HL Deb 27 July 1926 vol 65 cc226-32

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion of which Notice has been given, that Standing Order No. 143 be considered and dispensed with in respect of this Bill, and that the Bill be now read 3ª I do so in the genera] interest of expediting public business as we are nearing the end of our present sittings. Perhaps I may explain to your Lordships the procedure I would ask you to agree to follow if you permit the Standing Order to be suspended and take the Third Reading to-day. I would move the Third Reading and I would suggest that we might then take the discussion on the Amendment of which my noble friend Lord Strachie has given Notice When that has been disposed of—either agreed to, disagreed to, or withdrawn—this position arises. Since the Bill was in Committee I have received a communication from the Ministry of Transport with reference to another clause in the Bill altogether, and I have suggested to the promoters a small Amendment which they are quite ready to make in the Bill. But I would not like to take that Amendment now without notice. Therefore, after your Lordships have disposed of my noble friend's Amendment I would ask your Lordships, in accordance with precedent, to adjourn the proceedings until to-morrow so as to enable the Amendment on the other point to be properly drafted, put in proper form and printed. The Bill would then be sent back to the Commons. Now, however, I make my first Motion with reference to the suspension of Standing Order No. 143. I beg to move.

Moved, That Standing Order No. 143 be considered and dispensed with in respect of the said Bill, and that the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Earl of Donough-more.)

On Question, Motion agreed to and Bill read 3ª accordingly.

Clause 103:

By-laws as to inspection of meat.

"(4) With a view to facilitating the carrying into effect of any by-laws made in pursuance of this section the Corporation may enter any slaughter-house which is situate outside the city but within a circle having a radius of ten miles from the Council House for the purpose of inspecting any carcase or any part thereof intended for sale or consumption in the city: Provided that before entering any slaughterhouse outside the city the Corporation shall make reasonable endeavours to arrange for such inspection to be made jointly with the local authority of the area in which the slaughter-house proposed to be inspected is situate and in the event of such inspection not being made in the presence of an officer of such local authority the Corporation shall make a report in writing to such local authority stating the reasons for making the inspection and the result thereof."

LORD STRACHIE moved to omit the proviso in subsection (4) and insert: "with the consent of the local authority concerned subject to the right of the corporation to appeal to the Ministry of Health for such power of inspection." The noble Lord said: My Lords, as this Bill has been slightly altered since I placed my Amendment on the Paper I desire to alter the form of my Amendment and have given due notice to the Lord Chancellor. The Amendment as I wish to move it reads as follows: Clause 103, page 70, line 13, omit from 'city' to the end of the subsection and insert 'with the consent of the local authority concerned subject to the right of the corporation to appeal to the Ministry of Health for such power of inspection. The local authorities of Somerset and other local authorities for whom I am speaking object to the City of Bristol taking power to go into their areas and inspect their slaughter-houses without any consent whatsoever on their part. I may say that I am not moving this Amendment out of any sense of hostility to the Corporation of Bristol, and I should be the last person to do that because my relations with Bristol have always been most friendly, that being my market-town. I do it on principles which I think will appeal to your Lordships who live in agricultural districts and know what strong objections are taken by local authorities to the invasion of their territory by other local authorities in the exercise of various powers.

What does this clause mean? It means that on its own initiative the Bristol Corporation is endeavouring to take power to inspect within ten miles of the centre of the City of Bristol any slaughterhouse without the leave of the local authority concerned. All I am asking your Lordships to do in this particular case is to say, as I have put it in my Amendment, that they must ask for the consent of the local authority and if that consent is not given there shall be a right of appeal to the Ministry of Health. I am the last person to wish that there should be any obstacle put in the way of seeing that slaughter-houses are conducted in the best possible manner, whether in town or in country. If the Bristol Corporation can show that the local authority are not doing their duty then they will have this appeal to the Ministry of Health. It is rather a serious matter, as this Bill proposes, to say that the local authorities have so neglected their duties and do not have proper inspection that it is necessary for a City like Bristol to have their own inspectors of slaughter-houses in order to see that the slaughter-houses are carried on under proper conditions. It seems to me that is not a wholly desirable thing to have. If the local authorities are not carrying out their duties then they ought to be forced to do so by the Ministry of Health.

It was said by the Lord Chairman, in regard to the Swindon Amendment—and the remark applies equally in this case—that you ought not to have merely Private Bill legislation. If it is desirable and right that great Cities like Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool should have the right to go over the adjoining counties and exercise their powers there, then it ought to be done as a result of a General Act applying to all and not by a Private Act. Up till now there have only been two other cases in which such powers have been given, and in those cases the power was not given for quite such a large area as in this case. I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that when the matter came before the Local Legislation Committee of the House of Commons the Ministry of Health made a very strong statement to that Committee. In regard to the particular powers of inspection they said: Before the Committee grant powers extending outside the city they will no doubt require clear evidence that they are essential for the proper enforcement of the by-laws. That is a very strong statement indeed. I read this Report carefully. It was furnished to me by a gentleman sitting upon that Committee who was strongly opposed to these powers and there was not one word said afterwards by Bristol showing that they had any just cause of suspicion that the Somerset local authorities and other local authorities concerned in this particular instance were not carrying out their duties. They did not make any objections: they did not bring form and any cases.

