all, anyone who put meat into a sausage with such a complete disregard for its contents as to claim that its weight was five-thirds of its contents would be hauled by the Ministry's "Snoopers" into a police-court without delay. What he is doing is not only calling stuff meat that is not meat, but calling it more meat than it would be if it were meat. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that statement is lucidity itself 1712 compared with the phraseology he himself uses in his own Order.
There is another aspect of this matter. One of the articles to be put into the sausages is milk powder. Is there, will the hon. Gentleman tell us, such a surplus of milk powder for its more normal use that it has to be disposed of in this way? Because if there is—I shall be interested to see if he indicates whether there is or not—it is very curious indeed that at the very moment when milk powder is so surplus as to be treated as' meat, his right hon. Friend is reducing the cheese ration by 33⅓ per cent. It cannot be the case that milk is now available in such large quantities as to justify its use for other than its normal purpose, for at the same time the cheese ration is to be reduced—unless, as has been so often the case, there is mismanagement at the Ministry of Food, and somebody in the Ministry has not yet appreciated the simple fact of nature that cheese is made from milk.
There seem to be two overwhelming objections to this Order. First of all, however camouflaged it is and however much it may have been attempted to delude the public about it, this does amount to a still further reduction in the meat available to the British public. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny it. It is a further cut to be linked up with all the other cuts in meat and other foodstuffs which the disastrous administration of his right hon. Friend has imposed on the British people. It is worse than that because, whereas these other cuts have been more or less honestly admitted, though their timing has sometimes not been unconnected with electoral events, this one is done in such a way, whether designedly or not, as to be calculated to delude the British public as to what is being done.
Therefore, I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that this Order is not only a poor and unfortunate thing; it is not only a further blow to the dietary of the British people; but it is a blow delivered in a shamefaced, concealed manner in the hope that the British public will not realise what the Parliamentary Secretary and his Minister are doing to them. This debate will have done one thing if it has prevented the Ministry of Food from imposing this further cut without the knowledge of the British people. The British 1713 people will know what the Ministry of Food has done, and when the chance comes for them to express their feelings about it at the polls, they will do so in no uncertain manner.
§ 12.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Watkinson (Woking)
I did not intend to intervene in this debate at this late hour, but one thing the Parliamentary Secretary said surprised me very much. He appeared to concentrate the whole of his remarks on the question of the trade. I should have thought he had some responsibility to the public, and I would remind him of one thing—that there is now a legal obligation on most makers of foodstuffs to put on the tin or jar the exact content. Is the Parliamentary Secretary proposing to have a label placed on every sausage saying that the milk content is X? That possibly seems absurd; but if he is not proposing to do that, he is, in effect, deluding and deceiving the public. So far as I can see, the Parliamentary Secretary is not interested in the public in the slightest degree; he is interested only in long arrangements with the trade and in pacifying the trade.
§ Mr. F. Willey
The hon. Gentleman was perhaps not attentive when I was dealing with this point. I did say that we were satisfied on nutritional grounds. The protein content' of the sausage with milk powder is higher than the sausage without the milk powder. Again, we satisfied ourselves it was palatable. Again, I pointed out that this is a type of sausage consumed in some quantity on the Continent, in the United States, and in this country before the war.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am subject to correction, but I think the Parliamentary Secretary justified those remarks by reading an article in a trade paper. In any case, perhaps he will tell us whether the sausages in France and America have a meat content of 40 per cent.
§ Mr. Willey
That is not the point which is being discussed. We are discussing the milk powder element in the sausage. So far as the nutritional aspect goes, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) is very interested, on the proportion prescribed the sausage with the milk powder is of slightly higher protein content than the sausage without the milk powder.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Whatever the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) may say later on, I am not prepared to accept that. It does not alter in the slightest degree the reason for which I rose—to make the point that the Parliamentary Secretary has not refuted. The party on this side of the House has done a very great service to the public in raising this matter, because they have shown that there are no constituents going into the sausages—[Interruption.] I am reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton that the sausages are not going into the constituents. Perhaps there is something in that.
