HC Deb 03 November 1954 vol 532 cc433-8
Mr. Higgs

I beg to move, in page 17, line 11, to leave out from "officer," to the end of line 22, and to insert: not being a sample of cream or a sample to which the foregoing paragraph applies, he shall dispose of the part in accordance with the special provisions contained in the next following subsection. I suggest that it would be convenient to consider, at the same time, the next Amendment in my name, in page 17, to insert new subsections (3) and (4).

Of all the substances that have to be sampled from time to time in the course of the enforcement of these laws milk provides the greatest difficulty, not so much because it is liquid but because it passes through so many hands and is very often mixed from a number of different sources. The problem is to get one part of the milk which is taken to the person who will be the defendant as quickly as possible. Samples may be taken in the dairy or in transit, either in bulk or in bottles, and in each case it may be that a different person may have to defend the milk.

The suggested alteration would provide for separating the different types of container and the different circumstances in which samples may be taken. In the proposed new subsection, paragraph (a) deals with milk taken from large containers in bulk. Paragraph (b) deals with containers of a capacity of six pints or less. That I understand to be a milk bottle. I have not very often seen a six pint milk bottle, but apparently they exist. They contain rather more than a magnum. Paragraph (c) deals with samples taken at a dairy, and paragraph (d) is intended to cover any other cases.

It is hoped that it will be possible, if the different provisions are written into the Bill, for the process of sampling to go more smoothly and with less difficulty than it has sometimes done. In passing, I would say that I do not know whether this suggestion has been considered. Methods of sampling, and so on, are difficult to describe especially in the formal language of the text of a Bill. Perhaps it would be of advantage if it were described in that part where the draftsman can let down his hair, in the Schedule. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has considered whether or not all sampling procedure should be dealt with in the Schedule where it could be more simply expressed and perhaps, as a result, more readily understood.

6.15 p.m.

Dr. Hill

My hon. Friend was good enough to consult us about this matter. As a result I can say that the proposed change has the support of the sanitary inspectors and of the trade. It seems to be a useful permanent change. I have some sympathy with the view that if the sampling procedure could be put in the Schedule, and perhaps written in simpler and less formal language, those who have to follow the procedure might benefit. I promise that I will look at the point between now and Report.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 17, leave out lines 34 to 36, and insert: (3) Where paragraph (c) of the last foregoing subsection applies in relation to a sample of milk, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say—

  1. (a) if the sample was taken from a container having a capacity greater than six pints, and appearing to the sampling officer to show the name and address (being an address in England or Wales) of any person as consignor of the milk the officer shall give the part of the sample to that person;
  2. (b) if the sample was taken from a container having a capacity of six pints or less, and appearing to the sampling officer to show the name and address (being an address in England or Wales) of any person as the person who put the milk into the container, the officer shall give the part of the sample to that person;
  3. (c) if—
    1. (i) neither of the two foregoing paragraphs apply, and
    2. (ii) the sample was taken at a dairy,
  4. the sampling officer shall give the part of the sample to the occupier of the dairy;
  5. (d) if none of the three foregoing paragraphs apply, the sampling officer shall give the part of the sample—
    1. (i) to the occupier of the dairy from which the milk was consigned, or
    2. (ii) (if it was consigned from more than one dairy) to the occupier of the dairy from which it was last consigned.
(4) In every case in which the two foregoing subsections apply the sampling officer shall inform the person to whom the part of the sample is given that the sample was purchased or taken for the purpose of analysis by a public analyst.—[Mr. Higgs.]

