HL Deb 03 December 1953 vol 184 cc936-54

3.40 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Bill. May I say at the outset how glad I am to see the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, in a more prominent place than usual on the Opposition Benches. I am sorry, however, for the cause of his change of position, and I hope that if he sees Lord Morrison he will tell him how much all your Lordships hope that he will be fully restored to health very soon.

The purposes of this Bill are two: first, to establish the proposals which were outlined lately to your Lordships in the Food and Drugs Bill for England and Wales—proposals the main part of which this Bill applies to Scotland—and, secondly, to consolidate the law of Scotland as it applies to the adulteration and handling of food. Your Lordships have so recently had the advantage of a full explanation of the English Bill from my noble friend Lord Woolton that I need do no more than remind you of the main provisions included in the Scottish Bill. The Bill makes clear that the question of whether or not a food is injurious to health must be decided not only by reference to the immediate harm which it may do, but to the long-term effect sit may have on health. The Bill takes power to call for information from manufacturers as to new substances which may be used in the preparation of foods, and it proposes steps to improve standards of care and cleanliness in the handling of food. I think that all these main objectives were welcomed by your Lordships when the English Bill was adopted. Here in this Bill they are identical and no doubt will be equally welcome.

A short acquaintance with the complications of the existing Statute which we are operating in Scotland will, I think, convince your Lordships of the necessity for overhaul. We act, for instance, so far as the adulteration of foods is concerned, under the Food Act, 1928, the Public Health Act, 1897, and the Burgh Police Act, 1892. So far as legislating on food hygiene is concerned, we have to use Section 8 of the English Act of 1938, a provision which applies to Scotland, and that provision in itself derives from a previous Act of 1907. It has been possible to make important regulations and to achieve progress under this hotchpotch of legislation, but it has not been as easy as it should be, and this Bill sets out to make regulations which we hope will be at once more effective and more clear. The public who are interested in clean and safe food, can, I think, be assured that the powers are in this Bill to achieve it, while the obligation which lies upon the Minister to consult representative organisations before regulations are made should secure that regulations, when drafted, are drafted in a practical and acceptable form.

The 1938 Act in England provided that where there are cases of food poisoning the medical practitioner should notify the medical officer of health. That has been a very useful power, and indeed it went further, because the medical officer of health, once he is notified by the medical practitioner, can then take steps to trace the food poisoning causes to their source, and take any action which he thinks fit to dispose of the poisonous food. And otherwise he can do anything which he thinks necessary. We have, then, put into this Bill those clauses which enable the medical officer of health to act on information supplied by a general practitioner. I hope that this Bill will be looked upon as something much more than a punitive measure. We need not be—and indeed we do not intend to be—too tender with the deliberate offender, but the Bill will succeed really only in so far as it succeeds in improving knowledge and in educating the public as to the virtues of clean food and the practical ways in which it can be achieved. It is on this basis, therefore, that I ask your Lordships for your approval to this Bill, and I beg that you will give it a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Home.)

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, may I be allowed to say just one word which has no special reference to this Scottish Bill? I do not need to deal with the excellence or otherwise of this Bill when we are lucky enough to be able to call upon the services of Lord Mathers in such a matter. I should, however, like to put a suggestion to your Lordships—and I should like the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to take notice of this if he will. I am making no attack on the Government about this matter, but I have noticed a tendency recently to introduce Bills, of which this is a sample, the object of which is to amend and consolidate. In fact the Explanatory Memorandum of this measure begins with the words: This Bill amends and consolidates the Scottish Statutes. … I venture to think that that is rather art inconvenient thing to do, and for this reason. If the House is to perform its functions properly it clearly must criticise intelligently if it can. Therefore noble Lords must really get down to what is in a Bill, and it is extremely difficult to do that if we are under the necessity of trying to work out what the Bill does and if we get a confusion between what is amendment and what is consolidation. It would not matter so much if the amending clauses were printed in some different kind of ink from the other clauses, or some other system of that sort were adopted. But as it is, Bills of this kind are a hotch-potch, and we are unable at first to recognise what is consolidation and what is amendment. We have worked out in the Lord Chancellor's Office an excellent system of carrying through Consolidation Bills, and the Lord Chancellor is given power, in conjunction with the Speaker, to authorise certain amendments amending minor matters. In my experience, these Bills have gone through without any Parliamentary controversy or anything of that sort. All that is presented is a Bill which is merely consolidating the existing law, with such minor amendments as there may be, and the matter goes through.

