§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Chairman
The first Amendment to page 1, line 6, and the third Amendment to line 12, both in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) should, I think, be taken together.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after "shall," to insert:add or direct or permit any other person to.First, I should like to welcome back the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on his recovery from an attack of influenza. May I say also that we shall expect the hon. Gentleman's full co-operation in endeavouring to improve this Bill?
This House has a very friendly regard for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, who has suffered many transitions in the past year. We liked the right hon. Gentleman as Minister of Pensions, but then he went to the Board of Trade; since then, he has gone to the Ministry of Agriculture, and now I am 1770 not quite sure what he really is and in what capacity he is sitting on the Front Bench today. I hope that, in order to help us, he will indicate to us on each occasion when he is speaking, whether he speaks as Minister of Agriculture or as Minister of Food; otherwise, we shall be placed in some difficulty in considering the Bill, because both the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food are referred to in it.
It is most unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman, who has the respect of all of us in this House, should be placed in this very invidious position of having to serve two masters, but I hope that, for the purpose of this Bill, he will try-to help us in our discussions by indicating whether he speaks as Minister of Agriculture or in his new responsibility as Minister of Food.
As far as the Bill itself is concerned, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman at once that we on this side of the Committee will endeavour to give him every assistance in seeing the Bill through the Committee stage, because, as we have said before, it has a very respectable parentage, our Amendments are modest ones, and we have not sought, as we might well have done, to go outside the purpose of the Bill. We know the difficulties of getting the Bill through in the present Parliamentary Session, and, therefore, we have not been as ambitious as we might otherwise have been.
At the same time, I must protest again that the Bill received its Second Reading a year ago—in November of last year. Although it has an important object which merits detailed consideration by the Committee, it comes before the House at the very last moment. At the very last minute, when we are faced with the announcement of the date upon which the present Session will end, the Government have introduced an Amendment making a very material alteration to the Bill, but we shall come to that in due course. From the Parliamentary point of view, however, I must protest that a very material reason for the Bill should have been abandoned by the Government with only a few weeks to go to the end of the Session.
To turn to the Amendment, it is a simple one. We welcome this Clause as a considerable improvement on Section I of the principal Act, but the words which 1771 we are now trying to write into the Bill apply to a Section which is to be repealed. We feel that it is not desirable to take out words which are already in the Statute, because that creates the impression that we are restricting the effect of the Act. Secondly, we think that the words in Section I serve a useful purpose and we should like to see them incorporated in Clause 1.
I appreciate that there are some difficulties about the construction to be placed on the word "permit," and that, under the Road Traffic Act, there has been a great deal of case law on the construction of that particular word. If that is the difficulty in which the Government find themselves, and if they will say they will accept the spirit of the Amendment but would like to expand it a little in view of the difficulties aroused about the construction to be placed on the word "permit," that will satisfy us. I therefore hope that the Government will indicate that this is an Amendment which They can accept.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) straightaway for the kind remarks which he made at the outset of his speech, and I should also like to make it clear that, unless otherwise stated, I shall be speaking as Minister of Food. Perhaps I might also be allowed to say today that I do not feel any of the symptoms of schizophrenia spreading over me.
I want also to say at the outset that I have been in my Department only a week, and that I do not claim to be the master of all the details of this extremely technical Bill. I suppose I could start to bluff my way through, but I am not good at bluff. I have not mastered the technique of bluffing, and, therefore, I am going to rely on my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a master of this subject, as of many others. I shall listen to the remarks made by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee, and I shall be conferring with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary from time to time. In that way, as the Bill goes through, I hope to learn a great deal more about it, because I have not had the opportunity to study it in the time at my disposal.
1772 I do not think there is anything between us on this Amendment. Our view is that the addition of the words suggested is quite unnecessary; otherwise, we wholly agree with the desire of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I am advised that under the provisions of the Magistrates Courts Act, 1952, of which I have a copy here, a person who aids and abets can clearly be prosecuted, and that any employer who either directs or permits a servant to do something which is an offence clearly renders himself liable to be charged with the offence. Of course, if an employer does direct or permit a servant to do something which is an offence, then he can also be charged under the common law relating to master and servant.
For that reason, I ask the hon. Gentleman opposite, since we shall be trying to meet his point of view as far as we can throughout the Committee stage, not to press the Amendment, because we are quite satisfied that it is unnecessary and that the words included here will bring about everything that the hon. Gentleman wishes.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I confess once and for all to being a secret dairyman, that is to say, to having an indirect interest in a dairy company, although I take no part in the direction and management of the business.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to think again on this small point. The words in our Amendment were put into the 1938 Act to cover—and they would—the kind of case which I will ask the Committee to consider. It arose in connection with a business where the servant sold food in contravention of the Act. He was employed by a one-man company. The virtual owner of the business was a man who owned nearly all the shares. He was the solitary director and he managed the whole business in the name of the company.
There was difficulty in getting him, because the employer was really the company. If there was some active aiding and abetting we could get the actual manager and the owner of the business; but what about permitting?
They have been part of the law for a very long time and if we now take them out the natural tendency will be to look 1773 for the reason. It is better to err on the side of cautious verbosity, and leave in the words.
§ Mr. Willey
We do not want to prolong the discussion on this point. My hon. and learned Friend has made an effective point about it. If we take the words out, the impression might be created that the provisions of the Bill are more limited than those of the Act.
