§ 3.44 p.m.
Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)
I beg to move, in page 11, line 5, after "premises," to insert "(other than catering premises)."
I think it would meet the convenience of the Committee if, together with this Amendment, we took the two following Amendments, in page 11, lines 11 and 14; the new Clause "Registration of catering premises" and the Amendment to the Second Schedule. If I may anticipate the further discussions upon the Bill at a later stage, I think we can also deal generally with the question of registration.
I do not want to be provocative in what I say now, because I hope that the Government will make a constructive response to the Amendment we now propose. In this question of registration we should first consider some of the general aspects. As was emphasised during the Committee stage, registration under Section 14 of the principal Act has worked well. During 1409 our earlier discussions I called attention to the fact that the medical officer of health in my constituency had reported adversely upon restaurant kitchens, snack bars and workmen's canteens, but had praised the high standard of cleanliness maintained in all premises where ice cream is manufactured, stored and sold. Everyone knows that that position obtains in every local authority area, so that the general case for registration under Section 14 of the principal Act has been made out.
As we have also emphasised previously, the initial purpose of the Bill was to extend registration to catering trades. We feel very strongly that the Amendments which were carried at an earlier stage of our discussions were an unwarranted betrayal of this initial purpose. It was for that reason that we thought it proper to meet the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, as we have done. We had a full discussion, and we are much obliged to the Minister for meeting us, but we are sorry that he has not seen his way to agree with the approach which was recommended by the Catering Trade Working Party.
We are putting forward this Amendment as a new approach. I know the difficulties of making a new approach at this late stage in the Session, but that is no fault of ours. I protested on previous occasions that the Opposition had been put into an impossible position in the consideration of a Bill which we hoped would be largely non-party. That fact has not been contested; it is agreed that we have been put into these difficulties. I mention the fact now only because it has meant that we have not been able to afford the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary the opportunity we Should have wished to afford them to examine our proposals. As I said, that is not our fault.
I also raised the question of constitutional propriety regarding this change of front. I want to explain briefly what I have in mind. It is well known, when I say that the Minister in charge of the Bill, Lord Woolton, has had a lifelong interest in that trade which the Government are seeking to exempt from the provisions of the Bill. I would again pay tribute to his distinction and eminence in that industry, but from a constitutional point of view I think the Minister is in a 1410 peculiar difficulty if he takes action such as this.
I make no apology for saying again what I said on an earlier occasion, that it is a matter of some constitutional significance that the same Minister should be in charge of the campaign funds of the Tory Party. If those funds were disclosed we should of course have no complaint. I am not casting any reflection at the moment at all. I am merely concerned with constitutional propriety. The Minister in charge has had a particular interest in this industry and is also the organiser of the campaign funds of the Tory Party.
I should have thought that it would have been the bounden duty of such a Minister when proceeding with such a matter as this to have had negotiations in open forum. That is why I have insisted time after time that we should have the minutes of any meetings that have been held that have led to this change, to the introduction of these Amendments. On this issue we should have had the fullest consultation with all the parties affected. I put this challenge to the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister. I challenge them to produce evidence of any negotiations that they have had since the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons.
When the Minister in charge is in this position it is his bounden duty, from the constitutional point of view, to conduct himself publicly and openly, and the negotiations, as they affect trade interests, should be open and known. Throughout our discussions I have appealed for information, and we have not had it.
I wish now to refer to the Report of the Catering Trade Working Party. I do not think it is necessary for me, though if I am challenged I will do so, to read out the names of the distinguished representatives of the catering trade and food hygiene who were members of that working party. I shall not be challenged when I say that they represented all the best elements who could have advised the Minister on this problem. They dealt with the point the Parliamentary Secretary has made a good deal of, for they dealt with the classification of catering establishments. In view of their report, that should not cause the Parliamentary Secretary any special difficulty.
1411 These distinguished people sat for two years before they made their recommendations. I should like the Committee to ponder just what they had to consider. Their report is a unanimous report. They had to consider that there is a considerable number of establishments in which unhygienic practices are only too common. I call the attention of the Minister of Health to the fact that they remarked that all those were potential sources of infection and that their continuance constituted a definite health hazard.
That is the problem with which the members of the working party had to deal. Unanimously they came to their conclusions contained in paragraphs 35 and 36 of their report. I make no apology for again giving them to the Committee:Representatives of associations of local authorities and of their officers who gave evidence before us stressed the necessity for the registration of catering establishments.Does the Minister of Health feel happy about throwing overboard all that? Because that is what he is doing. They went on:This view is not shared by representatives of the catering industry who, as a whole, are opposed to registration. Some members of the Working Party support the view of the industry but, after very careful consideration and subject to what is said in paragraph 36 and in Part B of Appendix II, they accept the conclusion that registration of the premises of catering establishments by the local authority is an essential administrative pre-requisite"—of what?—of any real effort to improve hygienic conditions. Differences arose as to the type of registration to recommend. Members experienced in matters of public health, technically and administratively, are of the opinion that an appropriate form of registration is that of section 14 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938…under which registration is contingent upon a satisfactory support.Does the Minister of Health accept that? They went on:If the local authority feels precluded from registering the premises the applicant is given an opportunity to state his case and thereafter has a right to appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction and also to a higher court. The view of other members is that if registration is to be insisted upon it should be 'by right'. This implies the possibility of registration without preliminary inspection. Only if subsequent investigation by the local authority discloses unsatisfactory conditions can steps be taken to cancel the registration, whereas the procedure of section 14 imposes some restraint upon the use of the premises. In these cir- 1412 cumstances, we confine ourselves to a recommendation that the premises of all catering establishments should be registered by the local authority. All premises being used for the purpose on 'the appointed day' should be deemed to be registered as soon as proper application is made to the local authority.That is what the working party unanimously concluded. It made its first recommendation thatAll catering establishments should be required to register with the appropriate local authority.The majority of the working party, the whole of the professional people, the whole of the people from public administration, and some of those from the catering industry recommended registration without qualification. They did that because, to quote their Appendix II (Part A):We consider that the public ought not to be exposed to the health risks which may be involved in the use of unsuitable premises for new catering establishments.The minority also recommended registration. They said:…we have accepted with some reluctance that registration should be advocated as part of the administrative machinery.…There is no doubt about it: they accepted it. They said:Whilst registration would impose on the caterer an additional burden, if it is indeed a measure which will further the earnest desire of the industry to improve hygiene, then we submit that registration in the form of registration 'as of right' gives all that local auhority administration can require.Is the Parliamentary Secretary frustrating them in that? They have accepted registration provided that the Measure will improve food hygiene, provided again that registration is in the form of registration as of right. They went on to say that registration as of right meant notification to the local authority. They said that they understood registration would impose the standard code which the working party recommended should be legally enforceable, and they said that at quarter sessions level registration might be withdrawn by the local authority. In other words, I do not think it is a procedure that anyone would be very anxious to implement.
There has been no effort to put forward even the view of the minority, who would like a procedure such as the procedure that a local authority uses to stop highways. That is all. Even the minority say they subscribe to the general conclusion that there should be registration, but they 1413 want a provision for withdrawal; they believe that registration should be of right, and that the local authority should proceed as it would in the case of the stopping of a highway, and have to go to quarter sessions if it wished to withdraw a licence.
That was the position against which the Government introduced the Bill, giving regulation-making powers to provide for registration. Now, they have thrown it overboard. I put these specific questions to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary. Who, since Second Reading, has made representations? Have there been representations from any local authority association asking for an abandonment of registration? The Parliamentary Secretary made a debating point about this providing a good deal of work for local authorities. Have they made any such representations to him? Is it not a fact that all local authorities are now pressing for registration, and will continue to press for it if the Government abandon the principle in the Bill?
Have any of the professional bodies made representations since Second Reading saying that they do not like registration throwing overboard all the professional experts of the working party? Have any of the public health authorities made representations asking the Government to take out from the Bill the registration of catering premises? Have any of the hygiene bodies made representations, saying, "Please take out registration from the Bill. It will not work"? And will the Parliamentary Secretary answer this further question: have any of the trade associations made representations since Second Reading? If so, which trade association?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)
May I relieve the hon. Member's anxiety on the point of the trade and trade associations? No representations of any kind have come to us on this issue since Second Reading.
