HL Deb 05 July 1875 vol 225 cc944-7

Amendments reported (according to Order).


objected to the word "knowingly" in Clauses 3 and 4. How could it be proved that any tradesman was knowingly guilty that he was selling adulterated food or drugs? He contended that if this word should be allowed to remain in these clauses the Government might as well withdraw the Bill at once, as it would become a dead letter. He therefore moved that the word be omitted.


said, that the noble Lord had anticipated the observations which he had intended to make; but he would add one argument, and that was that these clauses, as they stood, would considerably strengthen the position of every dishonest tradesman. Moreover, as the retailer and his wife could give evidence as to the state in which they had received the goods, no hardship would be done to the retailer by the omission of the word.


said, that since the Bill passed through Committee he had received a vast number of communications, urging upon him the objections which had been raised by the noble Lords who had just addressed the House. He had also been informed that the matter had been discussed in quarter sessions with the same result; and he had the greatest possible respect for the opinion of these Courts on points connected with the administration of the law, believing that the justices generally took a practical and sound view of the law. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be for the convenience of the House to re-consider the decision at which it had arrived. He should, therefore, on the Motion for the third reading of the Bill, move the omission of the word "knowingly" and the insertion of such other words as might be necessary to meet the objections which had been urged. That would leave to every tradesman the power of showing that he had no guilty knowledge of the adulteration.


said, that upon that understanding he would not press his Amendment.


moved to omit from Clause 5, lines 26, 27, 28, 29, the sub-section which excepted from punishment for adulteration persons who sold articles— Where any harmless matter or ingredient is mixed therewith for the purpose of making them portable or palatable, of preserving them, or of improving their appearance, provided such matter is not used for the purpose of concealing the inferior quality of the article. He contended that if the clause were allowed to stand as at present it would practically afford no security to the purchaser of any food or drugs. The first part of the clause was quite correct; but the exception, which allowed any harmless matter or ingredient which made food portable or palatable, or for the purpose of preserving it to be mixed with it, unless such matter was used to enable the seller to dispose of an inferior article, neutralized it. He had puzzled himself in trying to understand what the draftsman meant by the word "portable" as applied to food. As to palatable a customer would be told that chicory made coffee more palatable, and the tradesman would escape the penalty, as the word would protect him. Then, as to preserving or improving the appearance of any article, the tradesman would say that butter was preserved by being mixed with lard, and bread improved in appearance by being mixed with alum, and under this exception in the clause would escape punishment. He would suggest that the exception should be withdrawn, and that Clauses 5 and 7 should be made to run together, and that tradesmen should state in writing or by printed statements whether the article of food or the drug was of the sort or nature demanded by the purchaser.


observed, that an article might be "portable" without requiring a handle—as, for instance, ether. Then, as to the mixing of articles, he did not suppose it would be possible to get lard without salt. However, the noble and learned Lord had put his objections with such force that it was difficult to say that the clause did not require further consideration. He would endeavour before the third reading to give effect to the noble and learned Lord's views by amending Clause 5 so as to make it agree with Clause 7, and on this understanding he hoped the noble and learned Lord would allow the clause to remain in its present shape.


thought the words might very well be omitted now, and any Amendment that might be required in the 7th clause could be introduced on the third reading.


pointed out that that would be an unusual course. In the present case it was particularly important that an Amendment should not be lightly made, because, if he mistook not, the words in question were introduced into the Bill in the other House of Parliament.


called attention to the danger which might arise from the dilution of drugs even with harmless ingredients, and urged the advantage of having drugs of identical strength and quality sold throughout the United Kingdom.


said, that he was perfectly satisfied with the assurance of the noble Duke that he would consider his objection and deal with it on the third reading; and would not press his Amendment. He desired that every purchaser should have security that he purchased the article which he wanted, and that he should have notice from the tradesman if the article was mixed with something else.


said, there were some articles which must of necessity be mixed to make them palatable as articles of food. The logical consequence of the clause would be to compel bakers to label their bread "salted." If they made the clause too stringent it would be unworkable.


said, absolute chemical purity was not required. A number of articles of food were commonly prepared in a particular way, and if the purchaser obtained them of the nature, substance, and quality he demanded he had no reason to complain.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Clause 7 (Protection from offences by giving of label).


moved to add to the clause and truly stating the thing or things mixed with the article, and the percentage which such thing or things hear to the article.

After short conversation, Amendment negatived.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next, and to he printed, as amended. (No. 93.)