I concede at once that the words are unnecessary. This could have been our view when the 1938 Bill was going through the House, but sometimes we serve a useful purpose in making clear in the legislation itself what the law is. I will not press the matter further now, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think about this matter. He says that he has had little time to do so, but we hope that he will see that from a commonsense and practical point of view it would be better to leave the words as they stand in the principal Act.
I will certainly do that; I will consider the matter again in the light of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. If this assurance is satisfactory, perhaps the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will now withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged to the Minister. In view of the assurance he has given that he will look at this point again, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, at the end, to insert:(2) No person shall abstract or direct or permit any other person to abstract any constituent of food so as to change the nature, substance or quality of the food with intent that the food shall be sold for human consumption in its altered state without notice to the purchaser of the alteration.
§ The Chairman
It will perhaps be convenient to the Committee to discuss, at the same time, the related Amendments in page 1, line 21, and page 2, line 12.
§ Mr. Dodds
One of the main documents in the improvement brought about by the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, was the Order dealing with the labelling and 1774 the composition of food. In paragraph 2 (1) of that Order, words similar to those in my Amendment appear. It has always been understood that those words were of great importance, but it is proposed to leave them out of the present Bill.
Many people will be interested to hear the reason for dropping these words. In 1938 it was important that the words should be part of the law; in 1954, people seem to be much more food-conscious than they have ever been before and we ought to enable them to understand why these words are being taken out. The words deal with the abstraction of substances from food and if they remain in the Bill people who handle food will be much more cautious about abstracting anything, and so damaging the food. It will be made known to the world that the food can be examined. I ask the Minister to treat this Amendment with great seriousness, because these words are even more important now than they were in 1938.
The Amendment in line 21 is very similar to this Amendment. I call the Minister's attention to the provision about notice being given to the purchaser on the wrapper or container. If it is objected that this asks too much of manufacturers and processers of food, how is it possible for Canada to be so far ahead of us in matters of this sort? If the Canadians can do it, why cannot we? Is the Minister not aware of the disgust of many Canadians visiting this country when they find how far we lag behind Canada in the important question of the purity of food?
§ Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)
The right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Food will observe from a study of the speeches that were made on the Second Reading of the Bill that we on this side of the Committee regard the Bill as a most useful piece of legislation. My hon. Friends the Members for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and myself have been pressing the Government ever since they took office to bring forward this legislation. We want Britain's food to be the cleanest and most wholesome in the world. At this early stage in our consideration of the Bill it is safe to say that this aim is shared on both sides of the Committee.
1775 I hope that the Minister will accept these Amendments, and particularly the one in page 2, line 12, which aims at preventing wholesome food from losing the richness of its vitamins and minerals. There was a time when it was thought that human food need consist of no more than proteins, fats, carbohydrates, a little water and a pinch of common salt. It was then envisaged that the meals of the future would be taken in concentrated form. Dinner would consist of a few tablets which would be carried in the waistcoat pocket. Although the meal would not be very enjoyable, time would be saved in swallowing it. Comparatively recently it has been found in the study of nutrition that a variety of mineral salts and of vitamins is necessary for good health.
The disease of rickets has now been banished from our shores. I well remember the time when it was prevalent because children of the very poor had to be content with food of the cheapest and poorest quality. Such food was lacking in vitamins and minerals, and many of the children suffered from rickets. We are glad to see that nowadays our young people have straight limbs and strong bodies. That is a state of the nation's health which we hope will persist indefinitely. However, we must be on our guard.
Food from which vitamins and minerals have been extracted is robbed of much of its nourishment. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give careful consideration to this series of Amendments, and, if he will accept them, we shall then have taken a further step forward towards ensuring the wholesomeness of the nation's food and the protection of the people's health.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
The Minister said, very modestly, that he intended to listen patiently to what was said and that he hoped to pick up some knowledge as we proceeded with the discussion of the Bill. I find myself greatly embarrassed by the fear that I may be confusing the right hon. Gentleman by stating that the Amendment in which I am particularly interested—the one which my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) has just been discussing—is 1776 framed in such words that I cannot press its acceptance.
The reason for that, I am sure, must be obvious to the Parliamentary Secretary, because if we were to pursue an ideal in this way, then, I fear, everyone would have to eat wholemeal bread whether they wanted to or not, and that would not do for everyone in the country. I might even find that, when I went to the fishmonger and asked him to fillet a fish for me, I had forced him into a tort or crime because the calcium and the phosphorus in the bones would be deficient, although I should be all right if I bought a tin of salmon, because in that case the bones would be cooked with the fish and all the mineral salts would be there. I might not ask for sterilised milk because the tiny amount of ascorbic acid found in milk in the springtime is destroyed or diminished by sterilisation.
This Amendment has been placed on the Notice Paper so that we may get some information right at the beginning of our discussion. The information for which I want to ask falls into two parts. One can see from the wording of the Bill itself that inevitably we are taking certain things for granted. This Bill. if we are successful today and tomorrow, would be the clearest advance on the past and would match up to the present needs of our people. But it uses certain terms which I have never been able clearly to define in my own mind, such asthe health of a person.What is meant by the phrase in lines 9 and 10 of page 2 of the Bill which reads:the probable cumulative effect of articles of substantially the same composition on the health of a person consuming such articles in ordinary quantities."?I suggest that on the question of what is health we should be given an illustration by the right hon. Gentleman or the Parliamentary Secretary, because, by now, the Department must surely be making up its mind. We have reached the stage when we should have made up our minds as to what we mean. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will find it very difficult to do so and that, being a medical man like myself, he is handicapped in the matter, because he is only accustomed to disease and not to health in his thoughts about these matters.
