I beg to move, in page 6, line 22, after "packaging," to insert "wrapping."
This Amendment has been put down to meet a point made by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) on Second Reading. In order to make clear that "wrapping" is intended, we have accepted the suggestion to add the word.
§ Dr. Stross
In this matter, as in all the items on which the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary have been able to meet us, and have thus allowed us to help in making the Bill better, we are very grateful, and have pleasure in saying so.
§ Amendment agreed to.1489
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I beg to move, in page 6, line 27, after "provision," to insert:(a) for prohibiting in private dwelling-houses the handling and wrapping by persons residing therein of articles intended for sale for human consumption.My hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), in whose name this Amendment appears on the Order Paper, regrets most deeply that he has been called away and is unable to move the Amendment to which he attaches considerable importance. He has asked me to put before the House and the Minister a serious problem which has, I understand, arisen all over the country, and certainly in West London.
It is, apparently, the custom in West London for certain sweet manufacturing firms to send out unpacked sweetmeats to be packed in private houses. Nobody would want to prevent people, very often in humble circumstances, from earning a living, but I think it difficult to imagine anything more unsuited for home work than the packing of sweets. As children are the greatest sweet eaters, any suspicion of dirt getting into them is a very serious matter.
I believe that provision is made in the Factories Acts for such cases to be registered with the local authority and for the sanitary inspector to inspect the building. It is not at all clear what precisely are the powers of the public health authority under the Factories Acts. They have power to inspect the building, and, presumably, if the building is unsuitable they can deal with the matter. But it is much less clear what power they have for dealing with the people actually doing the work.
One can imagine what happens in some of these cases. A contract may be made with, say, the housewife. She may be the person nominally responsible for doing the work, but what in fact often happens is that the whole family sit round the table wrapping the sweets in order to earn an honest penny. Very often some members of the family are children with dirty hands. It is quite possible to inspect the housewife and to find that she is in good health, but there is no guarantee at all that the other members of the family may not have some form of skin disease or some kind of infection which might make it most unsuitable for them to do this work.
1490 This problem has also arisen in the Metropolitan Borough of Paddington of whose council I am a member. We discussed this problem at our last council meeting and on both sides the general feeling was expressed that we needed more power to deal with the matter, and guidance from the Government as to precisely what our powers were for dealing with it. Quite independent of that experience, my hon. Friend the Member for Acton has had a communication from his local authority in precisely the same terms. This seems to prove that it is a growing and increasing danger.
This Amendment seems the most sensible way of tackling the matter. The acceptance of the Amendment would give the Minister authority to make regulations, dealing with the problem as and when he finds it. It is obviously impossible to lay down in detail the precise form that the regulation should take, what restrictions should be made and what type of inspection there should be. In a varying situation like this it would be impossible to do all that by statutory enactment.
What we can do is to empower the Minister to make regulations dealing with the problem so that when he receives, complaints from public health authorities he can deal with them by order and can give guidance to the authorities for the enforcement of these regulations.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I beg to second the Amendment.
As I read the Bill, the fact that the Minister is given power to prohibit does not oblige him to prohibit in every case. Therefore it would not make much difference if the words "or regulating" were added. If the Minister feels otherwise about that, no doubt he will say so. This seems to be a real point and one which only with difficulty can be brought within the general words of the Clause.
Obviously some funny things are happening in Acton and Paddington, and since, in some respects, Acton and Paddington are good and progressive places, it may be that worse things are happening in some dim dark boroughs about which we have no particular information.
I can reassure the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that the necessary power already resides in Clause 6. Indeed, it is proposed—let us go carefully with these words—to include in the 1491 regulation a form of words to which I will refer in a moment. The difficulty about the proposal in its present form is that the regulations would prohibit the handling of food, wrapping and otherwise, in the living-room behind the country shop. That is done, and, in some circumstances, necessarily done. Secondly—this is quite a small point, but I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate it—there might be a relation living in the house engaged in this work who would not be covered by this form of words.
With that in mind we are proposing, subject to approval, to use in the regulation the following words:No person shall wrap any food in a domestic living room unless such food has been prepared at or is sold or intended for sale at the premises of which the living room forms part.
