§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith), CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, in the Chair.]
§ (In the Committee.)
That clause 1 stand part of the Bill.
§ "Agreed to.990
That clause 2 stand part of the Bill.
§ Agreed to.
That clause 3 stand part of the Bill.
Page 1, line 22, after 'thereof' add—
'One-third of the total number of the members of the council shall consist of chemists and druggists who are associates of the society."'—(Mr. Yoxall.)
§ MR. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
The object of the Amendment I proposed to move is to prevent the present educational test applied by the society to those who wish to rank as members from being lowered in the future. At present there are two tests applied in two ranks of the society; the major examination qualifying for membership to the society, and the minor examination qualifying for associateship. The object of the Bill was to enable those who were now associates to become members without passing the higher test. I am aware that during the lapse of years the lower test has been made almost as stringent as the higher test used to be, and a good deal of my objection is removed by that consideration. If the honourable and gallant Member in charge of the Bill would be so good as to give me an undertaking as far as he can that the society will, in view of a subsequent Bill, take into consideration the idea of constituting those who were now members fellows, so as to preserve the relative proportion between the present members fellows, ciates, in that case, between fellows and members, I shall be quite willing not to press the Amendment I have put down, and I hope for an assurance on that point.
§ * MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
I do not like to pledge the Pharmaceutical Society, but I will bring to their attention the suggestion of the honourable Member, and I do not believe there will be any opposition.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clauses 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and schedule, agreed to.
The following Amendment stood on the Paper—
Insert the following clause—
That nothing in this Act nor in the Act to regulate the sale of poisons, 31 and 32 Viet., c. 121, entitled the Pharmacy Act, 1868 shall apply to or interfere with the business of persons who are engaged in the sale, distribution, or manufacture of insecticides, destroyers of vermin, or disease germs in plants, of ant destroyers, of preparations for prevention of disease in potatoes, grain, or other field or garden crops, or for the preservation and protection of plants from disease in greenhouses or in the open air, or for other such or similar purposes, or of sheep dips or wool dressings or other articles used for such purposes."—(Mr. Alexander Cross.)
§ * DR. CLARK (Caithness)
In reference to the clause put down by my honourable Friend the Member for Camlachie Division of Glasgow I want to ask the Government, who, I understand, are practically in favour of the Bill, what their intentions are with reference to that Amendment. My honourable Friend is opposing the Bill for this reason—that he is a wholesale seed merchant, and is in the habit of sending out to the farmers and cattle dealers antiseptic solutions for the purpose of killing vermin, and some of those antiseptic solutions contain scheduled poisons. My honourable Friend and others of his type are in the habit of sending out for various purposes these poisons wholesale in large quantities, mixed up with other things, and they have found that the society has prevented them from selling for commercial and agricultural purposes such poisons. I understand that the Government have practically pledged themselves to bring in a Bill to amend the Act, in order that seedsmen and other tradesmen of that type might be enabled to sell such poisons, and that farmers and others might not be compelled to buy them from chemists at three or four times the rate charged by seedsmen. That is the reason why my honourable Friend opposes the Bill. Do the Govern- 992 ment intend to bring in a Bill dealing with that matter? Otherwise I shall feel inclined to move the clause of my honourable Friend as an additional clause to the Bill, because the intention of the Bill in giving powers to the Pharmaceutical Society only to sell poisons is to prevent the sale of poisons or the sale of drugs for medicinal purposes only. There are in anti-fouling compositions poisons which the Pharmaceutical Society might prevent anyone else besides themselves from selling, and I want to understand that the Pharmaceutical Society will not use the powers which they obtained for one purpose for an entirely different purpose. I do not, of course, suppose that the Government Bill will be produced this Session, but I want to understand from the representatives of the Pharmaceutical Society in the House that they will not use the powers which they get under the Bill in the direction I have indicated. At the present time the Act in force is an absolute farce. Until lately the nearest chemist's shop to this House was kept by a man who is unqualified, but by calling his establishment a drug store, and by not selling certain poisons, he gets rid of the provisions of the Act. What ought to be done is to get the Act amended so that it shall not be used for the purpose of preventing the sale of poisons for other than medicinal purposes—for the purposes of seedsmen and agriculturists, generally. I do not know whether the honourable and gallant Member in charge of the Bill can give us any pledge of that kind. If he cannot, I shall feel it my duty to move the clause.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
Does the proposed clause come within the scope of the Bill, Mr. Lowther?