1777 Perhaps we ought to go to an administrator or to a politician. The only person of whom I can think who spoke with conviction on these matters is someone who made a funeral speech over the Athenian dead. It was Pericles who made the speech some time ago, and if I may quote his definition of good health, it goes something like this:It is that state of moral, mental and physical well-being which enables any man to face any crisis in life with the utmost facility and grace.That is perhaps a good illustration of what is meant by health, and I have, I think, added only one word to Pericles' definition. If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot give us the views of his Department on what constitutes good health, will he at least give us some illustration of what is meant by "cumulative effects"?
This Amendment enables me to ask the right hon. Gentleman some questions about jam. I think that we ought to get rid of jam now rather than wait until later, and that we can do it much more shortly here than was done during the discussions in another place. Everybody knows that in another place some very interesting speeches were made on the subject.
I have often put Questions on the matter to the Parliamentary Secretary and to his right hon. and gallant Friend who is now serving in another Department. Some of us have been disturbed about the cheaper forms of jam which used to be described as "full fruit" jam. We do not now have standards of that kind. I believe they have been jettisoned. But what we have in mind is fruit pulp preserved by means of sulphur gas passed over it and stored in that way, and then the sulphur is got rid of by boiling, the pulp is sweetened and its colour is brought back by the use of an appropriate dye.
Sulphur has been used for a very long time as a preservative. The Committee will, I am sure, forgive me when I say that my first memory of it is from reading Homer, because in those days they burned sulphur after battles in order to disinfect the battlefields, and sulphur has been as good as anything else ever since. In jam making the sulphur is all boiled out of the pulp, but the thing that disturbs hon. Members on this side, and something 1778 about which we want more information, is what happens when prolonged boiling has to take place. How much of the vitamin C is destroyed? Is it all destroyed, and how does that process compare with that pursued when making home-made jam where the fresh fruit used is never sulphited? It may be that there is no difference, and, if so, the public ought to know.
The former Minister of Food once said in answer to a Question I addressed to him on the matter that the sulphiting of pulp preserves the vitamin C while the pulp is in storage. If that is so, then it is a very good thing. If, however, it is all destroyed because of the very long boiling that must follow, then it is not such a great advantage. Food manufacturers——
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is going into rather long detail about something which is not in the Amendment before the Committee.
§ Dr. Stross
This is a question of the abstraction of minerals and vitamins, and this is the way in which they are abstracted and destroyed. I feel that we should get some reassurance from the Minister which will allay public unrest about the matter, because, as I have said, the subject was discussed, perhaps rather luridly, in another place. With respect, Sir Charles, I thought that I was within the bounds of order, and I promise not to be long on the point. If it be found that there is very little difference between the comparatively short boiling of fresh fruit and the prolonged boiling of sulphited pulp, then we ought to know and, after that, leave the question alone.
With regard to redyeing, one does shrink at the thought of artificial substances such as aniline dyes being used to bring back the colour to the fruit. Here I am reminded of the very beautiful piece of work now being done on frozen fruit, whereby the colour of the fruit is retained by the addition of vitamin C. That is rather a nice piece of work. An interesting point is that in discussing this with the jam manufacturers I asked them why did they not put back some of this vitamin. After all, we fortify white flour and, with the blessing of the Ministry of Health and of the Ministry of Food we are doing all sorts of things to all sorts of substances for therapeutic purposes. I 1779 asked them why the vitamin C which has gone after the prolonged boiling should not be put back.
Their answer is that to bring back the full content of the vitamin destroyed by boiling or by abstracting in this way would mean an extra penny on the pound to the customer. There might be a small additional cost in manufacture. They add that if legislation were passed asking them to do this, or if there were pressure from the Minister, they would do it. I do not dream of asking for that, but here is something which we all eat. If the Minister and his advisers think that the product can be improved by having the vitamin C restored I think that the trade would like to do it and the public would feel benefited by it. The public would certainly be no worse off because of it. I only ask the Minister to consider this matter.
When talking about cumulative effects, can we have some examples from the Ministerial bench of what they mean? Have they in mind the cumulative effect of spraying fruit with lead sprays and the cumulative effect on a child eating iced lollies? Is that what they have in mind? Is it the mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids used for bread softening and so on? As I said when I rose, I speak not to demand that this particular Amendment be accepted in these words but to ask for information.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I should like to have information with reference to the application of subsection (5) to the food industry. It seems to me that, as a result of the words:… regard shall be had not only to the probable effect of that article on the health of a person …a retailer might find himself in a difficult position. One can imagine in July or August, when Derby or Grenadier apples first appear on sale, a retailer may have doubts as to the quantity of green apples it is proper to sell to small boys. That, of course, is an extreme example, but unless this particular subsection is explained and defined there may be considerable difficulty for retailers.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member is talking about a subsection with which we are not now dealing.
§ Mr. Collins
Those very words have already been quoted. I understand that we are dealing with page 2, line 12——
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)
In moving his Amendment, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) based his case, at the outset, on the fact that such words, in approximately the same form, already appear as Section 2 of the 1938 Act. In effect, his first question was, "Why omit it?" For a reason which I shall give to the hon. Member, Section 2 has been found to be unworkable. It defines the effects of abstracting from any food, and so onwithout notice to the purchaser of the alteration;At that moment, of course, there is no purchase. It subsequently emerged, as the hon. Gentleman realised, that a sale was necessary to create a purchase and so to bring Section 2 into operation. When a sale has taken place it is then possible to act under Section 3, which deals with the prohibition against the sale of any food or drug… not of the nature … substance … or … quality … demanded.For that reason, therefore, Section 2 of the 1938 Act has not worked.
