HL Deb 22 July 1926 vol 65 cc139-59

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:


3. A person shall not on or in connection with the sale of any article of food, or in exposing or offering any article of food for sale, make any misrepresentation either by word of mouth or otherwise, or commit any other act calculated to mislead the purchaser or prospective purchaser, as to the weight or measure of the article, or, if any articles are being sold or offered for sale by number, as to the number of articles sold or offered for sale.

LORD MONK BRETTON moved, after "mouth," to insert "price ticket." The noble Lord said: The Food Council, on whose recommendations this Bill is based, recommended that no indication of weight or measure calculated to deceive should be permitted. There is a very common mode of deception, which consists of putting on the article a card which cannot be stated to be absolutely untrue, but which deceives. For instance, the card may give the price as 6½d. a lb. Then, perhaps, the 6d. gets separated from the ½d. and it becomes 6d. for ½ lb. That is a very prevalent method of deception in this country, and I regret to say in London, and I hope the noble Viscount may see fit to accept my Amendment, which, because it is directly aimed at the card, and names the card, might lead to the dropping of this objectionable practice. I know that the Bill contains the words "or otherwise," which might be held to include the card, but I think the very fact that the card was mentioned in the Act of Parliament would lead to the dropping of this mode of deception more rapidly.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 17, after ("mouth") insert ("price ticket").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


The object of my noble friend's Amendment is to deal with the practice which, I understand, has grown up, especially in the street market trade, of putting up price tickets bearing the price per pound, but exhibiting the figure "½" in smaller type and in a much less conspicuous way. This particular misrepresentation is not a misrepresentation as to weight, but as to price, and I am afraid, therefore, that it does not fall within the scope of this Bill. If it were a misrepresentation as to weight the Amendment would not be necessary, because the words in the clause as they stand are very wide and fully equal to covering any misrepresentation as to weight. They make it an offence to make any misrepresentation, either by word of mouth or otherwise; therefore, I think the noble Lord will see that really his case is fully covered within the scope of the Bill.


I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Provisions applicable to the sale of certain articles of common consumption.

4.—(1) A person shall not sell any article of any of the kinds of food set forth in the First Schedule to this Act otherwise than by net weight.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to add to subsection (1) the following proviso:—" Provided that tins subsection shall not apply to sales of any article in quantities of one hundred and twelve pounds or upwards where the article is corn within the meaning of the Corn Sales Act, 1921, or is an article to which that Act applies in like manner as it applies to corn, and is not pre-packed. The noble Viscount said: Clause 4 as it stands in the Bill requires that all dealings in the articles of food set out in the First Schedule to the Bill whether such dealings are retail or wholesale, shall be by net weight. In view, however, of the practical difficulties in the way of requiring sale by net weight in the case of wholesale dealings in certain kinds of agricultural produce, particularly such a commodity as potatoes, subsection (2) of Clause 10 provides that the provisions of the Bill shall not apply to wholesale dealings in any kind of "agricultural and horticultural produce," unless and until the Minister of Agriculture has exercised his powers ender subsection (1) of Clause 10 to make regulations as to standardised containers for such produce, but that nevertheless the provisions of the Bill shall apply to dealings in such produce if such dealings purport to be by weight, measure or number.

Under the Corn Sales Act, 1921, however, all dealings in "corn" must be by reference to the cwt. of 112 lbs.—unless they are for or relating to a less quantity than 112 lbs.—that is, they must be by weight: and "corn" is defined in the Corn Sales Act, 1921, as including wheat-meal, oatmeal, dried peas, dried beans and potatoes, which are all included in the First Schedule to the present Bill. So that as these must, under the Corn Sales Act, be sold wholesale by weight, the effect of Clause 10 (2) of the present. Bill as it stands, would be to compel them to be sold wholesale by net weight. The Departments concerned, including the Ministry of Agriculture, are satisfied that such a requirement is impracticable, and accordingly this Amendment will exempt from the requirement as to sale by net weight dealings in quantities of 112 lbs. and upwards in such of the scheduled commodities as are covered by the Corn Sales Act. If this Amendment be accepted, subsection (2) of Clause 10 becomes unnecessary, and by a subsequent Amendment I shall propose to delete it.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 3, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Peel.)