Sir L. Plummer

I beg to move, in page 17, line 40, at the end, to insert: (4) Where any sample of milk is taken by a sampling officer, he shall, immediately it becomes possible to do so, notify the person to whom he gives a part of the sample pursuant to the last foregoing section—

  1. (a) that he has decided not to have the sample analysed in a case where he has so decided; and
  2. (b) of the contents of the certificate of the results of an analysis in a case where he so decided.
I presume that the first part of the Amendment will be considered in the light of the debate that we have just had. In fact, I think that the last two Amendments fairly well cover the case that I want to put but, if they do not, I would say quite simply that it is right and proper that either the dairyman or the farmer, as the case may be, ought to be told whether or not the sample of milk which has been taken is to be analysed I do not think that he should be left in any doubt about it. He ought to be told what is the intention of the sampling officer. It will inflict a needless irritation on the dairyman or the farmer if the sampling officer takes a sample and then goes away and there is no indication at all to the milkman or the farmer as to what is to happen to the sample. That is the first point.

The second point is that it is a matter of great importance to the farmer or the milkman that the contents of the certificate of the results of the analysis should be sent to him. The right hon. Gentleman has a great responsibility to see that when milk samples are taken from the farms in pursuit of his policy for better and cleaner milk information is given to the farmer about whether or not his milk has passed the test. The procedure at the moment works against the interests of the farmer. A general certificate is issued saying that the sample has passed the test or has not passed the test, but the farmer does not know to what degree his milk may or may not have passed the test.

The present system of milk production by machinery is a very complicated one indeed. The milk has to flow through a lot of tubes of rubber, steel, and so on, and each of these materials can in itself be responsible for setting up a colony of germs which, if not discovered very soon, may affect the purity of the milk. If the farmer was given information about the degree to which his milk failed the test, it might help him enormously to find out what had gone wrong with the milking process.

There is not a farmer producing milk in this country who is not haunted by the prospect of getting an adverse report on the milk which his cows produce. I know from experience that it can happen because of a worn lining to a teat cup, something which may be overlooked and, indeed, is very difficult to discover. Specific information in the certificate about the degree of failure in the test would help considerably in determining the cause of the failure.

I presume here that the cause is inadvertence and not deliberate; it is a question not of a man being lazy and dirty, but of something going wrong in the complicated modern milking machine. I move the Amendment in the interests of improving the quality of milk and with the object of the farmer being given every encouragement and assistance to produce clean milk.

Dr. Hill

I see a good deal of force in the first point put by the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). I can appreciate that it may well be a source of anxiety to a person when a sample is taken and he has no knowledge of a change of decision. I have sympathy with that point.

I am, however, in real difficulty about the hon. Gentleman's second point. The hon. Gentleman put his case in a most persuasive form and argued it with force in relation to the producer. In its present form, the Amendment would cover what is, after all, a great majority of the samples, those taken from dairymen.

Sir L. Plummer

It would cover the producer-retailer.

Dr. Hill

It might do so, but a vast number of samples are taken at dairies, and it would mean that in every case a copy of the analyst's certificate, a rather complicated document, would have to go to the dairyman. What troubles me is what would happen if, through an omission, a copy of the report was not sent to the dairyman although the report indicated grave adulteration. The omission to send to the dairyman that single and relatively unimportant statement might vitiate a prosecution.

However, I see the strength of the hon. Gentleman's first point, and although I have considerable doubts about the second, I undertake to look at the two points and, if it is considered wise, to put forward an Amendment on the Report stage.

Sir L. Plummer

In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Hill

I beg to move, in page 18, line 2, after "shall," to insert: unless he decides not to have an analysis made This is a simple point. The sampling officer is required to notify the manufacturer that he has taken a sample. Clearly, this is unnecessary when he is not pro- posing to have the sample analysed, and the purpose of the Amendment is to remove the requirement in such circumstances.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Sir Alfred Bossom (Maidstone)

As this Clause is almost entirely administrative, will my hon. Friend agree to look at it again and consider whether he can take out the procedure and provisions which are purely administrative and are not, in general, related to the spirit of the Bill, and put them into a Schedule, by means of an Amendment on the Report stage?

Dr. Hill

The provisions to which my hon. Friend refers might be more conveniently put in the Fourth Schedule, which deals with sampling procedure, for the reason given earlier. We will consider the matter before Report.

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

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.