The significance of what the hon. Member himself now recognises is that he seeks to reinsert Section 2 of the 1938 Act—with a variation; he omits from his wording the notion of injury to the purchaser. My main answer to him, bearing in mind that practical difficulty of the operation of Section 2 of the 1938 Act, is that the approach in this Bill is first to distinguish between the additions which are injurious to health and those which are not. Additions injurious to health are banned absolutely, with or without label. There is here an absolute prohibition on an addition, subtraction, on processing, and so on, injurious to health.
1781 In the second category, additions, etc., which are not injurious to health are dealt with—a sale having taken place—in Clause 2, it being a defence, if I may quote the words:… for the person charged to prove that the operation in question was not carried out fraudulently, and that the article was sold having attached thereto a notice of adequate size, distinctly and legibly printed and conspicuously visible …In its present form, in fact, the Bill achieves what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I can assure him that we have not sought to weaken the law in this respect. We have sought to make a distinction between the addition, etc., injurious to health and that which is not injurious to health, and we have sought to deal with the additions which are not injurious to health by Section 3 of the 1938 Act—in other words, in the way which experience has shown it has been necessary so to deal with them.
The hon. Member's second Amendment is, of course, related to the first, and perhaps I need not deal with it in detail, as it is covered by the same argument.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Hill
I am not at this moment dealing with what should appear on the wrapper—we shall come to that subsequently. I am dealing with the defence against an allegation that there has been an addition, although not injurious to health.
The Amendment of the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) was dealt with kindly but firmly by his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). It has, I am afraid, to be dealt with in that way because, as was pointed out, if it were accepted it would create so difficult a position, in prohibiting the boning of fish or the sterilisation of certain articles which would involve the destruction or abstraction of vitamin C.
The hon. Gentleman raised several other associated points. I do not think he was serious when he suggested that we should debate the proper definition of the health of a person. All I can say is that the words in their simplest form,the health of a person1782 andthe probable cumulative effect of articlesare in the Bill and will be for the courts to decide. I imagine that they are likely to reach a speedier conclusion than doctors who may disagree on this matter.
The hon. Gentleman referred to substances coming into the cumulative category, and one has in mind in particular coal tar dyes and lead. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into a dissertation on vitamin C in jams and the effects of sulphur dioxide, for I feel that it would lead us beyond the scope of the debate at this moment, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is very real point in the subject that he has raised and we are considering the problem. I am particularly interested in his suggestion of the reinsertion of vitamin C and his estimate of the cost. I will see that his suggestions are considered.
I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) succeeded in making his point, but if it will save further debate let me say that what we are concerned with is to be found in Clause 4, namely, substances which are added by manufacturers to foods. We have not dared to deal with the cumulative effect of the prolonged consumption by small boys of large quantities of apples.
§ Mr. Collins
What is the position of a retailer of fruit when a substance has been added by way of preparation, such as in polishing apples or something like that, which happens particularly with imported articles?
§ Dr. Hill
The hon. Gentleman is raising a much wider question which we shall meet frequently in the course of the consideration of this Bill, and I suggest that I should deal with it as and when it arises.
I hope that the hon. Member for Dartford will accept the position that we are not in any way weakening the law, but are making it work in the light of experience.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I regard that as a rather remarkable and unsatisfactory reply. I have a good deal of sympathy with the Parliamentary Secretary. It is not quite certain what his functions are, but to deal with a couple of Amendments about abstracting things from food by referring solely to additions seems to 1783 me to reveal a certain perversity of intellect. I should like to call his attention to the fact that the two Amendments in which I personally am interested deal not with adding anything to anything but, if I may take him back to his school days, with the process of subtraction.
There is already in the Bill a provision about abstracting to the prejudice of the purchaser, but we are not concerned with that point in these Amendments. What we are concerned with is a rather different matter. It is honesty to the consumer. The point here is that if we take something away we may not necessarily cause the purchaser a grievous belly ache or any other chronic or acute form of ill-health, but we may be selling him something different from what he expected to get and we may be doing that under the name of the original article.
I am very glad to see the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee here—not, I hope, in his official capacity—and I think he will agree with me that this has gone a long way already. I believe it is possible to buy a thing called a "hot dog." It may be hot, but I have always understood that it was not a dog. Similarly, one can purchase and consume without undue irreverence "angels on horseback." They have no angelic character, I believe, and do not sit, in the best circles, on a horse. To these sorts of queer phrases we have gradually become accustomed. They are, I find, very confusing, and they are sometimes made worse by being turned into French or even into a kind of hybrid Anglo-Gaelic peculiar to the catering trade.
But surely what we are dealing with today is much simpler than that. People buy some perfectly well-known and ordinary thing, and if for some reason or another an essential part of it has been taken out, surely it is not altogether unreasonable to provide that they should be told so. I do not see why one should make very heavy weather of this Amendment. I would not insist upon the use of one form of language or another. The substantial point is this: is it necessary to make it a matter prejudicial to health before making it obligatory to call the purchaser's attention to the fact that something essential has been taken out of the food described?