I think it is entirely necessary that this proviso should be inserted. If it were not inserted the effect of the Bill would be to create some uncertainty as regards methods of sale which have become customary under the Corn Sales Act, 1921. From the agricultural standpoint it is very important that the provisions of the Corn Sales Act should be preserved and that there should be no chance of a conflict between the two Acts.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, at the end of the clause, to insert the following new subsection: (4) It shall be lawful to print on any wrapper or container in which any pre-packed article is contained the net weight thereof notwithstanding anything in any other Act to the contrary. The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is made necessary by the fact that Section 6 (2) of the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, 1899, requires that the wrappers of margarine shall not bear any other markings than those prescribed in that Act, which are markings indicating the nature of the goods. The provisions of Clause 4 (2) (b) of the present Bill, which require that pre-packed articles of food of the kinds specified in the Schedule, which include margarine, shall be marked with an indication of the net weight, would conflict with the provision of the Sale of Food and Drugs Act. The Amendment will remove this conflict, but it is thought expedient that it shall be drawn in general terms.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 35, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Provisions applicable to the sale of bread.

6.—(1) A person shall not sell or offer for sale any bread otherwise than by net weight.

(2) A person shall not sell or have in Ins possession for sale or delivery under a contract of sale any loaf of bread unless its net weight is one pound or an integral number of pounds:

Provided that this subsection shall not apply to loaves supplied under contract where the contract provides for the supply for consumption on the premises of the purchaser of not loss than half a hundred, weight of bread at a time, and for the weighing of the bread on delivery.

(3) The foregoing provisions of this sectio.1 shall not, apply to fancy bread or to loaves not exceeding twelve ounces in weight.

LORD MONK BRETTON moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "to fancy bread or." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to leave out fancy bread from the exempted breads, in other words to bring fancy bread within the scope of the Bill. The London County Council, on whose behalf I speak, consider it no hardship on a baker to sell to standard weight, because there is no control of price in the Bill. The point is that the consumer should know what he is buying. The noble Viscount stated on the Second Reading, quoting the evidence before the Food Council, that what purported to be 1 lb. 12 ozs. of fancy bread was often 1 lb. 6 ozs. The Scottish municipalities have taken note of this, and they have agitated for standardisation, and up to a point they have got it in Clause 14 of the Bill. If Clause 14 goes through fancy bread is included in Scotland, with the exception of what is called pan loaf, French loaves, and loaves of a similar character. But, so far as England is concerned, fancy breads are cut out of the Bill. There is a great deal of fancy bread sold in London. In some districts it is the commonest bread sold, and the London County Council think that the consumer of such bread should be protected, as other consumers are.

There is another complication about this, of which I fancy the noble Viscount may not be aware. There has been a case in the Courts from Soho, where fancy bread has been got within the law, that is to say, the French loaf, which apparently is very prevalent in Soho. That has been brought within the law and, therefore, the noble Viscount's Bill is not in accordance with the law as it has been decided. I hope, therefore, that he will recognise that there is considerable confusion in regard to the question of fancy bread. He is aware, I know, that it is a very important matter in London, and if he cannot accept my Amendment, which brings all fancy bread within the scope of the Bill, I would ask him to consider this matter before the Report stage and to bring up a clause of his own. I could bring up an Amendment which would bring the English law into line with what is proposed in Scotland, but having regard to the different kinds of fancy bread, I expect it would be better to leave it to His Majesty's Government to give some consideration to it and, if the noble Viscount cannot accept my Amendment, deal with it on the Report stage.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 17, leave out ("to fancy bread or").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


My noble friend quoted something I said about Scotch pan bread being sold in amounts of 1 lb. 12 ozs., but that often the weight of the bread was really not more than 1 lb. 6 ozs. I remember what I said and and I think I hardly went so far as that. I said there were cases where it had been sold at as low a weight as 1 lb. 6 ozs. I do not think I suggested that it was a general habit.




