HL Deb 06 July 1888 vol 328 cc553-5

, in rising to call attention to the subject of the regulation of the sale of foreign meat, and to present a Bill, said, that their Lordships must be aware that recent legislation had been in favour of compelling tradesmen to declare distinctly what they were selling. They had had the Merchandize Marks Bill, the Food Adulteration Bill, the Margarine Bill, all based on the sound principle that you might sell what you pleased, but should honestly say what you were selling. The British and Irish Industry Bill and the Beer Adulteration Bill, on the same principle, had been introduced this year in "another place," and were supported by very important names. He could not understand why meat should be the only exception to this sound principle; and he might add that all the most respectable part of the trade were in favour of such a measure. Chester was a most important agricultural district, and at a meeting held there on the 16th of June of the representatives of the Chester, Warrington, and Wirral Farmers' Clubs, Bolton Dairy Farmers' Association, and Edgworth and District Agricultural Society, and supported by all the principal butchers, a resolution was unanimously passed to the effect that they much regretted that there had been no further legislation in regard to the sale of foreign meat, which was brought into this country and sold as English, and they prayed the Members of Parliament for the surrounding districts and the gentlemen interested in the matter to do their utmost to carry a Bill through Parliament to stop the sale of foreign meat as English. The Bill which he asked permission to introduce was probably the shortest Bill that had ever been presented to their Lordships. It consisted of one clause, divided into two sections. The first section provided that no one should sell or expose for sale, either wholesale or retail, any foreign meat without notice of the same; and the second provided that such notice should be on a board in a conspicuous part of the shop. It would be seen that he in no way even interfered with anyone selling foreign meat as British meat, fraudulent as such practice was, for when once it was clearly known that foreign meat was sold in the shop customers could protect themselves. His object was to give the poorer classes the benefit of the low price of foreign meat. It was a great hardship when poor people had to pay 2d. or 3d. more than the proper price. Formerly this Act would not have been required, for there were large depôts for the sale of foreign meat. Now these had ceased to exist, and the trade got all the advantage of the difference of price, to the great loss of all classes except the retail dealer. He had no desire to interfere with the sale of foreign meat, but it should be sold as foreign meat. A noble Lord had said on a recent occasion that the foreign meat was preferable to the home-bred meat; if so, why was the butcher ashamed to say so, and why did he not sell it at a fair price? The noble Lord who replied for the Government had said—"All I can advise purchasers is, when you wish to buy an article see that you get it." That was precisely what he wished to do. The noble Lord had also remarked that adulteration was sometimes desirable, as when water was added to whisky. That might be a good joke, but it was bad morality. Let them have Free Trade as much as they pleased, but let it be honest trade. And, at any rate, they should not so far abjure the word "Protection" as to refuse protection to the poorer classes of the community. In conclusion, he asked leave to present the Bill, and that it should be read a first time.

Bill for the better regulation of the sale of foreign meat—Presented (The Lord LAMINGTON).


said, that before making any remarks on the Bill he would like to see it printed. He believed the law as it stood gave ample power for inflicting penalties on those who sold foreign for English meat, and he did not see what was to be gained by obliging a butcher to put over his door a notice that he was licensed to sell foreign meat. It was not easy to know a British steak from a foreign one. He would not, however, oppose that stage of the Bill.

Bill read 1a. (No. 206.)