§ Mr. Willey
At least, we know now where we are. We will not dignify them by the name of "representations," because that is a technical term. Representations are matters which are minuted and on which civil servants attend. No representations have been made. Why, 1414 then, have the Government changed their minds?
§ Dr. Hill
In due course I will deal with the reasons why the Government changed their minds. But I want to get this abundantly clear—and I am not taking advantage of the hon. Member's own word "representations": no representation, pressure, communication, in writing or otherwise, has come to us from the catering trades on this question since Second Reading.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
The Parliamentary Secretary says that in due course he will come to the point. Does he recall that during the Committee stage I put this matter to him specifically and asked for an answer but none was forthcoming?
§ Mr. Willey
We know the position, then, that officially no one wants what the Government are doing. That is progress. From whence originated the suggestion which has expressed itself to the Amendments to the Bill which have been carried? We want to know its source. At any rate, we have now reached the comforting conclusion that no official body wants this arrangement and that no professional association, from public administration or from the trade, made representations or brought any pressure to bear upon the Government.
This confirms our worst suspicions. I felt that I was right when I raised this matter earlier, because otherwise we would have had an express refutation. But we have never had it, and we have not got it today. It is lost in obscurity.
§ Mr. Willey
It might have been lost upstairs, in the 1922 Committee, or in a corridor. We know that there was a Minister lurking who had particular interests in a certain industry, and he came to the conclusion which is adverse to all the examination of the Catering Trade Working Party and now, we know, not welcomed anywhere.
To deal with the Government's proposals, we can say quite definitely—I defy the Parliamentary Secretary to deny this —that these proposals are not welcomed 1415 generally by those in the catering industry, who think it most unfair that they should be singled out to be subject to this police court procedure. They know—I am not speaking in political terms—that if there is what they consider to be an awkward authority, it will resort to police court proceedings. That will mean a lot of unwelcome publicity, and it will have the worst possible effect upon the good relations between the trade, the Government and local authorities that it is our purpose to obtain from the Bill. I can think of nothing worse. If the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary pursue this course, we will have the worst possible reaction upon the catering trade.
I mentioned one of the trades that was registered under Section 14 of the principal Act. How different the catering trade will be. We will have those unfortunate headlines, which will react upon the good relations that we are trying to build up between the Department, the local authorities and the catering industry. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to think again about this proposal that came from such obscure quarters.
What we have tried to do in our new Clause, to which the present Amendment is a paving Amendment, is to meet the anxieties of the catering trade. Unlike the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister, we on this side have taken pains to have discussion with members of the catering industry. We think that that is proper, and we have done it throughout the Bill. Throughout our discussions on the Bill, we on this side have been prepared to consult and discuss with all affected parties. To the extent that our inquiries have carried us, they have been limited again because of the way that the Bill has been pushed through Parliament at the end of the Session. But our inquiries have convinced us that the proposals of the Government are not acceptable. We are convinced that our proposals meet, as far as it is possible to meet, the apprehensions of the catering industry.
What do we propose? We propose that the main anxiety of the catering industry should be met and that the caterers should have registration as of right; we concede that. The caterer who starts up in business would get his regis- 1416 tration. That might be objected to from some quarters, but we recognise that if we are to get the maximum improvement in the catering industry it is important to obtain the best co-operation and good will from that industry. So we are willing to write into the Bill—not to leave it to discretion—that in the case of the catering industry, it shall have, unambiguously, registration as of right.
How are we to administer registration? I do not grant the catering industry's apprehensions as being justified, but we concede that the industry genuinely has apprehensions about the relations between itself and the local authorities. I think that those apprehensions are groundless, but at the same time—it is a view I have always taken about food hygiene—it is important to avoid what the Parliamentary Secretary proposes to do: that is, taking people to court. It is important to gain their good will.
It is common ground in all the food trades, not only in the catering trades, that the food control committees did excellent work throughout the period of their existence. They had the most ticklish job to do—licensing—and they did it, by and large, without any difficulty. We have learnt from that experience, and we ask the Committee to agree with us that in this exceptional case we should follow the analogy of the food control committees and allow trader representation on the catering premises committee.
If they have their representatives and spokesmen there, I am sure, from my knowledge of English local government, that their apprehensions will be killed. So we suggest that they should have registration as a right, and that the committee which would administer this part of the Bill when it becomes an Act, so far as catering premises are concerned, should have upon it, written down in the Bill, trade representation.
We do not stop there. We say that we are prepared to give the Minister power to provide that the local authority shall delegate its powers to that committee. We want to allay the fears of the catering industry, and what more can we do to provide the good relations for which we are anxiously seeking—because we know that this is the only way in which we shall get better conditions—than to provide this in the Bill?
1417 We go further. We say to the catering industry, "We give you proof of our good faith and tell you how shocked we are by the action of the Government. We have never expressed ourselves as keen in trying to get food hygiene through the police courts. We will provide this further safeguard, that there shall be no prosecution under this Bill, when it becomes an Act, of catering establishments unless the consent is given of the Catering Premises Committee on which you have particular representation."
What finer safeguard could there be for the catering trade than that? I am sure that the fears which the catering trade have about the proposals of the Government would be met in this way. We say, "You have now a committee of the local authority on which you have adequate representation. We concede that in some instances your fears of prosecution under the proposals of the Government are quite well-founded. It could happen. It would be unfortunate, and we will provide this safeguard against frivolous prosecutions.
We give further safeguards. We say that we know that one of the difficulties about this is the lack of definition. You are asked to improve your premises. We provide in a further subsection all the safeguards thereby given to ensure that proper notice is given, and statutorily given, to the catering establishments of alterations which have to be made. That again is a safeguard which they feel they should have. We are not prepared to quarrel with that. On the contrary, we accept that and write it into the Bill. We say that we will make it clear that even if these provisions are not met, because we may get a small caterer who has difficulty in meeting his obligations in time, this committee, notwithstanding that notice has been given, may postpone decision of the matter. I am sure, as are my right hon. and hon. Friends, that this is a satisfactory working compromise.
We are sure that this would obtain the co-operation of the trade. Moreover, we are sure that these safeguards provide an essential basic formula for the local authorities and the catering industries to work together. If the right hon. Gentleman or the Parliamentary Secretary do not accept these proposals we shall be even more suspicious of the obscure quarters from whence the Government's Amendments sprung. If the Minister 1418 persists in throwing away this offer, I am quite sure that he will disappoint almost everyone in the catering industry. He will certainly disappoint every small caterer. He may allay the suspicions of some of the big people. I do not know whether they represent the obscure quarter because our inquiries have not been absolutely comprehensive, but we can say, subject to that exception, that our inquiries led us to the conclusion that these proposals are workable and would meet the apprehensions of the catering industry.
Quite frankly, we do not share in these apprehensions, but we feel it to be absolutely essential to do what we can to get the good will of the catering industry if we are to improve food hygiene in catering establishments. So I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will accept this Amendment as a genuine attempt to seek a solution of this question of registration of catering establishments.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
In supporting the Amendment, may I say that I am shocked by the disclosure made by the Parliamentary Secretary that there has been no consultation on these matters. I should be the first person to agree with that principle were it a question of a private interest likely to make a private advantage under a Government Measure. That was the position as regards certain interests in television; but this is an entirely different matter.
We have, in this case, to begin with the report of the working party, which included at least three highly-important interests. One was the local authorities concerned, the second was the persons engaged in the catering establishments, and the third—and a very important one —was the persons employed in the catering industry. With none of these people has there been, on this point, apparently, any consultation.
The position appears to be that, notwithstanding the report, the Government introduced a Bill allowing for the registration of catering premises, carried that Bill to an advanced stage, and, at the last moment, when it had already passed through one of the Houses, and had its Second Reading in this House, introduced an Amendment to remove the most important part of the Bill.
