§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It was the intention of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food to move the Second Reading, and he would have done so but for the fact that the Cabinet is meeting at this moment. I am sure the House will appreciate that no discourtesy of any kind is intended. Should it prove possible for my right hon. Friend to hear the bulk of the discussion, he will wind up the debate, but should it not be possible, I may have to ask leave to speak again in order to answer the points raised during the debate.
The Bill seeks to amend the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, and the Food and Drugs (Milk, Dairies and Artificial Cream) Act, 1950. My first duty is to give the House the reasons why it is sought to amend those Acts, concentrating, for it is the larger problem, on the reasons for seeking to amend the Food and Drugs Act, 1938.
What has happened? What developments have there been? What difficulties have been encountered? What 1754 improvements are sought to be made in the Act, which, in England and Wales, is the basis of food and drugs legislation at the present time? There are four main reasons why it is sought to amend the 1938 Act. The first is that the experience gained since the Act came into force in 1939 has demonstrated a substantial defect in the Act itself. In Section 13 there is a detailed list and description of hygienic requirements in terms of premises, structure, and other factors. Under Section 8 power is given to make regulations in the same general field.
It has been found that because of the rigidity of Section 13 in that it lays down the general requirements to be satisfied by food premises of all kinds and because of the vagueness and general character of many of the words used in the Section, it is difficult to use the regulation-making power of Section 8 without encountering the difficulty that by regulation we should be modifying the Statute itself as represented by the phraseology of Section 13. That has been a practical difficulty. There have been developments and changes since 1939, to some of which I shall refer, which lead us to seek to amend, remodel and modify the Act in a number of lesser but not unimportant details.
The second main consideration is the development of food technology in the last 15 years. This giant industry, which seeks to put before us a multiplicity of foods, whether in jars, tins or containers of one kind or another, is serving an extremely useful purpose in enabling those who live in our vast urban areas to enjoy a variety of foods. This industry, with its great complexity, with its research, with its experiments of various kinds, has inevitably brought not only its advantages but its problems as well.
Now that chemical substances are added to food, there is the problem that it is not easy—in many cases, it is not possible—to determine in advance what may be the long-term effect of the regular consumption of small quantities of new chemicals. May I say, in parenthesis, that I hope we shall not come to regard the word "chemical" has having a stigma of impropriety or of danger? We are all made up of chemical particles, some more than others, and perhaps some with more electricity than others. 1755 The chemical substances which are used in the sphere of food technology are present in such small degree as to make them difficult to deal with. At the same time, there are dangers for which we must prepare.
In the past, food and drugs legislation has tended to deal with the proved injury which a substance is known in an identifiable and proven case, to have caused to human health, but, now that the field is so much widened, now that there is so much more experiment, it is necessary to ask ourselves how best we can deal with the possibility, perhaps not even amounting to a suspicion, that the long-term ingestion of certain chemical substances may turn out in the end to have been damaging to the health of those who have so continuously consumed them.
Thirdly, there is the problem—not a new one, but a very real one—of food poisoning, as instanced by the outbreaks of food poisoning. It may be said, and, indeed, the Report of the Chief Medical Officer could be quoted in support of the contention, that this is a relatively minor problem. I think that in 1952 the number of incidents was 3,500; it is about 10,000 incidents in three years. These incidents consist, for the most part, of isolated cases, and, in some part, of outbreaks affecting two or more persons, but, in terms of notified food poisoning—for the statistics of the Chief Medical Officer are based on notifications actually made to medical officers of health—it may be argued that the problem of danger to health is relatively small.
We may be sure that if any doctor with extensive experience of general practice should catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in this debate, he will make it plain that, in his experience, the vast majority of cases of food poisoning are not notified at all. Many of them do not find their way to the doctor. Some people diagnose their own condition; some prefer the more dignified description of gastric influenza; while others are only too well aware of the cause of the trouble. Of the cases that go to the doctor, only a proportion are notified; the majority never find their way to the practitioner at all.
It may be asked whether there is any further evidence of this fact, and I think 1756 it is found in this. Medical officers of health, from their experience, when an individual case is notified to them, make investigations following upon that notification, and almost invariably find other cases of food poisoning of the same kind, but not notified. Food poisoning is almost wholly a matter of germ infection of food, and I say that because, some years ago there was a good deal of food poisoning that was metallic in origin, such as the beer that contained lead.
Quite recently, there was the story of the retired civil servant who was found suffering from lead poisoning. The explanation ultimately turned out to be that, with a regularity of habit which he had acquired over many years, and with a thirst which came to him with equal regularity, he was to be found always at opening time drinking the first pint which had resided in the lead pipes of the pump for some hours previously.
In general, and I put it no higher than that, we are faced almost wholly with a problem of germ infection causing food poisoning, though there are still occasional cases of metallic infection being reported. There was a recent case of some bilberries being contaminated by tins though I have forgotten the details.
By and large, this is a problem of the germ infection of certain foods. Public consciousness is aroused to the fact that food poisoning is a preventable condition. It need not happen. Whether the number of cases is large or small, whether in type they are severe or not, it is today an unnecessary disease. Public consciousness has been aroused and is being aroused, and I hope as a result of our discussions may be still further aroused, as to the unnecessary character of this disease. There are many diseases about the prevention of which we know nothing, but that is all the more reason why we should seek to do all we can to prevent the preventable.
Fourthly, another consideration which has led to the preparation of this Bill is the desire to embody in a statute some of the advances that were made from the use of Defence Regulations. It happens in food, as it happens in medicine and generally, that war, for all its horrors, often brings a speedy adoption or acceptance of useful measures, and it is clearly desirable, particularly as it is not desired 1757 to continue Defence Regulations a moment longer than necessary, to select what has been found to be good and transfer it to the Statute Book.
I have outlined the main problems. How does the Bill seek to deal with them? First, let me say, to remove doubts in the minds of hon. Members, that local authorities are left as the agents for the administration of food and drugs legislation. What is believed to be a sound principle is in no way impaired although in two instances there is the assumption of central responsibility.
I referred earlier to the difficulties of Section 13 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. By incorporating regulation-making powers in the new Bill to deal with hygienic problems covered by that Section it is felt that we shall permit the application of particular provisions to particular kinds of premises which escape the general requirements of Section 13, which are weakened by the fact that they are so general that they cannot be applied to specific problems of different kinds of food premises. The Bill enables requirements to be modified in the light of experience without the need for amending legislation. We believe that that is the way to solve the problems created by the rigidity and the general character of Section 13.
Secondly, steps are taken in the Bill to bring up to date the regulations dealing with food composition, labelling and advertising. Perhaps I may instance this point by reference to the two Clauses concerned. Clause 3 gives power to the Ministers of Health and Food to make regulations dealing with the composition of food. That is nothing new. Power to deal with the composition of food was included in the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. Here, in the light of war-time experience, the power is continued and certain additions are made. The most important of these is the power to require the addition of substances to food, for example, the addition of vitamins to margarine. This requirement was hitherto dealt with in the Defence Regulations. Clause 5 deals with the labelling of food and drugs, a subject dealt with also in Section 6 of the 1938 Act. There are additions and modifications, and perhaps I might give an example.
The Defence Regulations made it an offence so to advertise or label food as 1758 to mislead about its dietary character and vitamin content, specifically mentioning those two things. Clause 5 (2) makes it clear that it is an offence to mislead by illustration, even if the wording used on the label is accurate. It is possible so to decorate a tin, as for example by an attractive picture of a dainty milkmaid engaged in her occupation as to suggest that the product contains milk whereas it does not. The subsection deals with that kind of possible misrepresentation conveyed not in the wording but by the illustration.
I referred earlier to the possibility of a chronic toxicity or poisoning character of chemical substances over the years. That is an exceedingly difficult matter to deal with. When it is proven or strongly suspected that a chemical substance causes harm to the human body, it is relatively easy to deal with it. For example, in recent years dulcin, a sweetening substance, was added during the period of shortage of sugar. Experiment showed that dulcin caused tumour formation in rats. That was regarded as a strong enough suspicion to ban its use. There are other examples.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that agene has been proved harmful to animals and that we ought to be a little more careful about the effect it has on people?
§ Dr. Hill
The hon. Member may be doing his best now to insure against it.
Another example is certain mineral oils which are suspected of having a carcinogenic quality, and there has been prohibition of their use except in small quantities for certain specified purposes.
It is felt now that if there is a possibility of danger, it has to be examined. What is provided in Clause 4, and I stress it because it is quite new, is that the Minister will have power to obtain information about the substances that are used, category by category, and to name the substances on which he requires information; for example, colouring matter. The Minister can require those who manufacture these substances for the 1759 purposes of the food trade to give him—and I quoteparticulars of the composition and chemical formula…particulars of the manner in which the substance is used…particulars of any investigations carried out…Armed with that information and with any additional information that he may seek as a result of research conducted for the purpose, the Minister will be at least in a position of greater knowledge to determine whether there is sufficient indication of possible harm to justify him in prohibiting or restricting the use of the substances in question. I admit the difficulties of this problem, but this power will enable information to be built up without waiting for trouble to happen and to be proved as a result of established damage to human health.
Those are the main features under the heading "Regulations." Section 13 is to be replaced under Clause 6 by regulations and Clauses 3 and 5 deal with regulations about composition, labelling and advertising. In Clause 3, power is taken, subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure of both Houses, to extend the power already existing in Section 14 of the 1938 Act, for the registration of premises.
May I remind the House that under Section 14 of the Food and Drugs Act, registration of premises is required where those premises are used for(a) the sale, or the manufacture for the purpose of sale, of ice-cream, or the storage of ice-cream intended for sale; or(b) the preparation or manufacture of sausages or potted, pressed, pickled or preserved food intended for sale.Elsewhere in the Act, registration of other premises, for example, those where butter and margarine are manufactured, is provided for, but this principle of registration has been applied only to these four named industries.
The question arises, should the field of registration be widened? Under the 1930 Act, hotels, clubs and inns are excluded from the scope of registration. Under this Bill, power is given to remove the proviso in relation to hotels, clubs and inns, and, secondly, to extend by order to other trades and industries the requirement of registration.
1760 It may be thought that there would be little controversy about extending it, if proved to be necessary, to other food factories. The question arises as to whether there should be registration of all food premises, for example, catering premises and retail food shops. The Bill does not do that, but in its present form it gives the power to do so. Should it be done? I think that the crucial issue in determining whether it should be done is whether for all the purposes it is necessary.
The man who breaks the law, as embodied in this Bill, may risk a fine of £100 or three months' imprisonment, or both. The penalty has been stiffened in that it now becomes the penalty for all offences, whereas formerly it was the penalty only for the subsequent offence. That is the penalty proposed for the breach of the requirements of the Bill or its regulations.
What further is needed? I imagine that the real argument for a registration requirement—it is really not necessary to secure right of entry because the sanitary inspector already has the right of entry—is that there may be instances where the persistent offender, undeterred even by the maximum penalty of £100 plus three months' imprisonment, may be deterred by the thought that, under certain circumstances, he will be put out of business by the withdrawal of his registration. I think that, in general, the fact that the power to withdraw registration exists to provide that sanction.
It seems to me, if that is so, that the practical problem arises of whether that sanction can be applied without the preliminary event of registration with all it involves—application to the local authorities, and the like. Can it be done? My right hon. Friend has considered this point and is inclined to the view that if it can be done in that way, it is unnecessary to have the preliminary processes of registration. That is his present view on the subject, and although this is a Committee point and will be hammered out upstairs, I thought it fair to state his view. This sanction is there after prosecution though it may not necessarily be applied. Provided it is there for the courts to exercise in the case of a man having been convicted and it being thought, in exceptional cases, necessary to inflict this further punishment, then registration may be unnecessary.
1761 That leads me to my final point. I believe it is necessary to stress today not only the importance of this general subject of the preservation of health from unnecessary disease, but also to define the field of medical danger. It is a limited field. It is known that the foods which are dangerous come almost entirely under two heads, the meat or meat products that have been cooked and left exposed in one form or another, and subsequently eaten and, secondly, dairy foods, including cream. They are the foods with which almost exclusively the problem of germ infection is associated. Therefore, the medical problem is limited.
While I think that we should refrain from suggesting that the medical danger is wider than it really is, we cannot ignore, in this connection, what I might call the aesthetic approach to the problem. I say that for this reason. We do not know all that there is to know about the danger of food infection, and I think that a much more fastidious approach to this problem is a necessary background in order to deal with the admittedly narrow, but important, medical field. It is in the atmosphere of greater attention to the refinements and decencies of food handling and of its presentation that we shall find that the admittedly limited work that the law can do will be done.
Do not let us pretend for a moment that this Bill does more than provide the fabric for a solution of part of the problem. In very large part, particularly in relation to outbreaks of food poisoning, it is an educational problem. A great deal has been done and is being done, but I hope that no one will suppose that it is being wholly successful. The Chief Medical Officer says something in his Report for 1952 which is significant:The figures for 1952 and the early experiences of 1953 suggest that the efforts of medical officers of health and others to educate food handlers and the general public in their responsibility in the provision of safe meals have not been very successful so far.I know that a great deal has been done. Local authorities, the Central Council for Health Education, the Royal Sanitary Institute, St. John Ambulance, the Red Cross, and, of course, the trade and the trade organisations themselves have done a good deal, but everybody engaged in the work of health education knows what a lag there is between the presentation of the facts, between the gaining of the 1762 knowledge how to prevent the disease, and its acceptance in terms of human conduct and behaviour.
A great deal needs to be done, but let it be clearly stated that the observance of a relatively few rules for food handlers would greatly diminish the problem of food poisoning. I refer to such simple rules that persons suffering from colds or influenza should not handle food; that everyone—food handlers and others—should wash their hands after using the W.C.; that no one with an infected skin should handle food. Relatively few simple rules are necessary for the purpose, but I believe that we shall do a good service if we concentrate on those simple rules so as to make them part of our ordinary everyday habits.
§ Dr. Hill
Can we do that by legislation? Can we make it punishable by a tine of £100 and three months for a person not to wash his hands after using the W.C.? Let us be reasonable about it. Let us include in regulations, or in the Bill itself, only offences which are clearly defined and which are reasonably punishable in the way that this Bill provides.
I do urge hon. Members to consider the point that education is both our biggest weapon and the most difficult weapon to use. Therefore, whatever complexities we may get into today—and I have no doubt that we shall wander through the field of science—I do want it to go out that this is an attempt to bring the law into line with modern knowledge and experience but that it presents a solution of but part of the problem: and that the greater job is to make clear, by intensification of education on the simplest lines, that it is in the hands of many people themselves to prevent the infection of others.
Lastly, I would say that it is not only a question of mere aesthetic approach. The presentation of food, its cleanly and attractive presentation, is in itself a factor in the stimulation of appetite, and in the assimilation of food it passes into the physiological field. I wish that more men and women who see bad and careless handling of the food presented to them would make their immediate protest. I wish, too, that more housewives in the selection of the shops and establishments which they patronise 1763 would take into account this important factor.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
We have listened this morning to an interesting, knowledgeable, exposition on food poisoning, food adulteration, food technology, labelling and advertising. We approve, of course, those parts of the Bill which are connected with those subjects, but I sat waiting for the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with what I consider to be the very essence of the Measure—the powers enabling the Minister to make regulations to protect the public; the kind of regulations which, in his last sentence or two, the hon. Gentleman made quite clear were very necessary.
May I recall to the House the progress of this Bill? This is a public health Measure which, I believe was drafted almost in its entirety by the previous Labour Government. Even when I occupied the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food I was in part responsible for setting up the Committees which considered the whole background of this subject. I took a special interest in this aspect of the work of the Ministry of Food and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey)—a former Parliamentary Secretary who always displays such a keen and informed interest in this matter—played a very important part when he succeeded me.
We have waited patiently for this Bill, knowing, as we did, that it was practically ready to go on to the Statute Book. We felt a parental attachment to it. After a few months of this Parliament we recognised that the Government were more concerned with introducing Measures of a reactionary Conservative character than they were with tackling progressive reforms of this nature. At long last it was introduced in another place and went through all its stages. Then there was an unaccountable delay on the part of the Leader of the House to provide time for the Second Reading.