I do not wish to deal with the Scottish case at the moment because the particular case of Scottish pan bread of 1 lb. 12 ozs. is dealt with by an Amendment of the noble Earl and perhaps I had better deal with it then. I do not know of the case which the noble Lord brought forward of French loaves being treated as non-fancy bread under some decision in London. I imagine that a French loaf is simply held not to be fancy bread. I should not have thought that the French loaf could be considered to be fancy bread under the ordinary definition, that is to say, of what fancy bread is, but I am ready to make inquiries about the subject. I cannot undertake to bring up a clause, but I will look into the matter and satisfy the noble Lord before the Report stage, if that will meet him.

I hope that at present that he will withdraw his Amendment because, first of all, there seems to be no evidence that there has been any misdealing, shall I call it? with fancy bread of less than 12 ozs. in London. Again, the provision which it is proposed to strike out was included in the Sale of Bread Bill introduced by the Board of Trade in 1924. That Bill was drafted after a great deal of consideration by the interests concerned. This Bill was very carefully drafted after an examination of the proposals of the Food Council and in sympathy with the proposals they made. I think, therefore, there is really no evidence that there is any misdealing or wrongful dealing with fancy bread in London and elsewhere, and I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment. As I say, I will certainly look into the case he mentioned and if necessary discuss it with him before the Report stage.


There is no definition of fancy bread in the Bill, and I do not suppose anybody can say what is and what is pot fancy bread. But I am informed by the Public Control Officer of the London County Council that French bread is considered to be fancy bread, that it is very much eaten in London and that it is very desirable it should come under the Bill. I am quite content to ask the noble Viscount to look into this matter, which is a somewhat obscure one, and to see what he can do.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clauses 7, 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Special provisions as to wholesale dealings in agricultural and horticultural produce.

10.—(1) The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries after consultation with the Board of Trade, may make regulations for the purpose of prescribing units of sale, including the dimensions and materials of construction of standardised containers, to be used in wholesale dealings in agricultural and horticultural produce, and upon such regulations being made nothing in this Act or in the Weights and Measures Acts, 1878 to 1926, shall prevent such produce being dealt with wholesale in such units or containers if such conditions as may be prescribed in the regulations are complied with, or constitute any such sale a sale by weight measure or number unless it is so represented by the seller.

(2) Until regulations have been made under this section, the provisions of this Act shall not apply to wholesale dealings in such produce as aforesaid, except where the dealings purport to be made by weight, measure or number.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, in subsection (1), after "Board of Trade," to insert "and such trade interests as appear to him to be concerned." The noble Viscount said: This is not a very important Amendment. It merely makes statutory the duty of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to consult the trade interests concerned before prescribing certain units of sale. I suppose they would do that anyhow, but I think there is no harm in inserting the Amendment in the Bill.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 2, after ("Trade") insert ("and such trade interests as appear to him to be concerned").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next two Amendments are really drafting.

Amendments moved—

Page 5, line 6, after ("in") insert ("such").

Page 5, line 7, after ("produce") insert ("as may be specified in the regulations").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is consequential upon one that has been accepted already by your Lordships.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 15, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:


12.—(1) Any person who refuses to comply with a request made by an inspector of weights and measures under this Act, or in any other manner obstructs or hinders an inspector in the exercise of his duties under this Act, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding in the case of a first offence five pounds, and in the case of a second or subsequent offence ten pounds.

(2) Any person who fails to provide or keep a suitable weighing machine for weighing bread as required by this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

(3) Any person who acts in contravention of any other provision of this Act for which no special penalty is provided shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding in the case of a first offence five pounds, in the case of a second offence twenty pounds, and in the case of a third or subsequent offence fifty pounds.

