§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD STRACHIE)
My Lords, I must apologise for asking the House to take the Second Reading of this Bill to-day notwithstanding that it was circulated only this morning. Your Lordships are, of course, aware of the difficulties that have arisen, and it is necessary, if this Bill is to be passed into law soon, that its various stages should be taken at the earliest possible moment. This question of a Milk Bill is one that for a large number of sessions has been occupying the attention of the other House. The Bill which I am now asking your Lordships to read a second time is very different from the measure which, from want of time, failed to pass in another place and consequently never came up to this House.
The reason why previous Milk Bills have not gone through Parliament has been the fact that those Bills were not what might be called compromise Bills. I can assure the House that this Bill differs very much from the previous Bills in that it received support from both sides in another place; and it might be termed a compromise Bill between town and country, between supplier and consumer. There was a great deal of controversy sonic time ago as to the various Private Bills, coming either into this House or the House of Commons, which sought power to prevent tuberculous milk being sold in certain areas, or being brought into those areas from outside districts; and in those Private Bills certain clauses were inserted which were known as the Model Milk Clauses. A good many years ago, when I was in the House of Commons, I had the honour of being on the committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and it was my duty to see that these Model Milk Clauses were in the terms agreed with the agriculturists, that they were not enlarged or altered. But time after time 390 attempts were made—sometimes those attempts were successful—to enlarge those Model Milk Clauses.
In the end the matter became so unsatisfactory that it was necessary to have general legislation and to prevent municipalities through Private Bills dealing with the very important question of the purity of milk. In consequence, for something over five years the other House—and I believe this House—has insisted that no Model Milk Clauses should be put into any Private Bill. But it is very unsatisfactory in this sense, that you have some great municipalities with these powers and others without them. Then, again, it is unsatisfactory because the powers vary in different districts. Therefore this Bill has been introduced to get rid of these difficulties and to settle these disputes. It had quite an easy passage in the other House—there was no dispute as to principle but only difference as to detail; and one may say that Mr. Samuel had the assistance of both Parties in the progress of the Bill through the House of Commons.
I will describe quite briefly the objects of the Bill. It provides that there should be pure and wholesome milk supplied from the farmers of t his country to the towns; and also that when the milk arrives in the towns the process of dealing with it should be such that the milk should be given out and retailed in a pure condition. The first clause, which deals with the prohibition of the sale of tuberculous milk, is based upon the Model Milk Clauses to which I have referred, but there is this important addition—namely, that it extends to diseases other than tuberculosis, to diseases which are common not only to cows but also to men.
Clause 2, which is really one of the most important in the Bill, deals with the extension of power to make Orders in respect of milk and dairies. Under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, 1878, as your Lordships are aware, power is vested in the Local Government Board to make regulations as to the inspection of cattle and dairies, and routine inspection is required by local authorities under regulations made by the Local Government Board. That is under the old Act of 1878, as amended by the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act of 1886. A very important 391 provision in this Bill, which has never been put into any previous Bill dealing with milk, is the power of registration by local authorities of all dairies. To this a great deal of attention has been directed, owing to a fear that some dairymen might refuse to have their dairies registered. But that will not be possible. After registration it will be necessary for the dairyman to comply with the regulations of the local authorities that his dairy shall be in a proper and sanitary state; otherwise he will be liable to a fine. Then there is an inspection, by persons authorised by the local authority, of dairies and persons in or about dairies. That may be done either by the county council or the sanitary authority. It will be for the Local Government Board to say who are to be the officials, whether they are to be the officials of the county council or of the sanitary authorities, either urban or rural.
There is in the Bill an important provision giving power to Pasteurise milk and sterilise it in matters where health may be in danger, without making it necessary to destroy the whole of the milk. For instance, in a large herd there may be one cow only which is affected with tuberculosis. It may not be possible to trace the particular cow immediately, and the milk may not be affected in such a way as to render it necessary to destroy the whole of it if steps for Pasteurising it are taken, and power is given to the Local Government Board to order the Pasteurisation if they think fit.