It will be recalled that every Thursday, on business, one of my hon. Friends would get up and ask the Leader of the House when time was to be given for 1764 the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill. Then, just before the Recess, it was announced that it would be the second Order on a Friday—this Friday. It was announced that it would be the second Order after the Pests Bill. My hon. Friend who was in charge of that Bill thought that with any luck it would be finished by about two o'clock. To our surprise this important public health Measure was to be given two hours on a Friday for the Second Reading debate.
The mystery deepens. On Wednesday a sudden decision is made by the Government to call off the Pests Bill and to allow all today for the Second Reading of this Bill. Now—and this is a very serious issue—we have only recently discovered why the Government have been reluctant to give any time to this Bill. Why, after this persistent pressure, have they decided, after first giving us two hours, to save their face by giving us the whole day? From Questions asked in the House the Government have learned that they can no longer keep quiet what amounts to a public scandal. They have put a bold face on it and the Parliamentary Secretary has been given the job—and I quite understand why—to come here and bluster it out. [Laughter.] I will wait for the hon. Gentlemen to finish laughing. I dare to say that when I come to the end of my speech there will not be a laugh on one face opposite.
§ Dr. Summerskill
No, there is not time to give way. I have chosen my words very carefully and have considered this matter very carefully, and later the hon. Member may make his own contribution.
§ Mr. Nicholls
On a point of order. In view of the last reference by the right hon. Lady, is she suggesting that the Minister is not here for any other reason than that which has been given?
§ Dr. Summerskill
We in this House had a very painful experience this week when we saw a pressure group destroy a Minister. It is not surprising therefore that the Minister of Food, who is now parading as the leader of the Housewives' 1765 League, should try desperately to placate his own would-be assassins by trying to smother this Bill.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Member will remember that assassins sometimes wear a very simple disguise.
§ Mr. Osborne
The right hon. Lady should ask the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He should know about that.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I propose this morning to expose a shameful collusion, and what I regard as one of the worst examples of the Government's subservience to big business. The Bill enables the Minister to make certain regulations for the protection of the public against unhygienic practices. These regulations which, as I say, are the essence of the Bill, are of the utmost importance indeed, without them the Bill would be a fairly small Measure. To reject these highly desirable regulations is completely to emasculate the Bill and render it ineffective
The regulations have already been prepared, following the passage of the Bill in another place, and those regulations—[An HON. MEMBER: "Draft."] The draft regulations, were circulated to the catering interests in the country, who were invited to comment upon them and now the regulations are in process of revision.
§ Dr. Summerskill
These regulations—I am glad to observe that hon. Members opposite are now a little quieter, because this is a part of the essence of the Bill—have already been framed under the enabling Clause. These regulations were framed in accordance with the recommendations of certain highly-respected and knowledgeable committees, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite are familiar with the names of many of those men in the catering world, men with a conscience, who served on those committees. They will recall that the committees were called the Catering Trade Working Party, the Manufactured Meat Products Working Party and the inter-Departmental Committee on Meat Inspection.
1766 Those committees were set up for the purpose of giving advice on these subjects. The worst elements in the catering trade—I shall be generous and say the "worst elements"—supported by certain Conservative Members of Parliament, have demanded that these proposals, designed to safeguard the people's health, should be dropped or modified in such a way as to render the most important useless—and the Minister has surrendered. The price which the Minister of Food is prepared to pay to have the pressure group called off him is the price of the people's health. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Here is the damning document, not produced by me or my hon. Friends, but by the Department of the Ministry of Food.
Of the 67 proposals recommended by these committees only seven have been left untouched. It is significant that some of those seven deal with returnable containers—business matters. Some of the proposals are to be omitted completely, some are to be put in what is called a code of practice, which represents nothing but a pious hope that caterers will conform to a standard but which are not enforceable, and others are to be modified. I wish to take examples to illustrate the enormity of the offence of which the Minister is guilty.
I always think that Friday has an attraction because there is a select attendance of people who, for the most part, attend the House on that day because they have a special interest in the matter before it. Let me take proposal No. 3. I was reminded of this when the Parliamentary Secretary made what might be regarded as his peroration. This is No. 3 of the proposals, the most important one. These are proposals concerning every person handling food. It states:Every person handling food shall comply with the following—…He shall ensure by thorough and frequent washing (including washing immediately after each occasion on which he uses a sanitary convenience) that his hands and forearms remain clean.This is not to be enforceable in the revised regulations.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The Parliamentary Secretary must not try to intervene. He must know that I should not come here without being very well briefed by his 1767 own Department. Here are the markings: a red mark means "omit," a blue mark means "unenforceable, to be put into the code of practice."
This provision, for which we have been waiting for years, is to be unenforceable. Medical officers, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows quite well, indeed as he said in his peroration, are striving to teach the public that disease is transmitted from one individual to another in consequence of failure to observe the simple act of washing the hands after using the convenience. Here is the recommendation. Catering interests have applied pressure and it is not to be enforceable.
Here is No. 4:He'—the person handling food—shall keep any cut or abrasion on his face, neck, hands or forearms covered with suitable occlusive dressing.I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that an infected cut or sore is another source of infection—of course, we agree. Then why has this provision been made unenforceable?
I come to proposal No. 5. It is scarcely possible to believe that this could happen in the 20th century. It states that the person handling foodshall refrain from spitting, smoking and using tobacco or snuff.If one goes on a bus or other public vehicle, one sees a notice informing people that if they spit they shall be liable to a penalty of £5. The Minister has made this unenforceable, in consequence of which one cannot spit in a bus but if one is preparing food one can spit, smoke and use tobacco and snuff as much as one likes. Is the Parliamentary Secretary blushing?
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
Does the right hon. Lady not know that this would be enforceable even in her own home if she were to put up a notice saying "Teas"?
§ Dr. Summerskill
I thought the hon. Member had a social conscience. A time comes in life when even hon. Members opposite should admit that this is outrageous. They form part of the public. What would they say if they went into a kitchen and saw a man preparing food and spitting on it. Would they not 1768 try to protect the public of whom they form a part?
The next proposal which I take as an example is to be modified. It states that a person handling foodshall take all such steps as may be reasonably necessary to prevent the risk of contamination of food by his person or clothing or by dirt, dust, waste matter, insects, animals and other sources of contamination.Could not the Parliamentary Secretary have left that proposal in. It is to be modified.
Proposal No. 8 is that a person handling foodshall not use or cause to be used for wrapping or containing the food any paper or other wrapping material or container which is not clean or which is liable to contaminate the food and in particular, with the exception of uncooked vegetables, shall not allow any newspaper to come into contact with the food.All the last part of this proposal is omitted.
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that newspapers are collected from sick beds—from sick beds in which there have been tuberculous patients spitting—and are sold to butchers. For years we have been longing to introduce the provision contained in this proposal. But it is to be totally omitted.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The hon. Gentleman was smiling just now. Why has the atmosphere changed?He"—that is, the handler of food—shall not blow or breathe into any bag intended for the wrapping of food.That is not to be enforceable.
Now we come to the premises. Proposal No. 11 says:No person shall prepare, process, pack, store, sell or expose for sale any food in in-sanitary premises whereby it may become contaminated with filth or whereby it may be rendered injurious to health.That is one of the simple laws of hygiene which Chadwick tried to teach our people in the last century, but this is to be 1769 omitted in the middle of the 20th century. Proposal No. 13 reads:All food premises shall be supplied with a supply of water, both hot and cold, sufficient to enable the regulations to be complied with and this supply shall be constant where piped, and if not piped shall be constant if reasonably practicable and required by the nature of the business.This is not to be enforceable. In other words, a supply of hot, soapy water is not to be available, although I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that hot, soapy water probably prevents more diseases than all the vaccines put together.
Proposal No. 17 says:There shall be situated near every sanitary convenience provided for the use of persons engaged in handling of food employed on or about food premises sufficient washhand stands for the use of such persons who have to use the convenience.That is to be omitted.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Yes. The Parliamentary Secretary must not try to run away from the facts. Here it is, underlined in red by his own Department:'…near every sanitary convenience…for the use of such persons who have used the convenience.The situation will now be that not only will dirty people not wash their hands but clean people will be prevented from doing so. Proposal No. 18 says:There shall be provided stores, cupboards, containers, covers and other equipment suitable and sufficient for storing and covering food to be stored or kept on the premises…Proposal No. 20 says:All food shall be kept covered except when it is not practicable or necessary so to keep itAll that is to be omitted, although the most careless housewife endeavours to do this, in the most limited accommodation.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
Can the right hon. Lady tell the House whether she is now reading a first draft, a second draft, or a final draft?
Yes, Sir. I thought I had carefully explained that these were the draft proposals which were sent out. The catering interests were invited to make comments on them; comments have been made, and now the revised draft has been put into my hand, marked 1770 in this way not by me, but by the Department. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the date?"] The date is this year—since the passage of the Bill through the other place.
§ Dr. Summerskill
The draft proposals were sent away at the beginning of the year, at the end of January.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have already given way on many occasions. If some hon. Members feel a little aggrieved about all this they will have an opportunity to say something later.
§ Dr. Summerskill
If the hon. Member will wait for just a few minutes he will find that I have the strongest support for what I am saying on this technical subject—and it is not from the benches behind me.
I want to mention the provisions relating to food hawkers and the delivery of food by any food business. Proposal No. 34 (2) says:Every food hawker shall have his name and address legibly and conspicuously displayed on the box, basket or other container from which food is exposed for sale.That is surely a protection to the public against the man who is hawking dirty or infected food, but it is to be omitted, and the man is to remain anonymous. The following provisions deal with kitchens, and now that we are in the holiday season I hope that the House will envisage all the kitchens which will be included in them. They are headed:Special provisions for Kitchens in Catering Establishments and Rooms used for the preparation of Meat Products, Fish Product"—and the kind of products that the Parliamentary Secretary and I know are so easily infected and are so often the source of food poisoning—Ice Cream, Iced Lollies, Bakery Products and Synthetic Cream.1771 Proposal No. 35 contains the following provisions:…the room shall not be used as a domestic living room or be in direct communication with the domestic living room; the room shall not be used for any purpose not directly connected with the preparation or service of food; domestic animals shall not be admitted except in the case of a kitchen in which food is served for consumption in that room…None of that is to be enforceable. In other words, the Minister is prepared to allow this room, in any catering establishment, to be slept in by people or animals.
I think that every hon. Member has at times objected to slipshod methods of washing up and to chipped crockery, because he has felt that they were a source of infection. Many of us have felt that the time was long overdue for the introduction of a provision to ensure that more care is exercised, especially in small dirty cafes.
Proposal No. 36 does introduce that safeguard. It says:All dishes, glassware, vessels, receptacles, cutlery and other utensils with which food comes into contact shall be without cracks, and otherwise undamaged, shall be clean before use and, after each occasion of use, shall be thoroughly washed in clean water, rinsed in clean water at a temperature of not less than 180° F. and dried with a clean cloth or by evaporation.That provision is not to be enforcable, although it would meet the universal complaints of people who feel that the standard of washing up is inferior.
Then we come to provisions dealing with catering businesses carried on from vehicles or stalls, which say that there shall be provided:…a sufficient supply of wholesome water both hot and cold; adequate supplies of soap and clean towels to be used only by the persons working on the vehicle or stall for washing and drying themselves.All these provisions are to be omitted. In other words, the very poor who feed at these places have no protection at all, and some of them probably need it more than anybody else.
We then come to the preparation and sale of meat products and fish products. As I have already said, these are often sources of infection, especially in hot weather. It will be observed that nearly all the provisions dealing with these products are to be omitted or to be made not enforceable. I am sorry to say this 1772 to hon. Members opposite just before lunch, but I would remind them of Proposal No. 47, which is to be omitted.Fish shall not be used in the preparation of fish products unless it has been previously washed with clean water.What hon. Member in his own home would suffer eating fish that he knew had not been washed with cold water beforehand? Surely this is a simple provision. It has been omitted. Nobody need wash fish.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Then there was a provision about the transport of meat and open-pack meat products. We who have seen meat transported in the streets of London and felt there should be safeguards for the public health in that business, would have welcomed those provisions. There are 11 provisions concerning the transport of meat and open-pack meat products and the safeguarding of the public health. All either have been omitted or are not enforceable—except the first, and the interesting thing about that one which can be enforced is that it is the one thing dealing with returnable containers, which is, of course, a business interest.
There was a provision relating to licensed premises. Frequently, there have been complaints that in licensed premises glasses that have been used are merely dipped in a bowl for rinsing and are then handed for use to other customers, not those who used them before rinsing. People who have observed this practice are horrified at it. There was a provision about that among these. It said:The provisions set out in Item 36"—which was the provision concerning adequate washing up. that I have already read to the House—shall apply to glasses and other drinking vessels used on any licensed premises.I am sorry to tell hon. Gentlemen that that provision is not to be enforced.
§ Dr. Summerskill
If the people of Britain, particularly the housewives, read 1773 this today, and a General Election were held tomorrow, the Government would be bundled out ignominiously.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I know the standard of morality of some of these people responsible for bringing pressure on the Government to have these provisions omitted. They are the sort of people who in the past, have compelled the House to introduce legislation to compel what decent people ought to do without compulsion.
There was the legislation that I had the privilege of piloting through the House to prevent men from selling milk from tuberculous cows and so infecting and killing little children. We had to bring in that legislation after asking those people nicely for many years—for half a century—not to sell infected milk from tuberculous cows. Those people were so devoid of social conscience that we were compelled to introduce legislation.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, I regard the omission of these provisions as a public scandal. Now I will answer the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan), who is longing to jump to his feet. I told him I had support for the case I am making from men who have considerable knowledge of this matter and who are not, as far as I know, members of my party. By a most curious coincidence this morning was published the "Municipal Journal," and here is a copy of that paper which has been on the bookstalls about two hours. I have not solicited the support this paper gives me. I have not in my life met one of the people I shall quote. I came prepared to make this speech without any support from technicians outside the House—technicians in this field.
Today's "Municipal Journal," a highly respected journal, contains the headline, "The proposed 'clean food' regulations" and under it, the Editor says:Widespread criticism has followed the Government's withdrawal of the original proposed draft regulations relating to food hygiene. The latest body to express its disappointment' is the Royal Sanitary Institute, which, in describing the proposed new regulations as ' totally inadequate ', claims that they do not provide for any important powers not contained in existing legislation…Further support for these views is given in four letters by leading medical officers of health.1774 These medical officers of health are officers of such important areas that the Editor of the "Municipal Journal" thought their views of such importance that he publishes them. The first is from Dr. C. O. S. Blyth Brooke, of Finsbury—Finsbury, which prides itself of its health services. All these letters are long, and I shall not read them all at length. They bear out what I have been saying, and I quote one or two passages by way of illustration. Dr. Blyth Brooke says:From the first draft of the proposed regulations, it seemed that the Government intended, amply to fulfil its assurances and even to go beyond what was practicable in the circumstances. Although some modifications were expected after the trades had had an opportunity to make representations, the final outcome was awaited with confidence. But when the last draft became available"—apparently, these gentlemen, experts in their field, were given the last draft—I for one at least felt that all my hopes had suddenly been dashed to the ground and that the cause of clean food was in danger of having a serious set-back.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Yes. The House will be surprised to hear who is the next of these medical officers of health. He is Dr. W. S. Parker, of Brighton; Brighton which, I suppose, has more catering establishments to the square mile than any other town in Britain. Brighton has a Conservative authority. I take it that this medical officer of health was chosen by the Conservative authority. Brighton does not vote Labour, but Dr. Parker has had the moral courage, because he was so incensed at this disgraceful change in the provisions, to write this letter:The Food and Drugs Amendment Bill had been welcomed by hygienists as a major advance in tackling problems arising from food handling. The original proposals have been so watered down, however, that the final effect will be to weaken the present powers of some local authorities.At this time, when the standards of food hygiene are still the subject of invidious comparison with those abroad, the suggestion that the health of the public is to be subordinated to commercial interests should not have to be made.…Practically all the safeguards in regard to meat and fish have been removed from the regulations and relegated to codes of practice. The risks, especially from prepared and reheated dishes, are well known, yet there will be no adequate legal standard of refrigerated food storage. Unless full powers are provided, cracked crockery and unsuitable cutlery cannot be adequately dealt with.1775At present, washing-up arrangements are totally inadequate. One sink can be used for washing vegetables, pans, crockery and cutlery, and for the personal hygiene of the staff. No statutory requirement is envisaged"—here is the answer to the hon. Gentlemen who were so concerned to interrupt me when I was talking about water, and evidence that my interpretation of the facts is the same as that of these men who spend their professional time in examining regulations of this sort—for a supply of constant hot water, for the use of detergents, the sterilisation of utensils or for safe standards for washing glasses in pubic houses and bars.The proposed reduction of powers in this Bill is to be deplored. The standards already achieved in collaboration with responsible members of the trade are to be sacrificed to the expediency of placating those unwilling to recognise their responsibilities to the community they claim to serve.We come to another famous medical officer, Dr. J. Greenwood Wilson, the medical officer for the Port of London. In a long letter he says:It is all the more disappointing, therefore, to learn that the best of the proposed draft food hygiene regulations are now to be converted into 'codes of practice', i.e. they will have advisory significance only without any force of compulsion. The good traders didn't need this advice anyway and the bad ones will still be allowed to pursue the evil tenor of their ways without any let or hindrance from the local sanitary authority.The last letter which I will quote is from the medical officer for another famous port, who is in contact with visitors from abroad and probably hears about certain standards which are recognised abroad. This is a long letter from Dr. H. C. M. Williams. O.B.E., medical officer of Southampton. He says:This example of the ' watering down' of the draft regulations makes one realise the struggles of our pioneer sanitarians in the 19th century in endeavouring to remedy the obvious defects in factory conditions, water supplies, sewage disposal and the control of infectious diseases. One would have expected an enlightened nation 100 years later to have adopted a more realistic policy in dealing with a matter of such importance as the health of the people. Responsible bodies representing sanitarians are, therefore, bitterly disappointed that most of the essential clauses in the draft food hygiene regulations have been relegated to codes of practice which will have no legal effect.The Parliamentary Secretary is not being judged and condemned solely by me, a member of a political Opposition. 1776 He is being judged and condemned by his peers. It is painful for me to recollect that the Parliamentary Secretary had a distinguished career as a medical officer, yet he lends himself to this kind of squalid conspiracy with big business.