EARL RUSSELL moved to add to the clause the words: "and short details of any conviction under this section shall be posted on the outside of any shop of such person for fourteen days." The noble Earl said: This clause is the clause in the Bill which deals with penalties for offences against the Bill and the first two subsections deal with penalties for not allowing the inspector to do his duty or for not keeping a weighing machine. The third subsection deals with any person who acts in contravention of any other provision of the Bill for which no special penalty is provided, and proceeds to provide for fines of different amounts according to the number of convictions. Those other offences are offences of supplying the customer with short weight of essential articles of food. In fact, they are offences of swindling the customer and are generally committed against the poorest class of the community.

It seems to me that if it is really desired to put an end to those offences a conviction at a police court, which is probably not reported in any newspaper as being of no interest and of which hardly anybody hears and in consequence of which the defaulting tradesman pays a few sovereigns, is an insufficient penalty. Experience, I think, has shown that it does not always deter the dishonest trader from his dishonest practices, and I venture to suggest to your Lordships what might be thought to be something like the proposals of the "Mikado"—something for making "the punishment fit The crime." I suggest that it should also be provided that short details of that conviction should be posted in the shop window of the offending tradesman. If it is desired to stop these offences I can conceive of nothing more likely to do it. It will be universally known to the very class of persons whom it concerns, that is, the customers.

If it is said that it is a severe penalty, I venture to suggest that it is not. This man has deliberately defrauded the poorer class of customers who are unable to protect themselves, and I think your Lordships may take it that for every case in which he is detected there have been probably several hundred people defrauded before detection has taken place. In fact, I imagine these detections hardly ever do take plane unless the inspector visits the premises in order to see if the tradesman is behaving honestly. I think, although I have not verified this, that a similar provision exists in France and in some other countries on the Continent. Certainly I think it is worth your Lords-ships' consideration whether you should not put a stop to these offences by penalising offending tradesmen in a way that will really be effective, and I think the penalty I suggest will make it fairly certain that they will not do it again.

What happens is that after several hundred offences of which his customers do not hear he is detected and fined a sum which probably represents quite a small fraction of the money he has dishonestly obtained by giving short weight The words I propose to insert are— and short details of any conviction under this section shall be posted on the outside of any shop of such person for fourteen days, and the proposed penalty is in addition to the pecuniary penalties already provided in the Bill. I know it will be said that there are people with multiple shops and that this provision would mean that a man might have to post those details on a hundred shops. I must confess that does not frighten me. If a man in such a large way of business resorts to these petty practices of dishonesty I think the penalty ought to be the greater, and the fact that he has many shops on which he has to display these details does not seem to me to be at all an argument against the provision. I doubt whether His Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment, but I think it would be worth your Lordships' while, if you really wish to put a stop to these offences, to consider the insertion in the Bill of some provision of this sort which would make a tradesman think a very long time before he committed the offence. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 25, at end insert ("and short details of any conviction under this section shall be posted on the outside of any shop of such person for fourteen days").—(Earl Russell.)


I do not think that I should dissent at all from the general principle laid down by the noble Earl as set out in the "Mikado," that the punishment should fit the crime. The only point I would like to discuss with the noble Earl is whether in many of these cases the punishment he advocates would fit the crime or not. He is under the impression that these cases come into the police court and are unknown in the locality. My experience is that the police court is very often well attended, and I think the noble Earl underrates the extent of local gossip, which circulates about in the village or town very freely in regard to the delinquencies of any particular tradesman.

