HL Deb 09 November 1943 vol 129 cc624-6

My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to make a statement regarding the Defence (Sale of Food) Regulations.]


My Lords, a White Paper has been issued to-day explaining the Regulations which have been made to enable me to protect the consumer against false and misleading claims regarding the quality of foodstuffs. A part of the problem was dealt with by the Food Substitutes Order, which in 1941 restricted the manufacture or sale of food substitutes; but it is not possible under that Order to take action in respect of products which are not food substitutes, and there has so far been no power to prevent exaggerated claims being made for products which, though harmless, have low nutritional value and which carry labels grossly misrepresenting the nature of the product. His Majesty's Government are of opinion that the consumer is entitled to protection against such misleading claims. With the reduction in the quantity and variety of food supplies available, it is necessary to provide this protection, especially in the case of products intended for mothers, children and adolescents.

The powers which the new Regulations confer on me, with a single exception to which I will refer later, go no further than the powers which Parliament contemplated should be exercised under certain sections of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, and the Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926. Section 6 of the Food and Drugs Act forbids the advertising or labelling of food in a false or misleading way, and the provisions of this section are reproduced in substantially identical terms in Regulation 1. Similarly, Regulation 2 transfers to me as Minister of Food the power at present exercised by the Minister of Health under Section 8 of the Food and Drugs Act to stipulate the manner in which, various foods are to be labelled and to regulate the composition of any food. It also transfers to me the power of the Board of Trade under Section 9 of the Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926, to require any pre-packed food to be labelled with an indication of its weight or measure. The only additional power conferred on me by these Regulations, not previously approved by Parliament, is included in Regulation 2. This enables me to restrict "the making in advertisements of food of claims or suggestions of the presence in the food of vitamins or minerals." As your Lordships are aware, the Government during the war have given continuous attention to nutrition. It is unfortunate that some— happily only a small minority—of manufacturers should have been tempted to exploit the national nutritional policy. Reputable food manufacturers, equally with scientists and members of the medical profession, recognize the harm that is being done by misleading advertise- ments of this nature, and it is with the object of bringing them to an end that the new, powers have been taken by Order in Council.

The enforcement of any specific Orders which may be issued under these powers will be entrusted to local authorities, but they will be required, unless it is otherwise provided in the Orders I shall make, to obtain my consent before proceedings are taken. The main purpose of this provision will be to ensure that proceedings are taken against the manufacturer who is responsible for the false description and not against a large number of small retailers through whom the product reaches the public.

House adjourned.