HC Deb 03 November 1954 vol 532 cc442-4
Sir L. Plummer

I beg to move, in page 21, line 20, to leave out from "procured," to end of line 24, and insert: after the words twenty-eight days' there shall be inserted the words 'in the case of milk, and two months in any other case,' and after the words forty-two days from the said time;' there shall be inserted the words 'in the case of milk'. I cannot gallop through my speech in moving this Amendment, because it is very important, and there would be the risk of a grave injury being done to farmers, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to happen.

We think it would be unreasonable for a farmer whose milk has been sampled to have to wait two months, and possibly six months, to know whether it is sound. Section 80 of the principal Act requires that proceedings shall be taken within 28 days of the sample being taken, and the purpose of this Bill is to amend that 28 days to two months and to extend the period under the Courts of Summary Jurisdiction Act up to six months. That may be perfectly reasonable in the case of ordinary food, but clearly unreasonable in the case of milk, which cannot possibly be more than three or four days old when the sample is taken, and of which samples are capable of very quick analysis.

We therefore think that the Amendment is reasonable in the case of milk—and it is confined specifically to milk—and we hope the Minister will be able to accept it.

Dr. Hill

Because the hon. Gentleman has limited the application of his Amendment to milk, I am able to tell him that we accept it. Other considerations apply to other food.

Amendment agreed to.

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

Mr. Pitman

There is the question of the other foods. In a recent Amendment, the Minister made a point of the need for proceeding quickly so that the citizen should know where he stood. In this clause there is more than a doubling of the minimum period and more than a quadrupling of the full period. I suggest that the Minister should give us some valid reasons why citizens should be kept in uncertainty for all that length of time after a sample has been taken. Surely the citizen is entitled to know soon the result one way or the other. We ought to be told the compelling reasons which make this longer time desirable in the case of commodities other than milk. Why cannot the good treatment accorded to milk, for which we thank the Minister, be extended to all?

Dr. Hill

We do not want to keep anybody waiting longer than is necessary, and for that reason I accepted the Amendment applying to milk. Such is the character of the processes of analysis of food generally, and the time taken, that we must give way to the pressure brought to bear on us to extend the time. Local authorities asked for three months; we decided to extend it to two months. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) to accept that explanation.

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