1784 I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will, for a change, do a little multiplication and think again. I hope he will consider whether it is not in line with progress to prohibit abstraction in this form without giving notice. That is all it amounts to.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman give one example of the type of commodity to which he is referring?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I do not think there is any point in giving one example, for hundreds of them must be obvious to anybody. There are many examples of something being taken out of a perfectly well-known food so as to change its quality, condition, and so forth.
All we are asking is that the purchaser should be told that he is not buying what he might think he is, because he is not. I cannot see anyone objecting to the morality or the good sense of an attitude of that kind. I should have thought that the ordinary consumer is entitled to a bit more protection than he has had in the past, and a good deal more protection than he appears likely to have from the Bill as it stands.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I was not very happy when it was decided to take these three Amendments together. The third Amendment is obviously a probing Amendment, seeking information. The first two Amendments are designed, whether adequately or ham-fistedly, to get some protection for the consumer. This is a point which we shall raise repeatedly throughout the Bill.
It is essential—it is, indeed, one of the main purposes of the Bill—to give the consumer protection against fraudulent practices and against something which might be injurious to his health. All that we are asking for here—and I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that the form of words is probably open to amendment—is an assurance from the Minister that in all these matters the consumer is to be told clearly what he is buying, and that on the labelling and the packaging there shall be no misleading advertisement or statement of any kind.
1785 In his intervention a moment or two ago, the Parliamentary Secretary said that this point was coming on later. We question that. I know the part of the Bill to which he is referring, but as we intend to raise this matter repeatedly I should like the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that we shall not be satisfied with anything less than full protection for the consumer. If a consumer goes into a shop—and there is no point in giving examples, because it may not happen at the moment but in the future I am not concerned with examples now but with what will happen in the future—and asks for an article which has a common description, he may find that, because of something that has happened in the making of the food which has resulted in some element being extracted, the description is completely misleading.
Under such circumstances, the consumer has to be protected. If a vital constituent is taken out in the course of processing, then the consumer should be told. Even if the Parliamentary Secretary thinks that the point we have in mind is fully covered, I would ask him to bear in mind that we shall look very carefully at the references to which he has hinted when we come to that part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Willey
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said something about the hon. Gentleman being half a Parliamentary Secretary. If he is half a Parliamentary Secretary he is a fly half. I think he gave a very good account of the position which will prevail if this Bill becomes law. He gave a lucid explanation of the effect of the Bill as it stands, but having heard my hon. Friends on the subject, too, I must say that I think they are also right.
This shows the essential difficulty of legislating by reference. It is all very well if I get the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow morning and spend an hour and a half in the Library and thus satisfy myself that the purposes sought by my hon. Friends are met by this Bill read in conjunction with the principal Act. But why should I he expected to do that? Why should any trader be expected to do that? Why should any medical officer of health be expected to do it?
I gather that there is no difference in principle on the first Amendment. I understood the Parliamentary Secretary 1786 to give my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) the assurance that his desires are being met. But they are being met in a very obscure, roundabout sort of way, which is the delight of Parliamentary draftsmen. After all, this Bill, which has in itself an important purpose to serve, calls attention to the Government's intentions about food hygiene. I should have thought for that reason that it would be far better to say at once that not only can an assurance be given that the Bill as drafted would have this effect, but to say, "We will accept the first two Amendments. We might have to redraft them, but we think it would be desirable in the first Clause of this Bill to make it quite clear that these powers reside with the Government."
From what has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary I gather that he has no objection to the first two Amendments which we are discussing together. His attention was drawn to the Canadian practice, and I would just emphasise that this business of giving notice is a very important one, not only for the public but for medical officers of health, sanitary inspectors, public analysts and such-like professional people. There should be this notice so that they can make the proper inquiries.
In the light of that, and having agreed with what the Parliamentary Secretary said and very largely with what my hon. Friends have said, why cannot we get on with the Bill? We can by the Parliamentary Secretary saying that a case has been made out and he will accept the first two Amendments. It would be far better to avoid this complicated business of legislation by reference. A case has been made out in support of these Amendments, and in an appropriate place in the Bill the Government ought to undertake to make clear their intentions as to possessing powers to provide that where an abstraction is made and that changes the nature and the quality of the substance, then notice should be given. If the Parliamentary Secretary would do that, then we could proceed with our consideration of the Bill.
I agree that the third Amendment is a probing Amendment, and as there have been no notes of protest from behind me I imagine that the Parliamentary Secretary has satisfied the probers. But cannot 1787 he satisfy us on the first two Amendments by saying that it would be far better to make them part of the present Clause? There is no disagreement about the principle, and, therefore, I suggest that the Amendments should be accepted.
§ Dr. Hill
I quite appreciate the difficulty, to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has referred, of having to refer to the parent Act. To this extent I can assure him that it is the Government's intention to introduce a consolidation Bill at the earliest possible moment.
On the point raised by the hon. Member I want to remind the House what the law now is and what will remain the law. Section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, says:If a person sells to the prejudice of the purchaser any food or drug which is not of the nature, or not of the substance, or not of the quality, of the food or drug demanded by the purchaser, he shall, subject to the provisions of the next succeeding section, be guilty of an offence.What is provided for is the rewriting of an existing defence in Clause 2 of the Bill where it says that in such proceedings… it shall be a defence for the person charged to prove that the operation in question was not carried out fraudulently, and that the article was sold having attached thereto a notice of adequate size, distinctly and legibly printed and conspicuously visible, stating explicitly the nature of the operation, or was sold in a wrapper or container displaying such a notice.That will be the law and that is a satisfactory position, bearing in mind that where anything has been done to render food injurious it is an offence without qualification, special difficulties or anything else. I submit to the Committee that the situation is satisfactory, and what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) has rightly and properly asked for has been met by the law as it is today with the Amendments that are proposed by this Bill.
