HL Deb 24 March 1851 vol 115 cc422-4

, on moving the Third Reading of this Bill, said, that while the Bill was in Committee he had re- ceived a vast number of communications from all parts of the country containing suggestions for its improvement—some of them from persons who were entitled to speak with the utmost authority on the subject; and, in accordance with their advice, there were several amendments and additions which, if the Bill should be read a third time, he intended to propose for their Lordships' adoption. The Bill, as it originally stood, made it imperative upon the seller of any quantity of arsenic to enter in a book kept for the purpose the name and residence of the person making the purchase, and the purpose for which he alleged he wanted the article. He now proposed that for any sale of arsenic whatever, it should be imperative not only upon the seller to enter the name of the purchaser, and the purposes for which he alleged he wanted the article, but also that the purchaser should himself sign his name, with the view of still further fixing his identity, and giving an additional clue to his apprehension in case it should afterwards appear that any sinister use had been made of the article; and also that in certain cases, it should not be sold except in the presence of a witness. It had also been represented to him that there were a number of cases constantly occurring—indeed, some had occurred since the introduction of this Bill—in which death took place by accidental poisoning by arsenic. With the view of preventing, as far as possible, the occurrence of this class of cases, it had been recommended that some foreign colour should be given to the arsenic, in order that it might not be mistaken for flour, meal, carbonate of soda, or the like; and this suggestion he intended to ask their Lordships also to adopt. Arsenic, however, was used extensively for the purposes of the arts and manufactures; and it had been represented that the introduction of a foreign colour might interfere with some of the purposes to which it might be legitimately put, although no such objection could apply to the uses to which it was put in connection with agriculture—such as the steeping of seed, the rubbing of sheep, and the destroying of vermin. He intended to propose a clause, therefore, providing that no person should sell less than 10lb. weight of uncoloured arsenic, unless it was stated by the purchaser that he wanted it for some purpose in which the introduction of an adventitious colour would be injurious. As regarded certain purposes, it was proposed that arsenic should be coloured with a certain quantity of indigo, or, as it might be represented that indigo was rather dear and difficult to procure in remote districts of the country, he intended to propose that soot also, which was found everywhere, should be employed as the colouring matter; the mixture with either of these articles would materially interfere with the use of the article in the preparation of food. He likewise thought it expedient that it should be expressly enacted that arsenic should be sold to none but male adults, as several deplorable accidents had occurred from young children and female servants having been sent to purchase it. He also intended to propose that in cases where less than 101b. of uncoloured arsenic was required for any purpose, there should not only be the signature of the purchaser, but likewise the presence of a witness who was known to the seller. He believed that these provisions would go as far as any provisions which the Legislature could adopt, both to prevent the accidental use of the article, and to give a clue to the detection of persons who had used it for a felonious purpose. He would only add that the inquiries he had made on the subject had confirmed the propriety of the view he originally took of the inexpediency of clogging the measure with provisions with respect to other kinds of poison. He thought it better to confine its provisions to the case of the article which was most commonly used for sinister purposes, and which was the most frequent cause of accidental poisoning.

Bill read 3a; Amendments made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

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