1419 There is no doubt that this was a working party on hygiene in catering establishments. It was not a working party on how to punish people who broke regulations. It was on the matter which is, I hope, the object of every Member of this Committee—to promote hygiene in catering establishments. It was for that reason that it came to the conclusion that registration was necessary.
I have been looking at the Parliamentary Secretary's previous remarks in Committee, and it appears to me that the point of principle which he thinks he has found is this: that when we are dealing with hygiene in catering establishments we should prosecute the man in a police court before we allow the local authority to deal with him. I take leave to think that that kind of thing is bad and wrong both in theory and in practice. After all, this point was considered by this working party, and on page 27 of their report they consider the question of the supervision of catering establishments by local authorities and point out that they are already the enforcing authority. They refer to registration and conclude by saying:…we feel sure that any clarification or tightening of the law to which this Report may give rise will lead to greater co-operation between local authority officers and the managements of commercial and other catering undertakings.I agree absolutely.
Is there likely to be better co-operation between the catering trade and the local authority when the only way in which the local authority can get hygiene in the establishment is to institute a prosecution, or is there likely to be greater cooperation when it is the responsibility of the local authority to keep a register and to admit or to refuse to continue registration in that register?
It is said that a local authority ought not to have these powers and that they will be burdensome. Let us take the burdensome point first. Will it really be easier from the local authority point of view, if, in fact, it enforces the regulations and requirements, to have to do so every time by taking proceedings, by having the local sanitary inspector kept in the court as a witness, possibly with some delay, and by having proceedings which may last for some considerable 1420 time; or will it be easier for the local authority to do it in the way in which sanitary requirements are usually enforced at present, by having the sanitary inspector go round to the catering establishments concerned and deal with the requirements purely on administrative lines in the first place?
It is plain that if the local authority comes to a decision, then, under Clause 14, there is the possibility of appeal. Therefore, we are not depriving anyone of the right, if he so chooses, to have the matter tried in public in a police court and to have the whole business adjudicated upon there. All we say is that to put this kind of work upon police courts in the first instance is to put it in the wrong place and, by so doing, to increase and not to diminish the difficulties of the local authority in carrying out these requirements.
It is said that the local authority ought not to have the power. The local authority is the body that is charged first with representing the consumers in the area. I put that point generally, but it is in that capacity that it is already the enforcing authority under the food and drugs legislation, and it is in that capacity that it does many other things too. Secondly, it is the authority which is primarily concerned with buildings and the sanitary condition of buildings in the area.
The local authority already has power, subject to certain safeguards, to demolish a man's house. It has power to enforce wholesale rebuilding and reconstruction. Is it said that if it can do that, which after all is a fairly comprehensive power, it is yet not to be allowed to deal with a question of sanitary or hygiene requirements in the catering establishments? I find it impossible to see why a local authority qualified—allowed and supposed to be qualified—for one purpose should be thought unsatisfactory for the other.
I come to the provisions of the new Clause which we suggest. I will not go through them at length. That has been done to some extent already. I should like to point out that we have actually gone further to meet any reasonable requirements of the catering trade than the body which inquired into the matter did. We think that we are right in so doing. We have no wish to penalise 1421 decent catering establishments. On the contrary, we want to encourage them and we want the co-operation of the trade as a whole, whether employers or workers in it, in enforcing in other establishments the proper standard of hygiene which already prevails in decent ones.
It is for that reason that we have gone so far to see that the catering establishment which is suitable for the purpose gets an absolutely fair deal with no chance whatever of injustice. What are the provisions? First, let the Parliamentary Secretary remember that this is only a power to make regulations. It is expected that that power will be used but the terms of it remain within the discretion of the Ministry. It is within the discretion of the Ministry when it is making provision to make exceptions, perhaps for small farm houses on the moorlands that sell food or other commodities.
It is left primarily to the Ministry to make the appropriate regulations in the matter but, having made them, there are certain obligations. The register must be compulsory. On the other hand, there is provision that anyone who is already carrying on business in catering premises is entitled to registration if he applies as soon as the regulations come into force. For mere administrative convenience he must apply. That is all he need do.
The local authority has no power to refuse his application in the first instance. Having accepted it in that way, it may at a later stage—we are not tied to the precise period of one month; I think that it is a fair one, but that is as may be—wish to remove the premises. First, it must put the immediate, punctual applicant on the register. That is a protection from the point of view of the catering trade and it is obviously an administrative convenience from the point of view of the local authority.
Next, we propose the setting up of a catering premises committee. There are precedents, not only in the food control committees to which my hon. Friend referred. If the Parliamentary Secretary will refresh his memory on the subject of education committees, he will find that they are very similar to what is proposed. They consist of a majority of representatives of the local authority and a minority of people who usually have been engaged 1422 in or have experience in the business of teaching and education.
The next question is what is to happen when a caterer is required to bring his premises up to standard. We have provided the same sort of safeguards as are already given in the case of houses, with suitable modifications, and the kind of protection that is given when action is taken under Section 9 and the next following Sections of the Housing Act. The man has an opportunity to be heard. He is told what is required. He is invited to make suggestions. There is room for a compromise, there is power to postpone and to withdraw. There is everything to facilitate the sensible and the practical in dealing with a question which may vary in importance from the installation of a new sink to the rebuilding of a whole wing of the premises.
Surely that is a far better way of dealing with the matter than that of compelling a prosecution in the police court, when there is no opportunity whatever for a proper discussion and a compromise, when the matter has been brought to a head already and the whole thing has been reduced to a trial instead of what it ought to be, a piece of administrative good sense.
I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that I am shocked at the way in which such an eminently sensible report as we have had from the working party has been disregarded and, on this point, without consultation. I cannot believe that this kind of thing simply represents—to use a Christian name—since it does not happen to be that of the Parliamentary Secretary—a change from Philip drunk to Philip sober. I think there must be something a little more than that.
I remember that there was once an overlord, as it were, hanging over the Ministries of Agriculture and Food. As an overlord, he has disappeared. I suppose it is his ghost that has spoken to the Parliamentary Secretary. I have every sympathy with the Parliamentary Secretary in his present position. He is like brave Ben Bow, one of his legs has been shot away and he is still trying to go on on the stump of the Ministry of Food. Let him not abandon hope and good sense. At the beginning he was right. If he does not trust his previous 1423 judgment, let him trust the opinion those who do.
The hon. Gentleman should not listen to that ghost from another place. Let him do the right and sensible thing. Do not let him fly in the face of all the local authorities, of all the trade interests and of all common sense, and oblige people to go to the police court, which is not the right place to which to take them for this purpose. We are dealing with premises and not with people.
§ Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)
The Report of the Catering Trade Working Party contained recommendations about registration for catering establishments. It was obvious that the working party had given a great deal of thought to this matter. One of the recommendations suggested that registration of new businesses should be prohibited until registration had been granted. That recommendation was signed by the chairman and 12 members of the working party. The other recommendation, which suggested that there should be registration as of right, was a minority recommendation signed by eight members of the working party. The Government seem to have turned their face against registration to such an extent that I feel it would be quite hopeless to ask them to accept the majority recommendation of the working party. But I am going to plead with the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the minority recommendation for registration as of right.
I was very alarmed by the Government's rejection of registration and their substitution of prosecutions, police court proceedings and heavy penalties, especially the penalty of closure of premises for a period which may be as long as two years. I feel that this policy of the Governments was a tactless and, indeed, a brutal way to raise standards of hygiene. It is certainly not the way in which to get the good will and co-operation of the catering industry.
We have been surprised to hear from the Minister that there have been no consultations with the catering industry about registration since the Second Reading of the Bill. Unlike the Government, I thought it would be wise to try to obtain the views of caterers on this matter and I approached the National Caterers' Federation and asked for its opinion on 1424 this new policy which the Government has substituted in place of registration.
Before I inform the Committee of the opinion of the Caterers' Federation, I should like to say a word about it. It is a federation of small caterers. It is not a federation of men who are in big business in catering, but of the men who operate unit type businesses, that is to say, men who have one, or two, or possibly three shops. The Federation has a membership of well over 5,000 caterers. As the Parliamentary Secretary well knows, the Federation was originally opposed to registration.