§ Captain Duncan
I am advised that there is a special problem here, but I am not quite sure that I follow my hon. Friend in the way in which he proposes to deal with it. After all, this Amendment suggests that duly authorised officers should enter private dwelling-houses in Acton and Paddington, or wherever this trade is being carried on.
The penalty is not intended for the man making money out of the manufacture of these sweets, but for the poor individual sitting in his dwelling-house. Under Section 25, he is liable to a fine of £100 or six months' imprisonment. That is a very severe punishment.
Under Section 77 of the 1938 Act, the officers are entitled to enter food premises. How are these offences going to be proved? Is it proposed that under Section 77 these authorised officers shall enter private dwelling-houses in order to ascertain whether the law is being broken and whether an offence is being committed? I think that is a very dangerous situation.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that in the old days the Englishman's home was his castle and he had the right to refuse entry to anybody. I admit that that has been broken into in certain cases, but it is a right which we ought to preserve to our utmost ability. There may be a special reason for it in Paddington and Acton, 1492 but there are dangers in allowing authorised officers to go into a private dwelling-house for the purpose of finding offences, which are punishable by £100 fine or three months' imprisonment. Surely the right way to deal with this matter is in some way to get at the manufacturers of the sweets, not penalise the servants of the company who may be women working part-time to make a little money on the side.
§ Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)
When I was in private practice I saw a great deal of this kind of work being done in people's homes, and for that reason I ask the House to approve the Amendment. We must protect people in some way against the unsupervised preparation and manufacture of food. Harm is not done deliberately, but many of these homes are not clean and many of those who indulge in small attempts at selling food have a very limited knowledge of hygiene and of how food deteriorates in certain conditions.
I have seen in certain homes in London these little attempts at increasing income carried out in conditions under which it would be absolutely impossible to keep the ordinary home tidy and clean. I beg the House to suppress this practice. The Amendment is a very reasonable and necessary protection of the ordinary common person who buys a few articles of food occasionally from people who prepare them at home without any knowledge of food hygiene or of the manufacture of things that are intended for public consumption.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan) for his support, more especially as he is a neighbour of mine in Lancashire and has shared with me membership of a Metropolitan borough council. In view of the fact that the Minister has met the proposal so generously and has promised in very clear terms that he will deal with the mischief by regulation, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Acton will approve my response. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 10, at the end, to insert:(e) for imposing requirements as to the clothing worn by persons in such premises.1493 The Amendment is moved in response to an undertaking which we gave at the end of a previous debate on Amendments relating to this subject which were proposed by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) and hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley). I think that it meets the situation.
§ Mr. Willey
We are much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for meeting us on this point. Some doubt was expressed as to whether it was covered in the Bill. We are happy that the right hon. Gentleman has met us by making explicit provision, serving the additional purpose of calling attention to the fact and giving forewarning that regulations will be made imposing requirements regarding clothing.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Dr. Stross
I beg to, move, in page 7, line 10, at the end, to insert:(e) for requiring the medical examination of persons engaged in preparing, handling, wrapping or delivering food where such persons have not previously been so engaged.The Amendment has some importance. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is modestly and properly framed, that it is not the type of Amendment which will give much trouble and that what influence it will have will be a good influence.
The House will remember that we discussed an Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) on this subject. Objection was brought against it on the ground that it would mean that a large amount of special clinical work would have to be done, mainly of a bacteriological nature, on a vast number of people. It was held that the machinery would have been overloaded and that it would not have been possible to carry out the work satisfactorily.
When I spoke on that occasion I had in mind what I have put down in the words of the Amendment, namely, that we should examine new entrants and that it should be a simple examination, but one which would remove obvious possible causes of contamination of our food such as might cause food poisoning. There is a draft Food Hygiene Regulation which declares, quite rightly, that no one must work in this industry if he or she suffers from or is a carrier of typhoid, paratyphoid, or other salmo- 1494 nella infection, or dysentery, or staphylococcal infection likely to cause food poisoning, that we expect people to get better before they return to work, and that they must produce a certificate to say that they are free of such infections when they return. What do we do about other matters? We have a suggested code of practice which I suggest imposes an obligation on an employee which he cannot carry out.
