HC Deb 03 November 1954 vol 532 cc460-1

The powers conferred by this Act on the Minister of Food shall cease with effect from the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-fice, and thereafter, unless otherwise stated, "the Minister" shall mean the Minister of Health.—[Mr. Vaughan-Morgan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. J. K. Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Under the principal Act, the Minister of Health was the only Minister concerned. Since that date, the Ministry of Food has come into being and has acquired various powers. The purpose of this Clause is to restore the status quo that prevailed before the war. In administrative terms, it means simply a transfer of the food hygiene section of the Ministry of Food to the Ministry of Health. I think it is quite certain that food hygiene has more in common with the Ministry of Health than with the other functions of the Ministry of Food, and certainly more than with the functions of the Ministry of Agriculture. I see no reason why this important Department should not be as happy in Savile Row as in Horseferry Road.

Mr. G. Darling

I sincerely hope the Minister is not going to accept this Amendment. The principle of the question of the transfer of the functions of the Ministry of Food to the Ministry of Health was brought forward in the House when the Prime Minister said: … There are some functions of the Ministry of Food whose permanent location in our system of Government must be carefully considered. … I do not exclude full consideration of the future of any of the functions of the Ministry of Food which will have to continue. I certainly feel that the interest of the consumers require most careful consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 1033–34.] Surely the manner in which the Prime Minister is being swept aside by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment is something that ought to cause alarm on the benches opposite. We know that some of them would like to get rid of the Prime Minister, but surely this is not quite the way to do it.

I can deploy a long series of arguments against this Amendment, and also against the continuation of these functions of the Ministry of Agriculture, but I will content myself with quoting the public analyst for the city of Birmingham: It has apparently not yet been decided which Government Department will take over the responsibility for administering the Food and Drugs Act when the Ministry of Food is wound up; this latter event may cause some misgivings when one recollects how little attention was paid by the Ministry of Health to the subject of food when it was responsible for the working of the Act. He went on to say—and I am paraphrasing him—that it would be a grave mistake to put these functions of the Ministry of Food into any Ministry which was not exclusively concerned with these consumer questions. I will leave the matter there. There will be another opportunity, perhaps, if the Government do not take the right course, to speak again. I hope that this Amendment will be rejected.

Mr. Amory

I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that I do not want to accept this new Clause in present circumstances. Any arrangements for the transfer of functions from one Department to another can be made by an Order in Council, and so there is no necessity for it to be included in a Bill like this. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government are giving close attention to this. I hope that, with that assurance, my hon. Friend will not press this Clause.

Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.