§ Dr. Broughton
We are now discussing the policy of registration to which the Federation was opposed. But now, the Federation feels gravely concerned about the Government's alternative policy. Further consideration has been given to the matter. I have been informed that, while the federation still dislikes registration, it now regards it as the lesser of two evils. Rather than approve of the Minister's policy, it is willing to accept registration, provided that there are certain safeguards. The safeguards for which it has asked are that registration shall be as of right, at least for established caterers, and that there shall be a reasonable length of time allowed after the regulations come into operation for necessary structural alterations to be made, in order that caterers may comply with the regulations. I think that if the Minister would allow a period of about six months, that would satisfy the caterers. The other safeguard for which it is asking is that there should be local catering committees on local authorities and that the trade should be represented on those committees.
A few minutes before I came into this Chamber for this debate, I was handed an envelope. When I opened it, I found it contained a letter from the National Caterers' Federation—a copy of a letter which has been sent to the Ministry of Food. I assume that the Parliamentary Secretary will have received it this morning.
§ Dr. Hill indicated dissent.
§ Dr. Broughton
As the Parliamentary Secretary has not received it. I shall be pleased to let him have a copy. I think 1425 the Committee should know what the Federation has to say on this matter.The National Caterers' Federation views with apprehension the … Amendment to Clause 7 which was submitted by the Government during the Committee stage of the Bill. The greatly increased penalties, and the provision that catering premises can be closed for a period of not exceeding two years, on the application of the local authority, compels us to reassess our attitude towards registration of catering establishments, which earlier we had opposed and which is now superseded by this new Clause.We are now of the opinion that of the two evils registration—with certain qualifications and assurances—would be better than what is now proposed. Where, before, an offending caterer could appeal, in the first instance, to the local authority he will now be arraigned before a court and exposed to a vast amount of undesirable—and probably unwarranted—publicity. Also, it was implied that by registration caterers would be afforded a reasonable time to adapt their premises to the standards laid down by the Ministers, it is now proposed that the caterer can be disqualified and be deprived of his livelihood for a minimum period of six months.The letter goes on.Having viewed the two proposals from every conceivable angle we are now convinced that registration, which concedes registration as of right to established caterers, affords a reasonable time to carry out structural alterations and which contains precise instructions to local authorities relating to the interpretation and the administering of the regulations, should be reinserted in the Bill.If the Government would accept our proposals, then I suggest that they would have the useful and loyal co-operation of the caterers in trying to raise our standard of food hygiene. If the Parliamentary Secretary will accept our Amendment to Clause 9, page 11, line 14, which makes provision for excluding the power of the local authority to refuse any application; if he will accept our new Clause relating to the registration of catering premises, then a local authority which keeps a register of such premises will have to establish a catering premises committee.
Our Amendments do not state specifically that there should be a period of six months between the issue of the regulations and action by local authorities to ensure that they are being followed, but I feel satisfied that if the Minister would agree to that period, it could be put in the regulations.
§ Mr. Mitchison
If my hon. Friend will allow me, I think he will find that in subsection (1) of that proposed new Clause 1426 there is a provision about time. It does not specify six months but leaves it to the Minister to fix the time.
§ Dr. Broughton
Yes, I thought it would be possible for the Minister to do so and I am merely asking him to make the period six months. For the reasons I have given, I earnestly ask the Minister to accept our proposals.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Like my hon. Friends, I hope that the Government, even at this stage, will drop their alternative proposal to registration and will return to it. I shall support my hon. Friends with some wider arguments that have a bearing on this matter and about which I am worried. If we are to depart from the principle of registration, which is implicit in so much of the legislation dealing with standards of marketing, the conduct of food premises, the manufacturing industries, and so on; if we depart from that principle in regard to catering, there may be requests for departure from registration in some of those other industries where registration has been so successful.
Agricultural marketing, for instance, has a bearing upon the question of the registration of catering premises. One of the results of registration in connection with agricultural marketing—indeed, one of the results aimed at in its organisation —has been to improve the quality of agricultural products. The farmers realise that improvement in the quality of milk, cattle and many products dealt with in agricultural marketing had to range further than sales from the farms if the consumer was to get a clean and pure supply of food. Therefore, the principle of registration has been carried further and has been applied to the licensing of abattoirs, dairies, meat shops and many other retailing trades dealing with the supply of food.
Obviously, all the efforts of the farmers, and the expense to which they are put under their own marketing arrangements to improve the quality of food, would be completely vitiated unless the principle of registration, and the raising of standards through it, applied right through the food trades to the final customer. I cannot see, therefore, why that principle should be departed from in the case of the sale of cooked foods, 1427 which is what we are dealing with in the case of catering. As they say in a certain television programme, that principle must be kept right through to the end-product in all cases.
When the Parliamentary Secretary was trying to persuade us to accept the prosecution procedure instead of registration as the means of raising standards in the catering trades—and very unhappy he was when making his case—
§ Mr. Darling
So did we all. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the purpose of registration was, first, to let the local authorities know where the caterers were, secondly, to bring registration to an end if catering establishments were not up to standard and, thirdly, to apply higher standards through the medium of registration to new premises. We agree, and that is why, in general, we want registration.
Then the hon. Gentleman went on to criticise these good reasons for registration, and his first argument against this procedure was that keeping registers would involve a lot of work. That is nonsense. The local authorities have to keep registers now; we merely seek to extend their existing work slightly. Bakers, fish shops, dairies—practically all the other food trades in any town or city —are registered under present legislation. They have to be. All we are asking is that attached to these registers there shall be the catering premises in each town or city.
In any case, a register will have to be kept even if the prosecution proposals are adopted. How else will the inspectors know where the premises are? Does the Minister expect them to thumb through Kelly's Directory every time they want to find out if a café should be visited or not? The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that registration ought not to be brought to an end without a prosecution, and he made a great point of that. It is precisely because we do not agree with this that we want registration adopted.
Let us get down to practical things. I will quote from the report of the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Sheffield, dealing with the inspection of food premises. Under the Shops Acts there 1428 are arrangements for inspecting premises. Preserved food factories have to be inspected. Ice-cream manufacturing plants and places of sale have to be registered and inspected. There has to be a register of milk distributors. There are nearly 1,000 of them in Sheffield who have to be registered. Hundreds of milk distributors have to be visited again and again because of the "special designations" procedure in regard to the milk they sell. Fish fryers have to be registered. The report said:At the end of 1953, there were 404 fish friers' premises in the City. There were five new applications for registration during the year, and after investigation registration was granted in each case.It is in this satisfactory way that registration works. Offensive trades have to be registered and investigated, and even pet shops and canal boats. The medical officer goes on to give a list of inspections made last year, and the number runs into thousands; then there is a very important line in the report which says:Number of Cases in which Legal Proceedings taken—three.They are getting the standards raised, not by putting the little men into the dock as the Government wish to do, but by persuasion. At the back of that persuasion there is all the time the formal sanction that, if the premises are not brought up to the required standard within a reasonable period, registration will be taken away. We want to keep people out of the police courts wherever possible, especially in cases of this kind.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, we are here dealing with premises and not with people. The police courts are the wrong places in which to deal with premises. This desire of the Government to put little businessmen into the dock in order to get their standards raised is a form of compulsion which we on this side do not like. As my hon. Friend has said, the form of registration proposed in these Amendments and in the new Clause is quite simple. It will amount to very little more than the making out of something like the form of application for a driving licence, and no driver objects to making out a form of that kind.
The hon. Gentleman went a little too far when he said that there was difficulty about form filling. Surely application for the registration of catering premises will 1429 not involve anything more than the completing of a simple form. Look at the stupid situation in which we are going to be if that procedure is not followed and if the Government insist upon their own proposal. Under the Government's proposal, a person can open a new café in quite unsuitable premises, and, as far as I can see, the local authority will be unable to prevent him from doing so. The only way in which he could be stopped would be by prosecuting him after he had started business. That seems to me to be altogether wrong.