There is an obligation on nearly every manufacturer of foodstuffs to state quite plainly, under legal penalties, the content of his particular product. Whether the palatability is increased or not, the Parliamentary Secretary only tried to justify the change by claiming that anyone could read Order 314 to find out what goes into the sausages. As the hon. Member for Kingston-on-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has said, it is not likely that the housewife, burdened with six years of Socialist mismanagement, will take Statutory Instruments with her when shopping.
I think that the hon. Baronet the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) has grounds for his remarks that the Parliamentary Secretary and his Ministry have perpetrated a swindle on the public. Although the Parliamentary Secretary has tried to justify the sausage by saying it is more palatable in this form, supposing every butcher displayed a notice saying there was a milk content in the sausage, does he suppose that would be a good thing? That is really what should be done, for I am certain the average housewife in future will have no idea that there is a large content of some mysterious form of tinned milk going into the sausage.
If nothing else, this debate has shown that the Minister of Food and his Department appear to be paying far more attention to the needs of the trade, and very little attention at all to the rights of the public as a whole. I should have thought one of the main purposes of the Department would be to see that the public got, as far as possible, good and decent food.
When listening to the Parliamentary Secretary—and he will correct me if I am wrong—I was surprised that he never 1715 mentioned the consumer at all. As he does not correct me, presumably the consumer is of no interest. The gentlemen in Whitehall always know best, and the poor old consumer cannot get a word in edgewise.
I will not stand any longer between the House and the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) who will, no doubt, have something to say on the technical aspects of this matter, but I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary saying something to show that he pays more attention to safeguarding the rights and interests of the consuming public.
§ 12.39 a.m.
§ Mr. Crouch (Dorset, North)
I am pleased to support my hon. Friends in this Prayer because in my constituency we have been celebrated for a great period of time for two things. One is the production of good pigs which have made good sausages. Because they have made good sausages, my constituents have always been able to recognise what should be, and what has been always considered to be, a first-class sausage. We have several factories there. One of them, on account of the fact that at the beginning of this century it supplied a Royal house, has been able to call its sausage the Royal Gillingham Sausage ever since. I use the word "Gillingham," Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because there is another town in another county which is pronounced in another way. We also have a factory at Iwerneminster which was started for the express purpose of making first-class sausages by the late Mr. James Ismay. Until the commencement of the war, nothing was used in those sausages except first quality pork from eight score bacon pigs.
I am aware that since the commencement of the war these two celebrated sausage-making factories have had to comply with the Orders of the Ministry of Food. The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that by putting milk in the sausage they would only be returning to a pre-war practice. I can assure him that milk has never been used in either of those factories in the production of their sausages. I should also like to inform the hon. Gentleman that only on Monday of this week, when I called at one of these sausage factories before coming up to this House, I inquired of the manager if he 1716 had started putting any milk in his sausages. He informed me that they had never done so and he was not going to commence now; he would much rather sell a smaller amount of sausages than add milk and so depreciate the value of the product which he sold.
I want to refer to the question of dried milk in the sausage and I want to know from the Parliamentary Secretary if he will tell me, whether there is to be any difference in the price of the sausage which has skimmed milk put in it as compared with one which may contain dried whey. There are several qualities of dried milk—buttermilk, roller whey and spray skim milk. I have here their Ministry of Food prices. They are obtainable from the Milk Powder Pool of the Ministry of Food at Stanmore——
§ Mr. Willey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. To save myself from possible subsequent embarrassment, as I am being asked a question, may I call your attention to the fact that this Order does not deal with prices at all?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I had noticed that. This Order deals only with the content of the sausage.
§ Mr. Crouch
I was inquiring because there is a difference. The best spray skim milk costs twice as much as the roller whey. Is there to be any difference in the price of these sausages? If there is a difference in the price of the product that will be put into them, surely there must be a difference in the quality. Are we to have the lower quality of this product put into the sausage or the higher quality? If we are to have the lower quality put into it, then the public should be informed that the dried milk put in is of the lower quality and not of the higher quality. One of my hon. Friends asked where this milk was coming from.