Then there are important regulations in paragraph (e) of Clause 2(1) giving the Local Government Board power to made regulations as regards the temperature to which milk must be cooled down. This is, of course, entirely new. I think the House will see the advantage of insisting that milk shall be cooled, because those who have had experience of the sale of milk in large quantities know the importance of cooling it down before it is sent away and before it reaches the consumer. There is also a provision to make regulations as regards churns. I am informed that it will be possible to use churns which are watertight and airtight. That is a great improvement, as it would prevent any tampering with the milk in transit.
392 Paragraph (g) of Clause 2(1) authorises the use in connection with the sale of milk of the designation "certified milk." There has been a great deal of controversy about this, but a compromise has been arrived at with regard to it, and the Local Government Board may be fairly trusted in the matter. The Local Government Board are empowered to prescribe the conditions subject to which milk may be sold under this designation and prohibiting the use of such designation in connection with the sale of milk in respect of which the prescribed conditions are not complied with. I would also call your Lordships' attention to subsection (2) of Clause 2 with regard to the taking of samples of milk.
Next I would draw the attention of the House to a provision which agriculturists and farmers consider very important. I refer to subsection (4) of Clause 2. None of these Orders made by the Local Government Board can come into effect unless the Board of Agriculture give their concurrence; in fact, the Board of Agriculture will have an absolute veto. No other Milk Bill has ever had such a provision. In this Bill, as the House will see, not only are the farmers' interests protected by the Local Government Board, but they are still further protected by the Board of Agriculture.
Clauses 3 and 4, taken with the Second Schedule, take the place of the Model Milk Clauses, and also prevent invasion from an outside area. That is a point on which there has been a great deal of complaint by farmers. A municipality had power under the Model Milk Clauses to send inspectors down to a district. Say that Bristol sent inspectors down to Cornwall. Upon their ipse dixit they could prevent any milk being sent to Bristol from Cornwall, although, of course, compensation had to be paid in a case where it was found that there was no tuberculosis in the milk. It was felt very strongly by farmers that it was not a right thing that any other than their own local authority should investigate these matters. Under the Bill, if a town suspects tuberculosis coming from milk sent from another district it will notify the medical officer of that town, or the medical officer of the county borough, and they will be the only two people who will be able to stop the supply from the dairy.
A very important innovation appears in the Second Schedule. There is a paragraph 393 there which provides for full compensation to dairymen who are not in default. That is to say, if the dairyman proved that it was through no fault of his that tuberculosis arose in his dairy he would get full compensation for the damage caused to him by the milk having to be destroyed, or for any loss incurred in regard to his contracts. I think your Lordships will see that he is very well protected in this matter and is put in a very good position. Clause 5 gives power to take samples of milk. Clause 6 is a very important clause because it prevents the abuse of the warranty. Under present conditions a farmer is constantly fined for selling adulterated milk when that milk has been out of his possession for twenty-four hours or longer, and may have been adulterated by the man in whose hands it was found or by other persons through whose hands the milk had passed. Under the present law the farmer has had to stand the racket of a prosecution, simply because he supplied a warranty to the man to whom he sent the milk. The magistrates have fined the farmer on the warranty and not the man in whose possession the milk was when it was found to be adulterated. That will be altered under Clause 6—again in the interests of farmers.
In Clause 9 there is a provision with regard to the establishment of milk depôts. There has been a great deal of controversy over this, but I would remind the House that these depôts can only be set up for supplying the parents of infants who are under two years of age. There was also a provision inserted in the House of Commons that this milk must not be supplied under cost price, so that there should be no underselling, or municipal trading in the ordinary sense of the word, to which a great deal of objection has been taken.