I am sure that if during the Committee stage the Government had not brought forward the Amendment providing for prosecution instead of registration, we should have asked for assurances about the procedure of registration in regard to catering premises. I know that I should have done so, because this was one of the things the Co-operative societies had asked me to do. There is no point in going over it all again because the assurances for which I would have asked are expressed in our Amendments and in the new Clause. We wanted the automatic registration of existing premises, and for the continuing registration to be dependent on improvements being made in cases where premises fell below the required standards.
We were also going to ask for assurances—we did not think it necessary to put them into the Bill, and were quite prepared to take the word of the Minister in the matter—that inspectors should be instructed to give reasonable time for the people concerned to bring their premises up to the required standards. We were also going to ask whether something could be done to get the administration of registration put into the hands of a council committee, the members of which would include representatives of the trade as co-opted members. We are convinced that that is the best way of handling the problem, and the views expressed by the Caterers' Federation sustain us in that view.
Our way of doing the job would mean that the little man would have the chance of achieving the standards we require in a reasonable space of time. All he would have to do would be to show his willingness and desire to make the required improvements, and then his registration would be continued. He would have the 1430 representatives of his trade on the local committee to see that he received fair play.
I cannot help thinking, in spite of the assurances given by the hon. Gentleman about no pressure being brought to bear from any quarter upon his Ministry, that there has been indirect pressure of some sort, at any rate on the part of the big caterers. It has certainly not come from the little men. But even if I am wrong in thinking that, the impression will still be held abroad, due to the maladroit way in which the Government have handled the matter, that the big caterers and the Government are ganging up so that the big people will have the chance to put some of their small competitors out of business through the method of prosecution.
I speak for a trade organisation which is in competition with both the big concerns and the small private caterers. We want fair competition for all, for the Co-ops. and for the other two as well, with no advantages given by the Government to any one of the three groups. Neither do we want any obstacles put in the way of any of these groups to prevent them making the progress which their initiative deserves. This has been the view of the Co-ops. for more than 100 years.
It seems to me that the Government, whether they intend to do so or not, are proposing to interfere with the free play of competition, because it is the little men who will be kicked—not the big people— by the prosecution procedure. Under the system of registration we can give fair play to everybody, which is what we want.
Seeing that the Government have got themselves into this awful mess by the way in which they have handled the situation, I hope that they will now take advantage of our offer to go back to the position as it existed on Second Reading. In that event, we will give them all the help they need to put the Bill into proper shape in regard to this matter of registration, and speed it on its way.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. Linstead (Putney)
Until the speech of the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling), It seemed to me that most of this debate had taken place in an atmosphere of almost com- 1431 plete unreality. It was not until the hon. Gentleman produced the conclusive argument against the adoption of the Clause which he was supporting that I felt that some element of reality had entered the Committee.
I wish to touch on the background to the removal of registration of catering premises to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) referred. By the time he had finished he had effectively disposed of most of the suggestions he made about pressure having been brought to bear by various commercial interests on the Ministry of Food.
I remind the Committee of two inferences which he asked the Committee to draw. One was that a certain noble Lord, having an interest in the food business, had used his influence to have those provisions taken out of the Bill. If that assumption is to be believed, that noble Lord was extremely maladroit in what he did, because, if he had the influence which the hon. Member suggested, he surely would have used that influence to prevent the insertion of the provisions in the Bill in the first place instead of having them clumsily exposed and then withdrawn.
§ Mr. Willey
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Bill was prepared by the late Administration, that it went through another place without Amendment, and that it is only at this late stage that, by Parliamentary guile, it was hoped to get it through with as little discussion as possible?
§ Sir H. Linstead
Is the hon. Member aware that the Bill was introduced in another place by the present Government? I shall not waste time in dealing further with the preposterous assumption which the hon. Member made. If what he said was true, those provisions would never have appeared in the Bill when it was introduced in another place, to be subsequently withdrawn.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I was just going to produce something of an answer to that question. If the hon. Member wishes to know—
§ Sir H. Linstead
There was a number of hon. Members of this House, such as myself, with no interest whatsoever in the catering business, who considered the Bill in the ordinary course of their Parliamentary duties. For reasons which I will shortly mention, we came to the conclusion that the Bill would be a better Bill and would achieve its objects equally effectively if those provisions were withdrawn.
If I may draw on my own experience, there was a time when I was responsible for the enforcement of another set of Acts of Parliament in which there was a question of registered and unregistered premises. Drawing on that experience, I assure the Committee that from the point of view of enforcement and of knowing where the premises are, it matters not at all to an efficient authority whether it has a statutory list, or indeed whether it has any.
As the hon. Member for Hillsborough said, a list has to be kept in the offices of the authority, whether or not the authority is required by Act of Parliament to keep it. The difference between having a statutory register and having one kept for convenience is simply that every year one has to renew the statutory register and has to go through the mechanical process of collecting names and addresses again, and probably a 5s. registration fee. One has to waste an enormous amount of time and manpower doing something which could be done without that machinery.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Is the hon. Member really trying to tell the Committee that, quite spontaneously and without expert advice, he and some of his foolhardy colleagues decided to mutilate the Bill?
§ Sir H. Linstead
As an hon. Member, I have no hesitation in advising that registration is not necessary to achieve our purpose.
§ Mr. Willey
The working party reported that all these premises are potential sources of infection and that their 1433 continuance constitutes a definite health hazard. Is the hon. Member suggesting that a local authority with any sense of public duty will not have a record of these premises in its area? Does he suggest that any Conservative authority in an urban area will not, quite properly, take steps to know what catering premises there are in its area, when it has been reported that they are a source of food poisoning? Surely the obligation is on the local authority. The argument which the hon. Member must face is whether we should make easier the work of the local authority in knowing where the catering premises are.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The hon. Member could not have done me the compliment of listening to what I was saying when he made that interruption, because I was agreeing with the hon. Member for Hills-borough that, of course, every local authority will require to keep a list of those premises. They have one at the present time for their duties under the 1938 Act, and will have one in future, whether or not by Act of Parliament.
§ Sir H. Linstead
There will be no obligation, but the local authority will keep a list of establishments just as it does at present.
In order to reinforce their arguments, the supporters of the proposed new Clause have reminded the Committee that local authorities want registration. Of course they do, and of course medical officers want registration. The fact that it means more work in the office—[HON. MEMBERS: "Less work."]—to keep an annual register up to date and more people employed to do it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—I cannot see how hon. Members imagine that registers can be kept up to date without clerks.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I will merely make the point clear, that the fact that local authorities and medical officers of health support the idea of having a register is not to my mind in any sense a conclusive argument that they really need the statutory powers to do that work.
I come to the real argument on the Amendment which was advanced by the hon. Member for Hillsborough. He 1434 quoted the fact that a particular local authority in the enforcement of some analogous duty had dealt with thousands of cases but in fact had only prosecuted in three. That is the element of reality which I want to emphasise in this debate. In fact, prosecutions under this Bill will be evidence that local authorities are not doing their job properly. The Bill will only succeed if there are no prosecutions, or only the very minimum of prosecutions. In this piece of legislation we are placing a weapon in the hands of the administering authorities which they can use to encourage catering establishments to observe a higher standard, without the necessity of bringing the proprietors either to the police courts or before a committee of the local authority.
All we need to do is to give them a weapon, and the smaller the weapon that we give them, so long as it is adequate to do the job, the better. We do not need the gross, heavy weapon of the threat of withdrawal of registration by the local authority and of being put out of business. We can content ourselves with the equally serviceable but much less frightening weapon of proceedings under the 1938 Act, because there is ample provision in the Bill to enable the sanitary inspector to use his influence to educate the owner of the catering establishment to bring it up to a proper standard. [HON. MEMBERS: "In the courts."] No. I have already made it clear that no recourse to the courts is necessary.
§ Mr. Darling
All the references that I took from the medical officer's report were references to regulations which involve registration. The proceedings which the medical officer and his inspectors were taking were under registration —which makes their job infinitely easier —without prosecution.