If the Minister accepts the direction of the vested interests in the catering trade on the standards of hygiene which must be observed, then I say that he is guilty of betraying the public. The original regulations were made for the prevention of disease. They sought to establish clean practices in all those places where food is handled. It is generally admitted that British standards in this respect are below those of some other countries. Here was an opportunity of establishing a new pattern of behaviour. The Minister has failed in his duty and has betrayed the public whom he was sent here to serve.
§ 12.24 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
The speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) was not one which will have taken by surprise any hon. Member sitting on this side of the House. It was a speech if I may use a simple phrase, designed to hit the headlines.
The difference between this side of the House and the right hon. Lady is not a difference about the desire to see high standards of cleanliness in food establishments. That is not the property of any one political party. The difference of opinion which exists between the right hon. Lady and ourselves is solely of ways and means—what is the best way, what are the best means, of achieving the standards of cleanliness which everyone else in the House desires to see just as much as does the right hon. Lady.
She suggests that by long and elaborate regulations it is possible to achieve what we all want. We on this side of the House believe that the thing to do is to limit regulations to those which can be practically enforced. If we bring out a code of regulations which cannot be enforced in practice, or which can be enforced only by the employment of an immense number of inspectors, we are liable to bring the law into disrepute—and that is a very high price to pay.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was right when 1777 he said that the basic way to achieve what we all want is by education and not necessarily by threatening with a law which we cannot enforce. Although I do this with regret, I feel entitled to say this to the right hon. Lady: it is not a bad political standard to which to work to remember this: never impute to your opponents motives which are meaner than your own. That is not an original quotation but I commend it to the right hon. Lady as a standard of political behaviour in the House.
Mr. Percy Daises (East Ham, North)
§ Sir H. Linstead
I believe that the objectives of the Bill are welcomed throughout the House, but I hope that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to assure the House that he does not propose to leave the food and drugs legislation in the condition in which it will be left when the Bill has been passed. The legislation as a whole will be very difficult to understand if it is left in that condition, for it is badly in need of consolidation. I therefore hope that this amending Bill will be followed by consolidation.
I have one general comment to offer on the Bill: it repeats the old structure of the food and drugs legislation, and I wonder whether we are wise in trying to combine two subjects, food and drugs, which except in the matter of administration, do not fall into the same class. Some original thought ought to be given to the whole question of drugs administration as distinct from food administration, and they ought not to be thrown together in the same category as has happened because of an historical accident of administration.
It is also a matter for consideration whether the Minister of Health rather than the Minister of Food—or his successor, whoever he may be, if the Ministry of Food is wound up—should be the Minister primarily responsible for food standards, as he is for drug standards.
I draw attention to the fact that the new Bill will leave a very uncertain balance between the central authority and the local authorities. The regulations will be made by the Minister, but there will still be 365 administering authorities, each one of which may make 1778 its own prosecutions in its own area, no longer having to go to the Minister for consent, as it has to do in certain cases now. As a result, different standards over such matters as labelling may be set by different magistrates' courts in different parts of the country. If I have misread the Bill, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will draw attention to my error, because it seems to me desirable that there should be unification of standards in these matters in the interests of the manufacturers, and, of course, of everyone else.
I must express regret that in the course of winding up the Ministry of Food the Central Advisory Council has disappeared. It was possible for a manufacturer of a food material to submit his advertising and his labels to the Ministry and to the Central Advisory Council and to get a check in advance to ensure that they complied with the law. Every responsible manufacturer wants to put himself in that position. It is a pity that it is no longer possible for that central advice to be given and, in consequence, the manufacturer can only proceed by trial and error.
Another general observation which I should like to make is in regard to the overlapping between the provisions of the food and drugs legislation and the byelaw-making powers which local authorities obtain either under the Public Health Acts or through their Private Bills. I think that it should be considered whether, having got a national code, we should not make it unlawful for local authorities to take powers in subsequent Private Bills which will enable them slightly to modify the national code and to create a certain amount of uncertainty in a field where everybody is entitled to know where he stands.
I do not want to say a great deal about the content of the regulations, because the regulations have not been made. They have only be issued for comment, and one of the disadvantages of the right hon. Lady's attack on draft regulations will be this. It will have the effect of discouraging Ministers and civil servants in the future from publishing in advance draft regulations giving a rough indication of the use which they may contemplate to make of their powers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] It must be quite obvious that, if draft regulations are intended to be treated 1779 in this House as part of the intentions of Ministers, it will be unlikely that civil servants will advise Ministers to do what, in my view, has been so properly and wisely done by the Minister in this case, namely, to let the people have a preview of the use which the Minister intends to make of his powers before those powers are given to him.
Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should misinform the House. In effect, he is saying that under this Administration the civil servants tell the Minister what to do. I always thought that in policy matters the Minister told the civil servants.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The right hon. Gentleman knows only too well that there are occasions when it is not necessary to answer comments.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I would draw attention to the extent of the powers which the Minister is taking under this Bill. It does not follow that because the first regulations which are issued under a statute are limited that represents the final use of the powers which the Minister may use later. If we look at the sum total of the powers which the Minister is taking under this legislation, we see that they represent an enormous possibility of encroaching into not only large-scale industry or the food business as we visualise it in our discussion today, but almost into the private affairs of private citizens, because there is power here to deal with a vast number of small activities, such as fetes and garden parties, of which there are hundreds and thousands in a year, all of which could be dealt with by regulations under this legislation.
I think that the most useful additional contribution that I can make to this debate is to refer to some of the provisions which affect drugs, because I suspect that most of the discussion will be centred on the provisions that affect food. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that, whereas the Minister is 1780 taking power to prescribe statutory standards for food in addition to the power which he already has, he is not taking power to prescribe statutory standards for drugs, and it is worth drawing attention to the fact that we are probably the only civilised country which has not statutory power over most of our drugs and medicines. The only standards which we have are all presumptive standards which have to be proved by reference to the customs of the trade. Even the British Pharmacopœia has no statutory standards in this country.
I noticed that the old defence in the 1938 Act for proprietary medicines disappears. There was a curious provision in the 1938 Act which said that it was a defence for a seller who was challenged under the Food and Drugs Act in respect of proprietary medicines to plead that what he had sold was what he was asked for. That disappears. On the whole, I think that is a good thing, but I know that certain manufacturers of proprietary medicines are concerned that they are losing a defence which, although they may never have to call it into being, may have some value for them. Personally, I am glad to see that defence go.
I think, too, that it is a pity that the Minister has found it necessary to exclude biological analyses from the analyses that may be employed for the purposes of the Bill. That may be because there are not enough laboratories in which to do them, but if there are not. I think that the Minister of Health should consider the provision of facilities which will enable biological tests to be applied in those cases where it is not possible to find out the strength or purity of substances by chemical means.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Would the hon. Gentleman go further and say that when we are dealing, particularly in the field of chemicals, with so-called chemical addatives to food, we cannot come to even a tentative conclusion without a biological survey?
§ Sir H. Linstead
As the hon. Member has said that, perhaps he will excuse me from saying it. I would draw attention to another separation of powers relating to food from those relating to drugs. There is power under Clause 5 to control the advertising of food—a very useful power to control what a 1781 manufacturer may say about his food products. That is not extended to drugs. I realise that if it were extended to drugs and medicines it would be an extremely hot provision to hold for any Minister. Nevertheless, it is worth-while drawing attention to that gap in the law.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The hon. Member for Ealing, North has indicated to the House what he is going to say without the necessity of my saying it. I would draw the attention of the Minister of Food and also of the Minister of Health to another point which may not have occurred to them and which only occurred to me when I was putting together my notes for the debate today.
A number of chemists' shops will sell food—invalid foods and articles such as olive oil—which, strictly, are caught by the food provisions of this Bill. They will, therefore, turn their establishments into food establishments. If that is the case, we are in danger of an overlapping administration, because the pharmacy Acts provide for the inspection of chemists' shops. I hope we shall find some way of making it unnecessary to have food and drugs inspectors as well as pharmacy Acts inspectors doing the same job in respect of chemists' shops.
Among representations which have come to me is a complaint, which seems to have some force. that the sample provisions do not require that a sample shall go to the manufacturer. Very often the manufacturer of an article, particularly food, is not the person really responsible for the condition of that product. It is unreasonable that the manufacturer, whose whole reputation may be at stake, should not receive a sample of a suspected food just as quickly as the retailer, who in this case acts more or less as a post office for passing the product on to the consumer.
With 365 local authorities administering this Measure and the desirability of getting High Court decisions on disputed questions of law, it is worth considering whether the Minister should have power to reimburse local authorities for the costs of appeals. Having a large number 1782 of local police court decisions, possibly conflicting one with another, would not be a satisfactory state of affairs. Such matters could be settled by appeals to the High Court, and the Minister should encourage that procedure
I wish to make a brief reference to the difficult question of registration. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend say that the Minister is thinking of a means whereby premises can be disqualified without the necessity of registration and annual re-registration. There may be 300,000 or 400,000 food shops. If they all have to be registered and re-registered, an enormous amount of paper work will be entailed for local authorities and we shall have a great deal of wasted effort which might be avoided.
I conclude with the thought, which all of us have in mind, that in a sense the necessity for codes of this kind is a criticism of the standards of our community. In a highly civilised country we should not require detailed statutory and criminal enforcements of provisions for clean food. If we are a civilised people it should follow as a matter of course, a matter of education and of good behaviour, that food is cleanly prepared and served. In a sense the necessity for this legislation is a criticism of our standards in this respect. I am sure that we shall only reach the desired result in that matter by a system of education which will make it unthinkable that an employer, an employee, or a purchaser will tolerate insanitary and semi-civilised standards of food preparation.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)
After the interruptions we have heard in the course of previous speeches, it might be wise if I say at the outset that we on this side of the House welcome this Bill and regard it as a very important one. My criticism of the Government today is not levelled at them for having brought in this Bill, but for not having brought it forward very much earlier. As I see it, having listened to the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary, this Bill consists mainly of measures to protect the public against the dangers of adulteration of food and measures to lessen the incidence of food poisoning.
1783 I shall confine my remarks to the food poisoning aspect, leaving the other subject to be discussed by colleagues who have far greater scientific knowledge than I have. For a few years there has been a vigorous campaign waged in this country to overcome the dangers and disgrace of dirty food, but the Government do not appear to have noticed this good work. At least, the Government have shown no recognition of it and have themselves done nothing useful to assist it. This Bill is the first positive Measure of the Government directed towards cleaner food; it is long overdue and it is not even their own Bill.
I will tell the House briefly the sad story of this Bill's abnormally long period of gestation. On 2nd February, 1951, I was privileged to move a Motion in this House in these words:That this House is of opinion that further steps should be taken by His Majesty's Government to encourage cleanliness in the preparation and serving of food in retail shops and catering establishments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 2nd February, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 1213.]That debate will be remembered by the Parliamentary Secretary because he took part in it. He made one of the many interesting and valuable contributions in the course of that discussion, and when Mr. Speaker put the Question it was agreed to without Division.
Two days previously there had been published the Report of the Catering Trade Working Party entitled, "Hygiene in Catering Establishments." It was a pity that that Report had not been published a little earlier or that the debate was not held a little later because we had not had time to study the Report closely. However, at a glance it was clear then that that was an important document containing many useful recommendations.
At that time, nearly three and a half years ago, the Government of the day had in their possession the Report of the Working Party and the knowledge of the feelings of this House on the subject of food hygiene. The Labour Government promptly went to work to prepare legislation. Local authorities and other interested parties were consulted and good progress was being made in the preparation of this Bill up to the time of the General Election in the autumn of 1951. When the Tories took over con- 1784 trol after that Election, they very wisely continued the good work on this Bill—for a time. I was pleased to read in the "Yorkshire Post" of 15th December. 1951:The Government are preparing a Bill to make Britain's food the cleanest in the world.That was fine. That was what was wanted, but after that the Government dilly-dallied and hesitated and put the Bill into cold storage. Later they brought it out and let it have a run in another place. Then they forgot all about it and only now has it come before this House, at a time when we fear that we shall not be able to discuss it fully and adequately before the Parliamentary Session comes to an end.
That is the lamentable story of slothful indecision, procrastination and ineptitude on the part of the Tory Government. In the meantime, what has been happening in the country? Some, but unfortunately not all, local authorities have been making the best use of existing powers to raise the standard of hygiene in places where there is food. The Clean Food Guilds, with their codes of practice for traders, have done valuable work. The first of these guilds was formed at Guildford and came into operation in 1948. There are now many similar guilds scattered about the country.
I attended a most interesting meeting in Wembley in February this year when there were gathered together representatives from nearly all the Clean Food Guilds in the country. At that meeting the first step was taken towards the formation of a National Clean Food Association. I feel sure that if the Minister of Food and his Parliamentary Secretary had been able to attend that meeting and had seen the large attendance and the enthusiasm of the delegates they would have rushed straight to 10, Downing Street and told the Prime Minister that this legislation must come before the House at once.
Another body which has been doing useful work, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, is the Central Council for Health Education. It has done valuable work in teaching the need for clean food. Some catering firms have set a splendid example to others by showing a remarkably high standard of cleanliness, but unfortunately there are still too 1785 many in which careless and dirty habits persist. The St. John Ambulance Association has also played an active part in the campaign for cleaner food.
No account of this campaign for cleaner food can be complete without reference to the Press. I have heard Members of Parliament described as professional critics, and it is true that most and probably all of us are critical of the Press from time to time. That is easy to understand, because every Member of Parliament knows that every newspaper has the unfortunate habit of omitting to mention those words of his which he regards as being of vital importance and of never failing to publish the remarks which he would like the Press to overlook.
Speaking quite seriously, however, I say that in this drive for cleaner food the Press has followed a policy that shows a great sense of responsibility and which is really praiseworthy. There is scarcely a newspaper that has not published within the last few years an article or articles about the need for cleaner food. Examples come readily to mind. I remember a series of excellent articles which were published in the "Daily Herald." There was a short series of useful articles in the "Yorkshire Evening Post" describing conditions in cafés, bakeries and in the market in Leeds. That well-known Sunday newspaper, "The People," published last year an interesting and informative account of the dirty food menace at fairs. Those are but a few examples of the manner in which the Press has been campaigning against illness and death caused by food poisoning.