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeen, W.)
I do not think it matters for what purpose the poisons are going to be used. What we want is to stop the unrestricted sale of poisons. The Bill gives no additional powers to the Pharmaceutical Society, and none of them can have any doubt that that society has done good work in the past in preventing that which my honourable Friend [Dr. Clark] has pointed out—that is the way in 993 which associations calling themselves drug stores are practically allowed to get out of the provisions of the Pharmacy Act, and to sell poisons without let or hindrance. This Bill has nothing whatever to do with that question at all. What my honourable Friend said is really a question of a Bill to regulate the sale of poisons, and if I may give him advice it would be that he should not stir up what is a very difficult question. If people are to be told that very dangerous poisons indeed are to be sold by people trading under the guise of sellers of agricultural produce and agricultural manures, and other things of that kind, it will be raising a very dangerous and very difficult question, and a very threatening question, which I think my honourable Friend, if he is well advised, will not stir up at this present moment. Many of us think that there are a number of very dangerous poisons sold by agricultural chemists without let or hindrance.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I should like to support the remarks of my honourable Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire. We have had within the last few days a. very striking example that it is extremely undesirable to retain those very lax regulations, or absence of regulations, with regard to the sale of poisons. In the case which is present to all our minds the man committed a frightful murder owing to the facilities under which poisons could be obtained in a chemist's shop, and if public attention is drawn to the facilities for obtaining deadly poisons under the guise of merely agricultural purposes, surely the danger will be exceedingly great. I do not think my honourable Friend will be well advised in pressing the new clause.
§ * DR. CLARK
In reference to that matter, poisons in those forms for commercial purposes cannot be used for murder at all, because they must be mixed first with indigo blue or soot, so that they could not be used for the purpose of poisoning people. The clause is this—That nothing in this Act nor in the Act to regulate the sale of poisons, 31 and 32 Vict., c. 121, entitled the Pharmacy Act, 1868, shall apply to or interfere with the business of persons who are engaged in the sale, distribu- 994 tion, or manufacture of insecticides, destroyers of vermin, or disease germs in plants, of ant destroyers, of preparations for prevention of disease in potatoes, grain, or other field or garden crops, or for the preservation and protection of plants from disease in greenhouses or in the open air, or for other such or similar purposes, or of sheep dips or wool dressings or other articles used for such purposes.Now, Sir, the condition of things at present is perfectly ridiculous, because you can buy some of the most powerful poisons which are not scheduled at all. Take, for instance, a poison which is sold very plentifully—carbolic acid; that is not scheduled as a poison, and yet it is one of the most dangerous poisons, although it can be bought by anyone in any quantity, anywhere. This Bill is only a small Bill for the purpose of admitting associates to the membership of the soeicty—in fact, it is merely for the internal arrangements of the society. I do not know whether there is anybody here on behalf of the Local Government Board, but I understand that they have a Bill in hand which they intend to bring in. We want legislation in order that the principle and object of the Pharmacy Act should be carried out, and that there shall be great restriction upon the sale of poisons, especially those which are not mixed with blue or soot, so as to prevent them from being used as human poisons. The schedule ought to be amplified and amended in order to include all poisons; and poisons like arsenic mixed with articles which you cannot separate very well except by it chemical process, and which no non-chemist could separate, should not be restricted. In the case alluded to by my honourable Friend they went to the chemist and bought any amount of poison. I think there should be a limitation as to the amount of poison to be sold, and there should be strict conditions under which it should be sold, and I ask the Government whether they intend to bring in a Bill to amend the Pharmacy Act in one or two particulars. Can I get any information from the Government respecting this?