§ Sir H. Linstead
But nothing that the hon. Member has said destroys the validity of what I was saying—that the Bill will succeed in its objective, not by prosecution or by bringing offenders before a committee of the local authority, but through day-by-day education by the sanitary inspectors of the proprietors of catering establishments. It is because I am satisfied that there is enough sanction at the disposal of medical officers of health and sanitary inspectors without the necessity of registration that I say that my 1435 hon. Friend is right in removing registration, which, like nationalisation, is after all only a word—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and recognising that the cure of the evils at which this Measure is aimed will be by education and not through the machinery of the courts.
§ Mr. Darling
If all the arguments of the hon. Member for Putney are sound as they apply to the catering trades, why did he not suggest that the procedure of prosecution should apply to all food trades and rule registration out?
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
It has been suggested that small shopkeepers are not very much affected by this Bill, but I suggest that they are deeply concerned with the question of registration. Those familiar with the northern cities, particularly thickly populated areas such as the one I come from, know that it is the little shop round the corner which sells loaves of bread, a few sandwiches and a little food that will be affected by this Bill as much as any other shop, and probably more.
In the last few years there has been a tremendous turnover in the sale of such small properties. Very often they are poor blocks of property, but they contain a shop and folks think that they can make a fortune if only they get a shop and start selling something. A lot of these people have been imposed upon and have paid more for the shop than it is worth. One reason is that people have nowhere to go to find out whether the shop is any good or not. They cannot go to the local authority and ask what are the prospects for such a shop and how much it will cost, but if this Amendment were accepted they could do so.
A week last Saturday I received a letter from a man in a sanatorium. He is in an advanced stage of T.B. He bought one of these shops round the corner three years ago—he has now been in the sanatorium for several months. Because a canteen was started in the small factory near the shop, the employees there ceased going to the shop to buy sandwiches, bread and so on and business began to decline. The worry might have contributed to the cause of this man's T.B. for all I know. I do not know much 1436 about it, but I do know the man is in an advanced stage of T.B.
He and his wife worried about the decline in their business. They did the obvious thing—started looking around to find out if the person from whom they bought the shop had sold them a "pup." They could not find the person for the very good and obvious reason that she was dead. She had died of T.B.
The man did not write to me because of the £800 he had paid for the shop, nor about how he was to find the remainder of the money, advanced by the Halifax Building Society or from whomever it was borrowed. He wrote to me because the local authority had made a demolition order, and that demolition order expired about a week ago yesterday. I ask the Minister what we can do, while this Bill is going through to help in this direction. It is a social matter as well as a matter of premises. If there were registration it would be possible for people to inquire about such properties. I ask the 'Minister to reconsider the question of registration because an issue has to be made of all these things sooner or later, and it might as well be now.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Dr. Hill
May I say at the outset that I make no complaint whatever about the late consideration of this set of proposals, for I think they are worthy of intelligent scrutiny to see if, in fact, they do stand up to certain important tests.
I regret very much the references by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) to my noble Friend Lord Woolton. I think they were quite unnecessary and quite without foundation. After all, what was the point? A point was based on the question as to whether there had been representations from the catering trade—and the implications of what the hon. Member said were that there had been such representations and that this change had been made in response to such representations with Lord Woolton being associated with those representations. I want to assure the Committee that that is completely and utterly without foundation. I shall later answer the question of how these modified proposals came into being, but there is no foundation whatever for that suggestion.
The challenging question was put to me of what consultations there had been or what representations had been received 1437 from the trade, implying that there had been such representations. When the answer was given that there were no such representations, the hon. Member's hon. Friends took their position on new ground—that it was the absence of such consultations that formed the gravamen of the charge.
I want to get down to the essence of the series of Amendments, for there is something quite new in them. The hon. Member made play with the suggestion that these had arisen partly or largely as a result of consultations with the National Caterers' Federation. I make no complaint about that; it is a matter of history——
§ Dr. Hill
The hon. Member's hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), referred to those consultations and named the body. I am making no complaint about it, but it is only fair to record that this is a body which was bitterly opposed at the outset to the general conception of things, a body which approved regulations on the clear understanding that they could never be the subject of a prosecution. Its attitude at the outset was rather unhelpful, but if now, in consultation with the hon. Member and his friends, its attitude has become more helpful, that is all the better. The hon. Gentleman stated—[Interruption.] If it has changed its mind, perhaps others with greater wisdom can also change their minds without dark allegations being made about the theory, or purpose or motive.
The hon. Gentleman made it clear that there were three important points in this proposal. One was the automatic registration of existing premises. That is interesting. It is something which the party opposite criticised bitterly in Committee. The hon. Member for Hills-borough called it a "sell out." The hon. and learned Gentleman called it "appalling"——
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels rose——
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
It was not my hon. and learned Friend; the Parliamentary Secretary looked at me.
§ Dr. Hill
At any rate, we should recognise greater wisdom when it comes, from wherever it may come.
I wish to come to the second and third parts of the proposal. I think I describe it fairly when I say that it involves all local authorities concerned with the administration of the terms of this Bill, in the formation of a catering premises committee. It will be a requirement of all local authorities to create such a committee. Secondly, and here I think that it would be wise to use the actual words:A local authority which has established a catering premises committee may delegate and, save in so far as the Minister may otherwise direct, shall delegate to that committee …and then the subsequent words describe the functions of the authority in the matter of registration. In other words, that committee having been formed,save in so far as the Minister shall otherwise directit shall have delegated to it registration functions.
The local authority,save in so far as the Minister may otherwise directis required to appoint this additional committee on which it shall have a majority. But the committee shall include representatives of the trade and the workers, and shall, unless the Minister otherwise directs, be required to determine the issue of registrations. Thirdly, it shall be the body whose consent is necessary before any prosecution is launched under the heading of catering premises.
We have had enough argument about the merits of registration and disqualification. I wish to put this to the Committee as a local government question of some importance outwith that particular compass. As matters stand, the responsibility is firmly placed on the local authority. It shall be the duty of every local authority to carry into execution and enforce the provisions of any part of this Bill.
I ask the Committee, quite apart from the other controversy, is it wise that in 1439 this respect a local authority shall be required to appoint a committee and to delegate to it the whole of its functions on the matter of registration of premises? Secondly, is it right that the permission of such a committee shall be necessary before the local authority charged with the responsibility under this Bill is free to engage in a prosecution?
The council, meeting as a council, confronted by advice offered by a committee on which it has a majority, is unable to do what it wishes to do because it needs first of all to get the consent of a subsidiary body which it has appointed and on which it has a majority.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Not only has it at least a majority, but it rests entirely with the local authority as to how large is that majority.
§ Dr. Hill
—without going into a personal recital of my local government and other experience.
I wish the Committee to consider what this may mean in practice. Caterers, as members of the committee, would be able 1440 to take part in decisions about the registration of new caterers. The hon. Gentleman referred to the food control committees. He knows, as I do, that the main difficulty which arose—I wish to put it plainly without suggesting that it was a universal difficulty—was that caterer members of the committee concerned with applications for new licences often carried their weight against the licensing of new potential competitors. Is it right that the caterer members of this newly appointed committee should play a part in determining whether new registrations should be accepted?
§ Mr. Willey
This is important, because I think that unwittingly the Parliamentary Secretary is casting a grave reflection upon the food control committees. He has created the impression that the caterer members put their trade interests first. I think that an unwarranted reflection. My own experience of the committees is that they were admirable and that they did a very ticklish job in a first-rate manner. I have not known a Minister of Food who failed to pay tribute to the work done by those committees. After all, there was then a combination of local authority representatives and trade interests. To suggest that the trade interests used their position to their own advantage is unwise.
§ Dr. Hill
I made it perfectly plain that I did not suggest that it was a common difficulty, but it was a difficulty which arose. Should not decisions to end registrations be taken by the local authority as a whole and not by a committee including representatives of catering interests? There may be other difficulties, some of which would rarely arise—for instance, the difficulty of steps of one kind or another having to be taken against caterers who are individual members of the committee.
Let us pass to the second point, that dealing with prosecution in the matter of premises. The suggestion, apparently, is that a prosecution in a matter of premises can be launched only if the consent of this committee of the local authority is obtained. This will put caterers in a special position. A prosecution can be launched for another kind of establishment on the report of the sanitary inspector to the local authority and on a decision by the local authority, but in the 1441 case of the catering establishment there will be this special delaying and protecting provision. I am demonstrating the implications of this proposed procedure.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels rose——
§ Dr. Hill
I will not give way.