While all these bodies and organisations have been waging a vigorous campaign, the Tory Government have done nothing to help. Admittedly, the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have been faced with the difficulty of resistance to the Bill coming from rather irresponsible quarters in the catering industry. I believe that the catering trade has a case which should be heard, but it should have been handled very differently by both the representatives of the trade and by the Ministers at the Ministry of Food.
In my constituency there is a café which is run by a small company of which I am one of the directors. In saying that. I 1786 declare a personal interest and at the same time lay claim to a little knowledge in this field. The cost of food is very high, in spite of the Tory Party's election pledges, and it is far from easy for caterers to make profits. Modern kitchen and café equipment is also very expensive. It is little use considering only what caterers should do in theory. We must consider what they can do in practice. It is a pity that their case was not put forward in a more reasonable manner, but I am sure that their side will not be overlooked when the Bill is considered in Committee.
This morning, a few minutes before I came into the Chamber, I received a copy of proposals for hygiene regulations compiled by the National Caterers' Federation. I have not yet had time to study it, as I must, but, from a glance at it, it appears that many of the proposals are good and reasonable. That suggests that when the Bill reaches the Committee stage we shall meet with co-operation from the industry concerned.
Like the Parliamentary Secretary, I have given a great deal of thought to this problem of food poisoning. While the Bill is necessary and important, it alone will not solve our problems. The education of food handlers in the simple principles of hygiene is more important than legislation. All the good that can be done by using elaborate and expensive equipment can be brought to naught by the dirty habits of one careless food handler.
A few years ago the St. John Ambulance Association and the local authority at Southport came together and drew up a pilot scheme to be tried out in Southport in the education of food handlers. That scheme was a great success. It is true to say that Southport has a standard of food hygiene that is second to no other place in the country. Useful pioneer work in the education of food handlers in hygiene was done in that town.
Drawing on the experience gained at Southport, the St. John Ambulance Association prepared an official course of instruction called "Hygienic Food Handling." The course at first consisted of eight lectures, each lecture lasting about two hours, but after a short time the number was reduced to seven and later to six. It is an excellent course of 1787 instruction, and one which I can recommend. It was introduced in February, 1952, and more than 1,000 certificates have been awarded.
It was not, however, as successful as we had hoped it would be, and, therefore, consultations about it were held at the headquarters of the association. I expressed the view that the course was too long and too complicated for most people employed in the handling of food, and I suggested a much shorter course containing a few basic principles. I said I thought that three lectures would be enough and that each lecture should last not more than three-quarters of an hour. I put forward that view emphatically.
The director-general of the association then asked me to assist in preparing such a course, and that was done, and I am very proud to say that the first class was held in my constituency, when 148 employees at a biscuit factory passed the examination. The police were very quick off the mark and the staffs of the food service of the Metropolitan Police took the course. The National Coal Board in Durham offered the course to its canteen staffs, and stores in London, Coventry, Southport and elsewhere have taken one or other of the association's courses. The elementary course was introduced as recently as May last year and, therefore, as yet is little known, but nearly 1,000 certificates have been awarded.
I received a letter this morning from the Secretary of the St. John Ambulance Association saying:We have had considerable encouragement from a number of organised bodies such as the Police, Post Office and Coal Board, but the response by the general public has not been so good.The association's real disappointment has been that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have given such little encouragement to this good work. They seem to be afraid of treading on the toes of other organisations. I should like to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that the St. John Ambulance Association is the only organisation with such a course and with a network of branches throughout the country. I have nothing to gain personally from this course; otherwise I should not have mentioned it. I am speaking for the association, which is patriotically desirous of taking as large 1788 a part as possible in the campaign for cleaner food and would welcome encouragement from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary.
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Will the hon. Member make it clear to the House whether the National Caterers' Federation has acted in conjunction with the St. John Ambulance Association? Would it not be an advantage if greater encouragement were given to members of the Federation to assist its employees to undertake the course?
§ Dr. Broughton
Such co-operation would be a very great help in spreading the useful instruction. It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point because it occurred to me this morning. I have mentioned the proposals which I have received for hygiene regulations compiled by the National Caterers' Federation, in which I notice a suggestion that a national publicity committee on hygiene should be set up by the Minister in consultation with the trade. If the proposal were accepted and such a committee set up, one of the most useful purposes of the committee would be to ensure co-operation between organisations which can give instruction and the food handlers who should receive it.
The problem of food poisoning is not a new one: it is one which faced Moses more than 3,000 years ago, and, in his remarkable wisdom, he combated it by laying down laws which insisted upon scrupulous cleanliness. The menace today can also be overcome by scrupulous cleanliness. In our consideration of this legislation we must strive to strike a reasonable balance between careless and dangerous food handling on the one hand and hygiene fanaticism on the other. Fanatics are liable to ruin any good cause. The House can usually arrive at a wise and sensible compromise, and I am sure that the Bill will become a most useful Act of Parliament after it has gone through all its stages.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. K. Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
Before I comment on anything else that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) has said, I should like, on behalf of the public, to pay a tribute to him for the work which he has done in this direction. He has written a most 1789 sensible and useful handbook on this important subject.
I think the hon. Member found it rather a strain to introduce a partisan note into his speech. In that respect he tagged a long way behind the vicious speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). The hon. Member spoke from practical experience as a sanitarian and from practical experience as a caterer, and he made shrewd and sensible comments which I hope he will draw to the attention of his right hon. Friend, who, I am sorry to say, left the Chamber during his speech. I am delighted to hear that, as a cafe proprietor, the hon. Member finds it harder to make profits under a Tory Government. He has to satisfy his customers now
The right hon. Lady's speech was disgraceful. It introduced an entirely vicious note into the debate. She talked in terms of plots and conspiracies, but this was all based apparently on an out-of-date document. She refused to give the date of it, but certain omissions to which she referred are. I believe, included in a subsequent edition. I can only assume that, having failed to satisfy her party by the gentle, purring speech which she made in Wednesday's debate, she had to make up for it today by that vicious and unscrupulous attack.
I am sure that the rest of the House will unite in welcoming the Bill as a practical, if somewhat complicated, step forward. I echo the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) that, for the benefit of those who will have to administer the Act, the consolidated Measure should follow as soon as possible.
Having given a bouquet to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for his introduction of the Measure, I should now like to warn him that there are also a few brickbats concealed among the blooms. We all know that food hygiene standards in this country are low, but, as has been said already, it is the public who must demand higher standards. When a deputation from my constituency came to see me not very long ago, we began to discuss the subject of this Bill, and they gave me a list of the kind of happenings to which they rightly objected. I will not give the complete list, but only an example. 1790 This was an instance of a cat sitting on the wrapping paper in a confectioner's shop. When there was a remonstrance by the customer, the reply was, "Oh, but it is a very clean cat."
I will not go further through the list, which is a fairly long one, but will only add that the interesting point is that, when I investigated various complaints. I found that every one of them was already an offence under local byelaws made under the 1938 Act, so that I was able to reply to the deputation at once and say that it was their fault, that it was up to them to complain, and to cause the fuss, which alone will cause retailers and the trades concerned to take the necessary action.
All of us on this side of the House welcome the fact that the regulations submitted for consideration under this Bill have been reduced to a manageable number, and that none will be included under which no prosecutions are likely to take place. It is no good making regulations which are never likely to be enforced.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West referred to the fact that it was not to be made illegal under these regulations to spit, whereas it was illegal to do so in an omnibus. Does she think that it is the fact that the traveller who spits may be fined 40s. that causes him or, indeed, her, to refrain from spitting? It is not; it is the standard of education and of fastidiousness which the general public as a whole have now attained, and that is the right way in which to raise standards. I welcome the regulations and the provision for a code of practice which I hope will gradually be extended so as to include other offensive habits which should never be tolerated by the public. It is further education that is needed.
I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on the Front Bench, because in "The Times" of the 4th May, there was a quotation from a speech which he made which I think is very cogent and important. He said this:If every mother inculcated in her children the ordinary simple rules of health, and every housewife refused to eat in a cafe or buy goods in a shop where the standards of hygiene were low—and said why she was refusing—far more would be done to spread appreciation of high standards of health and hygiene than by all the1791clauses of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill now before Parliament.That was very wise and very true. We need both education and the law, and the two must keep in step.
I echo what the hon. Member for Batley and Morley said about the work of the St. John Ambulance Brigade. I, too, have received a letter from the organisation, but I think the hon. Member might also have quoted the passage which stated that the regional hospital board had so far not been as active as it might have been in promoting these causes.
If I may now turn to the details of the Bill, I want to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to one very important omission. Does he think that the existing powers are adequate in regard to suspending from their employment those persons known to be suffering from an infection which can be conveyed by food? Here, I begin to get into technical realms, where I am a little out of my depth, but I believe that, under the Public Health Act, 1936, anyone suffering from a notifiable infectious disease can be proceeded against, but cannot be suspended from handling food immediately he or she is known to be in an infectious condition. This is surely an important point if we are to check the spread of infection. I believe that powers already exist as regards diseases borne by milk, but not in regard to other diseases, and I hope that, before we come to the Committee stage, the Parliamentary Secretary will look at this point and see whether his powers need strengthening, because my information is that they do.
I have one or two other misgivings about the Bill. For example, Section 13 of the 1938 Act is to be replaced by the regulation-making power in Clause 6. I think my hon. Friend said that the present law was not quite clear, and I imagine that he will take the opportunity under the regulation-making power not only of clarifying but of strengthening the law. I want him to give an assurance to the House that, when this Bill becomes law and Section 13 of the 1938 Act lapses, there will be adequate time—say three months—for consultation and consideration before the new regulations take effect. That is not too long when it involves structural alterations. 1792 I want to extend that and make another suggestion. The Minister has very wide powers of regulation-making under this Bill, and there is in many quarters a quite reasonable fear, which the hon. Member for Batley and Morley expressed, that the regulations may be crafted by someone without the practical knowledge of what is involved in executing them. I want to suggest that we should follow the course adopted under other Acts of having, particularly to cover matters relating to catering premises, a food hygiene advisory committee, on the lines of the National Insurance Advisory Committee.
Most hon. Members who are interested in the working of the National Insurance Act would agree that that Advisory Committee does most excellent work. It considers the regulations in draft, and submits a concurrent report to Parliament. It is an independent body to which all those affected—in this case, it would be the trade, medical officers of health, and so on—could make recommendations for changes in or the further strengthening of the regulations. The Advisory Committee would act, as a buffer state between the Ministry and the various interests involved. I have a feeling that that would not only cause the regulations to be practicable, but that it might lead in due course to suggestions being made to the Ministry on whether the law needed strengthening and where it could be strengthened. Let me add one further argument which might clinch the matter in the mind of the Minister of Food. I have referred to the Committee as having been set up under the 1946 Act, but it has a longer pedigree than that. The first such advisory committee was set up under the National Insurance Act, 1911, with which the name of my right hon. and gallant Friend's father will always be associated.
I want to refer now to the duality of Ministers who are given powers under the Bill. In the 1938 Act, we had "The Minister of Health." Time marches on. and we now have "The Ministers" in 1954. That is not a step forward. This should be a matter for one Minister and one only, and if possible the Minister of Health should be responsible. This duality of Ministers was referred to in another place as the "belt and braces" 1793 method because it gives greater security, but in practice it may lead to confusion in administration.
When the Bill was introduced, some of us thought that it was to be the swan-song of the Ministry of Food, but it seems like a gala performance of an opera, with its 33 Clauses and three Schedules. We are entitled to know as soon as possible how long the "belt and braces" method will be continued.
Having criticised certain points in the Bill, I now wish it well. The final issue lies with the public rather than with Parliament. The work that my right hon. and gallant Friend has done and the freedom that he has conferred on the consumer will do more to raise standards than most of the regulations in the Bill.
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan) started by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) for speaking with authority and with interest as a cafe proprietor, and drew attention to the fact that my hon. Friend said it was difficult in these days for a cafe proprietor to make a profit.
The reason why my hon. Friend has difficulty in making a profit is that he has a social conscience. Far too many people engaged in trade, not only as cafe proprietors and shopkeepers but in trade generally in this country, have no social conscience. We have to be concerned with regulations and how to enforce them so as to teach those people how to behave and to make sure that they behave properly.
When he was opening the debate on Second Reading, the Parliamentary Secretary said that the 1938 Measure had a defect, in that in one part it made provision for legal enactments and in another part gave authority to the Minister, to frame, impose and enforce regulations. The suggestion is that we should have one or the other method, but not both. I am inclined to agree, and I think that the making of regulations is the proper way, provided that we can trust the Minister and the Government to carry out the intentions of the Bill and of the community.
1794 I am very worried whether we can trust the Government in this matter. We have had a long discussion about the draft regulations that were sent out originally; they were sent out to the trade. Why were they not sent out to the public, who are vitally interested and who are the only paramount interest? The public do not hear about these things until matters have been discussed and sorted out by the trade and all the lobbying has been done. I put forward the, no doubt, revolutionary doctrine that we should be concerned first about public welfare in these matters.
The hon. Member for Reigate talked about considering the various interests involved. We have to consult them, whether they are manufacturers or shopkeepers, but we should not ask them to make the regulations and suggest what should be done. We should discuss matters in a practical way.
§ Mr. Darling
I must have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman if the word "public" was mentioned. I thought it was not.
All of us here are consumers of food. We are the public, ours is the general interest. We have no special interest. We do not organise ourselves to advance our special interests in this matter, but cafe proprietors and others do. We do not go lobbying and seek to sway decisions in our favour. It is the job of Parliament to see that the public interest is looked after, and those with special interests should put them into the background now and again.
I have a special interest, in that I am associated with the Co-operative movement, a democratic organisation which is in business not to make big profits but to serve the public. It is concerned with one quarter of the food trade of this country. On the retail side, it has nearly 20,000 food stores, about 200 restaurants and cafes, a score of hotels, 600 bakeries, 250 milk processing plants, 70 slaughterhouses and about seven bacon factories. It has 100 other food factories large and small.
§ Mr. Darling
Yes, and it has 70 per cent. of the self-service food stores, which ought to be established here on a bigger scale, as in America, because they are the cleanest and safest way of supplying food. These belong to the Co-operative movement. We believe the public has been let down by the Government in selling out to the private interests, and in the way the draft regulations have been handled. We welcome and support the Bill because it is in line with what we want on behalf of the public. The people who own the Co-operative services I have mentioned are the consumers, and they have no interest in poisoning and cheating themselves. They want the businesses to be properly run.
§ Mr. Osborne
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that other traders are poisoning and cheating their customers?
§ Mr. Darling
The hon. Gentleman anticipates my next sentence. I was about to say that many organisations in this country are very concerned, as the Cooperative movement is concerned, about this matter. One of the disturbing features of the debate is that we have deplorably low standards of shopping, shopkeeping, and the keeping and serving of food. Our job is to raise those standards.
As I say, many firms and individual shopkeepers, cafe and hotel proprietors have excellent records in this matter of giving service to the public, records which are equal to those of the best Co-operative societies. But we have to remember that these excellent firms labour under a competitive handicap, as was hinted at by my hon. Friend. It is costly to give good service to the consumer. It costs money to provide proper equipment and standards, and to ensure cleanliness. If all the proposals set out in the draft regulations are carried out by all the people handling food in this country, it will cost many of them a lot of money. The provision of wash basins and proper supplies of towels, soap and hot water all cost money.
It is the dirty little back street cafe proprietor—and some of them are not always in the back streets—who have filthy kitchens and filthy services, who are getting away with a competitive advantage, because they do not spend money in this way, and under the present 1796 proposals they are not to be compelled to do all the things which they should be compelled to do.
The Government propose that this unfairness, as I think it can quite properly be called, shall continue. In practice, we are to have a voluntary code, and in most of these matters there will be no enforceable regulations. The best concerns, of course, will apply the code. They are probably doing it already, so that in their case there is no addition to be made. They will go on doing the job properly in the interest of the community, and, in the long run, in the interest of themselves. But the worst cases will go on being filthy, unhealthy and anti-social in the sacred name of freedom.
