HL Deb 22 May 1860 vol 158 cc1587-90

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said its object was to prevent the sale of a vast deal of rubbish that was now sold as food for the people. The means by which it was proposed to effect this object was by making every person who shall sell any article of food or drink with which any ingredient injurious to health has, to his knowledge been mixed, or who shall sell with a warrant of its purity any article which he knows to be adulterated, liable to summary conviction before two justices of peace, who were authorised to inflict a penalty not less than 5s. or exceeding £5, and costs. The local authorities were authorized to appoint one or more "analysts," to whom the purchaser or the magistrates might submit the suspected articles for examination, and whose certificate was to be conclusive. The Bill proposed to give a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions—but this proposition he intended to extend and to make the appeal lie to the Court of Queen's Bench for patented articles in certain cases. For the second offence the magistrates were authorized, besides inflicting the recited penalties, to publish the name, place, abode, and offence of the offender in the newspapers or otherwise. In respect of the general scope and intent of the Bill, he would remind their Lordships that it was neccessary to risk a little inconvenience if they were to effect any good at all by legislation. There was such a disposition on the part of traders to sell goods which were not what they purported to be, that unless the Legislature interfered effectually he was afraid the sale of adulterated and unwholesome goods would continue throughout the kingdom to the great injury of the community.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, the Bill was not likely to effect much towards effecting the object which the promoters desired, and was certain to cause intense vexation and annoyance in every part of the country. He believed, however, the Bill would prove perfectly inoperative owing to the difficulties which would beset any attempt to carry its provisions into execution. For instance, it would require that the seller must know the article he sold to be adulterated. How were they to prove that? Then it was proposed, in the case of any person selling adulterated articles and convicted thereof, he should be liable to have his name, offence, and penalty published in one or more newspapers, which he conceived to be altogether a new principle in legislation. Then they were to be dependent on the proof of adulteration on the Report of analysts appointed for the purpose; but as there was a great difference of opinion between analysts as to what was pure and what was adulterated, it would be very difficult for either the magistrates or the justices of the peace in quarter sessions to decide, with such conflicting testimony, as to who was right or who was wrong. This was no new subject, for he had heard it discussed ever since he recollected anything; and about fifty years ago a work bearing on the matter was published entitled Death in the Pot. However, if the returns of the Registrar General were examined, great improvement would be found to have taken place in the health of the general population; and, consequently, it must not be assumed that there was such an enormous increase in the adulteration of articles of food as to injure the health of the public.


observed that it had been shown by evidence that so extensive and systematic was the adulteration of all articles of consumption that people hardly knew what they ate or drank. It would be very desirable if any enactment could be passed that would give protection to the poor man; but his own opinion was that it would be difficult to do anything in the matter with effect. At the same time it was well worth consideration, whether some mode might not be discovered of putting a check on the habit of falsifying articles of consumption.


said, that when the Act of the Irish Parliament against the adulteration of bread expired after the Union, powdered bone became no inconsiderable ingredient in the manufacture of that important article of food. The result was that a new Act had to be passed by the Imperial Parliament. It was so important that a stop should be put to practices so injurious to the public health that he thought it would be a great misfortune if any discouragement were thrown upon this attempt at legislation.


strongly supported the Bill. The agricultural societies had done a great public service by analysing artificial manures, but they had had to encounter great difficulties in consequence of the litigation to which they were exposed if they published the names of the fraudulent vendors, They had found it necessary to form guarantee funds in order to bear their chemists harmless; and he regarded the provision for the publication of any names of those persons who might be convicted under the Bill as one of its most valuable features.


thought a clause should be inserted enabling a retail dealer to obtain an analysis for a much smaller sum than was provided for by the Bill. He also thought a provision should be made that no person should be subject to the charge of adulteration who sold articles in packets or bottles which remained, when he sold them, in the same condition as they were in when they came into his possession. The onus in such cases ought to attach entirely to the manufacturer, or, at all events, the wholesale dealer.


suggested that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.


accepted the suggestion, and said that if the House would agree to the second reading, he would on Thursday move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. The manufacturers of an adulterated article must, of course, always be cognizant of the adulteration; not so, necessarily, the retail dealer. If, however, the retail dealer warranted the article he sold as being pure, he ought to be liable for the adulteration, if there were any, in regard to the article.

After a few words from the LORD CHANCELLOR,

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Select Committee, The Committee to be named on Thursday next; when the following Lords were named of the Committee:—

E. Shaftesbury L. Redesdale
E. Hardwicke L. Somerhill (M. Clanricarde)
E. Powis
L. Bp. St. David's L. Portman
L. Camoys L. Wensleydale
L. Teynham L. Talbot de Malahide

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