Of course, this pleases the caterers; of course, it derives from consultation with the caterers. It delays and makes less likely prosecutions for offences. This is an important matter affecting local authorities and perhaps I may be told whether they have been consulted about it. There was time for me to make only one inquiry, which I made by telephone to the Association of Municipal Corporations. There has been no consultation with them about this proposal, which involves a requirement to establish a new committee and a new kind of procedure.
Quite apart from the issues of consultation, is this a desirable procedure to introduce? I think it is not, because it delays and makes less likely prosecution in that small number of cases in which prosecution is desirable. I believe this is the caterers' dream, the caterers' charter. The remarkable point is this: we have been confronted by arguments that we were being weak and unwilling to grapple with this problem, but now we are being accused of being so brutal in bringing offenders to justice in the police courts that some hon. Members wish to erect this structure to prevent a local authority from itself deciding issues of registration and to prevent a local authority from itself deciding issues of prosecution without the permission of one of its committees. This would introduce a delaying procedure.
I believe that an analysis of these proposals shows that they are open to serious difficulties and weaknesses as a method of dealing with this position, and I believe that we are back to the main controversy between registration and disqualification. I suspect that there may be many hon. Members who, while they are on the side of registration, feel that this mode of applying registration is in itself open to a number of objections.
A good deal has been said about the change of attitude in this matter, and that change came about when we considered the representations which were made for exclusions from registration. I will give simply the example of the small 1442 boarding-house, the house at the seaside which at holiday time becomes a catering establishment for six or eight weeks. Other representations have been made in respect of moorland cafés. Some references were made to them in today's debate and some were made in the previous debate by the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman).
We examined the case which was put forward for certain exclusions from registration and we tried to find ways of separating the groups for which exemption could properly be claimed in terms of the size of the boarding-house or establishment. When we considered a method of registration which necessarily involved exclusions, particularly of certain kinds of smaller establishments where the danger might not be as small in proportion, bearing in mind the need to ensure that under certain circumstances it should be possible to close down premises whatever their size, we reached the conclusion that the important sanction behind this matter should be the power under certain circumstances to disqualify premises for use as catering premises, whatever they were.
The second consideration which led us to our conclusion was that under the 1938 Act relatively few regulations were made or, indeed, were possible. Under this Bill there will be a wealth of new law in the form of regulations. It seems to us to be right that a local authority seeking to withdraw the registration of catering premises and so to close the business on the ground they had not observed this or that regulation, ought not to be in a position to withdraw it without being willing to take the case to the courts and, first of all, prove that an offence had been committed.
Under the registration method, having considered the report of the sanitary inspector and having heard what the man has to say, it is possible for the local authority to withdraw the registration, subject to an appeal to a bench of magistrates. Quite apart from the possibilities of an appeal, in our view such a withdrawal of the registration should take place only when it has been proved in court that an offence has been committed. In our view a local authority should not be in a position to withdraw the registration when it is unwilling to prove the allegation in court.
1443 I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said today but I would draw attention to the third consideration —the sanction behind the sanitary inspector. We all want the vast majority of his work to be done as it is under the Factory Acts by the sensible persuasion of the visiting inspector, in the knowledge that if he meets with resistance there is a sanction behind him. Under the registration system, the sanction is that if a man does not bring his premises into conformity with the standards, his registration is taken away. That is the implied sanction.
§ Dr. Hill
Yes, but if a man does not come up to scratch we have power to withdraw his registration subject to appeal, under the registration procedure. That is an important sanction.
Under the disqualification procedure, if a man does not observe the law we have the power to take him to court and, if he is convicted, to make application for his disqualification in those premises. In both cases the sanction is strong; in both cases it is easily possible for a great deal of persuasive work to be done within those sanctions. At the same time, we think it wrong for a local authority, having all the regulations—and now having the enormous number of listed and defined offences which were not available to it under the Section of the 1938 Act, which was the main legal code for this purpose—to be in such a position.
There has been, and this House has knowingly done it, a multiplication of the offences concerned. We therefore think it right and proper to say, "if you have offended, we shall—having failed by persuasive methods to secure an improvement in your premises or your conduct —prosecute you." But only if there has been a successful prosecution can the possibility lie of an appeal to the courts to bring that to an end. I would, therefore say to the House that this is a reversal of wrongs. We are now the brutal ones, insisting on using the machinery of the law to make this Act really workable. The party opposite, after its consultations with the caterers —and I use not the offensive language which hon. Members opposite would have used of such consultations by us—has been led to regard this as a caterers' Bill. 1444 We believe it to be a Bill to protect the public—and we put the public first.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
The Parliamentary Secretary has once more faced the House and presented a pathetic spectacle in his desperate attempt to defend the Government in a matter which is indefensible. We have listened to him dealing with details of administration, and avoiding the whole principle. He knows as well as I that the politician who is bankrupt of argument always depends on proving how a certain measure is unworkable because some administrative detail would not be acceptable.
If what he said is true why is it that all the organisations which we have mentioned, the local government organisations, have not made representations on these points which he has raised this afternoon? He told us that he telephoned one local government organisation and asked whether it approved of certain principles which have been mentioned today. Did he ask whether it approved or disapproved of registration? He has already said that these local government officials would not accept registration. Did he ask them this afternoon?
§ Dr. Hill
I dealt with one point—the proposal appearing on the Order Paper yesterday affecting the constitutional position of local authorities. I inquired, not what their views were but whether they had been consulted on this point. In the case of the organisation I telephoned, it said "No." There is no more to it than that.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary should take the trouble to ring up about one administrative point and not ask about the main principle.
I should like to ask another question. The Parliamentary Secretary was asked, quite rightly, whether representations have been made—another kind of representation—by the catering associations with regard to registration. The hon. Gentleman said that no catering organisation had made representations to him on the point. He also said that none of the organisations representing local government officials had done so. Has the Parliamentary Secretary met a group of hon. Members on the Government 1445 back benches who represent different business organisations? Have they made any representations, or can he give an unqualified "No"?
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I withdraw "deceive" and suggest "misleading." I think that is a Parliamentary term.
I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary has deliberately misled the House this afternoon. He was asked whether the catering organisations had made representations to him, and, full of wrath and indignation, he said "No." But, of course, they would not do anything so naїve. They have approached their Members of Parliament. Hon. Members opposite, I am sure—I am not criticising them for it—have also their own business interests, and we therefore have the business interests represented through the hon. Members—and they have been to see the Parliamentary Secretary. In other words, he has received representations from the business interests, and here we have the result.
If it is thought for one moment that we on this side of the Committee are deploying doctrinaire arguments and have not sound support from those with understanding of this question, I would refer hon. Members to the setting up of the Catering Trade Working Party. I have a special interest in it because it was set up in November, 1948, when I was at the Ministry of Food. Indeed, this whole great social Measure stems, of course, from the work of previous Labour Governments. I have a list of its members before me, and I ask hon. Members on both sides to be guided, not by what the Parliamentary Secretary has said but by the Report of the Catering Trade Working Party.
1446 I shall not state all the names, but let me remind the House who were represented on it. The chairman was Sir William G. Savage, M.D., B.Sc., D.P.H., a former county medical officer of health. The first member was a hotel director. The second—I am advertising these firms, but nevertheless they have done a good piece of work—represented Fuller's Limited, who have multiple shops all over the country. The third member represented the Ministry of Health, and the next was a representative of the workers in the shops.
There was a representative of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, who have big catering interests. Then there was a representative of the Ministry of Food. And there was also a member of the Council of the Hotel and Catering Institute. Next, the Central Public Health Laboratory. There was a county alderman of Cheshire. There was the Director of Catering Advisory Service, King Edward's Hospital Fund for London. It had a respresentative of Forte's and Co. Ltd.—a big multiple firm who know all about these questions of administration which the Parliamentary Secretary has posed this afternoon because he thinks there are hon. Members on these benches who have no knowledge of business. These businessmen were there to consider those questions.