It states that:The proprietor or manager of a food business should, when interviewing applicants for employment, make such enquiries as he reasonably can to ascertain whether the applicant has a satisfactory medical history and whether from the standpoint of apparent personal cleanliness he is otherwise suitable for employment in the food trade. Applicants having suffered from typhoid or paratyphoid fever should not be engaged until medical approval has been given.That is in the code, but it is not fair. It is the family doctor who should ask such questions of a new applicant. That is why I have worded the Amendment as it stands.
In the case of those who are working, serious illnesses are handled under regulations. All the others are catered for in paragraphs 9 to 12 inclusive in the Code, where there is an obligation on the worker to report every kind of illness from which he or she suffers and an obligation on the employer to make sure that his workpeople are not so suffering or, if they are, to take certain steps.
That is good. We are covered for serious illnesses and minor types of illnesses. The serious illnesses are covered by the regulations and the minor ones by the code for those who are working in the industry, but we leave new entrants without knowing whether they are ill, fit or clean, save that we put into the code the requirement that the employer should take a medical history from his workpeople when he employs them. That is wrong and hardly matches the serious way in which we have been discussing the Bill. Would we strain the medical machine if, under regulations, we suggested that a new entrant must take a medical certificate from the family doctor to say that he or she is fit for employment in food handling? I do not know how many new entrants come into the industry all told, but it is not likely to be more than 30,000 or 60,000 a year. 1495 If the number is 30,000, that means one more examination per doctor per year, and if it be 60,000, two examinations per doctor per year, on an average.
It would be an examination which a family doctor could make very quickly because he has records of his patients and knows them well. The Parliamentary Secretary, with his very great experience, will bear me out on this point. It should not be beyond the wit or ingenuity of his Department, or of the Ministry of Health, to frame a small form for use by the family doctor and new entrants could get this leaflet from the employer to take to their family doctors. That is the kind of thing we have in mind. Obviously people with suppurations from the ears, if pus is running from the ears, would not be suitable for such work until they had been treated and made better. A person with multiple boils, with suppurating acne of a very bad type, suffering from serious infections of a staphylococcal nature, or anyone with ringworm of the nail should not do this work until they had recovered from the infection.
If these simple matters were attended to in the way I have suggested, I think that without any fuss or bother or interference with those working in the industry we could make certain by a simple expedient, that those entering the industry should get treatment. They would be made aware of the conditions from which they are suffering and which renders them unfit.
§ Dr. Broughton
I beg to second the Amendment.
I wish to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to some evidence in support of our case. The Parliamentary Secretary has made it necessary for me first to deal with some remarks he made earlier. He made the ridiculous accusation that we on the Opposition benches are more concerned with the welfare of the caterers than of the public. Of course that is quite fantastic. We are concerned with the welfare of the public first and foremost, but we have the good sense to realise that in order that the public shall benefit by the measures contained in this Bill there must be cooperation with the caterers. In spite of the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary——
§ Dr. Broughton
I was going on to refer to a recommendation made by the caterers prior to the Second Reading of the Bill. These proposed hygiene regulations were compiled and submitted to the Minister before the Second Reading of the Bill and the Federation kindly sent me a copy. My hon. Friends and I noticed that the first recommendation was that:Persons normally engaged in the handling of food shall not be known carriers of infection, shall be free from infection and be in possession of a personal hygiene certificate issued by a medical officer of health or his deputy.Having seen that, we put down an Amendment suggesting the medical examination of all people engaged in the handling of food. The Parliamentary Secretary rejected that Amendment, explaining that it would be impossible to have a medical examination of all people handling food because of their large numbers. We saw the wisdom of his argument and withdrew our Amendment. We have considered the matter since then and now we put it forward in this modified form.
After the House has listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) putting our case so clearly, the Parliamentary Secretary will be bound to admit that our suggestion is a very reasonable one, which can be brought into operation without very much difficulty.
§ 8.15 p.m.