As I have said, I speak for a trade organisation which has a sense of social responsibility and which is very worried about this business. We prefer freedom to compulsion in these matters, so long as the public interest can properly be served without compulsion. But we are not sure that the consumer is going to be properly looked after in this respect unless there is a much larger element of compulsion on the people who do not behave properly than that provided not only in the Bill, but in the regulations.
We recognise that there would be difficulty in applying the regulations if they were all enforceable. We have some Cooperative societies in some of the poorer areas of the country which were very badly hit in the depression years and which have not yet quite recovered. They are operating in old premises, and are doing their best with them. Such undertakings might have difficulty in all at once coming up to the standards which we seek to lay down, but we are confident that those standards ought to be laid down. In some cases, perhaps, a little time might be given for those in difficulty to come up to the required standards. We want the regulations enforced.
Our main concern is about the handling and the composition of foodstuffs. We realise only too well, as has been stated by many hon. Members in the debate, that regulations alone will not make a decently behaved and healthy community. From where do the people who misbehave get their examples? We cannot have education for the purpose of raising standards unless we make absolutely sure 1797 that wherever possible the organisations with which we are concerned are coming up to the standards that we seek to obtain.
Education in this direction is useless if we allow the filthy cafes, shops and manufacturing premises to continue. We know very well, taking education in its wider sense—the education of school children—that we cannot have a proper educational system in bad schools. There must be the proper buildings and equipment.
Looking at the question from the point of view of educating the public, we must insist, if such education is to be at all worth while, that all the premises, equipment and apparatus for handling food in this country should come up to the standards which we seek to impose. We appreciate the difficulties, but we insist that the regulations made under this Bill and the Bill itself ought to make it perfectly clear that account is being taken of this need to educate the public and also that the standards in respect of food handling are very high and are going to be enforced, and that there are going to be no loopholes in respect of most of the important matters.
If the Parliamentary Secretary and his Ministry are thinking of shuffling out of their responsibilities by having this voluntary code instead of enforceable regulations, then I think that we must insist on certain minimum conditions being laid down in the Bill. I would prefer to do this by regulation. If we feel that we cannot trust the hon. Gentleman and his Ministry in this matter, then certain minimum conditions must be inserted in the Bill, insisting that people who handle food must wear clean clothing and that proper laundry facilities must be provided for that purpose.
We must insist that there are adequate toilet and washing facilities and proper water supplies in every food-processing plant and in all food-handling premises. We must insist that the premises are kept free from vermin. We must insist that foodstuffs shall be properly covered in transit and when on display in the shops. We must insist on the periodic medical examination of the workers engaged in certain of the food trades to see that they are free from infectious diseases.
I think that we must insist also on proper first-aid facilities in order that the provisions about keeping cuts and 1798 sores covered can be carried out. We must insist on the cleanliness of cutlery and cooking utensils in cafes, and so on. We must insist that cooked foods shall be kept in refrigerators, and on one or two other proposals of that kind. If we cannot be sure that these matters are going to be enforced in the regulations, then we must insist that they be placed in the Bill.
We are altogether too tolerant of low standards in this country, and so long as the curious dogma of hon. Members opposite persists. that people can be left free to behave properly and that their own vested interests will not interfere with their standards of conduct as citizens, nothing is going to be done except by the few firms who have a social conscience. The rest will go on misbehaving unless we do something about it.
I wish that the Tories who take that view would look at the food regulations in operation in the United States of America. They are severe, strict and extensive, and are vigorously enforced in most of the 48 States. Even if we believe in private enterprise, there is no need to allow vested interests to appear to persuade the Government not to have Government intervention, but to leave them instead to look after their own affairs. That is not in line with what in these days should be the views of those who believe in private enterprise. We ourselves are convinced how this job should be handled.
I speak quite seriously when I say that it is our view that the Government are running away from their responsibilities. We believe the reason is the Tory Party's doctrinaire views and that certain private interests have been able to persuade the Government to take the line which they have adopted. If that is true, I am very sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary has lent himself to that sort of business. I always thought that he was very concerned about our having good standards of health and social behaviour, but now I do not know whether in the past he has been talking with his tongue in his cheek. He has an opportunity here to prove that I might be wrong when I make that suggestion.
§ Mr. Darling
The hon. Gentleman should give a definite undertaking that the minimum conditions that we want will be put in enforceable regulations or included in the Bill. Unless we have those undertakings from the Government, I can only say that, instead of being a sincere believer in the kind of social behaviour which we want, the hon. Gentleman has become a party politician. I hope that is not so, but we are suspicious. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman replies he will assure us that these minimum conditions about food handling will be in the food regulations and not in the voluntary code of conduct.
§ Mr. Darling
I read out some of them, and I could read out a lot more, but I do not want to take up the time of the House. There were proposals affecting such things as washing facilities, clean overalls and the like. If the hon. Gentleman would like it, I can write out the list for him. I hope that in his reply he will tell us what he intends to do with the original proposals, which now look as though they will go into the voluntary code of conduct only.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
This is an important Bill. I am very glad that the Government have introduced it. The complaints of delay that have been raised seem to me to be quite unwarranted, because, as the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) knows, although he did not mention it, the Slaughterhouses Bill had to jump over this one because of the urgency of dealing with slaughterhouses in time for meat de-control. In spite of that difficulty, the Government have found time to give a whole day today, and I have no doubt that in the autumn—
§ Captain Duncan
The hon. Member will recollect that when he was a supporter of the Government of the day that Government took just as much of the time of private Members as any. 1800 This is Government time, and it is quite in order.
§ Captain Duncan
It is plenty of excuse, and there will be plenty of time in the autumn for the remaining stages of the Bill.
This Bill amends and extends the 1938 Act. One of the reasons why I have stayed here today and why I now address the House is that, as a Liberal Unionist, I want to welcome the Bill. The 1938 Act was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), a Conservative, but supported by the late Captain Robert Bernays, whose shield is over there, Mr. Speaker, on your right. He was killed in the war. He was Parliamentary Secretary and a National Liberal. Today this Bill is being introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food and by the Parliamentary Secretary, both of whom are Liberal Unionists. The 1938 Act was passed, and this Bill is being considered, under a Conservative Government with National Liberal support.
There has been a great deal of criticism by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) about delay in considering this Bill. I am glad that the Minister has taken the trade into consultation. In the old days, it was always the habit of Ministers to take those interested into consultation in the framing of regulations or legislation. I see nothing wrong in any delay that has occurred. The Bill involves a great measure of progress, and I think that as a result of the time taken we shall make it a great measure of progress by the time we have finished with it.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary admitted that the 1938 Act has proved too rigid to meet the varying needs of different trades. In those days the regulation-making power of Ministers was much more restricted, but even before the war there were always difficulties in making laws which would fit so many different conditions in different trades or in different parts of the country. We have to face it that in modern legislation we must adopt the method of Ministers being given power to make regulations. Therefore, I do not object to that, although I am quite prepared to agree that the regulations are much more difficult to 1801 criticise in this House, and impossible to alter once they had been laid.
I should like to remind the right hon. Lady, who criticised the draft regulations, that Clause 27 ensures that all the regulations made under the Bill shall be made by Statutory Instrument. They must therefore have Affirmative Resolutions and can be discussed in this House before they become law. Although the right hon. Lady made a long oration about these regulations, I very much doubt whether this is the right time to do so. These draft regulations are not in regulation form but just in the form of sentences giving the aims and objects of the Government which eventually will be formed into proper regulations.
As she did make her various criticisms, particularly about washing one's hands after being in the lavatory, I should like to read out the Government's intention there, because the right hon. Lady seemed to have got the wrong date and the wrong document. The document I quote from is the covering letter which is dated 31st May—months after the one from which she quoted. Item 9 says:At or near every sanitary convenience provided for the use of persons employed on or about food premises, there shall be displayed in a conspicuous position a clearly legible notice requiring such persons to wash their hands after each occasion that they have used the convenience.The right hon. Lady said that it was not in the regulations or in the code of practice, but it is in the proposed regulation.
§ Mr. Willey
Perhaps I may assist the hon. and gallant Member. The right hon. Lady was quoting from a document supplied by the Department indicating which part of the original regulations have been deleted. The point with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is dealing is that my right hon. Friend was saying that the provision that there should be washing facilities near the sanitary convenience had been deleted. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is, however, dealing with a different point—the provision that there should be a notice advising employees to wash their hands, but not saying where the wash basin should be.
§ Captain Duncan
That is in another regulation. I only used this one example as an illustration of the kind of informa- 1802 tion on which the right hon. Lady founded a bitter political speech today.
Another reason why I support the Bill is that the advances made in recent years, in additions to and subtractions from food, make the first few Clauses of this Bill essential. I think that is recognised everywhere, not least by the Scottish housewife. [Interruption.] Although this bill does not cover Scotland—we shall have a Bill of our own later—Scottish housewives take a broader view of food hygiene than merely provisions covering Scotland.
Another advantage of the Bill, as my hon. Friend has stated, is that it will have the effect of doing away with certain Defence Regulations, which will be incorporated in permanent legislation. That is very important, because we all want to get rid of Defence Regulations. None the less, the Bill is difficult to follow. If anyone tries to read it he will find that at the end of nearly all the earlier Clauses there is a subsection saying that certain Sections of the 1938 Act will be repealed, which makes it difficult to follow what is being done.
In addition, there are the Second and Third Schedules, which repeal or modify an enormous number of provisions of the 1938 Act. It seems to me that we must, in order to have a clear picture, have a consolidation Measure, as soon as possible after the Bill becomes law, in order to make the law intelligible to those who have to operate it, mainly local authorities.
Clause 8 extends existing provisions regarding ice cream and sausages, or to put it briefly, processed meats, to all foods, and suggests registration. I have a personal interest in this matter, because more than 20 years ago I made my maiden speech on the question of sausages and ice cream. They were then put together and have remained together since. They were together in the 1938 Act and are still together in this Bill. [Interruption.] On the occasion to which I have referred, I was discussing a London County Council Bill. It had nothing to do with Scotland.
I am very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary said what he did about the question of registration. The local authorities have a great many means already 1803 for finding out who are food manufacturers, retailers, owners of cafes, restaurants, etc.; and whether it is really necessary to register all the half a million owners of such premises seems to me to be a doubtful necessity. We wish to stop such people from continuing to produce, manufacture and retail food in an unhygienic manner, but we can do that in other ways. I am very glad that my hon. Friend, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister, who has now arrived, are to look into this problem to see if it is necessary, on top of all the other legislation and the provisions which it contains, to go through the formal, and it seems to me unnecessary, process, every year of registering boarding houses, cafes, etc.
I am very glad that the Minister consulted the trade about the regulations, which apparently caused some excitement, because in the first draft of the regulations there were 67 items. I have already said that I think it very right that there should be consultations, and I do not believe that the delay which has been caused has done any harm because we shall get a better Bill, better regulations and a better code of practice, and one which will be practicable.
I hope that the regulation-making powers will not be used too far in advance of the practicability of complying with the regulations. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) made this point very strongly in connection with the catering trade. He said that theory was one thing but that what caterers can do in practice is another. It is very important that we should not go too far, in the use of our regulation-making powers, in advance of the practicability of achieving what the regulations lay down
The hon. Member for Hillsborough talked about big business. He mentioned the enormous number of shops, factories and businesses which the Co-operative movement ran, but there are a great number of small men who own such businesses. I do not want, and I am sure hon. Members opposite do not want, to make the regulations so strict as to be either unenforceable or of such a nature as to put these small men out of business.
§ Mr. G. Darling
Is the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that a business organisation should remain in existence, even though it may be poisoning its customers; even though it may not be doing all the things that come up to the minimum standards that we should like to establish?
§ Captain Duncan
No, I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that the regulations should not be so strict as to be either unenforceable or of such a nature that insistence on their compliance would mean a man going out of business. That is all I am asking for. I think it is quite reasonable. The small man must not be squeezed out by the big man in business—including the Co-operative movement.
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley talked about food poisoning, and the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned a figure of 3,000 cases. In view of the interest taken by hon. Members opposite in the catering trade this morning, it is interesting to recall the figures which we were given in a Parliamentary answer by the Minister of Health on 27th October, last. They are figures of food poisoning—reported, I admit that—between 1st January and 21st October, last year. The total was 300 in those nine months, covering the summer months when most of the food poisoning is likely to take place. The total number of people affected was 5,966. Divided between cafes, hotels, catering establishments, etc. there were 24 outbreaks involving 292 people, but in the home there were 132 outbreaks involving 1,418 people, none of which outbreaks would be covered by the Bill. In schools, there were 28 outbreaks involving 1,970 cases.
These figures disclose that the catering trade has a fairly high reputation and is not so responsible for food poisoning as some loose talk would suggest. The majority of recorded cases of food poisoning take place either in the home or at school, and quite a number occur in hospitals. It is important to bear this fact in mind, in case an exaggerated view is taken of the dangers of eating out. I am told that 10,000 million meals are now served in canteens, hotels and restaurants each year. The habit of eating out has increased enormously since the war, and it would be wrong to give people the impression, through loose talk 1805 about dirty cafés, that catering establishments are mainly responsible for outbreaks of food poisoning.
Food poisoning is a notifiable disease. I am quite prepared to admit that the figures which I have given do not present the whole story. Doctors are supposed to notify the disease. If they do not do so they are breaking the law. I am also prepared to admit that much of the food poisoning takes place at home, when the wretched victim usually goes to bed, takes a dose of medicine, and hopes for the best. Sometimes one may eat a bad oyster—which, I suppose, is food poisoning. It is very important that the figures in relation to food poisoning should be brought to the attention of the public so that people should not be frightened that this modern habit of eating out is mainly responsible.
Amendments will be put down to the Bill in due course but they will not be hostile to the purposes of the Bill and will all be designed to make it more practicable in its application to town and country alike. We must remember that the Bill affects the country as well as the town, and we should not raise the standards in the towns to an extent which cannot be provided in the country.
Clean food, bought in hygienic surroundings and prepared under hygienic conditions, with no unhealthy chemical added or health-giving constituent subtracted, is the aim of the Bill, and is one which we can all applaud. It will help our people to keep their health and will reassure our visitors from overseas. But no law can achieve this object alone. Education and propaganda must be stepped up. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley mentioned the St. John Ambulance Association. I, too, have received a letter from that organisation, and I can confirm the figures given by the right hon. Member, as well as the good work which is being done by that body. I should like to read another part of the letter, which says:We are the only body in the country which runs elementary courses on food hygiene on a national basis specially aimed at canteen workers and the general public. What we are trying to do is very much in accordance with the intentions of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill and we believe that if a sufficiently large body of educated opinion can be created in the country any implementation of the Act will be very much simpler.1806 I think that that is perfectly right. The more education which takes place, especially in food handling—and not only among those who handle the food but for the customers in the shops—the better. I want to see customers exercising pressure on shopkeepers. If they see a cat lying against some margarine in a window of the shop they should not make any purchases in that shop, and they should tell the shopkeeper why. All this cannot be achieved by an Act of Parliament. All that we can do is to lay the foundation. The public must respond in their own way, and see to it that a health-conscious nation is built up on the foundations of the Bill.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)
I should like to express the attitude of the trade unions on this matter. We have heard a great deal from various experts today, and I think we should hear something from the organisations representing the workers in the catering and food industries.
For many years the trade unions have given deep consideration to a clean food policy. They realise its importance not only from the angle of public health but also from the point of view of the employees themselves, and in the interests of good business. They participated with the trading organisations in suggesting proposals which might be embodied in an amending Measure, but we find that nearly all their proposals have been disregarded.
My right hon. Friend discussed in detail many of the proposals submitted by the trade unions, and I shall not touch upon them myself except in one minor degree. I do not understand the logic behind the omission of Proposal No. 11, which says:No person shall prepare, process, pack, store, sell or expose for sale any food in in-sanitary premises whereby it may become contaminated with filth or whereby it may be rendered injurious to health.It is most extraordinary that this provision is to be omitted from the revised regulations, and also from the code of practice. Does the logic of its omission lead to the fact that the sale of food can take place in in-sanitary premises and under filthy conditions? One would have thought that this provision might have been left in for the protection not only of the staff but the public.