I have not given much time to this particular Bill, and I do not know what is new and what is old in it, and I certainly would not suggest that Scotland is a worse offender in the matter to which I refer than England. I should like to give an illustration arising out of the Protection of Birds Bill which we had under consideration a few days ago. I saw in that Bill a clause which stated that it shall be a criminal offence to import live or dead quail. I made researches and I found that there is already a prohibition on the importation of live quail but no prohibition about dead quail. So, when looking at an innocent clause like that one does not realise whether one is dealing with the existing law, with regard to which one rather adopts one attitude, or with a new phase of the law with regard to which a rather more critical attitude might well be taken. While making no sort of attack whatever on this Bill or the Government, and not wanting to stand between the noble Earl and his Bill, I do suggest to the noble Earl and his colleagues that this is an inconvenient practice.

I should like the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in particular, if he will, to consider whether there is any substance in what I say. I would much rather we should take two steps. That is to say, let the noble and learned Lord bring in a Bill (I am not talking about this Bill but a future one) showing what amendments he wants to make in the law, and then, having made those amendments, bring in a Consolidation Bill, so that we may know exactly where we stand. In that way we shall have to make a case for the amendments. I venture to raise this point in no hostile spirit whatever, but because this is not a very convenient practice. I should be most grateful to the noble Earl opposite if he would look at this question and try to see that we do not have this sort of thing again, because it makes it difficult for us to do our duty in criticising the Bill.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to acknowledge the kindly references to myself made by the noble Earl, Lord Home. I consider it a happy circumstance that, when I am first invited to speak from this Box, I have the noble Lord as my opposite number. The noble Earl the Leader of my Party has made several observations not pertaining to the substance of the Bill. I am sure he is wise in the consideration he has given to the points he has raised.

Here is a Bill for Scotland which, as found so often in the past in another place when a Scottish Bill has followed an English Bill on a similar subject, is superior to the English Bill. This Bill cannot be attacked on the ground of the attack which was made on the English Bill last week by my noble friend Lord Silkin, who said that it was one of the worst examples of legislation by reference he had ever seen. Here is a straightforward Bill, clearly indicating the position with which it intends to deal and giving the Secretary of State wide powers to see that the health and interests of our people will be protected in respect of the purity and suitability of food and the methods of its presentation for sale. I think it is convenient to have one comprehensive Statute instead of having to refer to several Acts of Parliament. On the basis of this Bill it will be possible for the Secretary of State to frame regulations anew, if necessary, in order to cover the whole realm dealt with by the Bill.