§ Mr. Darling
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us why the law is not being carried out if it is so satisfactory? Why can these people manufacture food from which important elements have been taken without informing the public?
§ Dr. Hill
I was referring to Section 3, but in my earlier remarks I referred to Section 2 of the 1938 Act and said that in working it out it had proved to be unworkable because of the difficulty of reference to a purchaser without the event of a sale being contemplated. One of the weaknesses of the 1938 Act is that Section 2 does not work.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
Certain substances may be taken from a food, but they do not render it injurious. Their absence reduces its nutritive quality. What about that kind of thing?
§ Dr. Hill
In the case of substances altered—if I may use that word to cover the whole series of changes—but not rendered injurious, it is under Section 3 of the 1938 Act as modified by Clause 2 of the Bill an offence to do it, but there is a defence provided, that what was done was not fraudulently done, and that the changes were referred to on the label. That seems to me to be reasonable.
§ Dr. Stross
The hon. Gentleman has forgotten another defence mentioned in Section 4 of the parent Act, namely, that… the addition was required for the production or preparation of the food or drug as an article of commerce in a state fit for carriage or consumption.We are not using such terms in the Bill. Are we assuming we can have changes in basic foodstuffs if they are alterations to make them fit for carriage?
It may be convenient to consider with this Amendment the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), in Clause 5, page 5, line 35, after "say," to insert:paragraph (b) of the proviso to section six.
§ Sir L. Plummer
I am sure that arrangement will be convenient. One of the purposes of the Clause is to prohibit the manufacturer from advertising any product which is, as a result of additions, to use the Parliamentary Secretary's word, injurious to the health of the purchaser. The exemption provided in subsection (6) gives a defence to persons whose habitual business it is to publish or arrange for the publication of advertisements, and the defence is that that is their habitual business. My submission is that it is in the interests of good food that that defence should not be allowed.
There are four classes of people affected. There is the advertising agent who handles the advertisement and places it with a newspaper and acts as the agent of the manufacturer; there is the proprietor of the newspaper or periodical that publishes the advertisement; there is the billposter who puts a form of advertisement on the hoardings at the request of the advertising agent at the instruction of the advertiser; and finally there will be, of course, the programme company that introduces the advertiser's announcement on the forthcoming commercial television network.
Those people would, by virtue of subsection (6), have an adequate defence in explaining that they did all this in the course of their business. This would, of course, be a defence for an unscrupulous advertising agent who, unlike the majority of advertising agents, deliberately tried to further the sale of articles that were injurious.
The Minister will not mind if I say that I am certain he is innocent of the ways in which newspapers work, and he will not mind if I give him a little information about that. The majority of advertising agents in this country are reputable and honest people, although most of them are misguided in wanting commercial television. However, I should be out of order if I were to try to pursue that matter.
1790 They are reputable and responsible people who lend themselves to the task of encouraging the sale of their clients' goods, and they take an active and detailed interest in those goods. They visit the factories, they look at the products, they study the marketing of them, they pay regard to the packaging of them. They do a very competent job in helping the sale of the goods, and no reputable advertising agent in this country would lend himself to misrepresentation or lend himself to the selling of an article that he thought injurious.
However, there is a minority of advertising agents who are not in that category at all, a minority whose interest is to make what the Americans call a "fast buck," to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can, without due regard to other considerations. Such an advertising agent has no scruple in writing copy that is misrepresentation and in helping the sale of goods, even though he does not even find out whether they are injurious or not. He simply accepts the word of the advertiser that they are not. Such an agent could go to the court and say, "It is my business to arrange this advertising, and that is my defence."
The defence provided in this subsection would encourage that class of advertising agent to continue in business, whereas we ought to be making it as difficult as possible for them to remain in business. It should be the job of an advertising agent, as indeed it is the job of a reputable advertising agent, to satisfy himself that what he is saying for his client is truthful and inoffensive.
This subsection is an encouragement to advertising agents of the lower category of dishonest advertising agents to be quite reckless, because they can advertise products they know to be injurious to health, as many of them are. Anybody who likes to delve into the advertising columns of our seamier newspapers will see that that is true. Were advertising agents encouraged not to be careful in accepting clients' advertisements, it would be a very bad thing.
Let me turn to the newspapers. The reputable newspapers of the country take very great care indeed in seeing that certain classes of advertisements, which are injurious to the pockets or the health of their readers, are not accepted. Every newspaper considers with the utmost care 1791 the details of financial advertisements and prospectuses that are offered to them. They exercise very considerable control also over advertisements for patent medicines, the sorts of things that are clearly injurious.
That sort of control should be exercised, too, over the advertisements of the classes of goods covered by the Clause. The newspapers should exercise exactly the same powers of censorship, control and examination over advertisements for foodstuffs as they do over advertisements for patent medicines and financial advertisements. Why should they not do so? Newspapers are not forced to accept advertisements. They accept them quite voluntarily. It is their business to do this, and they are surely entitled, as they must in the case of their news columns, to see to it that what they tell their readers is as true and honest a representation as they can make it.