§ Mr. Crouch
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, someone did inquire where the milk was coming from, what type of milk, and was it a means of disposing of certain surplus dried milk that we have in this country. On 12th February I asked the Minister of Food how much milk he had been exporting during 1717 the last two years, and he stated that there had been a considerable increase in the exports of dried milk in 1950 as compared with 1949. I am disturbed about how it will affect our export market if we put our dried milk into these sausages. The Minister told me that these exports of dried milk were very useful and that during the last two years he had found a useful way of disposing of the surplus milk of this country. Are we going to use our own milk in these sausages or are we going to use imported milk? If we are going to export our own dried milk and bring in other dried milk to use in these sausages, I cannot see what we have achieved.
The hour is late and other hon. Members are anxious to support this Motion, which is trying to preserve, at any rate in the county of Dorset, the type of sausage we have always been accustomed to. I hope it will not be long before we can enjoy sausages made with eight-score bacon pigs without any addition of anything else enforced by the Ministry of Food. In conclusion, it is most interesting that there is not one single hon. Member on the other side interested in the quality and type of sausage the housewives of this country have to buy.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
I wish to protest against this Order for two reasons. It means a still further impoverishment of our diet, and, although the hon. Gentleman thinks otherwise, it seems to me a proper part of our duty to register such a protest. Secondly, it is a grossly misleading document as it stands at the moment. It is misleading because it sets out the meat content as an inclusive proportion. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to refer to it as the restoration of pre-war practice. I feel sure the housewives wish it was a restoration of pre-war practice.
Hon. Members opposite frequently clamour for the protection of the consumer and demand that the consumer should know exactly what he is getting, and I seriously submit that this Order is, misleading. If we have to have such quantities of milk in the sausages delivered to us, surely this could have been done by laying down a maximum and minimum meat content. If the minimum meat content was followed, then it could 1718 be set out that certain milk derivatives were also included in the sausage. Surely it could have been done in such a way that everybody would know what they were getting. At the moment, they do not know.
Apart from the Order being misleading in making people think they are getting so much meat when they are not, it is our duty to bring forward this point and give publicity to it, otherwise this would have slipped through with practically no notice being taken of it. I cannot help comparing this with the publicity given to the "Webb Sausage," this great and wonderful sausage, this magnificent ghost, this blithe spirit which passed through our larders and left not a sign behind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shakespeare."] We are entitled to raise this matter tonight in order that the public should realise that the "Webb Sausage" has been cancelled and this reduced standard sausage put in its place. My right hon. Friend suggests it is a "Willey Sausage." It would have been a wily sausage if we had not exposed its wiliness to the public gaze. No wonder the Parliamentary Secretary does not like our moving this Prayer, and loses his temper and calls us foolish.
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Gentleman talks a good deal about publicity. As a matter of fact, a reference appeared in the "Sunday Express" before the Order appeared.
§ Mr. Carr
As one of my hon. Friends has suggested, I shall have to look for another breach of Privilege. Whatever may be said about publicity, the publicity which this has received compared with that which the supposed improvement in the "Webb Sausage" got was small, and I am prepared to let the public judge whether they would have the Opposition raise this or let it go through as the Parliamentary Secretary would have liked. I think perhaps that the housewives and the men who eat these articles will not think it was foolish and stupid of the Opposition to raise it, and I am prepared to let them judge on it. I submit that the public should know what we are doing in bringing this order before the House and giving it this publicity. I think this Order should be protested against because of the misleading impression that it gives.
§ 12.52 a.m.
§ Miss Horsbrugh (Manchester, Moss Side)
I am glad to have an opportunity of joining in this debate because the last Government post I occupied was that now occupied by the hon. Gentleman who has been replying to the debate tonight— Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. As I sat here and listened to the debate, and to his explanation on certain Orders, I thought I should take the opportunity of congratulating him, because there have been difficult points. He has been asked for replies to points in great detail, and he has been extremely courteous and polite, and at no time has appeared to think in any way that the questions were in too much detail. I quite understood that he wanted carefully to point out that the article he read out was an article referring to what the trade wanted to do and was doing. I agree that he thinks and feels that some of my hon. Friends believe that the remarks he was reading were from the Ministry of Food and not from the trade. I realised his difficulty.