The noble Earl told us that it is a practice in France to placard or publish these convictions. I knew it was the practice sometimes to placard or publish the speeches of eminent statesmen, but I did not know that the offences committed by petty retailers had a similar advertisement. He also said that in many cases where a conviction is obtained there may have been hundreds of offences previously of petty swindling which never came to light and that, therefore, the punishment ought to be greater than is the punishment inflicted by merely imposing a fine. I suppose that might be so. On the other hand, the noble Earl's punishment would operate to the other extreme in cases where there had been no previous swindling and where it was only the first or, possibly, the second offence. His penalty, therefore, would operate unequally on different classes of offenders.

But there is a more serious objection still and that is that there is no such penalty inflicted in the case of punishments imposed under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act or under the Merchandise Marks Act. The noble Earl will realise that under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act you may have the offence of definitely introducing some alien matter into the food that is sold and I should think that that would probably be considered a worse offence than selling to some extent by short weight. Therefore I think it would be unwise to introduce this penalty, unless you also introduce it generally into the legislation relating to these different Acts. Whether or not it would be wise to bring this new sort of terrifying penalty into our legislation I do not know, but I think it would be impossible to deal with it in this Bill alone, if no such penalty is at the same time to be introduced into the other Acts which I have mentioned. I therefore trust that the noble Earl will not press his Amendment.


I am not at all moved by what takes place in France, or in any other country, but I do think that a penalty of this sort would have a very great effect in stopping the evil which we are trying to prevent. I agree with the noble Earl opposite that in all probability a conviction in a police court would only be known to a very few people. It may or may not be reported in the local newspaper. If it occurs in London it is almost certain that it will not be reported and that it will be known only to the few people who are in the police court at the time. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Peel often attends police courts, but (not as a defendant but in another capacity) I have on more than one occasion attended a police court in London and I have been struck by the very few people who are present in court. Therefore, if we are really desirous of stopping this offence, I think we cannot do better than accept the Amendment of the noble Earl opposite.

I do not care whether this is a new penalty or whether it is not in force in the Sale of Food and Drugs Act or other Acts. It can easily be put into those Acts. The Government are very fond of bringing in Bills at the present moment. I wish they did not bring in so many, but, as they seem to live upon Bills, there will be nothing to prevent them bringing in a Bill to amend the Food and Drugs Act by putting in the Amendment proposed by my noble friend opposite. My belief is that there are a certain number of people who have very little conscience. I do not see my noble friend Lord Cecil of Chelwood here; probably he would not agree with me; but I believe that human nature is naturally bad and that there are a great number of people who have very little conscience and who will be prepared, unless they are found out, to infringe the provisions of this Bill. They will run the risk of conviction in the Court, saying: "Probably nobody will know anything about it and, anyway, we will run the risk, because we shall only have to pay a small fine which will in no way prevent our realising the extra profits which we shall realise if we do this." But if they know they are going to be blacklisted, and blacklisted so that everybody can see, I think that in all probability they will think twice before offending against the provisions of this Bill. I think that the noble Earl—I presume by accident—has fallen upon a good Amendment.


I am in entire agreement with the noble Lord opposite in his support of this Amendment and I should like to put to him an illustration that I think must be within his personal knowledge. Where frauds have been committed against railway companies for travelling with wrong tickets and matters of that sort, the custom is to put up a notice of the conviction at the station near which the man lives who has been guilty of the fraud. That has admittedly had very much effect in stopping frauds of that character. It is a form of publicity which, of course, is very objectionable to the person who has been fraudulent and who ought to be punished in a matter of this sort, but there is nothing very novel in it. I am not much impressed with the argument that it is proposed to introduce it into this class of legislation for the first time. There always must be a first time. I wish the noble Viscount could have given a little more encouragement than he did to this Amendment, because, if you want to stop the frauds at which this Bill aims, you will stop them by publicity of the kind that is suggested, and you will never stop them by the mere police court penalty. That seems to me to be the substantial question. The question is not the penalty. It is the fraud you want to stop, and you can stop it most effectively by adopting the Amendment of the noble Earl.


