§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I need not detain the House very long in giving an explanation of this measure. It deals with the adulteration of food. There have been five Public Health Acts, passed in 1875, 1891, 1896 and two in 1907. Those Acts in some degree were connected with the prevention of adulteration of food. In January of this year Regulations came into force at the instance of the Minister of Health by virtue of powers conferred by those different Acts. Those Regulations make restrictions as to the amount of preservative and colouring matter that should be allowed in food and drugs. Thereby a standard has been more or less fixed of the maximum amount which is permissible. In the Acts themselves no real standard was fixed as to what constituted adulteration. Therefore litigation of a very formidable character often ensued 811 The Courts that had to deal with any proceedings practically made their own standards as to what constituted a proper or improper amount of adulteration. This involved the calling of expert witnesses, with the result that litigation became a very onerous and costly affair.
The Regulations to which I have referred fix a certain maximum for what is permissible as regards colouring matter or preservatives in food, but traders, manufacturers and retailers are still liable to proceedings at law in case of adulteration. All that this measure proposes is that where a trader has complied with the Regulations and the restrictions laid down therein that fact shall constitute a good defence in the case of any proceedings being taken against him. That is the whole point of the Bill. It is one that is regarded with considerable favour by those connected with trade as it does help them a great deal in their defence and relieves them to a certain extent of costly proceedings. The measure was introduced in another place by Mr. Jacob and not a single dissentient voice was raised on Second Reading. It was then referred to the Committee dealing with health matters and in that Committee the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Health introduced certain Amendments. All those Amendments were practically drafting Amendments and only had the effect of making the Bill more effective for its purpose. Therefore it is to all intents and purposes an agreed measure. The Government have given it a benevolent support. I think that is all I need say with regard to the inception of the measure, and I hope, as it had such a very smooth passage in another place, that it may have an equally favourable reception in your Lordships' House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lamington.)
My Lords, as the noble Lord has suggested, convictions have been obtained under the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts in cases where the goods supplied are of a standard of purity which is required under the Ministry of Health Regulations. His Majesty's Government, therefore, consider that there is distinct ground for traders to feel uncertainty as to the exact standard of purity which they can safely offer to the public. It appears to my 812 right hon. friend that this Bill, which renders goods complying with the Regulations immune from proceedings under the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, meets the point. He therefore desires at this stage, as in another place, to offer no objection to the passing of the Bill. I might also point out that the Bill has the advantage of enabling local authorities to enforce the Ministry's standards.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.