1807 It is an acknowledged fact that in recent years, perhaps arising from the conditions produced by two world wars, a growing number of people eat in cafes, restaurants and schools. The growth of this habit makes it absolutely essential that the 1938 Act should be amended. I am afraid, however, that in view of the fact that so many proposals have been rejected what appeared at one time likely to be a very lusty infant has turned out to be one with only a tiny squeak. It will not be as effective as it might have been.
We in the trade union movement feel most keenly about the provision of adequate protective clothing. Many of the large multiple firms already provide protective clothing and free cleansing, which they do themselves. I feel, and so do the trade unions, that the provision of adequate protective clothing and its laundering should be legally enforceable, because we are trying to protect the health of the general public, and that consideration should be paramount in the discussions that are now taking place.
Notwithstanding all that has been said here today on the high level of the scientific approach, we must continue to press for more adequate washing facilities, for protecting clothing, and for all those sorts of things that ensure that the customers receive food that is clean.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Fleetwood-Hesketh (Southport)
I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes. I want to confine my remarks to the educational aspect of food hygiene. Many previous speakers have already alluded to the fact that while the cleanliness of premises and utensils is important the most important thing is the training of the food handlers. They have also pointed out that more can be achieved in this regard by instruction than by regulation.
As so often happens in our public affairs, this seems an admirable field for voluntary enterprise to support State action. Several speakers have alluded to what I regard as the most useful voluntary enterprise of all, namely, the St. John Ambulance hygiene course. I must express my gratitude to the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) for drawing attention to the fact that these 1808 courses were started four years ago in the constituency which I represent.
I happened to be Mayor of Southport at the time and had the honour of presenting the first certificates awarded. We are very gratified to find that the scheme has been taken up by headquarters in London and has now spread to more than 30 other towns. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley will be pleased to know that we in Southport feel very grateful to him for the part he has taken in extending the system to other parts of the country.
The scheme in Southport has advanced remarkably well. We have had 570 people to date attending the courses, 346 have sat for the examination, and 225 have received certificates. We have now also an advanced course for proprietors, which is being regularly attended. I gather that it is now the general practice to provide such advanced courses. It is interesting to note that the project has been keenly supported by most of our local caterers, who encourage their people to take the course.
This may not be the moment to say it, but I would throw out a suggestion. I feel that it would be a very good idea if, just as employees who have been awarded certificates, receive badges to wear, proprietors should be given some emblem either to print on their menus, or to hang it outside their establishment. This would encourage people to go to those catering establishments where they would know they could get clean meals. If this scheme can be made to spread through the whole country legal action under the Bill will, I think, very rarely need to be exercised.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)
In the years I have attended this House I have rarely heard a more terrible indictment of the Government than that which my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) delivered today. I am sure that we are all waiting with interest to hear what answer is to be made to that—I repeat—terrible indictment. Looking at the circumstantial evidence and the fact that this Government relegate a Bill on a matter of this importance to a Friday, and not only to a Friday but to only part of a Friday 1809 Sitting, one can see how very unimportant it is in the eyes of the Conservative Party. Many other people will take note of that.
I am not a doctor, but I have eaten food for 50 years and hope to go on eating it for a long time yet, and I am concerned because the Bill deals so much more with hygiene, important as it is, than with the question of what is actually in the food we eat. I think other hon. Members are, too, including the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fleetwood-Hesketh). I agree with what he said.
It has always been a source of great curiosity to me, a layman, to know why, during all the years we have tried to cope with the business of getting clean food, the emphasis has always been on the handling of the food. No one doubts the importance of that matter. We have always thought about keeping the dogs out of the food shops, the stopping of smoking in food shops, the wearing of aprons by assistants in the food shops, and many other details of the business of handling food cleanly, but we have heard too little of the important consideration of what is in the food itself.
Most food manufacturers, the best of them—and that means by far the most—are anxious because they can see alongside their products the products of others who seem to act as if they can play with impunity any trick they like in the presentation of food, and get away with it because they can make the food look attractive. If I had the time I could tell many revealing things about the preparation of food products resulting from the fact that research chemists seem to have run amok in producing chemicals which can make food look attractive.
I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary and many other hon. Members that legislation has its limitations and that education must play an important part. As I have said, my qualification for speaking is that for years I have eaten food and hope for a long time yet to go on eating it, but, even so, I should not have had the audacity to take part in this debate were it not that I am also an active member of the Food Education Society, with which some of the finest medical men in the country are connected. In these days, when it seems it is necessary for the State to pour out 1810 cascades of medicine and issue mountains of pills the Government should consider what can be done by an organisation such as the Food Education Society.
The hon. Member for Southport hinted that use could be made of such organisations. The Government should consider giving some assistance in helping such organisations in educating the people in the matter of clean and wholesome food. Were that done many manufacturers who are cashing in on the ignorance of the people might be hounded out of business. The country would obtain a wonderful return for the money it subscribed to help the Food Education Society. Nobody will dispute that today over 700 chemicals are found in food. Some of them we know are not harmful and some might be of food value, but nothing at all is known about the vast majority of them.
I was deeply interested in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. I would not be as hard on him as was my right hon. Friend; probably because I am not of her sex. I can see the best in men whereas my right hon. Friend can often see the worst. For my part, I believe that her strictures were deserved, but they do not apply particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary, because I honestly believe that he was not as happy as he would have been had he been allowed his own way in these matters. We all know that a member of a Government has to do a lot of things to which he does not subscribe. I believe that if the Parliamentary Secretary had had his own way he would have done much more with the Bill than he can do as a member of a team.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave an example of a chemical which had been tried out on rats and had been found to be harmful to them—and he said it was not good enough that it should be used for human beings. I asked him about agene, which is causing concern to many people connected with the Food Education Society—and I could give the names of the greatest people in the country, who are connected with this work. In experiments with animals, particularly ferrets and monkeys, agene has been found to be harmful. Why, then, could not the Parliamentary Secretary answer my interjection? If a chemical was not good enough for use in one case, why does that not apply to agene, which most 1811 people believe is a great evil in this country?
In connection with this effort to safeguard the health of the people, is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of experiments which have taken place, particularly in the West Country, with a view to providing flour and bread free of chemicals? In addition, research is going on in the Scottish School of Bakery. It seems that we must tie these things together; it concerns not only those who produce flour, but also the bakers. We must have the co-operation of the bakers. As a result of my membership of the Food Education Society, in our home we have for months avoided bought bread like the plague. Although my wife is busy in domestic and public life she still finds time to bake her own bread with flour which has been stone-milled, and which, as a consequence, is a wholesome food.
I recognise that several other hon Members wish to speak and I will, therefore, keep my speech short. I only wish that on other occasions other hon. Members would think of me when I want to take part in a debate and would keep their speeches short. However, in the interests of my colleagues I will omit much of what I had intended to say.
I ask not only the Ministers of this Government but anyone else who might in future be in office to consider not only the hygienic side of this problem, but also the question of wholesome food. If there is a need for education, let us help those organisations whose members, through great public sacrifice and service, are trying to do what I believe is vital—to educate the people on the subject of wholesome food. In turn, the public can then dictate the type of food being served in shops. I suggest that the Government should consider this not as a matter which can be relegated to a two-hour debate on a Friday. They should consider it as a question of prime importance, bearing in mind the types of food which are now being sold.
Is it not disgraceful that chemicals are being used for which human beings are the guinea pigs? For example, there is the use of dyes from coal tar, although we know that all the workers handling them have to take special precautions to protect their health. Nobody can say at 1812 the moment that these substances are harmful, but why should we experiment in this way, leaving the use of them to continue for a long period, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, to see whether they poison us or not? I believe that the case should be made out for the use of these chemicals before we use them.
The trouble with the Bill is that it enforces nothing at all. It is only permissive in those aspects in which it should be made crystal clear that powers will be taken to see that this subject is treated in a proper fashion. Let us consider the health of the potential mother and the food which she is eating, for she is bearing the child who will be part of the next generation—our greatest national potential. It is the belief of the Food Education Society that this country is now suffering from listlessness based largely on the fact that too many chemicals are being foisted on the public when it is not known whether they are harmful or otherwise. It is time this matter received the degree of priority which it richly deserves.
§ 2.27 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) has raised the question of the Food Education Society and the importance of that aspect of this problem because it shows that both sides of the House are greatly in agreement and not as much in disagreement as the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham. West (Dr. Summerskill) would lead us to suppose.
The right hon. Lady was good enough to impute a good social conscience to us, but she said that it had gone wrong in this case. I thank her for that tribute on behalf of all of us but I claim that, if anything, our social conscience is even higher in this respect because our idealism is of a higher nature; we want to achieve what she wants to achieve, but we want to do it not by force and compulsion but by the free will of those who will abandon malpractices and use good practices in the handling of food.
§ Dr. Summerskill
When I suggested that a good social conscience was enjoyed on the other side of the House I was directing my remarks to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) personally.
§ Mr. Pitman
I thank the right hon. Lady very much. Being equally in a generous mood, I was passing those gracious compliments to all my colleagues.
There is no fundamental difference between food provided for sale and food provided not for sale. It is just as disastrous to cause a death in a private kitchen as to cause a death in a public kitchen, of the right hon. Lady believes that her method of stopping food poisoning and these malpractices is best—the method of compulsion—why does she stop at only one section of the food eaten, and that the smallest section? She has said that under the legislation which she provided she could have made it illegal for these malpractices to exist in her own kitchen. But she did not do so. Why not? It seems to me that there is only one answer which she can give—that it is not practicable.
The point which we make is this: in this question of the catering industry there is no dividing line between the domestic person operating at home; the person who offers tea to a hiker who says, "I am exhausted, will you provide me with tea and I will pay for it?"; someone who puts up a notice saying, "Teas and lemonades"; and the Savoy Hotel. It is a steady gradation, and food poisoning is possible at any of those levels. We believe that the right hon. Lady did not introduce the element of force throughout the whole scale because she knew that it was impracticable.
May we make it quite clear that it is only on the regulations which the Minister will make that she has delivered her attack this morning? If her party were re-elected, it would be possible for her, under the Bill, to bring in regulations, if she thinks that they would be effective. But I think that we have to recognise that the dilemma we face is between what is practicable and what is desirable, but we should not try to do what is impracticable, or pass laws to do it, thereby bringing the law into contempt and achieving nothing.
The right hon. Lady's speech was either, as mentioned by one of my hon. Friends, an attempt to hit the headlines, or it was a defence of the child which she herself said she mothered and of which the hon. Member for Sunderland, 1814 North (Mr. Willey), who sits beside her, was the father. I can understand her desire to see that every single hair of the child remains untouched, but we want to give it a slight haircut. With regard to regulative power, we want to see, and we shall assist so far as practically possible in seeing, that all the good things which the right hon. Lady mentioned do, in fact, happen. But we do not believe that they can be enforced by that particular means.
I believe that the name on the previous Bill which was introduced in 1938 was that of the then Minister of Health whereas the name on this Bill is that of the Minister of Food. It is notorious that the attitude of mind of the Ministry of Food after a period of control, lasting throughout the war, is much more directed towards force than that of other Ministries in similar circumstances. Is it not significant that whereas everyone would agree that every doctor ought to practise aseptic surgery—and I hope that the Minister of Health will correct me if I am wrong—there is no law compelling a doctor to use aseptic surgery. It is the practice, however, as a result of their education to use aseptic surgery voluntarily.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the sanction of the coroner's court is rather important?
§ Mr. Pitman
So is the sanction of the coroner's court in food poisoning. I have no doubt that if Cæar Borgia started one of his dinner parties in the House of Commons, he would find himself in an awkward position.
I was not impressed by the article in the "Municipal Journal" which the right hon. Lady read out. Of course, it is true that people who are appointed in that position must believe in operation by force. They are the people who are responsible for the snooping, and if they believe that approach to the problem is the right one, then to carry out their job with any efficiency they must believe that snooping is the best way to carry it out. Our view on this side is unanimous that, on the whole, snooping in this field is wrong because it will produce no good results. Even after such snooping we shall still have malpractices in the food business and illness where it cannot possibly be detected and stopped.
1815 On the other hand, by educational methods we shall get progress. It is not only by means of St. John Ambulance Brigade that we can do this. I was at Kidbrooke the other day and saw the domestic equipment at the school there. I think that over the years such schools will have a tremendously good effect in 'bringing about enlightened knowledge on this matter. This is done in Canada and the United States. It is only when we have brought public opinion to a high standard that Parliament can follow up behind it.
The Food Educational Society, St. John Ambulance Brigade and the big secondary modern schools of this country can do a tremendous lot in that direction. I have heard nothing which more completely convinced me of this than the scathing denouncement of a Canadian housewife about the alleged malpractice in the handling of food by one of her neighbours. It is public opinion which stimulates good progress, and when we have brought about higher standards, then we can legislate.
I want to make a distinction between food which is packed and sold for consumption off the premises and food which is put on the plate for immediate consumption. I think it is very wise to differentiate between the two. Inspectors will be hard put to deal with a cold or a cut finger and to stop that person from handling food.
With regard to sealed packages of foods and other goods. I think that it is the retailer who needs a little protection under this Bill. If he receives goods ready packed and they were contaminated in the factory, I think that it should be sufficient defence for him to prove that they came to him in the packed and proper state in which he is expected to sell them
I am not happy about the proposals with regard to the nomenclature. Milk of magnesia and "Bristol milk" have nothing to do with the cow, but I do not really think they mislead the public.
These are all mostly matters for the Committee stage. I strongly recommend the Bill and what the Parliamentary Secretary has said with regard to his attempt to get away from the necessity of registration.
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I gladly welcome this Bill. We have waited a long time for it. We all remember a Friday in February, 1951, when my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) introduced a Motion which was then entirely acceptable to the whole of the House, and I cannot help thinking that there is any difference in the tenor of the speeches today as compared with those at that time.
At that time legislation was not immediately practical or available. But I could not help but notice that at that time we were all unanimous in our feelings, whereas today some of us seem to have reservations as to what is practical and what is not practical, and the difference between ideal theory and the possibility of making practice match theory. I think that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have had this made fairly clear to them today.
I am sure that they are well aware of what is likely to happen in the Committee stage. They are going to be asked, as they were asked by the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) today, to realise that the countryside outside the great urban areas cannot possibly afford a standard such as we postulate desirable for the cities and great towns. For that reason, we cannot allow regulations to be so framed as to give a universal standard which should make it difficult for the villages and small towns of the countryside to accept. I am sure the Minister will realise that from this side of the House he will be strongly urged to defend the Bill against encroachments of that kind, for if they were allowed they would make a mockery of the Bill.
All of us accept that education comes before agitation and legislation is the third of the trinity. First we educate and mobilise public opinion, and ultimately we reach legislation. We have had education of different types for a very long time, and we cannot afford to go on waiting indefinitely generation after generation. Agitation is applicable today. We have been agitating in this House whilst there has been public agitation outside. Today the Minister brings the Second Reading of the Bill before us and we have legislation. Surely it would be better to 1817 err on the side of pleading with the industry to accept a high standard than to accept a low and degraded standard which many of us would not be prepared to accept.
I am not affected by the plea that whatever we do we must not run the risk of ever putting the little man out of business. I think it is a specious plea. If we could bring every little man before us and put the case to him, as it has been put today—that we want him to do everything possible so as not to run the risk of being a potential poisoner of his customers—he would agree and would accept what the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary want him to do—to keep his place thoroughly clean, modern and up-to-date. I must insist that what the Parliamentary Secretary said at the beginning of his speech is absolutely correct and that the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus was quite wrong in the figures he gave of the number of cases of food poisoning. Of course they are much greater than the numbers which are recorded.
Those of us in medical practice must insist that this is a real problem which is not to be despised or decried by quoting a few official figures of cases which are notified by medical men. Of course, 10 times as many never even reach medical men, and medical men in practice cannot investigate every case bacteriologically and then notify whether the case is one of salmonella or dysentery, or some other case of poisoning; he gets his patient cured and goes on to the next. Let us multiply the cases by 20 and then we shall have some idea of the number of folk who suffer in this way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) was very kind in cutting his speech short. I want to say "Thank you" to him, because that has enabled me to get in and to say some of the things which he had in mind. He had in mind the first five Clauses of the Bill in which the Minister is to take power to protect the public against any ill effect from the addition of any new substances—so-called chemicals—which may be added to the food either in preserving food or the manipulation of food to make it more attractive to the eye. Those first five Clauses also depend very much on the regulations which ultimately will be put out by the Minister.
