HC Deb 03 November 1954 vol 532 cc453-6
Mr. G. Darling

I beg to move, in page 27, line 40, to leave out from "on," to the end of line 41, and to insert: the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-five, or on such earlier date as may be appointed by order of the Minister. It is sufficient to say about this Amendment that it is the view of both sides that the new regulations, and the Amendments to the Act, should come into force as quickly as possible. We want to make it clear that that is our general desire and that there are no loopholes through which the Government can shuffle out, and evade the will of the Committee. We therefore wish to impose on them the provision that it shall come into operation on 1st January, 1955—or earlier if it can be done. If the Ministry will meet us on this point we shall be very happy.

Mr. Amory

I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that there will be no shuffling out. I should like to make our intention absolutely clear. We want to introduce a consolidation Measure as quickly as possible, because this Bill will be extremely difficult for the ordinary citizen to understand. Our intention is, if we can, simultaneously to make effective this Bill, the consolidation Measure, and just as many of the regulations as we possibly can. I think that 1st January is a little too soon, but we hope to bring all these into operation in the early months of next year. I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall not lose a single day.

Mr. Darling

With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Captain Duncan

I beg to move, in page 27, line 41, at the end, to insert: Provided that section (Further provisions as to restriction of private slaughterhouses) of this Act shall come into operation on the date of the passing of this Act. This Amendment is related to the new Clause which stands in my name. Both this Amendment and the new Clause arise out of the passing of the Slaughterhouses Act. The 1938 Act had hardly come into effect before the outbreak of war, and during and since the war the Ministry of Food, and the Defence Regulations, have been operating. Private slaughterhouses, and the new, free method of slaughtering have just come into operation. This new subsection and the proposed new Clause, refer to the condition arising out of the new situation.

Section 61 of the 1938 Act fixed the date of the closure as a date to be decided by the local authority. It also says that the resolution shall not have effect until the Minister's approval has been obtained. Some local authorities have been fixing dates too soon for the Minister adequately to consider the case, which might take much longer than the time allowed by the local authority. Indeed, the case might be the subject of a local inquiry, and it might take a little longer. The purpose of subsection (1) of the proposed new Clause, therefore, is to let the Minister, instead of the local authority, fix the date.

Subsection (2) of the proposed new Clause ensures that all persons interested in the property, whatever the property may be, are informed of the resolution, the Minister's decision and the date fixed for the closure. It is obviously right that people who are interested — local butchers, and so on—should be informed of the Minister's decision and the date of the closure.

The third proposal in subsection (3) of the proposed new Clause arises out of the Slaughterhouses Act. It has been found that cases may occur in which certain members of the meat trade have been asked to give an undertaking not to claim compensation under Section 5 of the Act in connection with the application of grants or renewals of licences on the closure of their slaughterhouses. The validity of these undertakings is doubtful, and it is only fair that the rights of the people concerned should be safeguarded and put beyond legal doubt. The object of that subsection is to make it clear where their legal rights are.

Dr. Hill

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) has drawn attention to a difficult point. The words of the proviso to Section 61 (2) of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, dealing with the elimination of private slaughterhouses on the passage of a resolution by a local authority, are: Provided that the resolution shall not have effect until it has been approved by the Minister. Confusion has arisen where local authorities, having passed a resolution, say on 1st January, to come into operation by 3rd January, pass it to the Minister and the Minister some weeks later approves or disapproves. It is clearly desirable that the two dates should be brought together and that this confusion should not remain. There is no more in the first point than that.

The second point that my hon. and gallant Friend made was a good one, and I thought the third point a particularly good one. Some local authorities have, in fact, sought to extract from applicants for slaughterhouse licences a promise that they would not avail themselves of what is legally their right in respect of compensation under the Slaughterhouse Act. We have held the view that such waivers of a man's rights are illegal, but it is thought wise to accept the proposals. In the light of what I have said, I invite the Committee to accept this paving Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I wish to draw attention to the last sentence in the Clause, namely: This Act shall not extend to Scotland. It seems to suggest that Scotland is an adjunct of England and that the Act shall not extend to that adjunct. It seems to imply that the greater shall not be extended to the lesser. Scotland is not an extension of England. It is an independent and proud community of its own. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary might consider this wording: This Act shall not apply to Scotland.

Dr. Hill

I assure my hon. Friend that his suggestion will receive the consideration that it so truly deserves.

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