HC Deb 04 November 1980 vol 991 cc1103-5 3.31 pm
Mr. Gerry Neale (Cornwall, North)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the making of home-made jam, preserves and other foodstuffs for sale to the public. I wish to draw to the attention of the House the Food and Drugs Act 1955 and to make clear that the position under it is now totally ludicrous. I draw attention particularly to section 16 of the Act, which deals with the preparation and manufacture of certain foodstuffs in the home and in other premises and which relates particularly to sausages and potted, pressed, pickled and preserved foods that are intended for sale. The Act requires not only that those premises must be inspected but that they must be registered with the local health authorities.

Superficially, it may be said that my interest and that of some of my hon. Friends in this matter is the ability of ladies throughout the country to make jams. The problem relates to the ability of local branches of voluntary organisations to make money to further the ends of their organisations by making at home various foodstuffs and then raising money by selling them.

The problem has arisen because a local authority in Stockton-on-Tees has now, in its wisdom, decided that the Act also relates to the making of jams at home, and therefore requires all household kitchens to be inspected by local health authority inspectors and to be registered. I suggest that that gives rise to the most ludicrous bureaucratic intentions of local authorities. Despite tremendous pressure by organisations such as the women's institutes, press and television, the National Farmers Union, and even by the Secretary of State, Stockton-on-Tees council continues to hold that view. It is clear that the 1955 Act never intended that requirement to relate to domestic kitchens.

Local organisations have been thrown into considerable confusion by the decision. I therefore suggest to the House that the implications are more profound than one would otherwise imagine. If we are not careful, it will result in the loss of income of about £10 million per annum to various voluntary organisations. The women's institutes raise about £1 million from 415 markets which they hold throughout the country. Beyond that, they have about 9,000 branches, comprising about 500,000 members, which also hold events of that sort. They are obliged to publish a comprehensive document covering the legalistic requirements of making home-made jams and so on, which surely points out the ridiculous stage that we have reached. In a constituency such as mine, in Cornwall, where the Royal National Life-boat Institution has many branches—throughout the country it has 2,000 branches, raising about £3½ million—such organisations raise money for which responsibility would otherwise fall on the Secretary of State for Trade.

Perhaps one of the greatest areas in which this element is important is that of education. It has recently been established in a survey conducted by The Times Educational Supplement that about £23 million is raised by parents for schools. In many instances, they are doing so through the production of jams and preserves. It is reasonable to suppose that a considerable percentage of that money comes from that type of production. If it is prevented, presumably the difference will have to be made up by the Department of Education. I could go on. into the area of the Department of the Environment, where local community groups make up the sums of money that go towards the repair of buildings, the cost of which would otherwise fall on the Secretary of State for the Environment.

There is a party political aspect, in that many of the political organisations raise money by holding bring-and-buy stalls. In Cornwall, there are about 200 branches of organisations representing the Conservative cause. I have no doubt that the Liberal Party, too, has a number of branches or organisations in that part of the world producing jams. I should like to be charitable to the Labour Party, but it is finding it difficult to be charitable to itself at the moment. There must be about 13,000 such branches of one party or another which are producing this type of article.

If it were suggested that the Catering Department of the House of Commons were to be supplied in future with homemade jams from the women's institutes, I hardly imagine that hon. Members would fear for their health or safety, or dare to suggest to such an august body that the jams were tainted or unsuitable for consumption. I would even suggest that on a future occasion, you, Mr. Speaker, might sample some of the homemade jam with your tea. I would even seek to offer you such a sample if it would not be taken as a means of catching your eye.

We can laugh and take the matter lightly, but when we examine it we find that it gives rise to considerable implications. I therefore ask the House to consent to the introduction of this Bill in order to remove the uncertainty that is being created among voluntary organisations which go to a great deal of trouble to raise money and in order to remove an absurd and unnecessary bureacratic inhibition on such organisations, which we should seek to encourage in every way. I ask the House to support the introduction of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerry Neale, Mr. John Carlisle, Mr. Michael Latham and Mr. Harry Greenaway.