All my experience and instincts, like those of the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), are in favour of medical examination where that is appropriate. But we must ask ourselves what is likely to be gained in terms of protection of the public. I hesitate to refer to the working party that has been referred to, but it examined this matter and stated:A medical examination without detailed or repeated bacteriological examinations gives no protection but merely a false feeling of security.If, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) fairly did, we set aside more serious conditions dealt with in the Public Health Regulations and the proposed regulations and asked 1497 what the examining doctor is likely to gain from the simple examination described by the hon. Member, what would be the result? It might well be that he would discover an apparent infectious condition of the kind illustrated. On the other hand, it is much more likely that the man would be perfectly fit and would get that sense of security which comes from having a certificate. Subsequently he may get an infection of one kind or another which, while the infection was on him, would render it undesirable that he should be so employed.
I am coming to that. If scrutiny on one occasion by his medical practitioner is to yield information of merit—let us face the fact—perhaps the only kind of scrutiny which will be of real value will be that in search of the carrier. I will not describe the lurid details, but the hon. Member may take it that it involves the most complicated, extensive and prolonged investigation. The argument for a simple medical examination brings me to the conclusion that it would be of relatively little value in protecting the public against those conditions which are the commonest source of danger—the common cold, infected skin and the like. It would give a sense of security quite unwarranted by the facts.
A further point, which is more for others than for myself, is that a man otherwise acceptable for the post might be rejected on a ground quite irrelevant to his future employment. I do not want to see this kind of medical examination being used to determine whether a man should or should not be accepted for employment. That is another field of inquiry. But do not let us have an examination which would do little to provide security for the public and which might promote an entirely false sense of security.
§ Mr. G. Darling
I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary would be prepared to look at this matter again, not perhaps in this form? He appears to me to have overstated the case when referring to the difficulties of a medical examination when a person is seeking a job. It is done on the railways and in quite a number of industries, although I admit that such 1498 examination is not so thorough as would be required in this case.
My point is perhaps a matter of arithmetic. I am not a medical man and I may be completely wrong; but as I see it, there are one or two diseases which may be contracted by people employed in the food trade, such as tuberculosis for example, and it would be wrong for them to handle certain types of food. That would not apply in the case of fruit and vegetables but I had in mind such things as cooked foods. Perhaps it might be arranged that a periodical examination be made to weed out people suffering from an infection or disease which might make them a source of danger if they handled food.
I wish to refer to one other point, the currency given to the complete misinterpretation of our intentions by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) during a television programme. I hope that the very misleading statements which went out to the public will be corrected by what we are doing here and now.
§ Mr. Willey
I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) and also to say that there seemed to be a point in the speeches of my hon. Friends who have medical qualifications. The Parliamentary Secretary said that if he left it to his instinct he would agree with them, but if he resorted to his reasoning he could not accept their case. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to rely on his instinct. We have had his reasoning exposed so often that we would rather that he relied on his instinct which, in short, means his experience.
I will concede at once that there may be difficulties about this specific proposal, but the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the report of the Catering Trade Working Party. In fact, the reports of both working parties emphasised the necessity for extending the provisions of the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations and that is the purpose behind this Amendment. It may be that without an Amendment it would be possible to go further along the lines we now desire, and so I will again appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to rely upon his instinct and to assure us that he is aware of the problem and the need to go wider than we have gone hitherto. Whether or not 1499 he goes the whole way, as my hon. Friends suggest, at any rate I hope that he will assure us that his Department is seized of the need to go wider and to provide some adequate protection.
I have concentrated my attention specifically on the inclusion of new words, but I agree that there are loopholes in the medical examination provisions. I can give the assurance that we shall keep constantly in mind ways and means of strengthening the medical supervision so as to eliminate diseases relating to this problem, but I think that this proposal would give a false sense of security and be no solution to the problem.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to go a little further? I agree that this proposal is put forward in a very sweeping form. But surely he is at present proposing to deprive himself of any power to order a medical examination, and is not that rash? Is it not possible that he might need some local or temporary power, according to the conditions, in some case where there might be an outbreak or an epidemic? Woud it not be wise, not necessarily to accept this Amendment, but to undertake to give himself power to require a medical examination of employees in the industry in appropriate cases? So far as I can see, it is at least doubtful if he has such power at present.
