HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2296-312

9.59 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Food Hygiene Regulations, 1955 (S.I., 1955, No. 1906). dated 16th December, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 21st December, be annulled. It would probably meet the convenience of hon. Members if I say that I am in a benign and congratulatory mood, and that, as far as I know, none of my hon. Friends intend to divide the House on this Motion or either of the following ones. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) regrets that she is unable to be present owing to another engagement, but I am sure that, if she had been able to be here, she would have joined me in congratulating the Government on the present Regulations. Though we are sorry that there has been such a long delay in laying the Regulations, we realise that they are the result of the long battle we fought during the Committee stage of the Food and Drugs Bill. However, I do not want to rake up old fires.

We would accept the Regulations as being a very real and successful attempt to put into the appropriate form the final draft Regulations which, in Committee, we indicated we found to be satisfactory. In fact, if I may say so, the present Regulations show some improvement upon the earlier draft ones. Perhaps I may just mention a few points. I think that the treatment of contamination is an improvement upon the draft Regulations. Another important matter which was discussed in Committee is the definition of space where food is supplied under Clause 2 (3). Again, I am sure that we are equally happy to see that the provision for keeping food 18 in. from the ground, which originally applied only to stores, is now to be generally applied.

We are delighted to see the provision about spitting. The hon. Lady will no doubt have read of the determined effort made by my right hon. and hon. Friends to persuade the Government to accept our Amendment on that subject. We also welcome the provision about smoking. We were not absolutely convinced at the time that it would be found possible to persuade the trade generally to accept this view, but, quite apart from food hygiene, I am sure that it is important to have had this provision accepted—as I assume it has been accepted—by the Advisory Council.

We welcome the provision for notices being put up about employees washing their hands. We are also glad that the provision relating to the temperatures at which certain food must be kept has been found capable of definition for Regulation purposes. That, too, is something about which we were not absolutely sure at the time. I have no hesitation in accepting chestnut and hot potato stalls as being outside the general provisions. It is a point which escaped us in Committee. All these items show, I think—and this is not a party matter, because opinions were expressed on both sides of the Committee —that it was a very good idea to set up the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can say that it has been helpful in the drafting of these Regulations.

I have one or two matters—I do not refer to them in any unduly critical way —to which I should like to call the hon. Lady's attention. I appreciate the difficulty of legislating for people who do not ordinarily carry meat, and I do not criticise the exception. At the present time I feel that it would be unrealistic to go further than to provide reasonably practicable precautions, but I wonder whether the hon. Lady will see that the Advisory Council considers whether notices would not be possible in those places where meat is handled on any appreciable scale. Here we are dealing with employees who, because they are handling goods generally, will not be conscious of the Regulations and their purpose. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether it would not be possible to provide for a notice drawing attention to the need for the cleanly handling of meat.

I may be wrong, but I do not think that in the present Regulations provision has been made for either draft Regulation 23 or 25. Regulation 23 provided that No person shall wrap any food in a domestic living room unless such food has been prepared at or is sold or intended for sale at the premises of which the living room forms part. There has recently been a good deal of publicity about this matter. I assume, of course, that it has been carefully considered by the Advisory Council and the hon. Lady's Department but, as far as I have been able to see, it is not incorporated in the Regulations now before the House. I should like the hon. Lady to deal with that.

Regulation 25 dealt with containers and laid down that they should be kept free from contamination. In this case I assume that the point is covered by the general provisions about contamination, but I ask the question so that I may be given an assurance about it.

Those are the only points which I want to raise on the Regulations, but I should like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the work done by the Food Hygiene Advisory Council and to stress the importance, which I am sure will be appreciated by the hon. Lady, of the Advisory Council maintaining a continuous review of the operation of these Regulations.

We regard this as a very satisfactory beginning, but we hope that the Regulations will be reviewed and we should like to hear from the hon. Lady about the code of practice. When we considered the draft Regulations we also had before us a draft code of practice and we should like to know what progress has been made with it. It is common ground that the essential need in food hygiene is education, and we regard the code of practice as part of the general education of people handling food in order to ensure the cleaner handling of food.

10.8 p.m.

Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)

I beg to second the Motion.

I welcome these Regulations, but I wish to make two complaints against the Government. The first is one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) referred—the long delay in making the Regulations. They are made under powers conferred on Ministers by the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, which received Royal Assent on 22nd November, 1955. It may be thought that, as that Act came into force towards the end of November and these Regulations were made in the middle of December, the Government had acted speedily, but that is certainly not the case, because that Act was a consolidating Act, and one of the things which it did was to repeal the Food and Drugs Amendment Act, 1954. Under the Food and Drugs Amendment Act, 1954, the Ministers were given these same powers to make these very Regulations.

The Food and Drugs Amendment Act, 1954, received Royal Assent on 25th November, 1954, and ever since that date my right hon. and hon. Friends have been waiting with a growing impatience for the appearance of these Regulations. Indeed, on 14th March last year my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North asked when the Act would come into operation, because he wanted the Act in operation and he wanted these Regulations made. The answer which the Minister gave him was, … as soon as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 950.] I maintain that these Regulations have not been made as soon as possible. The Statutory Instrument which we are considering states that: The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister of Health, acting jointly, in exercise of the powers conferred on them by … hereby make the following regulations, after consultation with such organisations as appear to them to be representative of interests substantially affected by the regulations and reference to the Food Hygiene Advisory Council. … I cannot see that the delay in making these Regulations has been due to time spent on consultation with such organisations as appear to them to be representative of interests substantially affected by the regulations, because the consultations with representatives of interests affected took place before and during the passage through this House of the 1954 Act. Indeed, at that time a number of organisations—I remember, for example, the National Caterers' Federation—were very helpful in suggesting Amendments, not only to that Act, but for these Regulations.

Nor can I see that the delay has been due to the Food Hygiene Advisory Council having to consider these Regulations. I know that the Government were slow in appointing that Council, but in answer to a Question of mine the Minister announced the membership of the Council on 2nd May, 1955, and I find it hard to believe that the Council has taken over seven months to express its views on these Regulations, which had already been drafted and discussed in this House at some considerable length when we were dealing with the 1954 Act. I do think that an explanation should be given as to why these Regulations have been so long in appearing.

My second complaint also concerns a point touched on by my hon. Friend. These Regulations are being laid under Section 13 of the 1955 Act, subsection (8) of which states: The Ministers shall from time to time take such steps as they think expedient for publishing codes of practice in connection with matters which may be made the subject of regulations under this section, for the purpose of giving advice and guidance to persons responsible for compliance with such regulations. I ask, as did my hon. Friend, where are the codes of practice for the purpose of giving advice and guidance to persons responsible for compliance with these Regulations? Does the Minister consider it quite fair to the catering industry that these Regulations should come into operation without there being a code of practice to give advice and guidance on them?

I am sure that the Regulations would be of much more value to the catering industry if a code of practice were to be published. May I just give one example? Regulation 9, which deals with personal cleanliness, says: A person who engages in the handling of food shall while so engaged— (a) keep as clean as may be reasonably practicable all parts of his person which may be liable to come into contact with the food. I entirely agree with that Regulation, and I cannot think that it could have been expressed in a better way; but I think it will be agreed by the Minister, by the House generally, and by all experts on the subject of hygiene, that the most important point for food handlers to bear in mind is the necessity to have clean hands. In my opinion that Regulation does not stress that point sufficiently. A code of practice, had it been published, could have enlarged upon the Regulation I have quoted, and have stressed the importance of food handlers keeping their hands scrupulously clean.

I ask the Minister how long we are to wait before the code of practice is published? A code of practice was discussed at the time when these Regulations were discussed, when the Bill was going through the House in the autumn of 1954. I cannot see what the excuse of the Government can be for this very long delay. There have been delays in making Regulations and a failure to publish a code of practice at the time when the Regulations were made. I think that the House should be given an explanation of those delays and failures.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

These Regulations which follow the Food and Drugs Act are very wide-sweeping and cover an enormous number of institutions—food providing institutions. I would go so far as to say that they probably cover the Kitchens in this Palace.

Probably the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) does not realise the enormous number of interests which have had to be considered and consulted before the Regulations were made. An over-hasty or rapid publication of Regulations which were contrary to the practical nature of the trade would result in Regulations which would defeat their own interest. Therefore, the slight delay which has taken place while the Regulations were discussed with the trade is a delay which we should really welcome and not criticise.

As I have said, the extent of these Regulations is probably not realised. When one thinks of all the small cafes, big restaurants and small and large hotels covered by these Regulations, one realises that they affect an enormous number of establishments. For example, on page 2 of the Regulations we read: 'local authority' means— as respects the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, the respective overseers thereof; I should be very much obliged if we could be told what is meant by the respective overseers of the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple.

Regulation 9, to which the hon. Member for Batley and Morley referred provides that: A person who engages in the handling of food shall while so engaged— (a) keep as clean as may be reasonably practicable all parts of his person which may be liable to come into contact with the food; That probably is the best way of drafting such a Regulation. If a code of prac- tice were laid down we might limit the very wide terms of the Regulation. Codes of practice may be very good in other connections, but here we have clear words provided for those whose duty it is to enforce the Regulations. This Regulation does not mean that the person must have hands as clean as a surgeon performing an operation, but they must be kept as clean, "as may be reasonably practicable." That is sensible.

On the question of enforcement, I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary how many people will be required to enforce these very desirable Regulations and what the cost of such enforcement will be. Such Regulations are necessary in many food selling institutions, which may be very dirty. In a particular foreign country—whose name I shall not mention—where I was engaged during the last war, hotels and other establishments were taken over for the use of troops. No doubt before the war those places accommodated tourists, but they were in a filthy condition. They had to be cleaned up to put troops in in the course of the war, and the conditions were such as one would loath to find in this country.

Everyone welcomes the Regulations and hopes they will be enforced. I am certain that the better establishments, whether big or small, which take a pride in the quality of the food and the cleanliness of the food which they produce will welcome the Regulations as cutting out the dirtier establishments which serve food under any conditions, on dirty plates and with dirty servers behind and in front of the scenes.

I ask the Minister the two questions which I have put to him. I once again draw the attention of the House to the fact that we are approving Regulations tonight which will affect the well-being and the health of everyone who eats out at any time, and that must mean the whole population, and which will influence also a large number of our fellow citizens engaged in the catering industry, which is important both to the people of this country and to the very large number of people who come here in the summer and expect and are entitled to expect a very high standard of cleanliness in our food catering establishments. Therefore, I welcome the Regulations and hope that the House will pass them tonight.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)

An analysis of the membership figures of the trade union of which I am president would probably reveal that rather more than 200,000 workers in that union will be affected by these Regulations. That union supported the Bill, which has become an Act, and the idea behind these Regulations, both in the House and outside, and it co-operated on the Advisory Council.

These Regulations are long overdue and very necessary. They will, of course, impose very formidable requirements on those of our workpeople who earn their livelihood in the food industry. There are, therefore, a number of points on which we should have answers before the Regulations are agreed to.

During the Committee stage of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill, I moved an Amendment which sought to insert in the Bill the power to pay compensation to workers suffering from certain infectious diseases or who are germ carriers, and the reply I received was that the existing law covered that point. In Regulation 11 we see the provisions set out. I have no quarrel with them, but when I sought from the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food a detailed explanation as to how compensation would be payable, I received a letter, part of which I intend to quote, as I think there is a moral in it. The letter, dated 5th November, 1954, reads as follows: Under the Fourth Schedule to the Public Health (Infectious Disease) Regulations, 1953, the local authority at the instance of the medical officer of health can exclude from work a food handler who is in his opinion suffering from or is shown to be a carrier of certain listed infections and diseases—which include the conditions that in the light of present knowledge are liable to give rise to outbreaks of food poisoning and might require action of this kind. The excluded food handler may claim compensation for any damage so caused under Section 278 of the Public Health Act, 1936. The local authority can also require the employer of a food handler who he has reason to believe may be a carrier of one of the listed diseases to provide facilities for the medical examination of the food handler. It is proposed to include in the food hygiene regulations to be made under Clause 6 (1) of the Foods and Drugs Amendment Bill a provision designed to bring to the notice of the employer and the medical officer of health cases of food handlers who are knowingly suffering from or carriers of the listed diseases so that the latter can decide whether exclusion from work is necessary. Such exclusion would. of course, bring into operation the compensation provisions of Section 278 of the Public Health Act, 1936, and it is, therefore, unnecessary to provide for compensation under the Food and Drugs Act. First, I should like the Minister to confirm that that is, in fact, the legal position, and I have no doubt that the hon. Lady will do so; but I should like to draw the attention of the House to the need to explain all this to the hundreds of thousands of workers in the trade so that they can readily understand it. It is not only important that infected persons or germ carriers should not handle food; it is also important that a worker on whom these Regulations place additional responsibility should know that if he is excluded, he will not be left destitute but will have a legal entitlement to compensation.

There is no reference to that in the Act of Parliament under which these Regulations are made. One finds a reference to the 1953 Regulations, the public Health Act, 1936, and so on. It is true that if such a case came to light, the trade union movement would provide expert legal advice, but unless we are to discourage such infected persons from coming forward the Minister should consider the need to produce a popular pamphlet setting out, not only the legal requirements of the Regulations, but also additional points such as the entitlement to compensation. This ties up with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), in moving and seconding the Motion. There is real need to convince the hundreds of thousands of persons who will operate under the Regulations, not only what the requirements are, but also that they are vital in the interests of public health.

Regulations 9 (b) and 30 deal with protective clothing. It may be within the recollection of hon. Members that of all the stages of the debate during the Committee stage of the Bill, possibly the most violent concerned this subject. It must be said that the mountain went into labour and brought forth a mouse. By Regulation 9, A person who engages in the handling of food shall while so engaged… keep as clean as may be reasonably practicable all parts of his clothing, overclothing or overalls which may be liable to come into contact with the food … In Regulation 30, however, we find that Every person who in the course of a food business carries meat, being meat which is open food, otherwise than in the course of distribution by a retailer to his customers, shall while so engaged wear a clean and washable overall.… Here we have the position that when meat is handled in wholesale markets and similar places, it must, in the interests of public health, be carried by persons wearing satisfactory protective clothing. But when we come to the retail establishment, the point at which the public draws its supplies of meat, under the Regulations as they now stand there is no requirement on the part of the worker to wear protective clothing or on the employer to provide it.

If the Government should claim that there is a drafting difficulty, I would remind the House that the first draft of these Regulations which were sent to my union and to other interested organisations clearly laid down that clean overalls or other suitable protective clothing should be worn and should be capable of being, and should be, cleansed. In my view, Regulation 9 (b) is inadequate. It leads to the nonsensical position in the meat trades which I have described, and 1 would put it to the Minister that it is time that a regulation was introduced which would place fairly and squarely on employers in the food trades the duty of doing what the good employers already do, namely, provide adequate protective clothing.

I turn to Regulations 14 to 16. I welcome them. They deal with sanitary arrangements, sanitary conveniences and washing facilities. I read the Regulations relating to sanitary conveniences with great interest because there are still many food shops in Great Britain where there are no sanitary conveniences and the workers in them have to use public conveniences. I therefore ask the Minister whether she will make urgent representations to the Secretary of State for the Home Department to ensure that in the not distant future we get a Health (Welfare and Safety) Bill applying to the distributive trades.

My final point is to underline the appeal of my hon. Friends, that is, that if these Regulations are to achieve their purpose, we need more than penalties in the form of fines and possible imprisonment. Above all, we need to carry our people with us. There is an overwhelming case for the Ministries concerned to decide to publish an attractive popular booklet for wide circulation in the trades setting out in plain language not only the legal requirements of these Regulations but also the moral requirements of an up-to-date code of practice. I hope, therefore, that the Minister can give satisfaction on some of the points which we have raised, and I hope that these Regulations will inaugurate a new era of clean food in the life of Britain.

10.33 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) for, as he phrased it, the benign manner in which he moved this Motion.

I feel sure that on both sides of the House these Regulations are generally accepted as a real step forward in improving the food hygiene of this country. They make very wide changes and introduce far more stringent regulations than have been hitherto applied to food premises and the handling of all foods. They cover a very wide field, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has said, and it has been necessary to take a considerable time and to consult with many bodies, more recently in particular with the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, in order to ensure that we have the best set of Regulations which could be devised, bearing in mind the enormous diversity of this problem, the range of undertakings with which we have to deal, from the vast commercial catering or food-manufacturing firm, with extremely high standards, to the tiny little shop in the village or the barrow in the market.

We had to try to devise a means by which the whole field could be covered by a set of acceptable Regulations. They not only cover requirements as to the construction and use of premises, the maintenance of food vehicles, stalls and food equipment, but also lay down very plainly the practices to be followed in the handling of food. The very important task of enforcing the Regulations falls upon the local authorities, who have for long carried out the task but with not so clearly defined and heavy obligations as will now be placed upon them.

The hon. Member for Bailey and Morley (Dr. Broughton) accused us of delay, but it is fair to say that the Food Hygiene Advisory Council held six meetings. Its recommendations had then to be considered by my right hon. Friend. Quite frankly, we have had to compromise on some of the issues because of the great diversity of types of dealers and users for whom we had to provide Regulations. But they are Regulations and, therefore, are more easily amended than an Act of Parliament. We do not pretend that they are the final ideal in hygiene which we may one day be able to enforce, but we believe that in present circumstances they are an enormous advance on any provisions we have had hitherto and that they are a compromise between what is idealistically desirable and what is at present practicably possible.

We have had to take into consideration the many small businesses which would have been put out of operation altogether if we had taken the strict letter of some of the recommendations made by interested bodies, which perhaps had in mind large firms. The small shop in the village, which serves the community there and renders great service, simply could not have acquired the rigid standards which might be applicable to the large commercial undertaking. I say again that, because of the range and diversity of the problem, there has been some compromise, but there have resulted far stronger Regulations which should succeed if they are coupled with the education to which all hon. Members have paid tribute and of the necessity for which they have warned the House and the public outside.

The success of the Regulations will lie in the general education of the public and in public recognition that so much devolves upon the personal responsibility and, in many cases, the social and hygiene behaviour of the individual. Not least, it depends upon the public's not putting up with bad standards and on its ensuring that proper standards are maintained.

I will not suggest that the Regulations are not capable of improvement, but this is a large and complex problem. I assure hon. Members that the position will be kept constantly under review, not only by my right hon. Friends, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but also by the Food Hygiene Advisory Council. If experience shows that changes are necessary, amending Regulations will be made. It is plain—and the point was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East—that the Regulations as now presented put a very heavy burden on many businesses, especially small businesses and those who have to contend with imperfect premises and a very great shortage of labour. These people may feel that if they dismiss a member of their staff they will be extraordinarily lucky if they can replace the dismissed member within a reasonable time. We have had to strike a fair balance. I hope that hon. Members will agree that we have indeed done so.

As I have said, the Food Hygiene Advisory Council had six meetings, and I would like to place on record our deep appreciation of its work and our gratitude for the advice given to us. There was a long list of provisions which we were able to accept, and there were amendments and improvements to the Regulations which we were happy to accept. Where it was not possible to adopt some of the suggestions, it was because my right hon. Friend felt that, with the diversity of the establishments with which we had to deal, it was not possible to go as far as those making representations would have desired.

In particular, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North mentioned the question of the living room in direct communication with a shop. It was originally suggested that such a room should not be used for any purpose directly connected with the preparation of food. There we had the difficulty of the small village shop with a parlour behind, where this suggestion would place a severe obligation on the owner if he were deprived of that parlour because, by reason of the room being adjacent to the shop, he could not provide home-made cakes or ice cream in the shop.

We have had to take into account such questions which affect many small establishments, and for that reason it was not possible to accept the over-riding principle which I am glad the hon. Gentleman did not press. However, I am sure he realises the difficulties we have had in dealing with the great diversity of shops and undertakings affected by these Regulations.

In a previous debate the hon. Gentleman raised the question of meat carrying. There again the suggestion was made that meat should not be transported in vehicles without duck boards or automatic loading gear. This would have put a tremendous obligation on the small trader with a van without duck boards or loading gear, or it might even have put him out of business. So, although we have had to compromise on some of these matters, we have done the best that is possible in the circumstances and at the present time.