I am quite aware that the suggestion I have made introduces a new principle into our legislation, and that caused me to hesitate before I put it down. I am glad that, even by accident as he suggests, it meets with the approval of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Banbury of Southam). I do not think it is impossible, though it might require some little modification. It might, for instance, be thought proper to give a discretion to the magistrates, or it might be proper to limit it to the shop where the offence is committed. All I have in view is to stop the fraud, and I think this suggestion would be effective. The noble Viscount in charge of the Bill spoke about police courts. I have been in police courts a good deal in one capacity and another, and it is true that there are generally, in Metropolitan police courts, a very small number of people present and that these cases are taken and dealt with very rapidly, particularly if the man pleads guilty in order to have a minimum of publicity. The cases, therefore, go through with extraordinary rapidity and very often practically only the magistrates and their clerk and possibly the gaoler know what is going on. These cases do not get any publicity in a City like London. In London there is no local paper like the local paper you have in a village which everyone reads and talks about, especially if there is some report about some offence committed by a local tradesman. I think this would be a useful provision. The fact that it does not exist in other Acts is not a real argument because, if it be a good provision, it could be put into those Acts. It is a matter for your Lordships to decide. I have introduced it to your notice and I leave it at that.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl for having raised a discussion on this subject, but it is difficult to introduce a penalty of this kind into one particular clause of an Act when it does not apply to, nor is it introduced in, other Acts which deal with fraud of a worse kind.


An additional clause in this Bill would introduce it.


I think also that drawn as it is it would be rather easy to evade, because the noble Earl does not give any definition of what the notice should be. There is no statement, for instance, that it should be posted in letters of a certain size or something of that kind.


That is a matter of detail.


I do not think, anyhow, that the Amendment as it is drawn would carry out the idea, and there are other objections on the ground of the unfairness with which it would operate in different classes of cases, because I understand it is not to apply only to a second or third offence but to a first offence. Further, I think there would be some difficulty in introducing without very full and careful consideration this new kind of penalty in this class of offence. I will look into the matter, but I hope the noble Earl will not press it now.


I will take that assurance of the noble Viscount. The unfairness he suggested could be got over by making the modification of leaving it to the discretion of the court whether the penalty should be ordered or not. However, I should be glad if he would consider the matter with the Home Office.


I will discuss it.


Then I will withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13:

Safeguards to traders.

13.—(1) In any proceedings under this Act in respect of an alleged deficiency of weight or measure of any pre-packed article or of bread the court shall disregard any inconsiderable variation in the weight or measure of a single article, and shall have regard to the average weight or measure of other articles of the same kind (if any) sold or delivered by the defendant, or in his possession for the purpose of sale or delivery, on the same occasion, and generally to all the circumstances of the case.

(2) In any proceedings under this Act respect of an alleged deficiency of weight, or measure or number, if the defendant proves to the satisfaction of the Court that such deficiency was due to a bona fide mistake or accident in spite of all reasonable precautions being taken and all due diligence exercised by the said defendant to prevent the occurrence of such deficiency, or was due to the action of some person over whom the defendant exercised no control, the defendant shall be discharged from the prosecution.

LORD MONK BRETTON moved, in subsection (1), after "measure," where that word occurs for the last time, to insert "of a reasonable number." The noble Lord said: This is a small Amendment to assist and protect the trader. The London County Council officials, when they are inspecting shops, always weigh a reasonable number of articles, a reasonable number of loaves for instance, and they only take proceedings when they have judged on some number. When a considerable number of articles have been weighed one may rest assured that the black sheep is more clearly shown. I hope the noble Viscount will accept this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 31, after ("measure") insert ("of a reasonable number").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


I will accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, in subsection. (2), to leave out the last word "exercised" and insert "had." The noble Viscount said: This is only a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 1, have out ("exercised") and insert ("had").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14:


14.—(1) For the purpose of this Act unless the context otherwise requires— (3) In the application of this Act to Scotland, references to tire Board of Agriculture for Scotland shall be substituted for references to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the expression "fancy bread" shall not include a pan loaf, French loaf, or any loaf of a similar character, and the expression "information" shall mean petition or complaint.

VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after subsection (2), to insert as a new subsection: (3) Any powers exercisable under this Act by an inspector of weights and measures may, in any case where the local authority so determines, be exercised by any other officer of the local authority appointed for the purpose; and in such case references in this Act to an inspector of weights and measures shall be construed as including such other officer as aforesaid. The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is to allow the powers which are exercised by the inspectors of weights and measures to be exerciseable by any officer of the local weights and measures authority who is properly authorised for the purpose; that is to say, they can be exercised through other officers if it is thought necessary.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 4, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE moved, in subsection (3), after "character", to insert "which alternatively may be weighed at one pound and three-quarters." The noble Earl said: The point to which this Amendment relates was referred to on the Second Reading of the Bill as one of considerable importance in Scotland. My noble friend Earl Beauchamp, who put down the Amendment, has asked me to move it as I come from Scotland. I do not know whether the noble Viscount will accept the principle of this Amendment, or whether it will be necessary for me to deal with it in detail. It is an Amendment on which people in Scotland feel strongly and it is an Amendment of considerable importance to Scotland. If the noble Viscount will accept it I need not say anything further, but if he wishes me to elaborate the argument I am prepared to do so.


I should be glad if the noble Earl would be good enough to give the outline of the argument.


The fact is that the class of bread to which this Amendment refers affects Scotland and Scotland only. This fact has been brought out already in the Amendment submitted by Lord Monk Bretton to Clause 6. It shows the injustice to Scotland, if I may say so, of the present measure. As regards England, fancy bread is excluded from the Bill, but as regards Scotland it is included. Therefore, your Lordships will see that there is an injustice to Scotland. The bread provided in Scotland consists mainly of two classes. There is the plain or hatch loaf and all other breads are classified under the head of fancy bread. These include various other kinds—the pan loaf, the French loaf, the crusty loaf, and loaves under other names. The proportion is 75 per cent. of the plain loaf and 25 per cent. of fancy bread. During the War an experiment on the lines of the present Bill was made, insisting that fancy bread should be sold by weight, a similar weight to that of the plain bread, and the experience thus gained was that the sale of fancy bread decreased by about 33⅓per cent.

I would like your Lordships to appreciate what that means. The plain or batch loaf is a very economical loaf from the point of view of giving value in health-sustaining vigour, but it is not a very interesting loaf, and if traders are compelled to sell the fancy loaf to the full weight of two pounds it will mean a decrease in the amount of fancy bread baked, thereby withdrawing from the population of Scotland the opportunity of having any alternative to the plain loaf. I think any of your Lordships who have travelled in Scotland will appreciate that there should be an alternative to the plain or batch loaf. It is, as I say, a very economical loaf, but it is not one which many of your Lordships would care to live on every day. The other point which I wish to make is that the public are amply protected from the fact that, as I say, seventy-five per cent. of the bread is of the plain loaf type. There has been no difficulty in the past in selling the fancy bread at the approximate weight of 1 lb. 12 oz. All that the Amendment proposes is that a definite weight of 1 lb. 12 oz. should be included in this Bill for the classes of bread which are classified under the name of fancy bread. This is in accordance with the principle of the Bill, and gives the public the satisfaction of buying the whole of their bread by weight, while allowing something to the baker for the extra cost of making fancy bread.

I should like to inform your Lordships that since the Second Reading I have made it my duty to try to find out locally, both from householders and from manufacturers of bread in my own locality, what is the real state of affairs. They are largely agreed that the effect of carrying the clause as it stands will be to kill the trade in fancy bread. It is impossible for bakers to make a 2-lb. fancy loaf at the same price as the plain loaf, and it is impossible to make that loaf at all at a weight of 2 lbs. without scrapping much of their pans and machinery. Accordingly, as I say, the effect will be to kill the trade in fancy bread unless the alternative is adopted of making a 1-lb. fancy loaf, which, again, can be sold only at a greater cost to the public. I hope, therefore, that the noble Viscount will agree to this Amendment, either in actual detail or at any rate in principle.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 10, after ("character") insert ("which alternatively may be weighed at one pound and three quarters")—(The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.)


