HL Deb 15 June 1875 vol 224 cc1894-900

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Prohibition of the mixing of injurious ingredients, and of selling the same).


moved, in page 2, line 6, to omit the word "knowingly," the retention of which would, in his opinion, greatly mar the utility of the measure. How could it be proved—as it must be before a conviction could be obtained under the Bill if it became law as it stood—that a trader knew he was selling adulterated drugs or food? He believed that druggists, at all events, were perfectly competent to judge of the quality of what they were selling. They either mixed the articles they sold for themselves or they obtained them mixed from others, and in the latter case they had a remedy against the person they purchased from under Clause 5. He had no desire to harass traders or to place undue restrictions upon trade; but to secure that the Bill should operate beneficially, he hoped the word "knowingly" would be omitted from the clause.


said, the effect of the noble Earl's Amendment would be to render every trader who sold adulterated drugs or food, however ignorant he might be of the fact, liable to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months with hard labour. Surely their Lordships would not agree to the imposition of a penalty like that? A man might be perfectly innocent and have nothing whatever to do with the articles he sold save to sell them, and yet he would be liable to imprisonment. The clause was substantially the same as that in the Act of 1872—so that the proposed legislation was not new, but proceeded on the basis of the old. He should be sorry to omit the word "knowingly," as he believed that great injustice might ensue if it were struck out.


thought that the onus should be thrown on the trader of proving his ignorance, as it would be most difficult in the case of a prosecution to prove guilty knowledge.


said, that the noble Earl in moving to omit the word "knowingly" proposed that the question of knowledge should not enter into the offence. The Act would, therefore, impose a penalty of £50 upon a tradesman who sold a mixed article, whether he knew it to be mixed or not. Was that justice? A suggestion had been made by the noble Earl (Earl Fortescue) that the onus ought to be changed, and that it should be assumed that a man was guilty until he had proved that he was innocent. In that case, however, the mouth would be stopped of the person who could give the best evidence—namely, the accused himself, and thus while there was a fair chance that the prosecutor would offer presumptive evidence in favour of a conviction, there would be no opportunity on the part of the person accused of proving his innocence.

After a short conversation,

On Question that ("knowingly") stand part of the Clause? their Lord-ships divided:—Contents 41; Not-Con-tents 23: Majority 18.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 (Prohibition of the sale of articles of food and of drugs not of the proper nature, substance, and quality. Exceptions).


said, he proposed to strike out the proviso that if a retail dealer who had sold an article in the condition in which it was supplied to him by the wholesale dealer was fined, he should have a right of action against such wholesale dealer for the recovery of the penalty and costs. It seemed to him that the proviso did not afford the remedy which was intended in the case it was desired to meet, and that this could be done best in Clause 24, which provided for the acquittal of the retail dealer if he had purchased from the wholesale dealer with a written warranty.

Amendment moved to leave out, line 40 from ("And") to ("subjected.")


approved the change, remarking that at present the retail dealer was under no obligation to prosecute. It ought to be clearly understood that there was to be a prosecution of the wholesale dealer if he were to blame.

Amendment agreed to; words struck out; Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 6, 7, and 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 (Appointment of analysts).


urged that the appointment of analysts ought to be made compulsory, and not left optional with local authorities. Appointments had been made already in 32 out of 34 counties, and in 154 out of 171 boroughs. If the Act had done good in some places it would do good in others; and it was desirable that there should be uniformity in the administration of the law, or else adulterated articles would certainly find their way into places where no analysts had been appointed. No doubt there might be a difficulty in finding analysts, but that could be partly met by the combination of authorities and the making of appointments for larger areas, and by boroughs accepting the analysts appointed by the county authorities. Essex, Kent, and Sussex had appointed analysts in London. Up to the present time he believed the Local Government Board had not exercised the power conferred upon them to compel a local authority to appoint an analyst.