The honourable Member for Wigan asked me whether this clause was in order or not, and I said it was; but, after hearing the arguments, I must confess that I have made a mistake, excepting so far as the first few 995 words of the clause go, and, if the clause is to proceed at all, the words relating to the amendment of the Pharmacy Act must come out, because they are not really germane to this Bill. The clause will be in order if it remains in this form—That nothing in this Act shall apply to or interfere with the business of persons who are engaged in the sale, distribution, or manufacture of insecticides,and so on to the end of the clause. The words—Nor in the Act to regulate the sale of poisons, 31 and 32 Vic, c. 121, entitled the Pharmacy Act, 1868,must come out.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL
If the Committee will allow me a moment. I very much deprecate entering upon a discussion of this subject. This is not the time to relax the law relating to the sale of poisons. The experience of the last few months has shown the necessity for rigid supervision of poison for the protection of the health and life of the people. Although the clause in its new form may be technically within the rules of the House, I certainly think it is, to use a colloquial expression, a somewhat strong order to insert any provisions relating to the sale of poisons in a Bill dealing with the internal constitution of the Pharmaceutical Society. It is certainly an extremely inconvenient course, and I do not think it is quite fair to the public. The public have a very large interest in the safety of life and in the prevention of the sale of poisons which are injurious to health, and I do not think it is a reasonable proposition to introduce a suggestion of this kind into a Bill dealing simply and solely with the constitution of the society.
§ * MR. BROOKFIELD
I trust that the honourable Member for Caithness will not proceed with this proposal. I do not intend to try and analyse the honourable Member's motive in bringing it forward, but I do not think his object is at all the same as the object of my honourable Friend the Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow. The object of the 996 honourable Member for Caithness is to restrict and regulate the sale of poisons, and to make it more difficult for people to buy them, and, whatever their object in so doing may be, he wishes their sale to be put under a thoroughly sound restriction, and to enlarge the schedule rather than diminish it. On the other hand the object of the honourable Member for the Camlachie Division (I am not imputing any criminal motive to him) is to facilitate the sale of poisons, and the particular poison for which he is responsible is, I believe, sold for a very useful and proper purpose, but I think that most Members of the Committee will agree that so serious a proposal as is contained in this new clause should not be tacked on to the end of a Bill for the better government and constitution of a perfectly harmless and respectable corporation. I cannot therefore accept the proposal, although I sympathise entirely with the intentions of the honourable Member for Caithness in bringing it forward. I trust he will withdraw the clause.
§ MR. BURNS (Battersea)
It is evident from this discussion that the facility with which many poisons can be obtained makes the Pharmacy Act appear to be in a most unsatisfactory condition, and the honourable Member who has charge of this Bill had better tell his friends the Pharmaceutical Society, who are responsible for introducing it, that though this Bill heightens the qualification for future members of the society—and in that respect everyone will welcome their proposals—yet they have not discharged their duty to the House of Commons by merely having improved the status of their future members, and they should not rest content to leave the general question of poisons in its present most unsatisfactory condition. I support the general objects of this Bill. Anything that would educate a chemist or anyone else is a subject for my support, and I believe the average chemist and the mixer of poisons is capable of much education in the right direction. I believe that when properly educated and properly qualified and controlled, the sale of poisons will be considerably restricted to the proper persons. But I venture to say that it is not sufficient for the chemists and druggists and the 997 Pharmaceutical Society to get this Bill through. As I said before, they have got to recognise their greater duty to the public, and that is that as soon as they put their own house in order they must join either with the Government or with the honourable and gallant Member who has charge of this Bill, and put the sale of poisons in such a condition that the wholesale seed merchant and the seller of sheep dips and of marine sealing composition and of agricultural manures, who are trading bonâ fide in goods which must have poison as one of their principal ingredients for the profitable carrying on of their business, shall not be handicapped by the exclusive and elevated qualifications that this Bill gives to the Pharmaceutical Society. If the honourable and gallant Gentleman will accept that useful suggestion he will, I think, facilitate the passing of his Bill. Turning to another subject, I should like to point out, and even if he gets this Bill, that the character of the students and the members of the society are as high as this Bill will allow them to be, he has still got to tell the society that there have been recent poisoning cases in which members of this society have shown great laxity within the last four or five months, and that has got to be rigorously suppressed by the society itself. Take, for example, that frightful tragedy, the poisoning by herself of Mrs. Aveling, at Norwood. I am convinced that if the chemist and druggist who sold that poison had done his duty, both to the society and to the public, that that lamentable event might have been avoided. The mere passing of a Bill will not prevent a recurrence of these things unless the Pharmaceutical Society impresses upon their members the necessity for putting into operation the law with all the vigour and rigour they are capable of. Acts of Parliament are all very well in their way if they are good, but if the men who enforce them and the regulations that assist their enforcement and administration are guilty of great laxity, there is not much good even in an Act of Parliament. I would suggest to the honourable Member who is likely to get his Bill today to read into this Bill the various suggestions which have been made for the future regulation of the sale of poisons generally, and to tell his friends, the Pharma- 998 ceutical Society, that when they get this Bill they must use it with greater courage and greater discretion than the other Acts and regulations have been used in the interests of the public. Generally speaking, I approve of the objects of the Bill, but I trust that the Government, who ought to be responsible for the better regulation of the sale of poisons, will take note of the discussion today, and put the whole question of the sale of poisons, both for medicinal and commercial purposes, on a satisfactory basis, and back this present Bill up by a more general Bill, which the public necessities undoubtedly demand, and which the Pharmaceutical Society and profession generally ought to assist the Government in passing by every means in their power.