§ Dr. Stross
The Parliamentary Secretary has disappointed me. I think that his arguments are wrong. I-le must forgive me for adopting this view, but we face each other day in and day out, and year in and year out, and we get to know each other fairly well. I do not think that he——
§ Dr. Stross
May I put it in this way, that having moved this Amendment and not feeling content with the answer——
§ Dr. Stross
Am I entitled to ask a question before I make up my mind which way to use my vote? May I ask a question?
§ Dr. Stross
May I put the point to you, Sir, and you may consider whether I put it in my speech? The question is whether the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to look at this matter again.
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 15, after "staining," to insert "or sterilisation."
This Amendment goes together with the Amendment in line 19, to leave out from "yards," to "any," in line 20, and to insert:or which, though not unfit for human consumption, is not intended therefor;(g) for regulating generally the treatment and disposal of.This is an important though small Amendment to meet a not unimportant point. The Minister wishes to be fully empowered to make regulations regarding the sterilisation of diseased meat in slaughterhouses and knackers' yards, and we seek to deal with the position at the pet shop. In fact, if the pet shop buys fresh butchers' meat which is not stained or sterilised hon. Members will appreciate what a ready answer that may provide in certain circumstances. It is therefore proposed to make the requirement of staining or sterilising such meat at the pet shop level, otherwise it would be possible to drive a horse and cart through the regulations.
§ Dr. Broughton
I believe the Amendments meet the point which some of my hon. Friends raised during Committee. The Minister has considered the speeches of my hon. Friends and accepted their recommendations, and we welcome the Amendments.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 7, line 19, leave out from "yards," to "any," in line 20, and insert:
or which, though not unfit for human consumption, is not intended therefor;
(g) for regulating generally the treatment and disposal of."—[Dr. Hill.]
I beg to move, in page 7, line 27, at the end, to insert:(3) In the last foregoing subsection "animals" includes poultry.1501 The object of the Amendment is to enable regulations to be made requiring the ante-mortem inspection of poultry. This is in accordance with everybody's wishes, and I am sure the House will be willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Harry Hylton-Foster)
I beg to move, in page 7, to leave out lines 40 to 42.
The object of this Amendment and the next Amendment is to fulfil an undertaking—to over-fulfil an undertaking, if that is possible—which I gave in Committee to meet criticisms justly made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Higgs). I thank them for drawing attention to an imperfection.
Now that the county court has been chosen as the right tribunal to decide these matters, it has been thought more appropriate to confer the new jurisdiction by the terms of the Bill itself rather than by regulations. I hope that hon. Members will think that the proposal satisfactorily meets all their criticisms and will definitely improve the Bill.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for so fully meeting the point raised on an Amendment which I moved at an earlier stage. I congratulate him upon at last being lucid.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 8, line 5, at end, insert:
(4) If any person who has incurred, or is about to incur, expenditure in securing that the requirements of regulations made under this section, being requirements of a structural character, are complied with in respect of any premises owned or occupied by him claims that the whole or any part of the expenditure ought to be borne by any other person having an interest in the premises, he may apply to the county court, and the court may make such order concerning the expenditure or its apportionment as appears to the court, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the terms of any contract between the parties, to be just and equitable; and any order made under this section may direct that any such contract as aforesaid shall cease to have effect in so far as it is inconsistent with the terms of the order.—[The Solicitor-General.]
I beg to move, in page 8, line 16, at the end, to insert:(6) The Ministers shall from time to time take such steps as they think expedient for publishing codes of practice in connection with matters which may be made the subject of regulations under this section, for the purpose of giving advice and guidance to persons responsible for compliance with such regulations.The Amendment takes the place of an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton). I hope he will find it satisfactory.
§ Dr. Broughton
I thank the Minister for moving the Amendment, which certainly meets the point I raised earlier. I believe the Minister would have accepted my Amendment in Committee but he was not sure whether the code of practice should be issued by himself or some outside body. His Amendment contains the words:The Ministers shall from time to time take such steps as they think expedient for publishing codes of practice …That covers my point and lets the Minister out of his difficulty.
§ Amendment agreed to.