It seems to me that it is quite clear they were not able to substantiate any grievances at all. Therefore I am surprised that the Committee gave these powers which now appear in the Bill. I am glad to think that Mr. Percy Hurd, Conservative member for one of the Divisions of Wiltshire—which is not concerned with this particular case—did very strongly oppose these powers being given to the City of Bristol. As I have already stated, no neglect has been shown on the part of the local authorities in carrying out their powers over slaughter-houses. I also would like to suggest that on genera] principles it is very undesirable to have this raid upon the powers of local authorities. In this particular case the power extends a long way into Gloucestershire and Somerset-shire, because the area is ten miles. But if ten miles, why should it not be twenty miles or thirty miles? I therefore oppose it on general grounds, because, if it is agreed to, we shall have other big towns coming and saying that they ought to have this power of inspection extended throughout the length and breadth of other counties adjoining those in which they are situated. They would say: "The sanitary authorities in Somerset and Gloucestershire are not inspecting dairies in a proper way and we ought to have a power of inspecting them." That would be an interference with local authorities, and I cannot see in anything that has been said during the discussion on this Bill that Bristol has any grievance at all.

This principle of a raid upon the powers of county local authorities is one that we have had to fight more than once. In the House of Commons we have had to fight the great towns coming into our counties and wanting to take away the powers from the local authorities in the counties, saying: "We want general powers of inspection to interfere with you because you are not carrying out your duties." If that kind of thing is to be extended it means an end to all local self-government so far as the counties are concerned. Not for one moment would I oppose anything that is in the interests of public health. We ought to see that local authorities carry out their ditties. The Ministry of Health ought to see that they carry out their duties and I ask that power should be given to the Ministry of Health, on appeal, to force local authorities who are not doing their duty to do what they ought to do. I hope your Lordships will not, by a Private Bill, allow this raid to be made on local authorities by a great City like Bristol. It would create a precedent that would be followed in other areas and I submit it is very undesirable.

Amendment moved— Clause 103, page 70, line 13, leave out from ("city") to end of the subsection and insert "with the consent of the local Authority concerned subject to the right of the corporation to appeal to the Ministry of Health for such power of inspection."—(Lord Strachie.)


My Lords, on behalf of the Ministry of Health I ant sorry to have to inform my noble friend Lord Strachie that the Notice given was not really sufficient to enable them to come to a considered opinion on this point which, as the noble Lord said, raises several important questions of principle. On behalf of the Ministry, therefore, the Government do not propose to divide against the noble Lord's Amendment, but they do reserve the right to offer opposition to the noble Lord's suggestions when his Amendment reaches another place.


My Lords, may I say a few words in regard to what my noble friend has just said relative to the attitude of the Government and also in regard to the attitude of my noble friend opposite? I desire to thank him, as I thanked Lord Banbury just now, for abstaining from moving an instruction, and allowing the more usual procedure to be followed by moving an Amendment on Third Reading. I am much obliged, also, to my noble friend behind me (Viscount Gage) for intimating that the Government will offer no objection to this Amendment now, reserving, of course, their full rights when the Amendment made by your Lordships is considered in another place. I am getting a little anxious on the general point that we are discussing this afternoon, and I should be glad to see a settlement that might be satisfactory to all parties, if such could be reached.

My noble friend opposite has quoted the Report of the Ministry of Health on the original clause. This is a clause that has been asked for in a number of cases and it has been granted, I see, in three. These extraterritorial powers, if I may use the phrase, have been granted to Torquay, Hastings and Wakefield, but in those cases within the radius of six miles from the town halls. This Bill asks for ten miles from the town hall. It has been urged upon me that ten miles from the town hall of Bristol is not really more outside Bristol than six miles from the town halls in those other cases. I am not going to bring thunder bolts on my head by suggesting whether I agree with the estimate or not, but, if six miles why not ten miles, and if ten miles why not twenty miles? If the principle is right that the Corporation can say: "Meat slaughtered in a certain place and sold in our city should be inspected by us," we cannot say nay to its widest extension. It would be quite reasonable then, I think, for Bristol to say: "Some of our meat is slaughtered in London; we should have power to inspect slaughter-houses in London." What would the London County Council and the great municipalities say to that?

Take a case nearer home. Supposing Bradford said they ate meat slaughtered in Leeds, would Leeds allow them to send their inspectors to inspect Leeds slaughter-houses? I do not think so. At any rate, we should have some lively Parliamentary proceedings. There is a grievance. Some of these great municipalities say that slaughter-houses are established just outside their borders to avoid the very stringent regulations which are in force within their borders. It is obvious that that is something which ought to be checked. Your Lordships will see that this matter cannot be left to drift on, passing in one Private Bill after another and discussions taking place whether the area should be so many miles or so many more miles. We want a general principle established. I hesitate to use the phrase, but I am Home Ruler enough to agree in principle with my noble friend opposite. I do not want to see the authority of local authorities undermined by inspectors coming in from elsewhere, although probably in many places it can be shown that it is in the public interest they should do so. A system must be devised by which the matter will work smoothly in the interest of all the parties concerned and, therefore, I am grateful to the Government for allowing this matter to go forward. We are towards the end of this part of the Session and we are saving time by letting this matter go to the House of Commons where it can be discussed. Anything further that is necessary can be added to the Amendment proposed by my noble friend, which, I am glad to believe, will now be agreed to.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move that the further proceedings on this Bill be adjourned until to-morrow.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.