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
I think I must ask my honourable Friend not to press this Amendment. I also shall be a sufferer in a small way if the exclusive sale of poisons is confined to the society, because the anti-fouling compositions, of which we use large quantities for our ships, contain a very large proportion of arsenic, and if we are restricted it will probably handicap our business. I am greatly in favour of making the sale of poisons as difficult as possible, but still not so as to handicap their sale in a wholesale way, so as to make it absolutely impossible for any person to use them in the way of business. Sold by tons, and skilfully disguised, I do not think there is any danger in leaving their sale in the hands of the people who at present dispose of them. I hope my honourable Friend will withdraw his Amendment.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
I would ask my honourable Friend, who represents the Local Government Board, if he will tell us what the intentions of the Government are with regard to the Poisons Bill which has been promised. This is not a Poisons Bill, and the Amendment indeed is entirely outside the scope of the Bill. I agree with my honourable Friend in this, that if by some other means the general status of the Pharmaceutical Society can be raised we shall have much greater earnest of their desire to exercise the most rigid precautions in the matter of the sale of poison. I know 999 enough of their intention to promise this in their name, that they will give the Government the most ample support in passing a really good Poisons Bill so as to place this great question on a more sure and safe footing.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
Although this Bill does not come at all within the scope of the Local Government Board, yet, having listened to the Debate, I think that the honourable Member for Caithness will be well advised to withdraw his Amendment, because it raises questions which can be very well avoided in this Bill.
§ * DR. CLARK
I do not at all wish to stop the progress of this Bill. On the contrary I would advance it. But I do press upon the Government this fact, that the present condition of things is very unsatisfactory. There are any number of deadly poisons which are sold unrestrictedly. In the schedule to the Act of Parliament the list of poisons is a regular farce. Take, for instance, cyanide of potassium, which is probably one of the most deadly poisons. That is used very largely in Wales, and if you are making any change that poison should be scheduled. The reason why the honourable Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow brought forward this Amendment is because he is a wholesale seedsman—just as my honourable Friend the Member for Kilmarnock Burghs has used tons of arsenical preparations upon his ships. The Pharmaceutical Society brought a prosecution against my honourable Friend who put down this Amendment because he was selling them, and it was in consequence of that prosecution that he put down this Amendment. I have pressed upon the Government the condition of affairs, and I hope that something will be done to still further restrict the sale of poisons, especially in quantities that will destroy human life. At present anyone can go and give a fictitious name and purchase as much as would kill every Member of this House. What we want is to have still further amendment in the Pharmacy Act and in the schedule of poisons. Perhaps by and bye the Government will get time to consider the matter. I beg to withdraw the Motion.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported without Amendment.
§ On the Motion for the Third Reading,
§ * MR. BROOKFIELD
So far as I am responsible, I shall communicate to the society the wishes of the honourable Members and others that the society should give the most strict attention to the subject of regulating the sale of poisons; and if I can also persuade them to follow any proposal that the Government may make in the same direction, it will be my duty to do that as well. I entirely sympathise with the views the honourable Member has expressed, and I may venture to remind him that the whole scope and intention of this Measure relating to the composition of the Pharmaceutical Society is to give a more democratic character to it than it has ever had before.
§ Bill read a third time.