1818 I want to support my hon. Friend in saying that we do not know enough about this subject to be either complacent or dogmatic. The Delaney Committee suggested that there are more than 700 substances used in the manipulation of food to preserve it, to alter its texture, or to prevent its staling and so on. At least 250 out of the 700 we have not tested biologically and we cannot tell whether they are harmful to human beings or not. The fact that we do not know makes it imperative that we should have a Measure like this to provide machinery to protect the public.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us the example of dulcin which, experimentally given in large doses, tended to cause tumours of the liver. We have had the example of colouring matter used for colouring butter which now we forbid in this country because we are satisfied that it is carcinogenic. We know that the Fluorine in Food Order, 1947, and the Order associated with mineral oils were both annulled. Now neither fluorine nor mineral oil can be added to food because we are satisfied that that is not good for the public.
In addition to the direct use of colouring matter and preservatives or of any sort of chemicals in food, however, I beg the Minister to bear in mind that there are other ways in which dangerous products can creep into food. They get in while the food is a growing plant. The Working Party led by Professor Zuckerman, which reported on Toxic Chemicals in Agriculture, has been mentioned. I wish to quote one brief phrase about the part played by industry. The Report says:While it is reassuring that we have found no evidence of danger arising from the eating of food made from crops that have been treated with chemicals, we fully appreciate that risks may exist even if they cannot be given scientific definition, and that steps should be taken to prevent a disquieting situation from getting out of hand.Those are really serious words, and there are many similar sentences running through the Report. Obviously, it will be the responsibility of the Minister and of his colleagues the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture to watch the whole situation very carefully.
We have to remember that 60 per cent. of our food comes from abroad and that we have no control over its treat- 1819 ment whilst growing in its original state. That in itself is a disquieting thought. Recently a number of Questions were asked of the Minister about sprays used on oranges to prevent mould growing on them. We have no control over that except that, if we are dissatisfied, we can do as the Minister threatened to do—say that we will not let in any more. The pulp of the fruit is affected and children sometimes eat the skin as well as the pulp and run the risk of being made ill. If we have no knowledge of how food is grown and what sprays are used we are in danger and without any method of protecting ourselves, unless we can have international inquiry and co-operation.
Everyone knows that even a simple and very valuable substance like D D.T., if used excessively and in the wrong places, results in the flesh or fatty tissues of animals which feed on crops showing the presence of D.D.T. in their living tissues. Rabbits, sheep and so on have shown evidence of that according to reports from America, and it has been found in man also. In its third Report, the Delaney Committee recently made a statement of its objectives, which I think we would all do well to attain. I ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary whether they would not agree thatno chemical should be permitted to enter the nation's food supply until its safety for use has been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt.Those seem reasonable words, and I hope that we can accept them as describing the kind of attitude that we should adopt towards this subject.
We have to be careful not to fall between the one stool of excessive enthusiasm for the protection of the public health, enthusiasm so excessive that we will become ridiculous in our attitude and fanatical in our views, and the other stool of making light of the whole subject and assuming that there is no danger, as one sometimes hears people declare. The great problem that faces the world today is the shortage of food itself. Nothing that we do must ever be done in such a way that food is wasted and food that can be preserved is not so preserved. If the people of India in their millions were listening to our debate and noted how careful we wish to be that our food should not be contaminated or 1820 spoiled, I know what their reaction would be.
§ Dr. Stross
Yes, they would say "Look how we have to live." Their problem is that of sheer hunger and our anxiety is that we should not have our food spoiled. We must be moderate in our views. The chemist cannot be stopped entirely, but we should have some control over him, and I think that he would welcome it. We need more knowledge than we have on this subject, and to obtain it we must co-ordinate all those who are working in this field.
The very fact that the Bill provides that the Minister can ask for information and is empowered to obtain secret information on condition that he does not give it to commercial competitors is an excellent step forward. We want a body that will co-ordinate all the information and available research so that they can be put at the disposal of food manufacturers and chemists. We should have a sort of pharmacopoeia on the subject. We forbid the use of certain chemicals in our food but we do not give a list of those which are permitted.
We tend to assume that because certain things are forbidden everything else can be used, but we should have three categories in this respect. We should have a category of those things that are forbidden, then a second category to the effect, "We have no evidence against these things and so far as our tests help us to know we believe they are safe to use." That would help the trade generally. The third category should be to the effect that, "These things have not yet been tested fully and we advise you not to use them." That is not asking too much in a matter of this kind.
The Bill contains a Clause dealing with labelling, which we shall discuss fully in Committee. Labelling is a sore point with people. People in Britain are educated and can read, and the Minister should assist us in obtaining the adequate labelling of products. The label should be written in English and should not, as so often happened in the past, contain wonderful names which mean nothing but look important. We want labelling in English, because medical men who are fully acquainted with these matters would be in a position to advise patients, if 1821 patients asked for their advice, and interested people would tend to take note of what happened to their food, with the result that the necessary check would be applied to the legislators.
The chemist is not an anti-social person. He is a very valuable citizen. The fact that with his new products he can deceive the eye, seduce the palate and entirely defeat the nose is not necessarily his fault. It is for us to check any excesses that might come out of his Pandora's Box. There is a provision in the Bill forbidding the production of foodless food. That means that in future we shall cease to have offered to us such things as meringues made from cotton wool. I hope that in Committee the Minister will accept from us a proposal that in future the pre-war practice of forbidding the use of sulphur for the preservation of foodstuffs should be adopted again. We shall do our best to make the Bill a good Bill, which I am sure the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary wish it to be.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I am speaking as a follower of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) in the sense that I regard the Bill only from the viewpoint of the consumer. I believe more in education than in regulation to obtain cleaner food. In Wembley, we have an excellent clean food association which is doing a great deal of good work in that direction, as I think the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) will agree. I believe that we can do more by means of bodies like that than by regulations.
There is, however, one aspect of this matter that can be dealt with by regulation. It concerns the transport of meat. It is astonishing that one can still see on the streets the unloading from lorries of meat which is not covered at all. By regulation, imported meat must be covered, but home-killed meat need not be covered. I gather that it is not practicable to do so. I should like to ask the Minister why that is so and why the same regulation cannot be applied to home-killed meat as applies to imported meat. Why cannot we cease having this appalling spectacle of uncovered meat being unloaded a few yards from the dust cart, by which it might be contaminated?
§ 2.58 p.m.
Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) for his brevity, because I am fully aware that he has been with us throughout our discussion. I am sure that the House will agree that this has been a very useful debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) struck a note of criticism to which I shall return, but the fact that the House has shown interest in the subject of clean food is encouraging. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will think over very carefully many of the points that have been raised in the debate.
As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) would expect, I can say that I have a fatherly interest in the Bill. When I was at the Ministry of Food, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb) asked me to do what I could to promote the clean food campaign. I am satisfied that the present Parliamentary Secretary is doing all he can to promote the same campaign. During my time at the Ministry we got the report of the Catering Establishments Working Party, and it was on the basis of that we decided to take the action which we hope will come to fruition this Session.
The subject that we are discussing today is of cardinal importance to us all. I regard the menace of dirty food as a challenge to our social standards. If we wish to improve our social standards we should take every step possible to ensure that we have not only safe food, but also clean food decently served.
The field of possible food contamination has been enormously widened over the past few years. I concede, however, that in tackling the problem we have to be patient and to rely very largely on example and persuasion, and we must not be too prone to exaggeration. I concede at once that cleanliness is a way of decent behaviour, and the important thing is to get that standard of decent behaviour recognised. I pay tribute to the professional bodies, voluntary societies, trade associations, trade unions, hon. Members and others who have played their part in encouraging public awareness of the problem and in creating the necessary public opinion.
1823 Nevertheless, in spite of all this, and in spite of the recognition of the cardinal, fundamental importance of education, we considered it imperative, for the reasons which the Parliamentary Secretary has given, to improve and strengthen the Food and Drugs Act. 1938. I remember that in the debate in February, 1951, the Parliamentary Secretary said that the report of the Working Party provided a wealth of opportunity for legislative zeal. It not only afforded that opportunity but imposed as a bounden duty upon the Department the improvement of the 1938 Act.
The Labour Government left it all prepared. I make no complaint that it has taken some time for the Bill to reach Parliament. After all, any new Government is faced with the urgent matters which impress themselves upon it. I am happy to regard the Minister as the godfather and the Parliamentary Secretary as the midwife of the Bill. Nevertheless, there are real points of criticism for which the midwife is at any rate partly accountable.
The Bill got its Second Reading in another place on 24th November, 1953, and it is now 23rd July, 1954. In these circumstances, we must suspect the good intentions of the Government. To put it another way, the Third Reading took place in another place on 30th March, four months ago, and we now have the Second Reading in this House just before the long Summer Recess. The Second Reading debate could have taken place in this House four months ago. The discussions which are being held could have taken place notwithstanding the examination of the Bill in Committee. In fact, it would have helped if the Bill had been in Committee while the discussions were continuing.
It is clear that in some Government circles there is opposition to the Bill and some reactionary pressure on the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not know where the pressure comes from—I am not a member of the 1922 Committee, and I am not well informed about its affairs—but I emphasise that if it is pressure which seeks profit at the expense of clean food—in other words, dirty food at high profits—it is very discreditable pressure.
1824 There has been talk today about snoopers. The Parliamentary Secretary knows who the snoopers are. They are the sanitary inspectors. The sanitary inspector is inevitably a source of criticism from the benches opposite. Why? Because he is the worst enemy of the slum landlord. In the same way, the worst enemy of premises which are not up to standard is the sanitary inspector, and that is why I am disturbed that, even during this debate today, there has been some talk about snooping and all the rest of it. The sanitary inspector is an official who has carried out his duties. I am sure, with absolute propriety, and, as the carrying out of those duties is absolutely essential for the protection of the tenant, so, also, it is absolutely essential to all those interested in clean food.
The long time which it has taken this Bill to reach us today is very unfortunate for this reason. When, in the last Administration, we were considering promoting such legislation, we recognised that this was the sort of Measure that would be a long time passing through the House. There ought to be no political differences about it, but there are widespread interests which express themselves in manifold ways, and it is for that reason that this Bill ought to have been sent to Standing Committee as soon as possible, so that there could be full and proper discussion by all those interested in food hygiene.
I now want to say a few words in a fairly critical sense about the draft regulations. There is no dispute in principle about this matter. In the fight of our experience of the working of the 1938 Act, in order to ensure cleaner and safer handling and preparation of food, it was clearly necessary to provide for progressive improvement in the changing conditions by reference to regulations rather than seek a new definition in a new Act of Parliament. The special importance of the regulations in the context of our present discussions, as I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will concede, is that this Bill will repeal parts of the 1938 Act, and that those provisions will be replaced by regulations.
It is imperative, therefore, that the regulations should come into force contemporaneously with the Bill becoming an Act. In a very real sense on this occasion, the regulations are part of the legislation that we are now discussing, and 1825 it is quite true that, regarded in that light, all the hopes that were centred on this Bill have been dashed to the ground. The Parliamentary Secretary says that what we need for the purpose of food hygiene are relatively few simple rules, but the hon. Gentleman had already expressed what he believes to be the necessary simple rules, because he and his right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister were responsible for the first draft.
They cannot say that this is a shot in the dark, because this is a matter which has been considered in the Department for the past few years, and it is a matter which was before the Working Party which examined the catering trade. In fact, the matter bas been under constant examination and discussion, with the result that the original draft regulations represented the considered opinion of the Department when they were submitted for the consideration of the trade. They have now been revised, and I defy the Parliamentary Secretary to call in aid a single professional body which is satisfied with the proposed new regulations.
Not only does the Royal Sanitary Institute say they are totally inadequate, but every professional body—indeed, every body which has not a vested interest in the trade—is upset and disturbed by the proposed new regulations. It is not open to the Parliamentary Secretary on another matter to call in aid the Chief Medical Officer of Health when my right hon. Friend revealed that four of the leading medical officers of health in the country are sharply critical of the present proposed draft regulations.
Surely we have come to a sorry pass when each of these distinguished medical officers of health indicates that, if the Bill is to become law in this form, it is not worth having. As my right hon. Friend said, fancy a distinguished medical officer of health saying, "If these draft regulations cannot be drastically strengthened, the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill should be shelved for the time being." We could not have a stronger criticism than that.
Admittedly, in many other respects the Bill is a considerable improvement on the present Act, but this medical officer is saying that unless the Government show a better sign of good faith the Gov- 1826 ernment shall not be empowered to make the Regulations. That is, in fact, saying, "We would rather rely on the present Act than seek to improve the provisions of the Act and leave it to the Government to resort to regulatory powers." That is the position as clearly revealed by the references made to the statements of these medical officers, in today's issue of the "Municipal Journal." The Parliamentary Secretary could have no more disturbing criticism to face than that.
It may be suggested—the Parliamentary Secretary is too discreet to do so—that the hands of Ministers are tied by reactionary masters and it may even be indicated, as it has been by Government supporters, that we have a false appreciation of the difficulties; but unless the Parliamentary Secretary and his Minister can show a better sign of good faith the Bill will do considerable harm, and to the Parliamentary Secretary himself, who has worked hard in the interests of food hygiene.
We had an extraordinary argument from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman). He said—I do not think I am doing him an injustice—that we should support the Measure because, although the present reactionary Government might make little use of the regulatory powers, some time—presumably, after the next Election—we might have a more progressive Administration which would make Regulations to satisfy those who are interested in clean food.
It is an attractive argument, with the gloss I put upon it. It illustrates the likely trend of historical events, but it is untenable, for the reason that has driven a distinguished medical officer of health to say that it would be better to shelve the Bill for the time being.
§ Mr. Pitman
My point was that this discussion is in many ways out of order because the regulations are not in the Bill but are intended to be made under the Bill. We should have had a representative example of the regulations.
§ Mr. Speaker
A question of order is a matter for me. What the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) says is normally right, but in this case there seems to have been in the possession of hon. Members on both sides of the House a draft of regulations which appear to have been circulated as being relevant to the Bill 1827 discussed today. In the circumstances, I thought that perhaps the best way was to regard this as a special case and not interrupt hon. Members who made reference to the draft regulations. I do not desire unduly to restrict the discussion.
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman and thus afforded him the opportunity of raising what was really a point of order.
I was on the point of saying that this argument is really untenable because, if inadequate and unsatisfactory regulations come into force when this Bill becomes an Act, they will undermine the whole confidence of those engaged in ensuring higher standards of food hygiene and the clean and safe handling of food. It will dishearten those who have been seeking progressively to improve the standards, and it will disillusion—and this is important—the progressive industrialist and the enlightened food trader.
The question of competition has been mentioned. The enlightened industrialist is always willing to set the pace and to provide good, clean conditions. But he likes to know that what he is doing is recognised by authority and that others are compelled, as far as maybe, to come into line with the example he has set. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary must now have the courage to improve and strengthen these regulations and to restore the spirit of the original regulations.
It is quite clear that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot produce a single instance in which the regulations have been improved in the second draft. I have already indicated that it will not do for the hon. Gentleman to get up and say that his original regulations were foolish. They were put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary, who is very experienced in these matters, against a background of years of examination, not only by the Department, but by working parties representing both sides of the trade. They represented the best advice that the Parliamentary Secretary could put forward.
There is this further danger. Let us take a couple of examples, the first, spitting. The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister originally thought that the 1828 prohibition of spitting should be legally enforceable, as it is on buses and public transport. They now say that it is not necessary to make it legally enforceable. What will the unsocial person do? He will now say that he is free to spit, because he knows that, originally, the intention was to make it an offence.
Take another example, that of trampling on fish. That was to be prevented, but now it is to be permitted. The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) mentioned the transport of meat, a matter with which we are all very much concerned. Originally, there was a provision that a person who is required to carry meat on his shoulders should wear a clear shoulder pad made of impervious material and a clean head covering of such material and design as shall protect the meat from contamination. That is no longer required, so, by inference, the carrying of meat without these safeguards is permitted.
