HC Deb 07 April 1970 vol 799 cc436-41
The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

I beg to move Amendment No. 30, in page 52, line 7, at end add— (5) For the purposes of this Act, the appropriation of any material by one person for use—

  1. (a) in the performance for hire or reward of services to another person in pursuance of a contract in that behalf, or
  2. (b) under arrangements with another person not constituting a sale of the material to that other person, being arrangements which are intended to benefit both the person appropriating the material and that other person but under which the probability or extent of any benefit to that other person may be affected by the quality of the material,
shall be treated as a sale of that material to that other person by the person so appropriating it, and references to sale or purchase and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly. I continue the generous spirit which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has begun by trying to cater for a point which was brought out in Committee, namely, that it is important that Part IV should deal with fertilisers supplied in spreading contracts and feedingstuffs used in pig and poultry rearing contracts.

Dealing first with fertilisers; it was suggested that because such arrangements involve contracts for service, as opposed to contracts for sale, the transactions concerned might fall outside the scope of Part IV, thus depriving farmers of protection which they were entitled to expect. I accept that it is equally necessary for farmers to receive the statutory particulars whether they themselves purchase and spread the fertilisers or arrange with a contractor for him to supply and spread them.

On looking into this question, it was discovered that in the great majority of cases the sale of the fertiliser is the main purpose of the contract, so that the transaction falls within the scope of the Bill. Nevertheless, I understand that there are instances of contracts in which the sale is not the main substance, and we wish to ensure that these, too, will be covered. Additionally, it is desirable to take this opportunity of preventing arguments from having to be settled in court as to whether individual contracts fall on one side of the line or the other.

I turn now to pig and poultry rearing contracts. The House will no doubt wish me to explain the nature of the contracts concerned in order that the objective of the Amendment may be appreciated. Their provisions, of course, vary from contract to contract, but in general terms they involve a farmer undertaking to rear livestock for a specified period. The stock and the feedingstuff are supplied by the other party to the contract. At the end of the period agreed, the stock is sold and the profit or loss allocated in accordance with the terms of the contract. In the great majority of cases the feedingstuff concerned is not sold to the farmer, who will therefore not receive the statutory particulars or the other forms of protection which Part IV provides for purchasers.

Hon. Members will nevertheless appreciate that the quality of the feedingstuff greatly influences the progress of the stock, and thus the eventual return to the farmer. Since the farmer has no choice as to which type of feedingstuff he is given, it is most desirable that he should receive the statutory protection, for example, the particulars of nutrient content and additives, and the warranty of fitness for purpose and so on.

The Amendment is in general terms in order to cover the many individual varieties of contract involved. We have also had to ensure that the scope is not too broad so unintentionally bringing in services which should not be covered. I hope that the House will agree that this is a valuable Amendment.

Mr. Jopling

I wish only to thank the Under-Secretary for the Amendment. This matter was raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and the Government told us that they would look at it again. It is only right to mention the name of one man who has been of the greatest assistance to both sides of the House and both sides of the Committee and who was particularly concerned about this matter, Mr. Charles Miller, the Chief Weights and Measures Inspector of the North Riding of Yorkshire, who originally brought this matter to the attention of both sides of the House. I hope that the Amendment will not include all sorts of things which none of us wants, I have not been able to find any of these loopholes, and I hope that the Government have ensured that it is not that wide.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Jopling

I beg to move Amendment No. 31, in page 52, line 7, at end insert— (5) Nothing in this part of this Act shall be construed as applying to feeding-stuffs which are sold principally to be consumed by pet dogs, cats and birds. This matter, too, was raised in Committee, when the Minister said that he would try to find some words to cover the point. The Clause defines feeding stuff as …feeding stuff for such descriptions of animals as may be prescribed, being animals which, or kinds of which, are commonly kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur or for the purpose of their use in the farming of land. That definition includes dogs, which are extensively used on hill farms for sheep herding and so on, so food for all sorts of dogs could be prescribed. The same goes for cats, which have a farming use: many farmers claim on their tax returns for their food. Birds are also included for egg production and poultry for the table, so budgerigar feeding stuffs could be prescribed—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have that fervent support: I hope that the Minister will give me equal support and will accept the Amendment.