I was anxious that the noble Earl should state his case because, as he knows, this is a matter which has aroused a great deal of attention in Scotland. Pan bread or French bread are kinds of bread which, as he knows, are sold largely in Scotland, commonly in loaves which purport to be 1 lb. 12 ozs. in weight. The Bread. Order, 1918, and the Sale of Food Order of August, 1921, provided that no bread should be sold unless its weight were 1 lb. or an even number of pounds. These Orders applied to Scotland, and consequently for three years both ordinary bread and pan bread were sold subject to that condition. The Sale of Food Order of December, 1921, which also applied to 'Scotland, whilst maintaining the provision as to sale by 1 lb. or an even number of pounds, provided for the exclusion of fancy bread from the scope of the Order. Inasmuch as a Sheriff's Court decided that pan bread is fancy bread, the effect of that proviso was to exclude pan bread from the operation of the Order. Section 427 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, requires all ordinary household bread sold in Scotland to be stamped with the weight, but the effect of the decision I have mentioned is that pan bread is exempted from this requirement as being fancy bread.

The present Bill would require all pan bread to be sold in multiples of 1 lb., and would thereby prevent the sale of I lb. 12 oz. pan loaves. This course was adopted on the recommendation of the Food Council, on representations from the Corporation of Glasgow, supported by other important local authorities, including the Corporations of Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and the County Councils Association of Scotland. The evidence given on behalf of these authorities went to show that a good many complaints received as to short weight in bread relate, in fact, to pan bread and that tests made of a wide range of samples of pan and French loaves showed that the weight varied considerably—in fact from 1 lb. 6 ozs. to 2 lbs.—and that in a trade carried on in such conditions there is ample room for both injustice to consumers, who buy a pan loaf which looks in size like, and which they think to be, a standard 1 12 oz. loaf, and for unfair competition between the bakers.

The argument of the Scottish bakers, who are now supported by the Scottish Co-operative Societies, is that there is a wide demand in Scotland for the 1 lb. 12 oz. loaf of pan bread, which is sold at the same price as the 2 lb. ordinary loaf; that the pan bread is more costly to make and that the effect of compelling the sale of pan bread in 2 lb. loaves would be so to put up the cost as to restrict the demand; that the effect of compelling the makers to sell this particular kind of bread in 2 lb. loaves only will involve them in considerable expense in the adaptation of plant; and that generally there is no adequate reason for interfering with a long-established trade custom: The bakers are, however, willing to standardise at 1 lb. 12 oz. the pan loaf.

The Board of Trade have been in consultation with the Secretary for Scotland on the subject, and the. Scottish Office take the view that, in all the circumstances, it would be reasonable to allow the sale of 1 lb. 12 oz. loaves to be continued. The objection to the noble Earl's Amendment as it stands is that if the baker is in a position to sell pan bread in either a 2 lb. or 1 lb. 12 oz. loaf without any indication of weight (for the provision of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act is repealed by this Bill) the buyer might be misled, as the ordinary person is quite incapable of distinguishing between a 1 lb. 12 oz. and a 2 lb. loaf. It appears desirable, therefore, that where pan bread is sold at the alternative weight of 1 lb. 12 oz. there should be a clear indication of the weight, whether that indication be given by stamping on the bread or on wrappers or otherwise. If this condition is accepted, the Government are prepared to accept the principle of the Amendment, but the actual terms of the Amendment will require some further consideration. If the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment the Government will be prepared to bring up an Amendment on the Report stage to carry out the principle of the Amendment that he has moved.


I thank the noble Viscount, and I agree to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

First Schedule: