HL Deb 15 June 1920 vol 40 cc624-31

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1:

Delivery of particulars on sale of seeds and seed potatoes.

1.—(1) Every person who sells any seeds to which this Act applies or any seed potatoes, shall on or before the sale, or if the goods are not delivered at the time of sale on or before delivery thereof, deliver to the purchaser a statement in writing containing the prescribed particulars with respect, in the case of seeds, to their variety, purity and germination, and, in the ease of seed potatoes, to their class, variety, size and dressing and, in either ease, to any other prescribed matters.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (1), after "their," where that word first occurs, to insert "country of origin." The noble Lord said: Your Lordships are aware that a large number of seeds of very doubtful quality do come, and particularly before the war, did come, into this country from the Central Empires and elsewhere. My object in moving this Amendment is, if possible, to secure the public against having deleterious seeds imposed upon them, but I am given to understand by leading seedsmen that in the case of the cauliflower it is quite impossible to get the finest quality of cauliflower seeds raised in this country, because the seed does not mature here, although the original seed may have been raised here. Since I have been in the House I have been informed that the same remark applies to onion seeds, which, unfortunately, cannot be matured satisfactorily except in California. If these are the facts I do not propose my Amendment, except so far as clover seeds and a few other farm seeds are concerned. It ought to be possible to safeguard those who purchase these particular seeds.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 10, after ("their") insert ("country of origin").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


I have considerable sympathy with the object that my noble friend has in view, and I can only regret with him that it is necessary to go to these foreign countries for seeds. It appears, however, to be the law of nature that, although most of these seeds originated here, they have to be sent to finer climates in order to produce that amount of flower and seed which will enable us to get the supplies that we require for our own purposes. Therefore, I am afraid the hated foreigner cannot be excluded so far as cauliflower seeds and onion seeds and the seeds of some other varieties, are concerned.

For the rest I am in sympathy with the object that my noble friend has in view, but he will no doubt be aware of the fact that the point he has in mind, particularly with regard to grass seeds, is already provided for under the Testing of Seeds Order. That Order lays it down that in the case of twelve of these varieties, which I think cover all the seeds that are of any importance, the country of origin has to be declared. We propose to make that Order permanent in the Regulations under this Bill. Therefore, there will be no gap in the existing Regulations, and the object which my noble friend desires to obtain will be effectively secured. I hope, in these circumstances, that he will consent to withdraw his Amendment.


I am quite satisfied with that explanation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Provisions as to tests.

2.—(1) A test of seeds for the purpose of the preceding section shall in the case of seeds other than garden seeds, be made either at one of the official seed testing stations established under this Act or at some testing station licensed by the Minister, and, in the case of garden seeds, be made either as aforesaid or in any other sufficient manner.

(2) Where seeds are sold or delivered or exposed for sale at any time other than some time within the months of August or September a test for the purpose of the preceding section shall be a test made not earlier than the first day of the month of August last preceding, and where seeds are sold and delivered or exposed for sale at any time within the months of August or September the test shall be a test made nor earlier than the first day of the month of August in the previous year.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (1), to omit the words "in the case of seeds other than garden seeds." The noble Lord said: It is not quite clear on the face of it why the purchasers of garden seeds, whether they are the owners of gardens on rich land or whether they are poor men with small gardens or allotments, should not be protected by the same tests in a Government Testing Station as are required under the Bill for what are called farm seeds or timber tree seeds. The machinery, I admit, may be different. I am afraid, too, the result of putting farm seeds to a particular test, and not applying the same test to seeds for gardens, will be that the owners of gardens and allotments will have foisted upon them inferior seeds.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 2, line 10, leave out ("in the case of seeds other than garden seeds").—(Lord Bledisloe.)


I can assure my noble friend that there is no desire to discriminate against a man who has a small allotment or garden, or to make it more likely for him to be imposed upon with impure seeds, but there is a difference between garden and farm seeds. In the first place, the standard of purity of all garden seeds is so extraordinarily high that it is not necessary to compel seed merchants to go to, the trouble and expense of a purity test; but, with regard to germination, which is a more important point, the buyer of garden seeds is given exactly the same protection as the buyer of farm seeds. It is required under the Bill that the germination shall be declared by the seller, and the Government standards of germination are also laid down in the Testing of Seeds Order. In these circumstances, and in view of the quantities in which garden seeds are sold, it would really mean an intolerable amount of machinery and expense to require that every packet of seed sold by a small dealer should be tested at the Government Testing Station. I do not think there would be any increased protection for the purchaser in having that done, and there would be a real objection from the point of view of the Treasury on the ground of the charges that would he incurred in maintaining armies of inspectors and so forth. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not press this Amendment.


May I ask, if that is so, what is exactly the meaning of the statement in the clause that the testing of seeds for the purposes of the preceding clause may be made, in the case of garden seeds, "in any other sufficient manner," because I rather gather that there need not be any sort of test of the particular seeds in which I am interested.


I said only with regard to purity. After all, anybody can recognise a bean. There is no likelihood of its being taken for a dodder seed, whereas in the case of grass seeds it is entirely different. The grass seeds are gathered necessarily under entirely different circumstances, and impurities get in. In the case of garden seeds that is not likely to happen. There is the test with regard to germination and the certificate, which is a sufficient protection.


After what has been said I do not wish to press this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Power to enter and take samples.

(5) Where any seeds of which a sample has been tested under this section were purchased by the, owner thereof from any other person, and it appears to the Minister from the certificate of the result of the test that the seeds in some material respect fail to correspond with the particulars contained in the statement delivered to the owner under this Act on the sale to him of the seeds, the owner shall, on application in writing made to him in that behalf by the Minister at any time after the test has been completed, furnish to the Minister the name and address of the person from whom he purchased the seeds, together with a copy of the statement so delivered, and the Minister shall, on being furnished with the said name and address, cause to be sent to the seller in a sealed packet a part of the sample of the seeds, together with a copy of the certificate, and the certificate shall in any proceedings against the seller be conclusive evidence of the facts stated in the certificate:

Provided that where the sample has not been tested at two official testing stations the seller shall have the same right as the owner to require that further portions of the sample shall be so tested.

(6) Where further portions of a sample are tested in pursuance of the foregoing provisions of this section and the certificates issued by the two official testing stations differ, the average of the results of the two tests shall be deemed the result of the test within the meaning of this Act, and a certificate by the Minister as to the average of the results of the two tests shall be conclusive evidence of the facts stated in the certificate.

(7) The Minister may, after giving notice of his intention so to do to any person appearing to him to be concerned and after considering any representations made by that person, publish, in such manner as he thinks fit, the particulars contained in any certificate issued under this section with respect to the result of a test of seeds, together with the name and address of the owner of the seeds tested and also of any person from whom the seeds were procured, or such of those particulars as the Minister thinks fit:

LORD BLEDISLOE moved, in subsection (5), after "seller," where that word secondly occurs, to insert "in which it is proved that he was the seller." The noble Lord said: I desire to move this Amendment because it appears that under Clause 4 (5) it is quite possible for a person described there as an owner to make a statement which may turn out to be inaccurate as to the name of the person who has sold him the seeds, and to have a certificate of those seeds sent to the so-called vendor, with the result that the vendor is brought before a Court, in which Court such a certificate will be conclusive evidence of the facts stated in the certificate. My object is to make it quite certain that the person alleged to be the vendor is proved, in fact, to be the vendor.

Amendment moved— Clause 4, page 3, line 32, after ("seller") insert the said words.—(Lord Bledisloe.)


My noble friend wishes, of course, to protect a man from being penalised when he is not, in fact, the seller of the goods in respect of which the prosecution is brought. But I am informed that any Court would require the facts of the sale to be established before proceeding with the hearing of the case, and that therefore the circumstances of an innocent person being convicted cannot arise. The words are really unnecessary.


I accept that from the noble Lord, but I should like to ask him whether the subsection is not rather clumsily drafted in order to effect his particular purpose.


I will consider that point before the Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:


5.—(1) This Act shall not apply—

  1. (a) to a sale of seeds to a person purporting to purchase them with a view to cleaning them before they are sold or exposed for sale; or
  2. (b) to a sale of seeds where the purchaser at the time of the sale gives to the seller an undertaking in writing that he will before selling or exposing the seeds for sale test or cause them to be tested, or that, he will not resell the seeds to a seed merchant, except on a similar undertaking by the purchaser; or
  3. (c) to a sale of seeds or seed potatoes for delivery outside the United Kingdom; or
  4. (d) to a sale or exposure for sale of seeds or seed potatoes not to be used for sowing or planting.

(2) Provision may be made by regulations for exempting any person from the operation of this Act, or of any particular provision thereof, either generally or in respect of any particular transaction, and either absolutely or subject to compliance with such conditions as may be specified in the regulations.


I desire to move the omission of subsection (2) of Clause 5 as it seems to me to give the head of a Department for the time being absolutely unprecedented power—a power not to be found in any Act of Parliament. That subsection leaves it open to the Minister to scrap this measure entirely, or to give preference to one particular class of persons to the detriment of others in the same trade—in fact to work the measure in any way that he chooses, according to his own discretion or caprice, although it has become an Act of Parliament and is, on the face of it, one of general application. I am sure the Minister must have some good reason for introducing such a very far-reaching provision as this.


I think I can give a good reason at any rate for the object we had in view. I do not know that I can give as good a defence of the wording as it stands, and to that extent I think my noble friend's criticism is justified. There are certain special cases which arise which will have to be met. There is the case of seed which is required immediately. Take, for instance, the case of winter wheat which has just been threshed and which is required for immediate sowing by the farmer. In case of delay it may be several weeks before that seed can be sufficiently tested and certificates granted with regard to it, and that delay might very seriously prejudice the cultivation of that particular farm. There is also the case of Irish rye grass, a very common case, where the seed, having been threshed out, comes over just in time to be sown.

The delay in cases like that would be extremely serious for the grower. At the same time, we do not wish that he should remain unprotected, and it is provided in those cases that the Minister shall be empowered to grant a delay in the certificate, and, the sample, having, of course, been taken, will have to follow, and if the certificate is not satisfactory then the seller will have to answer for it. But I agree that the words as they appear in the Clause are perhaps rather startling, and I am prepared that the subsection should begin with these words— Where, in the opinion of the Minister, it is necessary in the interests of food production temporarily to relax any of the provisions of this Act". If that would meet my noble friend's point I would be prepared to move those words.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 33, after "(2)" insert the said words.—(Lord Lee of Fareham.)


Perhaps the noble Lord would not mind submitting this as an Amendment and leaving it open to a later stage. I should like to ask whether, in fact, these Regulations, as is the case with the Regulations under Clause 7, will be submitted to Parliament. It materially affects the question of the effect of this subsection. I do not wish, however, to press the noble Lord at the present moment.


We will raise the matter again on Report.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.