HC Deb 08 February 1956 vol 548 cc1718-9
Mr. J. Nixon Browne

I beg to move, in page 26, line 21, at the end to insert: (2) Subject to the provisions of section twenty-four of this Act, where any food examined in pursuance of the last foregoing subsection is found to be unfit for human consumption, the local authority may, with the consent of the aforesaid person, arrange for the disposal of the food. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), whom I do not see in his place at the moment, proposed in Committee that Clause 34, which relates to the voluntary examination of food not intended for sale, should be extended to enable the local authority to order food to be disposed of when, after examination, it was found to be unfit for human consumption. In reply I said, and the hon. Member and i think the Committee agreed, that we did not want to create any offence under the Clause, for that might discourage its use. We were all in agreement that the local authority should have power to dispose if necessary of the food which it had been asked to examine, but we disagreed on whether or not the disposal should be with the owner's consent and we wanted to retain it.

We have looked at this matter very carefully and we believe that the principle of consent is vital to the Clause. I want to draw a distinction between food unfit for human consumption and food likely to cause poisoning. If the food is unfit for human consumption in the sense of being bad or high, but not likely to cause poisoning, there is every justification for requiring the consent of the owner for its disposal. If the food is likely to cause food poisoning, the appropriate action is not taken under this Clause but under Clause 24 by the medical officer, who has powers to destroy the food. If we remove consent from this Clause we shall have conflict with Clause 24, which is the appropriate Clause under which to take powers to destroy.

The Clause, as amended. encourages action which will help in disclosing to the local authority food in private hands which is unfit for human consumption, and it gives the local authority power to give directions about its disposal. The local authority knows that the food is there, unfit for human consumption, and if there is any danger of the food poisoning its owner or anyone else the local authority has full power, under Clause 24, to destroy whether the owner agrees or not. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) has not been here but I hope that I have met the point on which he was so keen.

Mr. Thomson

I apologise to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for not being in the House when be dealt with this matter. I was called out a few minutes ago, but I did hear the conclusion of what he had to say. I am grateful to him for having given further consideration to this very important point and for moving the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.