The hon. Member for Batley and Morley raised the point of delay, which I do not think has been unduly long in view of the great care we have taken to gather the views of interested bodies and to try, so far as we were able, to reconcile conflicting views.

His second point was about the codes of practice. I do not think it unreasonable that the Regulations should be laid and published now without the codes of practice being to hand. These will be considered and ultimately published by my right hon. Friend after consultation with the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, but it would be putting the cart before the horse to suggest that the codes of practice should come before the law.

These Regulations are full of "Thou shalt not" —that is the law, these are the Regulations. The codes of practice will go more into the sphere of education on items which cannot be clearly defined in Regulations. The real importance of all this legislation is that "Thou shalt not" is laid down firmly in these Regulations and they will confirm the basis for the codes of practice. I know that the hon. Gentleman is particularly interested in them. In a previous debate he mentioned the excellent work done by the St. John Ambulance Association, which is continuing. I would emphasise again how vitally important it is that the public should become educated to the idea of food hygiene.

In a report from a Medical Officer of Health to the Ministry on a recent investigation into outbreaks of food poisoning, it was shown that it was not the fault of the establishment concerned nor of the equipment it had, nor of the facilities provided. It was due to one human being being careless and not conforming to the standards to which one would hope everyone should conform. That was something which no Regulation could define, since it depended entirely on the personal behaviour and common sense and standard of hygiene of the individual. I feel that in many cases that is responsible for some of the dangers which may arise in food handling, and I could not agree with hon. Members more that education is one of the most vital parts of the whole of this legislation.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East asked me how the Inner and Middle Temples came into the Regulations. The overseers of the Inner and Middle Temples are, for the purposes of the Act, the local authority for the two Inns of Court and rank alongside the Metropolitan borough councils under the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, as I am sure my hon. and learned Friend, with his legal knowledge, knew.

On the question of cost, the work will be carried out under the aegis of the sanitary inspectors who hitherto carried out the enforcement of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. We do not think that it will entail any substantial increase in staff. The Regulations give greater power to the sanitary inspectors and their staffs, who are already vigilant. When they are visiting factories or catering establishments, they will be backed up by firmer legislation with teeth to enable them to enforce more rigidly the standards many of them have long wished to see.

I can confirm what the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) said, that employees who may be suspended by the local authority through having certain infectious diseases or ailments may qualify to apply for compensation under the Public Health Act, 1936, and their cases will be dealt with under that machinery. I agree with him about the new standards about conveniences and wash basins which are laid down in the Regulations.

The great difficulty about protective clothing is again one of diversity. I agree that with the large undertakings, the best-known manufacturing firms, it is clearly practical, but it is extremely difficult to lay down a rigid interpretation of clothing to cover not only those large undertakings but the small shop, the single shopkeeper, or even, in some cases, the hawker in the street who may be providing or processing in some form or another some form of food stuff. The very diversity makes it extremely difficult to lay down a fixed formula which can apply to all types and kinds of people coming under the Regulations. It has not been felt suitable or practical at present to lay down such enforcement or description of a particular protective clothing. It may be possible, if codes of practice are laid down for any particular form of food production or catering industry, to cover them there.

I am grateful to hon. Members for the suggestions they have made. I can assure the hon. Member for Sunderland, North that these matters will be constantly under review by my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Health and of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and that we shall be constantly in touch with the Food Hygiene Advisory Council. I believe that this is a very important Measure. Members on both sides of the House have contributed to strengthening it and giving teeth to what has long been desired, namely, to improve the standards of hygiene and food handling in this country. I think this Bill goes a long way towards that end and that we are now entering a phase when we have to educate the public to make this Bill and the Regulations really work.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. Willey

I am sure that the House would think me ungenerous if I did not thank the hon. Lady for her statement. I am also sure that I shall not be thought controversial if I say that she is a distinct improvement on the present Postmaster-General.

We do not complain about a compromise. We realise that a compromise is a good thing if it carries the good will of the trade, which is essential. We are assured that the Advisory Council will constantly keep this matter under review and, in that sense, this debate has been helpful and called attention to the points made by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) who represents a number of distributive workers.

I can assure the hon. Lady that we shall do our utmost to support the Advisory Council and that we shall look forward with interest to any future statement. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.