I have only to add that I hope the House may feel inclined to give the Bill a Second Reading to-day. I do not know what the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition will say as regards my suggestion that we might put the Bill down for Committee tomorrow. Under ordinary conditions I should not have thought of fixing the Committee stage for at least a week, in order that agriculturists and others might have had an opportunity of having Amendments moved in this House if they wished to do so. While I am speaking about Amendments I may say that I have several, some 394 of them quite substantial, which I shall put on the Paper to-night, but they are only Amendments that Mr. Samuel undertook should be put down to carry out different arrangements, as a compromise, come to in another place when the Bill was going through practically as an unopposed Bill. Perhaps, with the permission of the noble Marquess, I may put down the Committee stage for to-morrow, subject to his seeing whether the Amendments are too far-reaching to be dealt with so expeditiously.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.— (Lord Strachie.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the noble Lord does not propose to push this Bill any further to-day. I was at first under the impression that it was to be passed through all its stages this evening. The question of milk is not one which in any way can be said to be a political question, and it is rather unfortunate that we should be obliged, owing to the peculiar state of things at the present moment, to consider it at such short notice. I understood that Lord Barnard, who is chairman of the Central Chamber and takes a very great interest in this question, would have been here and would have said something about the Bill, but apparently he has not been aware that the Bill was put down for Second Reading to-day. It was put down only last night, was it not?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
This much I know about the Bill, that it certainly is looked upon with a much more favourable eye than were the previous Bills on the same subject. From what I have heard, there is a general desire on the Opposition side in the other House of Parliament that it should be passed into law; therefore I apprehend that there will be no serious opposition to the Bill in this House. At the same time, if the noble Lord has certain Amendments I presume that we shall see them in the morning, and we shall have a further opportunity of looking at the Bill ourselves. In the meantime I do not desire to offer any opposition to the Second Reading.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, in ordinary circumstances this Bill would no doubt have been discussed at considerable length by your Lordships and perhaps criticised somewhat minutely, for it deals with a subject with which a great many members of this House who are practical agriculturists are fully conversant. But the circumstances are not ordinary circumstances, and I think the appearance of the House shows that we are not likely to take any very particular interest in the details of the Bill. But, apart from that, there is undoubtedly general agreement that legislation with regard to the sale of tuberculous milk has become absolutely necessary. I think I may put it in this way, that the problem is to provide legislation which on the one hand shall be effectual for the purpose in view and on the other shall occasion a minimum of vexatious interference with those concerned in the milk trade. The Bill, as I understand it, represents an endeavour to steer between these two difficulties. Upon one point it certainly contains provisions which will be reassuring to the producers of milk. Under the present law there are, as we all know, a great number of local authorities who have a right to intervene in order to prevent the sale of unwholesome milk, with the result that the farmer who produces milk is liable to interference on the part of a great number of officials, and he never quite knows what official, or the representative of what Department, may obtain the right to descend upon him and investigate the condition of his dairy. As I understand the Bill, it will now rest with the Local Government Board to decide what official and on behalf of whom the inspection of the dairy shall take place. Is that not so?
§ LORD STRACHIE
In all Milk and Dairy Orders the Local Government Board will settle, by the Order, whether it is to be the county council, the rural district council, or the urban district council. But if the noble Marquess will refer to Clause 3 (Power to stop supply of milk likely to cause tuberculosis), he will see that only the county or county borough medical officer has such power, with one exception. There are certain non-county boroughs which have power to administer the Diseases of Animals Act, and in those cases their officials would act instead of 396 the medical officer of health of the county or county borough.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Whereas at present the officials of a number of different local authorities have a locus standi in these matters, the farmer will now be dealt with by a single official designated by either the Department or some properly constituted authority. That is a real gain, because it is quite clear that if you have a multiplication of inspectors you have a multiplication of standards, and the producer never really knows quite where he is. The Bill, as the noble Lord has told us, is the result of a great deal of controversy and discussion, and, so far as I am able to ascertain, it represents a great body of agreement amongst those concerned. That being so we shall certainly offer no opposition to it on this side of the House. The noble Lord asked us to take the Committee stage to-morrow, and at the same time intimated that he then intends to move a number of substantial Amendments. I have no objection to the Committee stage being taken to-morrow, but we must reserve to ourselves the right of examining the suggested Amendments; and, of course, the noble Lord will remember that we are not in possession of any information from him or his colleagues as to the amount of urgency that really attaches to the progress of the Bill. But upon that point I expect the statement winch will be made to-morrow by the noble Marquess who leads the House will give us some enlightenment, and we shall probably be better able to decide then whether to go on with the Bill at once, or to delay its progress.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House to-Morrow.