HL Deb 27 July 1906 vol 162 cc28-30


Order of the Day for the Second Reading road.


My Lords, this is a Bill which I believe will moot with very little opposition at the hands of your Lordships. Its object is to amend the law with respect to the sale of agricultural fertillsers and feeding stuffs, and it simply carries out the unanimous recommendations of a Departmental Committee on the Act passed in 1893. That Committee was presided over with great ability by my noble friend Lord Burghclere, to whom the entire credit for this measure is due.

The provisions of the Bill are somewhat technical, but are absolutely necessary. The initiative in putting the Bill into operation is to be on the local authorities. The Bill cheapens and simplifies the procedure for taking analyses and samples, and it compels the seller to give a warranty as to the quality of the article sold. The Earl of Durham expressed to me some alarm with regard to one of the provisions—Clause 6, Subsection 3—which gives powers, under certain circumstances, to the Board over which I have the houour to preside. Clause 6 enacts that if any person who sells any article for use as a fertiliser of the soil or as food for cattle or poultry commits any of the offences set forth in the clause, he shall, without prejudice to any civil liability, be liable, on summary conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding £20, and for any subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding £50. As this is a criminal prosecution the offender would, of course, be brought up before the magistrate and be placed in the dock. Traders feel that there would be hardship about this, and that some prosecution might be brought forward which was not quite fair, and, though the dealer would be acquitted with flying colours, it would always be possible for his enemies to say that he had been brought before the magistrates, and this would be a slur on his character.

Many of the dealers in those fertillsers and feeding stuffs are men of great reputation and honour, and they somewhat object to the possibility—I admit the small possibility—of such a thing as I have referred to happening. It is therefore provided in the Bill that a prosecution for an offence under this section shall not be instituted except with the consent of the Hoard of Agriculture and Fisheries. I firmly believe that this is an adequate safeguard, and one of which, under the exceptional circumstances, your Lordships will approve. I am convinced that the Bill will be a protection of agricultural interests, and as it is introduced by one who is the grandson of the first man connected with commerce and trade who had the honour of a seat in your Lordships' House I hope that the traders in this great industry will believe that the Bill is not altogether unfair to themselves.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a— (Earl Carrington).


My Lords, as I had the honour of being the author of the Act of 1893, which I piloted through the House of Commons, and as I was also president of the Committee on whose recommendations this Bill is founded, I think I should be wanting in respect to your Lordships' House if I did not address a few words to you upon it. The Act of 1893 was founded on the recommendations of a Committee appointed by my predecessor, Mr. Chaplin. That Committee did not produce a unanimous Report, and we founded our Bill of 1893 on those recommendations which were thought best suited to the purpose we had in view. The Act of 1893 was of considerable benefit to farmers and agriculturists generally; but, as happens to the best of legislation as time goes by, it has been found that some alteration in it is decidedly necessary. My noble friend Lord Onslow appointed a Committee of which, as I have said, I was chairman, and, unlike the Committee of 1892, we unanimously recommended certain distinct provisions, and when I toll your Lordships that that Committee had upon it both producers and consumers, both traders and farmers, I think you will agree that a unanimous decision from such a body is deserving of consideration.

The measure contains the recommendations which that Committee made, and as I may claim to be not only the father but perhaps the grandfather of this particular measure I have nothing but words of praise for it. With regard to the point which Lord Durham brought to the notice of my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, I entirely agree to the condition that prosecutions should only be instituted with the consent of the Board of Agriculture, and I think this is sufficient safeguard to the traders concerned. We had on the Committee of whom I was chairman very distinguished representatives of the trade in question. They were delighted that this provision was put in, and I am certain I am speaking in their name when I say they are perfectly satisfied that such a provision will safeguard thorn from any frivolous prosecution. There may be one or two points to which I shall draw your Lordships' attention in Committee. For the present, I congratulate the noble Earl on having introduced the Bill, and I believe it will be of considerable service to that great industry of agriculture which we find it extremely difficult to help except by legislation of this kind. I hope that in the circumstances your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.