The Parliamentary Secretary cannot avoid that inference. His original intention was to prohibit it. He has withdrawn the prohibition, and, therefore, he is saying to the meat porters, "You can carry the meat without this covering." Another point about meat was thatNo meat shall be placed on any part of the vehicle which is walked upon nor shall the meat be allowed to come into contact with the ground.That, also, has gone. What will be the effect of what the Parliamentary Secretary has done? It will mean that meat can now be placed in any part of the vehicle which is walked upon and can be dragged across the pavement, because, originally, he said that we must prohibit that, and now he is saying that he was wrong in suggesting that prohibition.
I have not the time to deal with further examples—though if one runs through these draft regulations examples could be multiplied many times—but I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to show some courage about this and to stand up to those who are putting the pressure upon them. I assure him that when we come to the Committee stage we shall give him every support, and shame those opposing him now, because they will not have the courage to express their point of view in the open forum of a Committee of this House.
1829 The Parliamentary Secretary disturbed me considerably when he spoke about registration. In a shifty sort of way, looking over his shoulder to those behind him, which is becoming a habit now of anybody speaking from that Box—he would have been ashamed had he looked at me when he made this announcement; he is blushing now at the thought of it—the Parliamentary Secretary indicated, and I noted the satisfaction on the benches behind him, that he does not think it necessary to proceed with registration.
He is abandoning the Catering Trade Working Party's Report. What was the first recommendation of that Report? It was that "all catering establishments should be required to register with the appropriate local authority." What was the great significance of this Working Party's Report? It was that the industry itself agreed to registration. Now we have the Parliamentary Secretary giving way, not to the catering trade—because the trade expressed itself through its representatives on this Working Party—but to more reactionary elements within the catering trade.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House what discussions there have been about this? Has he discussed with the local authorities the abandonment of one of the cardinal points of the Bill? Has he discussed it with the professional bodies?
§ Mr. Willey
Has he discussed it with the medical bodies? Has he even discussed it with those members of the Working Party for the catering trade who said that registration is necessary? The reason why registration is essential, and has always been regarded as essential by the hon. Gentleman's Department, is that the onus should be on the public authority to see that the premises are adequate and proper for providing clean and safe food. It should be a public responsibility. Now, at this stage, we are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that he is giving way on another cardinal feature of this present legislation.
I make no apology for devoting the whole of my time to this aspect of the Bill. I conclude by appealing to the Parliamentary Secretary to recognise that the regulations are the essential part of 1830 the proposals in the Bill, and that the touchstone of the sincerity of the Government lies in the regulations which they propose to issue under it. I would like him to have the courage, having given way to the more reactionary elements in the food industry and trade, to announce now that he is prepared to amend the present regulations so as to strengthen them and to meet the points of criticism which are being made by every professional and public body interested in the question of clean food.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will declare, in winding up this debate, that not only will he do this but that he will make no further appeasement to the more reactionary elements in the food trades. I warn him that if he does not do so, we shall, during the Committee stage, take every opportunity to expose this cynical disregard for public opinion.
I have said before that I have some sympathy for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister, and I say at once that I appreciate the reasons which kept him from our discussions today. I also appreciate his interest in this matter, as I appreciate the interest of the Parliamentary Secretary. If I did not do so I should not be making this appeal to them. They are prisoners of the Tory Party. They are good men who have gone bad. They have learned a lot in the light of their bitter experience over the past few years. They have learned in this matter, as they have learned in so many others, that however laudable the social purpose is, if the vested interests of a particular section of people are threatened, those vested interests can exercise enormous pressure through the Conservative Party.
In this matter, fortunately, we have the opportunity of further discussions in the open forum which this House provides. I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary to stand up to the criticism that will inevitably come from those behind them; and let the Parliamentary Secretary take this opportunity of salving his conscience, doing something which he, as a professional man, wants to do, and at any rate alleviate in this slight degree the distress and hardship which he has caused to so many housewives in this country.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Dr. Hill
If I may, I shall, with the leave of the House, reply to the debate. It has been an interesting day. I doubt whether there has been a day on which so little reference has been made to the Bill under consideration. I begin by commenting on the speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). She made no reference whatever to the Bill after a preliminary reference to her own relationship with it. She thought that by misrepresenting, in a way which I shall now demonstrate, the position which obtains in relation to the regulations, she could make a convenient political attack while at the same time associating herself with the purposes of the Bill, which she did not even take the trouble to mention.
One of my hon. Friends described her speech as vicious. I thought it was just low, even below the standard which we have come to expect from the right hon. Lady. Let me deal with the points she raised. First I would make quite clear the course of events in relation to the regulations. As it is proposed to repeal Section 13 of the Act, and to replace it by regulations, and as the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, requires consultation with the various groups and interests concerned, it was clearly necessary to begin at an early stage because of the need to make regulations immediately on the passage of the Bill into law and the repeal of Section 13 of the Act.
Last January, the consultations began. This is what was done. There was assembled into one document all the recommendations which had come from various bodies and various sources—working parties and the like. We thought that it would be wise to begin with all the recommendations that had come to us and to sound the representative bodies concerned about them, and that was done. It may be said that it would have been wiser to have sifted the list before it was sent to anybody, but it was decided to put into the list everything that had come to us in an authoritative way. Consultations then took place, and comments, friendly and unfriendly, were received. The second step was then taken of separating them off into three groups, one under the heading of regulations, one under the heading of a code of practice, and the third included under neither heading.
1832 The second stage, of cutting down the regulations and embodying the bulk of the remainder, but not all, in a suggested code of practice, is now the subject of the second phase of consultation. A second document has been sent to the bodies who were consulted upon the first document, and some replies have been received. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) referred to the reaction of the Co-operative movement. I believe that we are still awaiting its reply. Other replies are expected quite soon. Only when these are received—and they will be coming not only from trade bodies but from the Society of Medical Officers of Health, the Association of Municipal Corporations and the rest—will it be possible to reach a conclusion as to what should go into the regulations, what should go into the advisory code, and what should be left out.
I do not think that the right hon. Lady knew that. That is some excuse for her muddying the waters of consultation at this time, for to make the allegations that she and some others have done seems to me to be spoiling the atmosphere and damaging the good work which is now going on. We are still in a phase of consultation. We shall doubtless have rigorous comments from the associations of local government and the Municipal Journal will naturally seek to get the longest possible list of regulations. Even distinguished medical officers of health might put forward suggestions which are not really practicable or sensible, in the sense that they create offences for which there are heavy penalties.
I can give some examples of the implications of what the right hon. Lady herself said. She wanted it to be an offence under the Bill not to wash one's hands after using the w.c.—an offence for which the fine can be £100 or three months' imprisonment, or both. Is it really reasonable to impose such a requirement, with such a penalty? She also wanted to make it an offence to smoke in a public house, because, had the first draft—as it had come in from a representative body—been left in the form in which it then was, and in the place it then was, it would have been illegal to smoke in a public house, because a public house would have been a food establishment within the meaning of the Bill, and the penalty would have been 1833 £100 or three months' imprisonment, or both. So we took it out.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I recognise that the hon. Gentleman is on the defensive, but he really must not misrepresent me. He knows perfectly well to what I referred. I referred to the proposal dealing with smoking, spitting and using snuff during the preparation of food. To suggest to the House that on any occasion I said that to smoke in a public house was to be prohibited is entirely inaccurate. I would recall to the Parliamentary Secretary that at the opening of the debate he told us that the Minister was at a Cabinet meeting. He apologised to me and I accepted that apology. He was very courteous about it, and he said that if the Minister returned he would speak and explain some of these things. In view of that statement, he is being extremely discourteous in not allowing the Minister to speak.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
If the hon. Gentleman does not give way no other Member may speak.
§ Mr. Willey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in accordance with the practice of this House that when the hon. Gentleman has been given the leave of the House to speak again he should refuse to give way and should persist in making statements that are inaccurate?
§ Dr. Hill
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman many times, and will again in a moment, but the right hon. Lady took a good bit of time over her interruption, and I want to make a little pro- 1834 gress. The hon. Gentleman is fully entitled to say that this matter should not have been in the first draft, but I have explained how it got into the first draft, and it would have been equally an offence, punishable in the same way, to blow in a bag in a food shop, to use a cracked cup, to cut pastry with a dirty knife, or to wrap apples in a newspaper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I am reciting the facts. The right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman may not agree, but on further reflection it was determined that to impose such requirements, with such penalties for non-compliance, would defeat the purpose of the regulations, and that it would be better to deal with these things through the process of education.
§ Mr. Willey
If the error in the first draft regulations would have applied to public houses, why did the hon. Gentleman put the same provision in the code of practice which, presumably, will also apply to public houses?
§ Dr. Hill
All I am saying at the moment is, not that the provision should not apply to public houses, but that because it happened to be in the regulations it would carry with it these penalties. There is no reason why one should not give advice on conduct in public houses, as, I am sure, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who is usually present when things like this are mentioned, would agree.
This matter is in the process of consultation. It is in process of being determined, but we took the view that it would be unwise, that it would be senseless, to include in the regulations, with such penalties on prosecution, conditions the observance of which cannot be secured in that way because they affect matters of common human conduct.
There is another point I must mention. It may or may not have been in the right hon. Lady's mind. Another reason why some of these provisions have not been included in the regulations or in the code is that they can be better provided for by byelaws made under Section 15 of the 1938 Act. No mention has been made of the byelaws. The hon. Member for Hillsborough raised the question of cleanliness, which is in part answered by the model byelaws 4 and 5. It is the case that we are in the process of dealing with 1835 this matter. It is certainly the case that we do not propose to introduce into the final draft of the regulations requirements that cannot reasonably be imposed.
The right hon. Lady mentioned another example—the temperature of washing up water. That was in the first list. Had it found its way into the regulations it would have been an offence at law, punishable in the way which I have described, to wash up in water at a temperature less than that stated in the regulations.
I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to face the fact that what can be done by legislation is limited and that if we seek to govern human conduct too closely and too narrowly by regulations carrying these penalties, there will be contempt for the regulations and so the position will be worse rather than better.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) asked a number of detailed questions. He asked whether the next step would be one of consolidation: and the answer to that question is "Yes." He asked whether we were not creating an uncertain balance between local authorities and the Minister and he suggested that there were too many administering authorities. It is possible to argue that to leave local authorities to administer the food and drugs legislation is necessarily to run the danger of varying standards, but I believe that on balance we should do well to continue to place almost the whole of the responsibility on local authorities.
I would remind him that in the collection of information under Clause 4 and in the matter of prosecutions in respect of the composition and labelling of food, the Minister is permitted, where the general interests of consumers as a whole are concerned, to take action rather than to leave it to the individual action of local authorities. My hon. Friend deplored the disappearance of our central advisory service on labelling. Our attitude has been that the trade and industries concerned might well themselves set up their own machinery in order to replace that which has been in existence.
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), who perhaps more than any other hon. Member has 1836 concentrated his efforts on the educational aspect of this problem, thought it his duty to begin with a little party politics. It came awkwardly from him, and when he settled down into the subject on which he is so genuinely keen we heard him at his best; and we, like him, were glad that this preliminary if inevitable phase was over. He will forgive me for saying that the interest which he declared as a café owner brought a little sense of reality to the debate. It inevitably reminded us of what his right hon. Friend said when she drew the picture of the café owners as a "squalid conspiracy" of big business. It was a little refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman temporarily and modestly associated with that vast conspiracy which his right hon. Friend had established so that she could throw a little mud, as if to suggest that her own support of the Bill was the cleaner and more virtuous for the throwing of that mud.
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley raised a point of great importance: should the Government, should any Government, of themselves, engage more actively in health education? He suggested not only that the Government have been rather tardy but that they were a little less enthusiastic than they might be about the work of the voluntary body with which he is associated. I have had some experience of the relationship between educational bodies and the Government; I had it when I was chairman of the Central Council for Health Education.
I believe that there is a good deal to be said for keeping the Government as such out of such appeals made to the people in the matter of individual conduct. That is not because I wish to see the work less well done, but because I believe that through these voluntary bodies, which are bodies to which people can belong, it is more likely that effective work will be done than if Government activity should appear to exhort the people to take a line of action in relation to their own conduct.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan) raised a number of questions, one of which was in connection with the powers necessary to suspend workers in the case of infectious disease. Until recently the position was that powers were possessed 1837 by the local authorities in respect of infectious or notifiable infectious diseases, but the position now is that an extension has been made to a certain number of infectious conditions, such as food poisoning due to salmonella and a number of other bacteria. The position is not as limited as he thought it, but I will study what he said to see if anything further can be done.
He also raised the point—and I think that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), for quite different motives, also raised it—of the cessation of Section 13 immediately this Bill is passed into law. I am inclined to think there is something in that point. It may well be considered upstairs whether there should not be a certain period of time, say three months, during which Section 13 is kept alive in order to allow for the final stage of consultations on the regulations after the Bill has passed through its various stages in this House.
§ Dr. Hill
If the hon. Gentleman suggests that I am making that suggestion for a political purpose, he is entirely wrong. The hon. Gentleman wants both to claim parentage of this Bill and at the same time to curse it as an example of Tory support of business interests. We may well consider that point in Committee in order to see that there is full consultation before the regulations are made. As to his suggestion of a food hygiene advisory committee, we will certainly look at that suggestion, though we must avoid the temptation to believe that merely to appoint a committee for this purpose will necessarily broaden, expand or improve the consultation which takes place.
The hon. Member for Hillsborough made a number of points. He referred to the difficulty about enforcing some of the regulations, although in fairness to him I should say that I do not think that he was suggesting that the difficult points should be excluded from the regulations, but rather that there should be a procedure of gradual application of the regulations in order to give a reasonable time for any necessary improvements which may be needed. I think that is a sensible point which we must certainly consider at a later stage.
1838 He also referred—and I think I may take this as an example of what is happening in the regulations—to what had happened in the present phase of consultation in relation to washing facilities. The right hon. Lady also referred to it. May I make this clear? Any sort of suggestion that the change that has taken place in relation to washing facilities is a change which damages the purpose of the draft regulations is, I think, misconceived. Let me remind the House of the position. In the present draftthere shall be provided for the use of persons engaged in the handling of food employed on or about food premises suitable and sufficient washhand basinsWhat is taken out are the words,For the use of such persons who have used the convenience.We had created the situation by the regulations that if there were three rooms used for food preparation there would have to be a wash basin for each room. A wash basin which was for one purpose could not be used for another purpose. We had created. it seems, an extravagant requirement in that way, so the words were removed. Again, the draft regulations provide that:at or near every washhand basin provided for the use of persons employed on or about food premises there shall be placed adequate supplies of soap and clean towels or other cleaning and drying facilities.The dreadful thing we have done is to remove the words:where towels are provided otherwise than in continuation towel cabinets, separate towels shall be available and used only by each person to whom allotted.We are removing those words as unnecessary for the purposes of the Regulation.
The hon. Member for Dartford was, I believe, prepared to launch something of a fairly substantial attack on chemical additions to food, but was generous enough to allow his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) to deliver his speech by unduly shortening his own speech. There has been delay on the question of the addition of agene, but the scientific committee to which the matter was referred was asked to report on a safe substitute—not necessarily chemical in character—for agene. Of course that was an invitation for a 1839 prolonged job of work as every alternative had to be tested and re-tested. As the hon. Member said, it looks as if it will be the aeration process, and we hope very much that we shall soon receive a report to enable us to take the promised steps.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central will forgive me if I say very little about his speech. I agreed with practically the whole of what he said, although I think he set a little too high a criterion when he advocated that no chemical should be permitted until its safety has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. It would take such a frightful time to establish the safety of a particular substance beyond reasonable doubt.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North covered the same ground in the first part of his speech as did the right hon. Lady, but he went on to refer to my observations on a matter of registration of premises. The hon. Member will forgive me if I select that, as I think It was the second most important point he made. I was perfectly frank with the House this morning when I told the House that it seemed the necessary sanction could be achieved without the individual registration of premises. It is subject to that qualification that we are inclined to dispense with the processes of registration. We really must not attach ourselves to the traditional method of registration and believe that somehow or other that makes for cleaner food. We should see if we can achieve the needed sanction and dispense with unnecessary steps. We can discuss this matter further in Committee.
In general, richly disguised as it was by hon. Members opposite, I think it can be said that there is general approval for this Bill, although there may be some dark and rather politically convenient doubts expressed about what it is proposed to do under the regulations which are to be made.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.