HL Deb 03 August 1905 vol 151 cc46-9

THE DUKE OF MANCHESTER rose to ask "whether it is a fact that the Local Government Board (Ireland) have no power to enforce the orders of sanitary authorities, based upon the recommendations of their medical officers, for the more sanitary conduct of creameries; and, if not, whether they can give any assurance that, in view of the anomalous position at present obtaining which causes the sanitary authorities to be set at defiance, they will take such powers." He said: I do not propose at this late hour to detain your Lordships at any length, but I would like to say a word or two in explanation of the Question which I have placed upon the Paper. It is a Question affecting the way in which creameries, which are very numerous in the North of Ireland, are conducted at the present moment. When the creameries were started they were compelled to put in certain machinery for the proper sterilisation of the milk products that passed through them, but, although the> were forced to put in this machinery in the first place, there is no process of law by which they can be compelled to use it. The consequence is that with regard to the vessels which contain the milk and carry the milk to the separator, and during the time separating is being effected, proper sterilisation is not carried on. I could give several instances in which horrible and disgusting things had arisen out of this practice. I will give only one. During the winter in the smaller auxiliary creameries there are only two separations of milk a week. The consequence is that from Friday until possibly the next Tuesday milk is collected in the cottages, and anybody who knows anything about cottages in Ireland will agree that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs to begin with. In addition to that, the vessels have not been in any way sterilised, nor are they proper vessels appointed for the purpose of holding milk. Then in one case that I know of, the milk was kept for collection underneath the bed of a tuberculous patient, and was then sent to the creamery to be made into butter, which was despatched to England, doubtless for your Lordships to eat. That being so, I think your Lordships will agree that something ought to be done.

For the guidance of His Majesty's Government I will quote the Local Government Orders to which I refer. The first was Local Government Order 20566 of 1903, asking medical officers of health to inspect the creameries in their districts and to see that sterilisation and live-steam flushing of delivery cans, etc., was observed. In the case to which I have particularly referred this was done by the medical officer of health; he found out these dreadful details and reported them to the local sanitary authority, who passed them on to the Local Government Board. On October 11th, 1904, the Local Government Board replied in general terms, pointing out that the responsibility rested with the district council. The district council then ordered that the medical officer of health's recommendations should be carried out, but no further action could be taken in consequence of the district council having no legislative power. Thus it seems that the thing goes round in a vicious circle. The recommendation is sent to the Local Government Board, who return it to the district council, who in turn send it back to the Local Government Board, and nobody has any power to insist on the carrying out of the obviously necessary precautions and recommendations suggested by the medical officers of health. I beg to put the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, I am sure that if the instance given by the noble Duke represented a condition of things prevalent all over Ireland, creameries would not occupy the satisfactory position they do at the present moment. I can only hope that the graphic description he has given of milk concealed under an invalid's bed applies to a solitary case of which he has heard, and which has not come to the ears of the Department which I represent on this occasion.

The Question which has been put down by the noble Duke is calculated to give the impression that there is a general disposition among the owners of creameries to disregard the demands of the sanitary authorities. This, I am informed, is not the case; on the contrary, the owners of creameries have as a rule been perfectly willing to comply with any requests made to them. In one case, that of the Tanderagee Creamery, this is not so, and it is this, doubtless, to which the noble Duke's Question has reference. In this case, the local sanitary officer recommended certain changes which, in spite of the representations of the Local Government Board and the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, have not been carried out.

Then I wish to point out what exactly is the position of those who are responsible for the sanitary condition of these creameries. Under Section 15 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1896, the Local Government Board are empowered to compel sanitary authorities to perform certain of their duties in case of their default; but the Board have no power under the Public Health Acts or the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts to enforce orders made by sanitary authorities on individuals. Any such orders can only been enforced by the local authority taking legal proceedings against defaulters in the manner provided in the Acts (either at petty sessions or before other legal tribunals) for the recovery of the penalties therein provided for.

In the course of his Question the noble Duke refers to the "anomalous position" which he says at present obtains. I cannot admit that the position is anomalous. The powers of the Irish Local Government Board in this matter are substantially the same as those possessed by the English Local Government Board. Any further steps to secure the enforcement of the recommendations of the sanitary officer should be taken not by the central body but by the local authority, who, as I have already stated, have power of taking legal proceedings against any defaulters. If I might venture to make a suggestion to the noble Duke, it would be that he should inform the local authority of the case he has brought under your Lordships' notice, and tell them that it is their duty to prevent its recurrence. I would further suggest, as an Ulster neighbour of his, that, occupying the important position he does in the county of Armagh, he should bring the case of the Tanderagee Creamery under the notice of his own local authority. I am afraid that is the only Answer I can give.


I am very much obliged to the noble Marquess; he has quite answered my Question.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.