I know how anxious he was to make it clear that the facts about the particular sausage in the Order had been arranged with the trade, that the trade had already expressed its opinion, and that what he rea' out was the trade's opinion both in this country and America. That being so I thoroughly agree with him, because in the days I was in the Ministry of Food I knew of the difficulty of dealing with the various trades. There is difficulty about coming to a decision as to what one thinks ought to be done, if the particular trade with which one is dealing had another suggestion and their way of doing it was slightly different.
I know from my own experience of the difficulty of getting work done in cooperation with the trade. I understand that on this occasion there has been cooperation from the trade. On this occasion, as I gather—and the hon. Gentleman will interrupt me if I am wrong— the suggestion came from the trade and so far as I can make out it was like this. The trade communicated with the Ministry of Food, and suggested that sausages of this sort ought to be permitted. I think I am right in saying that, and that the suggestion first came from the trade and not from the Ministry of Food.
§ Mr. Willey indicated assent.1720
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Having got that perfectly clear, and in view of the assurance we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary that milk or milk powder was added to the pre-war sausage, therefore the trade could say to the Ministry of Food, as the Parliamentary Secretary has repeated here tonight, that the scheme was no real novelty. We had had that type of sausage to a certain extent in pre-war days, and there had been that type of sausage in other countries, including America.
One of our reasons for thinking that the Order ought to be discussed is that we have had no information as yet as to the quantity of these and of other sausages that are to be on sale. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that in pre-war days the majority of the best sausages were without the addition of such things as dried milk. As we have heard from one of my hon. Friends, there were certain makers of sausages who had a name and a reputation for particularly good sausages. I am not mentioning names, because from the trade point of view it is better that I should keep those things out; but there were certain types of sausages which were known to be particularly good. They had a name and a reputation here, and might even have been exported. As far as I know, those sausages did not have the addition of the milk powder or anything of that sort. We also know that in those days a certain proportion of the sausages did have this addition.
The Order has nothing to do with price, and I should be completely out of order if I were to mention that aspect, but I think I can say this and yet keep within order. In the days of pre-war sausages, there was a difference of price. Not only could the housewife, or whoever did the shopping, ask for a particular make of sausage, knowing that it did not contain milk powder and the like, but there was a differentiation in the price, so that the housewife also knew what she was buying. If she bought a sausage with these additions, she knew it and she paid less. Now, under the present scheme, I do not think she will get those advantages.
I dislike the words "consumer" and "foodstuffs" and some of the extraordinary language which is nowadays used—although some of the food does look rather like "stuff"; but it is a 1721 serious point that the housewife, when buying her sausages today, will not know whether they contain this milk powder or whether, like those we have had in other times, they are without the milk powder.
§ Mr. Willey
I can assure the right hon. Lady that one of the best-known sausage manufacturers did, in fact, use milk powder in pre-war days, and that they have been kind enough to give advice to other manufacturers about the use of milk powder.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I am very glad we have had that information and that one of the pre-war makers has volunteered to advise others how milk powder can be used and can make the sausage equally palatable. But my point still remains. It is important that people should know that some sausages are to have milk powder in them, and some are not. What I do feel strongly about is that the housewife should be able to know if the sausages she buys are of the one sort or the other. That point ought to be considered. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the nutritional value is the same. [Interruption.] I hear someone saying "bananas," and I should like to talk about the nutritional value of bananas, but that would be out of order.
However, we are told that the nutritional value of the sausages is the same, and that the palatability is the same. I should like to say one last thing about that because we have had it mentioned before. We have often been told that certain products are very good for us, with certain nutritional value, and that they are very palatable. Who tests the palatability? Somebody might test the palatability of these sausages and say he liked them, but here we have a guarantee of nutritional value and palatability; what is the means of testing the palatability?
We have gone on with this discussion, which I think has been useful; I never thought that I should have been called upon to talk of sausages and milk. We have often wanted strawberries and cream, and we are promised that we shall get the cream; but here we have sausages and milk—or sausages and no milk. I think it was a good thing that we should have made the effort to deal with this matter, for we have learned a good deal. I hope that the nutritional 1722 value will be there, and that there will be agreement about the palatability, although I doubt it.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 26th February 1951, entitled the Meat Products and Canned Meat (Amendment) Order, 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 314), a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th February, be annulled, "put accordingly, and negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed," That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Sparks.]