None of us wants these feeding stuffs prescribed. I am disappointed that the Government have not brought forward an Amendment to exclude feeding stuffs for these types of pets. The Minister made it clear in Committee, in c. 168, that it is not the Government's intention to prescribe them. We welcome that, but they should be specifically excluded from the Bill, so that we are not providing broader powers than we need. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted, and will stop any anomalies in future.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Hoy

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) might have added that since Committee stage I have written him a letter explaining why this could not be done, and, indeed, why it is unnecessary. I thought he might have quoted what I said in the letter explaining the position.

This Amendment is unnecessary. We discussed this in Committee as the hon. Member quite rightly said, and hon. Members will know that the definition in Clause 63 of "feeding stuff" is feeding stuff for such descriptions of animals as may be prescribed, being animals which, of kinds of which, are commonly kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur or for the purpose of their use in the farming of land". The actual types of animals will be prescribed by regulation. This is in accordance with the general practice in legislation of this sort, whereby the enabling power is provided in general terms, the details being worked out in subordinate legislation.

In the case under review it is necessary for the enabling power to be in the terms of the definition to ensure that we can cover food for all types of animals kept or used in farming. Because sheepdogs are used on farms their food could be brought in; a similar case could, perhaps, be made out for cats since they are used to keep down vermin. This does not mean that dog and cat food would in consequence be brought within the scope of the Bill, because—and I can give an assurance on this point—there is no intention of prescribing dogs and cats in regulations. The Amendment is, therefore, unnecessary.

I might also point out that in specifically seeking to exclude food for pet dogs, cats and birds the Amendment seeks to deal with one undesirable eventuality. There may, however, be other types of pet animals which have not been thought of but which also fall within the definition. Should such cases arise the problem would be dealt with in the way I have described, that is, by excluding them from the regulations. This is the appropriate way to deal with matters of this sort, rather than by piecemeal exclusion in the Bill itself.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I understand that there is a considerable number of dog and cat foods, especially those containing meat, which are very often used for human consumption as well. Some may prolong active life; there is another, tins of which, I understand, the dog gives his owner—Kennomeat I think that is. However, one has to face the fact that quite a number of these foods, which may be of very high quality, are consumed, I regret to say, quite often through ignorance, by some of our immigrant population. I think this is a matter which requires a little further thought. I would like an assurance that the Minister has given it.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I simply want to ask the Minister two short questions. Can he say why the English language must be used in this particular fashion? The Clause says 'animal' includes any bird, insect or fish". This is quite the most extraordinary definition of the word "animal". Why should "animal" include insect, bird or fish? If insects, birds or fish are included, why cannot we say so?

The second is a practical question. It will be known to the Minister—it is certainly widely known in my constituency—that the keeping intensively of fish for the purposes of food is a growing practice. I believe it is one which will extend quite considerably in this country. Indeed, I have a very large trout hatchery not very far from where I live——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member seems to have moved somewhat from the Amendment.

Mr. Griffiths

With respect, I am about to put my question. What I want to know is whether the Minister, when he prescribes the order——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are not discussing the order. We are discussing Amendment No. 31, which does not relate to the points which the hon. Member is now discussing.

Mr. Griffiths

Well, I am in some difficulty. The Minister has said, in answering my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Joplin), that he need not worry about this matter because he has written him a letter—which none of us has seen—and in the letter has pointed out that regulations will prescribe what feeding stuffs will fall within the Bill; the Minister will say what kinds of animals shall benefit and which shall not. My question, very simply, to him is, will trout, which are animals for the purpose of this definition, benefit from "feeding stuff"?

Mr. Hoy

I did not rest my remarks on the letter. I suggest that, as the hon. Gentleman has not taken part in the discussion, he does not know what has gone on. His hon. Friend knows what I meant when I replied on this issue, because in Committee I promised to consider the matter and give a reply. Because of that promise, and out of courtesy, I wrote the letter.

On this question of people eating other than animals in the normal use of the word "animals", I have heard the allegation before, but I have no proof of it. This proves how right I was to say in Committee that these matters should not be specified. Whenever one starts specifying things, one is virtually certain to exclude something.

Amendment negatived.

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