Amendment moved, page 3, line 51, to leave out ("may") and insert ("shall.")—(The Earl of Morley).


said, he could not assent to the Amendment. The Local Government Board already had the power to compel where they thought fit, and it might be presumed they would exercise that power where they thought it necessary. It was not desirable to make appointments more compulsory than they were at present; and there were practical difficulties in the way of boroughs combining with counties and counties combining with each other, for there was no machinery to enable them to make the necessary apportionments of the salaries of the analysts.


thought it very desirable that the analysts should submit to some regular examination before they were appointed. The Committee had made a recommendation to that effect.


observed that the responsibility rested with the Local Government Board, and no doubt they would satisfy themselves as to the qualifications of the analysts before they sanctioned their appointment.


suggested that, instead of the words that the Local Government Board "may" require satisfactory proof of competency to be furnished to them, the word "shall" should be substituted. This would go far to secure the appointment of properly qualified analysts. The Home Office could not appoint an Inspector of Mines without his undergoing an examination.


read an extract from the evidence given before the Committee to show that there would be no difficulty in having an examination at South Kensington. People would have more confidence in the analysts if they knew that they had been regularly examined. It would also tend to greater uniformity of opinion as to what should be considered adulteration if they passed an uniform examination.


said, it was distinctly recommended by the Select Committee that the appointment of an analyst should be compulsory.

On Question? Resolved in the negative.


then moved, in line 11 of the same clause, that the word "may" should be struck out and "shall" inserted before the words "require satisfactory proof of competency." The clause as it stood provided that the Local Government Board, to whose approval the appointment of the analyst was to be subject, might require satisfactory proof of the competency of the person appointed. He thought they ought to be bound to require such proof, and therefore he proposed that Amendment.


opposed the Amendment, thinking they ought to place confidence in the Public Department, which could be trusted to see that there was satisfactory proof of competency in those cases.


observed, that if they left the word "may" in the clause it implied an assumption that the Board would not, in all cases, require satisfactory proof of the competence of the analyst.


said, that there were cases in which it would be difficult to say in what mode the evidence of fitness was to be obtained.

On Question? Resolved in the negative.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 27 (Proceedings by indictment and contracts not to be affected).


moved, at end of clause, to add the following proviso:— Provided that in any action brought by any person for a breach of contract on the sale of any article of food or of any drug, such person may recover alone or in addition to any other damages recoverable by him the amount of any penalty in which he may have been convicted under this Act, together with the costs paid by him upon such conviction, and those incurred by him in and about his defence thereto, if he prove that the article or drug the subject of such conviction was sold to him as and for an article or drug of the same nature, substance, and quality as that which was demanded of him, and that he purchased it not knowing it to be otherwise, and afterwards sold it in the same state in which he purchased it; the defendant in such action being, nevertheless, at liberty to prove that the conviction was wrongful, or that the amount of costs awarded or claimed was unreasonable.

Amendment agreed to; words added; Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 (Expenses of executing Act), agreed to.

Clause 29 (Tea to be examined by the Customs on importation).


said, that he objected to the clause, and wished it would be omitted from the Bill. It was not the. duty of Custom House officers to examine articles which came from foreign countries. Take the quantities of tea imported annually: 161,000,0001bs. in 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 packages came to this country and would have to be examined, and to do that effectively the Government would require a whole army of Custom House examiners. Consider the expense that would be incurred. There might be no objection to meet those expenses, if such an examination were necessary; but it was not necessary, and for this reason, that the passing of the Act against adulteration had put a stop to the introduction of spurious teas into this country from China. The tea merchants should examine their own teas. The whole object of this clause was, he conceived, to saddle the public with the expenses of examination, and which the merchants should pay themselves. He would refer the noble Duke to the memorial presented to Mr. Gladstone by 78 large houses in the City, and they said that the sampling and examining of the teas should be done by the dock companies, and they considered that if that were done, the public would be properly protected. He hoped that the noble Duke would consider this matter. Testing teas could be only by sampling, and it was perfectly possible that in spite of the vigilance of the Custom House officers some bad tea might be brought into this country. If the clause should not be omitted, it ought to be amended.


regretted that he could not accept the proposition of the noble Lord. The Committee which had sat to consider this question had recommended that the examination of the tea should be conducted by the Customs on its arrival in this country, so as to put an end to the practice of adulterating tea which prevailed in China. He had been informed by the Custom House authorities that the examination of the tea could be made by the Custom House officers without difficulty. The effect of the clause would be to benefit the consumer and to protect the retail dealers in this country.


viewed with some apprehension the introduction by this clause of the principle that the mere lodging merchandise in the Custom House was a guarantee of its purity.


was of opinion that the effect of the clause would be to prevent bad teas being shipped from China.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to; remaining Clauses agreed to; Amendments made; Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 155).

House adjourned at a quarter before Nine o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.