§ 1.3 a.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
On a point of order. I should like, if I may, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to point out that I have down as the last Order on the Paper, a Prayer to annul the Utility Pram Rugs (Manufacture and Supply) (Amendment) Order, 1951, laid before this House on 24th February. If I understand the procedure of the House correctly, the fact that the adjournment has now been moved means that not only will my Prayer not be reached tonight but, also, that the four previous items on the Order Paper will not be called.
I have the right, and indeed the duty, as a Private Member to move to annul this Statutory Instrument, and I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker as to whether I can put this Prayer down at another early date and in such place on the Order Paper that it would be reached? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has, I regret, had another wasted evening, but through no fault of mine. Might I ask if what I have suggested is the correct procedure, or is my Prayer to go at the bottom of the list on another occasion?
§ 1.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)
Surely the House has some redress from the action of the Government Whip in moving the adjournment of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) was subjected to a severe rebuke by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House last night 1723 because he postponed this Motion without giving notice to the President of the Board of Trade. Tonight the case is entirely reversed. Some hon. Members have attended the House for the purpose of taking part on this Order. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what remedy has a back bench Member who desires to participate in the debate on the Prayer in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon and other hon. Members because of this action of the Government?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The Adjournment Motion having been moved, it is my duty to put it to the House. No doubt the hon. Member's Motion will be carried over, I imagine, until tomorrow.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, there is a small point to which I should like to draw your attention. The Order concerned with my hon. Friend's Prayer has only seven more days to run. If the Prayer is put down for the next seven successive days, will it be in order for the Government to move the adjournment of the House and prevent the discussion of this Prayer? We do want to protect the rights of Parliament in this matter.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must deal with one point of order at a time. In reply to the hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench, that, of course, is a hypothetical question.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
We have three Prayers down on the Order Paper this evening, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. After completing two, on which the discussion was curtailed, the third one, in fact. is now being prevented from being discussed. May I have your guidance as to whether a similar procedure could be followed after one Prayer has been put, and what is the limit and what is the curtailment which is open to the Government in the matter of Prayers and the rights of Private Members to exercise their duty?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As I understand the Rules, it is permissible for the adjournment of the House to be moved after any order or between one order and another.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
Does that mean that Prayer procedure in this House can be killed by the majority on the other side of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We have majority rule in this country. I would point out to hon. Members that any time they want to take up on these points of order deprives another hon. Member of some portion of the half-hour that is allotted to him for the Adjournment debate.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
It is not a question of majority rule, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; it is a question of the statute which allows Prayers to be offered within a certain number of days. If the Government can interfere with the exercise of Private Members' rights, or Front Bench Members as far as that goes, in praying, by moving the Adjournment of the House, it seems to me quite possible that by exercising that power, if that power exists, they will be able to override what the statute allows—that a Prayer should be made within a certain number of days.
In this particular case, we are drawing near the period when a Prayer can no longer be put down on the Order Paper. Therefore, the question does raise a very serious matter. It may not be within your power at the moment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to give an impromptu ruling, but we would have to reserve our right to raise the matter with Mr. Speaker in order to safeguard the rights of the House which have been given to the House by statute.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I fully appreciate the point. The matter is I think really rather one between the Government and the Opposition than for the Chair but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is perfectly in order in raising it.
§ Captain Crookshank
It is not entirely a matter for the Government, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because, as I understand the privilege of the Chair, it is to see that the statutes are carried out, and that the rights of minorities are preserved. It is open to supporters of the Government to pray just as much as it is for Members of the Opposition. In the normal case, it is Members of the Opposition who put down the Prayers.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is always 1725 putting his name to Prayers that have been put down by us, and that merely proves the point I am making, that it is open to all hon. Members of the House to pray. Normally, the Opposition takes upon itself the function of criticising the administrative decisions of the Government. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for you to bear this in mind if you should be in the Chair on a future occasion, that it may be necessary, too, for us to raise the matter with Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
In view of the fact that your Ruling is so clearly set out in Erskine May, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would it not be possible to pass on to the Adjournment debate and leave hon. Gentlemen opposite the opportunity to study that work?