Then it had a representative of Strand Hotels Limited—Lyons is represented. Then follow more workers' representatives; William Hancock and Co. Ltd.—more caterers—and other health departments. Here we have an excellent committee considering all the questions that the Parliamentary Secretary has put to us this afternoon.
§ Dr. Summerskill
There were plenty of representatives of the small man. There were representatives of many of the trade unions who, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member, are also consumers.
That committee worked for two years. It had 33 meetings. It called on the small man and it called on catering establishments. The report says:Groups of members paid visits to catering establishments of different types, to manufacturers of catering equipment …1447 and to exhibitions and so on. They invited women's organisations to give evidence, and they also invited the local authorities.
Here are the answers to the Parliamentary Secretary:Evidence was taken from the catering trade and from associations of local authorities and of officers of local authorities.Yet the Parliamentary Secretary gave only a quarter of an hour of his time to explain to the House how the officers of local authorities would be extremely annoyed——
§ Dr. Summerskill
Certainly, if this catering premises committee was set up. These officers of local authorities have no doubt expressed their views on every aspect of this Measure.
Turning to the recommendations of this powerful working party of the catering trade, I can only say that the first one was:All catering establishments should be required to register with the appropriate local authority.There, surely, is the answer to the Parliamentary Secretary. However, now we come along with a different proposition in order to secure safeguards for all catering establishments.
I also want to say a word to the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), who suggested that if this Amendment was accepted, it would mean that a lot of clerical workers would be involved, while somebody else suggested that, if the proposal of the hon. Member for Putney was
§ accepted, it would cause the employment of more sanitary inspectors. Of course, it would, but the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that if we had registration in addition, it would be a constant reminder to these little proprietors of dirty cafes that they have to observe certain standards of cleanliness. Registration in itself would be equivalent to a squad of vigilant sanitary inspectors, because it would be doing their work for them.
§ So I must say once more that we are very disappointed. We had hoped that after all this time—we have been debating this matter since 3.30 p.m.—the Minister would have had second thoughts. Throughout the course of the discussions on this Bill, we have deployed reasoned arguments, and time after time the Minister has accepted our propositions and our Amendments. It has been quite unprecedented, and of the pages of Amendments which we put down to this Bill the Government have accepted a very large number.
§ This Amendment is one of the most important of them all, and I was hoping that the Minister would have had time to think about it and would have been able to accept it, but, once more, an important public health Measure has been emasculated by the party opposite, and we shall have to divide the Committee when the time comes.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 229.1451
|Division No. 231.]
|Acland, Sir Richard
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
|Albu, A. H.
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)
|Burton, Miss F. E.
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
|Andersen, Frank (Whitehaven)
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.
|Callaghan, L. J.
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)
|Awbery, S. S.
|Champion, A. J.
|Bacon, Miss Alice
|Chapman, W. D.
|Foot, M. M.
|Chetwynd, G. R.
|Forman, J. C.
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
|Bence, C. R.
|Freeman, John (Watford)
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood
|Collick, P. H.
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
|Collins, V. J.
|Gibson, C. W.
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
|Bing G. H. C.
|Crossman, R. H. S.
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
|Blyton, W. R.
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)
|Hamilton, W. W.
|Davies, Harold (Leek)
|Bottemley, Rt. Hon. A. G.
|de Freitas, Geoffrey
|Hardy, E. A.
|Bowdon, H. W.
|Bowies F. G.
|Dodds, N. N.
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
|Brockway, A. F.
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)
|Hayman, F. H.
|Mayhew, C. P.
|Skeffington, A. M.
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)
|Mellish, R. J.
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
|Messer, Sir F.
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
|Herbison, Miss M.
|Snow, J. W.
|Hobson, C. R.
|Mitchison, G. R.
|Sorensen, R. W.
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
|Moody, A. S.
|Sparks, J. A.
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.
|Hoy, J. H.
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
|Stross, Dr. Barnett
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
|Mulley, F. W.
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
|Taylor, John (West Lothian)
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
|Oliver, G. H.
|Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
|Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
|Owen, W. J.
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
|Padley, W. E.
|Jeger, George (Goole)
|Palmer, A. M. F
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
|Jeger, Mrs Lena
|Viant, S. P.
|Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)
|Pargiter, G. A.
|Warbey, W. N.
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)
|Plummer, Sir Leslie
|Wells, Percy (Faversham)
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
|Wells, William (Walsall)
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
|Wheeldon, W. E.
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
|Probert, A. R.
|White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
|Proctor, W. T.
|While, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.).
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W
|Pryde, D. J.
|Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
|King, Dr. H. M.
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
|Wilkins, W. A.
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
|Willey, F. T
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M..
|Reid, William (Camlachie)
|Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
|MacColl, J. E
|Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
|Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
|Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
|McKay, John (Wallsend)
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
|Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
|Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
|Shackleton, E. A. A.
|Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
|Shurmer, P. L. E.
|Wyatt, W. L.
|Mann, Mrs. Jean
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
|Manuel, A. C.
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
|Mr. Wallace and
|Mr. James Johnson.
|Aitken, W. T.
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)
|Alport, C. J. M.
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)
|Godber, J. B.
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)
|Colegate, W. A.
|Gower, H. R.
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger
|Graham, Sir Fergus
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
|Hall, John (Wycombe)
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)
|Crookshank Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)
|Astor, Hon. J. J.
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.
|Harris, Reader (Heston)
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.
|Crouch, R. F.
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
|Baldwin, A. E.
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)
|Baxter, Sir Beverley
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
|Beach, Ma[...]. Hicks
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)
|Higgs, J. M. C.
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)
|Deedes, W. F.
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)
|Digby, S. Wingfield
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.
|Bishop, F. P.
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
|Holland-Martin, C. J.
|Black, C. W.
|Doughty, C. J. A.
|Hope, Lord John
|Bowen, E. R.
|Drewe, Sir C.
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
|Boyle, Sir Edward
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence
|Braine, B. R.
|Elliott, Rt. Hon. W. E.
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
|Errington, Sir Eric
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)
|Erroll, F. J.
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
|Brooman-White, R. C.
|Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.
|Brown, Jack (Govan)
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.
|Hurd, A. R.
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.
|Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)
|Bullard, D. G..
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.
|Burden, F. F. A.
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.
|Campbell, Sir David
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
|Iremonger, T. L.
|Gammans, L. D.
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
|Garner-Evans, E. H.
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter
|Sharples, Maj. R. C.
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
|Moore, Sir Thomas
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
|Keeling, Sir Edward
|Nabarro, G. D. N.
|Smyth, Brig, J. G. (Norwood)
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.
|Snadden, W. McN.
|Kerr, H. W.
|Spearman, A. C. M.
|Lambert, Hon. G.
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
|Speir, R. M.
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
|Nield, Basil (Chester)
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
|Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
|Oakshott, H. D.
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
|Linstead, Sir H. N.
|Odey, G. W.
|Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
|Studholme, H. G.
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
|Summers, G. S.
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
|Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.
|Page, R. G.
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
|Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
|Perkins, Sir Robert
|Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
|MeAdden, S. J.
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.
|Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
|McCallum, Major D.
|Pitman, I. J.
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
|Pitt, Miss E. M.
|Macdonald, Sir Peter
|Powell, J. Enoch
|Touche, Sir Gordon
|Mackeson, Brig, Sir Harry
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
|Vane, W. M. F.
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
|Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. L.
|Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
|Vosper, D. F.
|Rees-Davies, W. R.
|Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
|Remnant, Hon. P.
|Walker-Smith, D. C.
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
|Ridsdale, J. E.
|Wall, Major Patrick
|Maitland Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
|Robertson, Sir David
|Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
|Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
|Markham, Major Sir Frank.
|Waterhouse Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
|Marlowe, A. A. H
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
|Marpies, A. E.
|Roper, Sir Harold
|William, Gerald (Tonbridge)
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
|Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
|Russell, R. S.
|Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
|Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
|Medlicott, Brig. F.
|Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
|Wood, Hon. R.
|Mellor, Sir John.
|Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
|Molson, A. H. E
|Scott, R. Donald
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Mr. Wills and Mr. Robert Allan.
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.