I look upon Part IV of the Bill as important. It deals with the administration by the Secretary of State, and the method of enforcement of the regulations that he will introduce, bringing up-to-date, no doubt, the regulations that already exist. It will be possible for port authorities to be designated and for such authorities to have the same powers as statutory authorities. It is good to know that the regulations to be made by the Secretary of State, with his wide view of the needs of the situation, will have validity beyond the scope of the local by- laws. Although most local authorities already have by-laws, it will now be possible for the regulations made by the Secretary of State to bring about a general improvement in the whole position. This is an important Bill. I am glad that in introducing it the Minister of State talked about the necessity for educating public opinion, because it seems to me that along that line there is the greatest possible chance of having the preparation and handling of foods put on a proper basis in Scotland. In my judgment, the Bill is a sound and comprehensive one, and we look forward to the regulations that will be made by the Secretary of State following the passing of this Bill into law. I have pleasure in welcoming the Bill and saying that, so far as noble Lords on these Benches are concerned, there will be no hindrance placed in the way of its passage into law.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a word, not in relation to the Bill, which I regard as excellent and which has been fully and eloquently explained by the noble Earl the Minister of State, but in regard to the general question, which I think is very important, raised by the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition. As I understand it, his view is that in a Bill of this nature we should be able to distinguish clearly between that Part of the Bill which amends other measures and that Part which consolidates other measures. I entirely agree with the noble and learned Earl in that view. I think I am right in saying that his opinion is that we should have two Bills—an amending Bill and then a Consolidation Bill. But I am a little doubtful whether, in that case, we should get the Consolidation Bill. I want to get the best of both worlds, as we all do. If it were possible, when a Bill like this is introduced, or a Bill like the Protection of Birds Bill, referred to by the noble Earl, I should prefer to see incorporated either in the Explanatory Memorandum attached to the Bill or in a separate White Paper, a clear explanation of which Parts of the Bill amend previous measures and which Parts relate to consolidation. If that is possible—and I do not see why it should not be—I hope the Government will consider it.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I have nothing of importance to add to what has been said by my noble friend Lord Mathers. When I looked at the explanatory Memorandum of the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill and compared it with the Memorandum to this Bill, it appeared to me clear that whereas the English amending Bill had the purpose of amending the previous Acts named, this Bill, as the Memorandum says, "amends and consolidates the Scottish statutes. …" In that sense, I can understand the approval with which our medical officer of health told me that this Bill brought the Scottish law into line with pre-existing English law. I cannot say that that was a wholly pleasurable thing to hear, but it made clear in my mind what was intended. When the Parliamentary Bills Committee went through the Bill in Glasgow the other week, only two points of minor importance were raised. The first concerned Clause 2 (3), which excepts drugs from the application of Clause 2 (1). One wonders whether that is not merely a drafting oversight, because if the offence is one which concerns food and drugs, why should drugs be excluded in subsection (3)? Perhaps the noble Earl will look at that point. The other point was in relation to Clause 58, which provides that expenses incurred by the operation of this Act "shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament." What Glasgow is concerned to know is whether they will be able to recoup themselves for the large amount of additional expenditure which they may incur when this Bill becomes an Act. I know that that is the usual attitude adopted by municipalities, but I see no reason why it should not be voiced. It is certainly a point on which all the local authorities in Scotland would be glad to have some assurance.

Finally, I should like to say that I was interested to read the able and informative speech which the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, made when he dealt with the English amending Bill. He dealt there, I thought, in arresting language with the importance of this particular measure, referring to the change in the social habits of the people of this country, its effect on their feeding habits, and soon. The noble Earl, Lord Home, in the final remarks of his speech this afternoon, touched upon what is probably the crux of the whole matter. It is not so much that the Government are now taking greater powers to examine the premises, the utensils and the composition of foods, as they are doing by this Bill, but that we should try and educate the general public, not only those who handle the food but even the persons who consume it, in the importance of personal hygiene. It is only in that way that we can get the higher standard of cleanliness in our food, and in our habits towards our food, which is so much needed to-day. I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to pursue the point which was raised by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, except to say that, having spent a considerable time in the case of the English Bill annotating the Statutes which were amended by it, I am pleasantly relieved to find that I have not to go through all that labour in order to ascertain what the Scottish Bill really means. However, they have their own ways of dealing with things in Scotland, and I hope that the English will not interfere with it too much. I welcome the introduction of this Bill quite warmly, although I do not consider that it goes far enough. So far as the question of food hygiene is concerned, I will say only that it is obviously desirable that the standards of cleanliness and hygiene which are now well known and commonly practised should be observed in all establishments where food is handled or prepared. In that respect, I think the provisions in the Bill are excellent.

But the most interesting part of the Bill seems to me to be contained in the first six or seven clauses. Clause 1 not only prohibits the addition of substances to food, and the abstraction of constituents from food so as to render it injurious to health, hut, for the first time, recognises that the processing or treatment of food, which is now so common for a great variety of purposes, may also render it injurious to health. The Bill, as the noble Earl who introduced it quite rightly pointed out, strengthens the law by making one of the considerations to which regard shall be had in determining whether an article of food has been rendered injurious to health or not, the cumulative effect of partaking of that article of food, or of articles of a similar nature. This is extremely important, because of the use of synthetic dyestuffs, flavouring materials and other substances in the processing or preparation of food. It is now quite well known, for example, that a number of chemicals, such as most, if not all, aniline dyes, if partaken over a long period, are carcinogenic, and the increase in the prevalence of cancer and the large number of deaths which occur lend particular point to the importance of looking to the long-term effects of imbibing such articles. There are a great many other chemicals which are used, such as insecticides in the treatment of food while growing, or for purposes of storage, and bleaching and other agents used in the preparation of food, which are chemical substances the use of which is quite novel and about which it is difficult to tell what the long-term results are going to be.

I am glad that this subject has now been put into a Parliamentary Bill, and I hope that it will so strengthen the law. However, there are some defects in the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill. First of all, although it refers to the extraction of constituents of food, and prohibits that so far as it renders the food injurious to health, it does not deal with the case in which the nutritive quality of the food is diminished—and it may be much diminished—by the abstraction of nutritive elements, and where, in fact, the residue which is left and which is sold to the public as a foodstuff may have some of the most important elements taken out altogether. One of the classic examples of this—I know there are those who have differing views—is the abstraction of the germ of wheat out of the wheat when it is being milled. The germ is used to a considerable extent for the purpose of making vitamin preparations which are then sold to the public at high prices in order to remedy the injury which has been caused to their health by the abstraction of this important constituent of the wheat grain. That is an illustration of the kind of thing which may very well happen and which, in the broadest sense at any rate, I think is injurious to health, although whether it would be so held for the purpose of this particular clause may well be somewhat doubtful.

As I said just now, attention is directed to the cumulative effect of consuming in small quantities the things which are added to food in its preparation or processing. The test which is made under subsection (5) of the Bill is what the probable effect will be upon a person of normal health. I do not know what the Government intend to be understood by "normal health." It is a phrase which does not appear to me to have any precise meaning. If it intended to imply a person in good health who is not suffering from any disease or bodily impairment, then I would draw the noble Earl's attention to a fact, with which I hope we are all quite familiar as a result of the statistics published by the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and other statistics which have been collected, that, judged by that standard, the majority of the population are not in normal health. It is a matter for serious consideration what the meaning of this phrase is, and whether it implies that it would be quite lawful to sell a foodstuff which had been treated in a manner which rendered it injurious to a person whose health was not perfect, and that the sale only of a foodstuff which would be injurious to somebody in perfect health would be prohibited. Those who are old—and the old are becoming a very large fraction of the population—and whose health, broadly speaking, is by no means perfect, are entitled to protection, I would submit, just as much as anybody else.

The next criticism which I wish to make of this Bill—and it is a criticism, of course, of the existing legislation as well—is that the onus of proof that an article of food has been rendered injurious to health is thrown upon the local authority as an enforcement agency, or else is thrown upon the consumer under those provisions where the consumer is given a remedy himself. In fact, it is quite impossible in most cases for the consumer to discharge the onus of proof in a subject which is so complicated as this, where it is difficult to disentagle the effects of various articles of food which have been eaten and the effects of a whole complex of circumstances which are capable of affecting the health of any individual. With all respect to those who have drafted this Bill, I suggest that the law requires to be strengthened, and that in those cases where synthetic chemicals, for example, are added to foodstuffs—things which have never been used as foodstuff before—there should be an obligation upon the manufacturer or upon the vendor to show that those articles, or the treatments to which the food has been subjected, are not injurious to health.

I submit that on simple scientific grounds there is a prima facie assumption that something which is not a natural article of food, and which has not been tested by the practical experience of mankind over a long period in consuming it, is to be suspect. I say that, I think, justifiably, because human beings, like all other living creatures, are the product of a long evolution and have been conditioned to the circumstances which have arisen during that evolution. It is a well-known scientific fact that evolutionary changes take place extremely slowly. They occupy tens or hundreds of thousands of years before their results become particularly noticeable, and it is therefore perfectly clear that if new articles of diet are introduced of an entirely unknown nature there cannot have been any evolutionary adaptment to them. Therefore they should be regarded with suspicion and should not be allowed to be introduced as articles of commerce and sold to the public in their foodstuffs unless it has been demonstrated that they are innocuous.

I think in that respect the Bill is extremely defective. These matters are becoming most serious because of the hundreds of new chemicals which have been introduced as part of articles of food, sometimes in substitution for natural constituents which have been abstracted out of them, and sometimes as flavouring, colouring or sweetening matters in order to make something which in itself is not attractive more attractive to the consumer than it would otherwise be. Indeed, this matter has reached the stage in which articles are being sold as foods which are wholly or completely synthetic, and which have no nutritive value whatever. There was a case reported fairly recently in which the city analyst of Birmingham analysed a meringue powder which was being sold to the public and discovered that it was composed of methyl cellulose, a synthetic chemical which is mainly derived from cotton wool or similar sources of cellulose and which has no nutritive quality whatsoever. A real meringue, which is made out of white of egg and sugar, is a valuable and nutritive article of food. To sell to the public something of the kind I have mentioned (in this particular case, apparently, its composition was approved by the Ministry of Food) seems to me to be a deception which should not be allowed. I do not want to detain the House any longer. There may be an opportunity of discussing a number of these questions on the Committee stage of one or other of the two Bills. I earnestly ask the Minister in charge of this one to consider the points I have raised.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill. I am very glad to see the Bill for Scotland coming on in this House so soon after the Bill covering England, which we discussed a week or so ago. This is an extremely valuable Bill bringing in a number of regulations. The Bill brings the matters under consideration up to date. It is very valuable that that should be done, and I am glad of it. I believe that the work which is being done, both in Scotland and in England, should produce a first-class result. I ventured to say in a speech which I made when the matter came up before us previously how excellent I thought the work that was now being done; and I believe that from the enactment of these two Bills we may expect a very considerable improvement in the public health.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I join with your Lordships who have already spoken in congratulating the noble Earl the Minister of State for Scotland in his speech in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. I also join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, a fellow Scot, on his promotion. This is a very important measure indeed, as has been stressed by previous speakers, since it opens up great opportunities for improving the standard of our food. I hope that Lord Woolton's suggestion, that the English Bill should be known popularly as "The Clean Food Bill" will be borne in mind, and applied also to this Bill. The suggestions that I submitted to your Lordships when the Second Reading of the English Bill was being debated on November 24 apply, of course, in this case, and I will not take up the time of your Lordships' House by repeating them. I should, however, like to extend some suggestions which I made about jam, since "real jam," the "jam that mother used to make," is an Indispensable part of our tea, a meal for which Scotland is famed throughout the world.

In my view, it was most unfortunate that earlier in this year, if I understand the matter aright, the Minister of Food decided to revoke certain orders which dealt with labels; I feel that this decision will ultimately be shown to be contrary to the interests of the community. This is a matter in which, no doubt, the Minister of Food will be guided by the Minister of Health. It surely cannot be thought that the Minister of Health who, and most rightly, is urging us to take steps to cut down the 5 million tons per annum of sulphur dioxide that fouls the air, can approve of the use of this noxious product in the manufacture of the bulk of the jam made in this country. If the Ministry of Food are to continue their approval—which heaven forbid!—of the manufacture of jam made from pulp, fruit pulp plus sulphur dioxide plus colouring matter, then I suggest that your Lordships should insist that the nature of this "witch's brew" should be described on the label. This, I understand, is not to be the case, and, if I am right, I suggest that that shows a complete disregard of the best interests of the community. I submit that if jam contains any colouring matter or preservative such as sulphur dioxide, the presence of such should be declared, and in legible form, on the label. This, surely, is fair to both consumer and manufacturer.

There are some manufacturers who make the "jam that mother used to make." The general public, who are becoming more and more insistent on getting food free from preservatives and processing, should be told quite frankly what they are buying. I think it is correct to say that some 300,000 tons of jam is made annually in Great Britain; and of this quantity only some 35,000 tons is made from "mother's recipe"—fresh fruit and sugar only. It is only this type of jam that can be imported into the United States. The bulk of the jam we manufacture would be forbidden, since foods containing sulphur dioxide in their make-up are not allowed to be used in, or imported into, the United States.

As your Lordships will know, Scotland produces some of the finest berries for jam-making. Pride of place is taken by the raspberry. Some of this fruit no doubt goes into the bulk of the jam made, to which I have already referred, being eventually mixed with fruit pulp coming from abroad. The fresh fruit is put into barrels containing sulphur dioxide and may be kept there for up to six months. That is the fresh fruit put into the barrels. This process in the "witch's brew" bleaches the fruit white and hardens it. As much of the sulphur dioxide as possible is removed by boiling, and then sugar and colouring are added in an endeavour to imitate the natural colour. If any of your Lordships has been present at this rite, it is a memory that will be with him for all time, since the stench from the barrels containing the fruit-sulphur dioxide mixture prior to boiling will never be forgotten. It quite "out-Herods" the smog. As your Lordships will appreciate, the makers of the 35,000 tons of "mother's jam" preserve their fruit by deep freezing. There is a distinct difference between the two qualities of jam, and I submit with all the force at my command that, without question, the label must accurately describe the product. So successful has been the deep freezing of our Scottish raspberries that the export of this fresh fruit to the United States which last year was some 500 tons, this year has exceeded 2,000 tons, leaving us a total of 10,000 tons for use in this country.

I must apologise to your Lordships for "boxing the compass" gastronomically in asking your Lordships to consider for a moment the kipper and other smoked fish specialities.


Before the noble Lord goes on to the kipper, is he seriously suggesting that this jam that mother did not make contains sulphur-dioxide in large quantities—sulphur dioxide being, of course, as the noble Lord knows, a gas? Is he suggesting that it exists in jam in any quantity?


I thank the noble Viscount for his remarks. I suggest that as much as possible of the sulphur dioxide is taken out by boiling, but I submit that that does not take out all the sulphur dioxide from the fruit pulp to which it has been added. I submit that the fact that such jam may not be imported into the United States of America, where they do not allow foods processed by sulphur dioxide, supports my argument on that point.

If I may, I will turn back for a moment to the kipper. Like jam, this once excellent delicacy has suffered from the effects of two wars. As your Lordships are well aware, there is nothing like a really good kipper, properly cooked. It is a dish that can compete in its own right, with success, with all other breakfast dishes. It would appear from the present figure of home consumption that something like 400 million per year are consumed by us—that is about eight per head per year. It is sad to say that the consumption of kippers is decreasing, along with that of other fish products. This, I feel sure, is due to a general decline in the standards of kippering which set in well before the last war with the introduction of the foul practice of dyeing. Most unfortunately, the dyeing before smoking has now become almost universal. By the process of dyeing, it is not necessary to smoke so thoroughly or for so long a time. This, of course, results in a greater yield, as your Lordships will be well aware, since more water is sold with the kipper. The dyed fish does not keep so well as the old-fashioned product; it is nothing like so tasty, and the general result is that a growing number of people have come to regard the so-called kipper with well-justified suspicion. The use of dye permits herrings of poor quality to pass to the market which would not be the case where the old traditional kippering method was used. Herrings suitable for kippering cannot be obtained all the year round, of course, and the kippering of herrings, low in fat content, has been made possible only by the camouflaging effect of dye. Only the large-scale application of deep freeze, afloat and ashore, would enable good-quality kippers, traditional kippers, to be marketed all the year round.

May I, in conclusion, suggest that too much notice can never be given to the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. If the general public were conscious of the discoveries made and the work done by that Department, they would insist on those higher standards which the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, has emphasised as being so very necessary. The noble Earl, Lord Home, has stressed the same line of thought to-day. The noble Viscount the other day made it clear that all that is desired to be done by this Bill cannot be done by regulation, but will, in the main, be done by awakening the public conscience to demand ever higher standards of food, and cleanliness in its service. I suggest that it would be of incalculable value if the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, who has that unique touch in manner and voice that brings him close to the late President Roosevelt, whose "fireside talks" over the radio will never be forgotten, could of an evening talk to us all over the B.B.C., and tell us at frequent intervals about the "jam that mother made," forgetting his famous pie. If he would do that, we should make progress to better food.

In connection with the mass production of kippers by the traditional method of smoking without dyeing, a tribute should be paid to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for the work done at their research station at Torry, in Aberdeen. If the Torry line is followed, then the consumption of the real kipper, not the masquerading impostor, will go up and up, and we shall all feel much happier at breakfast time. There is one other research station of the Department to which attention should be drawn, and that is the laboratory at Slough concerned with combating the infestation of produce by insects. This department works closely with the Infestation Control Division of the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, large quantities of foodstuffs are saved. One remarkable piece of work that has sprung from the Slough laboratory research is the development of a cheap and simple routine for preventing the breeding of blowflies in slaughterhouses, which, in hot weather in particular, present a serious problem. The importance of this work cannot be exaggerated. This development not only significantly improves hygiene in the slaughterhouses themselves but, in particular, in the surrounding areas to which blowflies were found to spread from distances up to three miles.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, may I, by the courtesy of the noble Earl, the Minister, say just a few words in answer to the question which the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition put directly to me? The question related to the propriety of combining in one Bill amendment and consolidation. Let me say at once that, so far as I am concerned, the noble and learned Earl knocks at an open door. I agree wholly with what he said. Indeed, I should be very sorry not to agree with him upon a subject which he has made particularly his own, and we are all greatly indebted to him for the improvement in the law which has been due to the consolidation in which he has taken so great an interest.

In the case of the English Bill dealing with food and drugs, that is exactly what we did. We had an Amending Bill and it is no secret to the noble and learned Earl—or it would be no secret to him if he read the Memorandum which I recently issued to the Committee of which he is a member—that there is now proceeding the preparation of a Consolidation Bill dealing with food and drugs which will incorporate the amendments in the Amending Bill when that Bill becomes an Act. That is, no doubt, the convenient way of doing it, although it does involve—this may be a little difficult tofollow—putting those who wish to understand it to the trouble of looking at a number of other Acts to which reference is made in the Amending Bill. That course was pursued in the case of the English Bill. It has not been pursued in the case of this Bill and, if I had known that the noble and learned Earl was going to raise the question, I have no doubt that I could have found a satisfactory answer.

I should have given the reason why there is this distinction between the English and the Scottish Bills. I understand that in England there was a Consolidation Bill in 1938, but in Scotland there was no such Bill, and I am told that an Amending Bill would have sinned with so numerous referential provisions that it would have been very difficult to follow. That may be one reason. Another reason—that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch—may be the real reason: that in Scotland they like to do things their own way; and it is obvious that this method met with the approval at any rate of Lord Douglas of Barloch. I think, however, there must be some special reason why this course has been followed in this particular case. Generally, I would agree with the noble and learned Earl that the convenient course is an Amending Bill; then, when it has become an Act and its consolidation is desired, to incorporate it in the body of law dealing with that subject. I am grateful to the noble and learned Earl for raising the question, and I can assure him, that so far as I am concerned that is the proper course.


I am grateful for what the noble and learned Lord has said. Before he sits down may I ask him this question? Would he bear in mind wren this is done (I think it would be an innovation but there is no reason why we should not have innovations) the possibility of indicating by some kind of special print or italics, or something of that sort, what is new and what is old? Then we in this House shall be able to concentrate upon looking at the new rather than at the old.


I will certainly bear in mind what has been said by the noble and learned Earl. I do not know that it would be very easy, because with a consolidating Bill there are small variations at almost every point, and then it is difficult to say what is old and what is new. There is no clear distinction such as the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, was thinking of. But, certainly, if it becomes necessary again to introduce a Bill in this way, the noble and learned Earl's suggestion will be borne in mind.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and leaned Earl and to the Lord Chancellor for raising this question. When the noble and learned Earl says that this form of Dill makes it difficult for the Opposition to criticise, I hope he will not exempt the Minister in charge of the Bill from bewilderment also. I have every sympathy with what he has said and I hope that some effective way will be found of getting over the difficulty. However, the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, has said that we have been able to do a good job in putting together different provisions from different Acts and making a fairly coherent measure.

Lord Greenhill asked me two questions. If he will look at Clause 2 (1) I think he will find that drugs are not exempted from this provision. This is a matter of drafting and I will look at it again, but what that subsection says is that "food" means food for human consumption. It is necessary to put that in partly because (I hope I am not reminding the noble Lord of something that he has probably forgotten) there is castor oil for human beings and castor oil for animals, and it is necessary to make clear from time to time that we are talking about food for human consumption, and partly because drugs are not always for human consumption—they may be for human application. This is really a difficulty in drafting; the draftsmen tell us that this is in the best form. However, I will have another look at it, with that observation in mind. May I now turn to the noble Lord's point about expenses and how they will be dealt with. The answer is that we do not anticipate that there will be much extra spent on these services. There is no provision for some new ad hoc grant in this Bill. The expenditure will fall on the rates, or on the equalisation grant where that is payable—I am afraid it is not in Glasgow.

The noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, Lord Douglas of Barloch, and others, have all given a general welcome to this Bill, with some qualifications. I hope that when we come to another stage of the Bill Lord Douglas of Barloch will find that the diminution of the value of food by abstraction is covered in Clause 2; that honest labelling, in which both he and Lord Sempill were interested, is covered by Clauses 6 and 7, and that under Clause 4 the Ministers can, where necessary, prescribe the composition of food. This Bill is an honest attempt to do what we can to make food pure and clean, and I thank your Lordships for accepting it as such.

On Question, Bill read 2a; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.