So it should be their responsibility to see that their pages are free from advertisements of injurious products as described in this Clause, and they should pay a penalty if they fail in this respect. I know it will be said that this will be very difficult, but many of the provisions of the Bill will create difficulties, and when we are considering the public health we ought not to pay too much attention to what is said about difficulties.
There are in existence such organisations as the Advertising Association, the Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Newspaper Society, which are very wealthy and very powerful, and it would be easy for them to set up a national committee to work in conjunction with the central food hygiene council, which some of my hon. Friends are proposing, or the food research advisory council, which is suggested by some hon. Members opposite, to provide a white list and a black list of food advertisers.
After all, the Advertising Association exists, among other reasons, to tell its members what is good and what is bad in advertising and what should and should not be accepted. The dissemination of such information, particularly if assistance were given by the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, should create no substantial difficulties which would outweigh the very definite public benefits to 1792 be obtained by the deletion of subsection (6).
I should like to say at once at this stage how we look at the matter. Clause 1 makes it an offence to advertise for sale for human consumption any food which has been rendered injurious to health by addition, subtraction, or treatment. That is right; there can be no question about it.
Our difficulty with the Amendment is that it seems to throw an unreasonable onus on the firm which is in business purely for advertising. We believe it right that the onus should he fairly and squarely on the manufacturer. We cannot see how the advertiser can in practice satisfy himself that nothing has been done to the food which will be injurious to health. In many cases it is a very technical matter indeed to assure oneself that nothing injurious has happened to food. If we are to be reasonable to the advertiser, I cannot see where in practice his sources of such information would be.
Hon. Members may say that there is an analogy between the position of the advertiser and that of a publisher in the case of libel or obscenity. However, I feel that those cases are much less technical and that the publisher is in a much better position than the advertiser would be in this instance to say whether he would be in order in going ahead.
I am sure it would be unwise—I hope that, on reflection, the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) will agree—. to put the onus on the advertiser, whose business it is to advertise and to receive copy from his clients. I am sure that we must concentrate upon putting the onus where it should be, on the shoulders of the manufacturer. Therefore, I am afraid that I must resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Darling
I do not think the technique involved here is quite as clear to the Minister as it might be. Very few manufacturers provide their advertising agents with copy. It is the imaginative people in the advertising agency who think up the slogans and, very frequently, the misleading statements.
I may have used the wrong term technically. The manufacturers normally supply the advertising agents with some basic information on which the advertisers base their copy.
§ Mr. Darling
I appreciate that point, but if the Amendment were accepted a great deal of responsibility would then be thrown upon the publisher of the material, such as a newspaper, a television company or a billposting company, and also the advertiser. By that means we should give further protection to the consumer.
I am assuming that at least favourable consideration will be given to our proposals for the setting up of advisory councils, but whether that is so or not, some kind of advisory body will have to be provided to carry through what we are suggesting. If the Amendment were accepted, advertising agents and publishers would, in their own interests, have to go to these advisory bodies, who would have access to research departments, and ask them, "What can we say about this product that will be truthful?" This would be another attack upon the false and misleading claims which are frequently made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) said that most reputable advertising agents are perfectly honest and do not make misleading statements. But, of course, they do. Eight detergents are on the market, and all eight are advertised as being capable of washing clothes whiter than the rest. Seven of those claims must be untrue. We have the same thing about claims made on behalf of breakfast cereals. The Parliamentary Secretary might enlighten the House about the food value of breakfast cereals; that would be most interesting. Misleading claims are made. I agree that most of them are not very serious and that no one will be hurt by the false claim that a breakfast cereal has nutritive value; but other claims are made which are far more serious.
We want all the time to give the consumer the fullest protection against misleading claims, and one way to do that is to make the publisher of advertisements and the advertising agent, as well as the manufacturer, keen to ensure that only the truth is told. What is wrong with insisting that everybody in the chain of events should tell the truth? That is all that we are asking. We are putting a premium on truth, and the Government seem to object to it. Subsection (6) should be dropped and everyone making a claim would then have to make 1794 sure that the claim was truthful. That is the whole purpose of the Amendment, and I am sure that, in the light of that, the Government will accept it.
§ Mr. F. P. Bishop (Harrow, Central)
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has not accepted the Amendment. I am sure that we all agree with what has just been said, that everyone concerned with the advertising of goods for sale should do his reasonable utmost to make sure that the advertisement is truthful. However, there is surely a limit—[Laughter]—not to the attempt to make sure that the statements made are truthful but to the obligation to be imposed upon a person who handles either goods or statements in the ordinary course of his business.
It is plainly impossible for a newspaper carrying many hundreds of classified advertisements every day to investigate detailed technical facts about the goods advertised. It is beyond the power of a publication to do that. To attempt to impose a liability like that on a publisher—I will say a word about the advertising agent in a moment—would be to expose him to something quite unreasonable, for if he attempted to comply with it strictly it would bring normal business activities almost to a standstill. It would be analogous to expecting the proprietor of a bookstall—in some cases the law has gone to the unreasonable length of appearing to require the proprietor of a bookstall to do so—to read word by word every publication that he offers for sale.
As my hon. Friend said, the newspapers—at least, the reputable ones—do their best through their own organisation to ensure that nothing which appears in their advertising columns is untrue. They should be left to carry on doing the best they can through their own organisation, and not have imposed upon them by the House of Commons a burden which it is impossible for them to carry. I am not quite sure, with regard to the advertising agent, whether this Clause gives him as much protection as he should have. I do not know what the wordsa person … received the advertisement for publication in the ordinary course of businessmean.
Of course, the advertising agent does not normally receive the advertisement for publication. He receives facts and information supplied to him by the 1795 manufacturer of the article upon which, normally, he himself drafts the advertisement which ultimately appears. Certainly there is a duty upon him to make the utmost inquiries he can into the truth of the facts that are submitted to him.
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend, or the Parliamentary Secretary, how he explains this provision as applying to the advertising agent, who does not merely receive the advertisement for publication, but receives the facts upon which he bases the advertisement which he himself has probably drafted.
§ Sir L. Plummer
If the hon. Gentleman goes on to read subsection (6), he will find that it saysor arrange for the publication of, advertisements.It surely is the job of the advertising agent to arrange for the publication.
§ Mr. Bishop
In arranging for the publication of the advertisement, he receives the advertisement for publication in the ordinary course of business, and I should like to know whether this is limited to the publisher who receives the advertisement already drafted and who has merely to put it into the paper and publish it, or whether it covers also the activities of the advertising agent who may himself have some part, and perhaps a large part, in the drafting of the advertisement for publication.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I think that the Committee should bear in mind in regard to food and drugs legislation generally that it quite often proceeds on the basis of absolute liability apart from knowledge. Prosecutions, for instance, under Section 2 of the 1938 Act do not require knowledge by the seller. There can be a conviction without any question of knowledge, and the reason for that. I suggest, is the overwhelming importance which has always been attached to providing pure food for the public.
It seems that the position here is rather curious. If I am right—and, if not, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me—there is a very similar provision to this, referring to a person whose business it is to publish, or arrange for the publication of, advertisements, and receiving them for publication in the ordinary course of business, under Section 6 (2, b) of the 1938 Act.
1796 The position there is that protection is given, either in that case or in the case where the person concerned did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained, that the advertisement was of a misleading character. Either of these circumstances constitutes a defence. The odd thing is that that Section has, I believe, been suspended during the operation of the Defence (Sale of Food) Regulations, 1943.
In paragraph 1 (2) of these Regulations we find this:A person who publishes, or is a party to the publication of, an advertisement … which falsely describes any food … shall be guilty of an offence … unless he proves that' he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained that the advertisement was of such a character as aforesaid.That is to say that, for the purpose of these Regulations, those who were responsible for drafting them chose that alternative.
The Government, for some reason or another, have rejected the alternative that was chosen by the Defence Regulations and have taken the other alternative. I should have thought that the two things together would have done no harm to anyone, but that if one had to choose there would be a great deal to be said for keeping the rather higher standard which is set under the Defence Regulations.
I say "keeping the two together," because I feel that in food and drugs regulations it is exceedingly important that we should take every possible precaution to get pure food. It has always been recognised that we cannot convict someone without knowledge of what he is doing. That has been the whole practice in this matter, and in a few other fields, too. Therefore, it would not be at all limited in a matter of this sort to the advertising agent, who may do an incredible amount of damage.
He uses a powerful weapon. The thing which in fact he assists to spread will go very much further, and it is reasonable, I think, to make certain that he either assumes an absolute liability or, if his liability is to be limited, that there must be some sort of personal responsibility about it. I do not regard it as sufficient to say that the advertising agent or advertising person is exempt because it is his 1797 business to publish advertisements or arrange for their publication.
I do not see why he should have that quite exceptional protection. That is not the protection which he has had up to date. Under the Defence Regulations he has had to show due diligence in verifying the truth of the advertisement, and now, apparently, that is not to be the case any longer, and this curious provision is substituted.
I feel that the Government and the party opposite are being much too tender to the advertising and publishing business. I take up what the right hon. Gentleman said just now, that this is very like the law of libel in some ways. If the same sort of principle is to be allowed in the case of libels, where are we going, and does the party opposite really stand for it?
What would happen would be this. Simply because it is a man's business to publish this, that or the other and to arrange for publication, he is not to be liable for publishing a libel. Of course he is liable. It is no defence to say that it is his business to publish newspapers or even advertisements, and it is not even a defence to say that he did not know anything about it. It is sometimes impossible for a newspaper to verify every statement given to it with regard to every possible sort of person.
It is for advertisers to verify this kind of advertising, and I should have thought that, if we put this kind of liability on publishers and printers with regard to libels, it is very much more important with regard to the purity of food and the health of the public that there should be a similar liability here. Therefore, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should look again at this Amendment and consider whether he is not being altogether too kind by what he proposes in the Bill, and that he should see whether the provisions cannot be strengthened in the interests of the public and the vital importance of clean food.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I do not want to add very much to what has already been said by my hon. Friends, who have put the case for the Amendment. I only want to add this to the Parliamentary Secretary. As he knows, we are not trying to establish a new principle today. This principle has been established before, and quite rightly. We are only asking for it to be embodied in this new Bill.
The argument put by the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Bishop) would be relevant if we were concerned with any other commodity, but the commodity with which we are concerned this afternoon is the nation's food. What we on this side of the Committee are doing is to give adequate protection to the consumer.
I am glad to see that the Minister of Health is present; he was courteous enough, I am informed, to attend the whole of the Second Reading of the Bill in July. What we are anxious to do is to give the consumer the maximum protection. I think it would be agreed that food technology has advanced to such an extent that the consumer needs the maximum protection. Therefore, we ask that not only should the manufacturer face up to his responsibilities, but that the advertiser and the publisher also should be concerned about the commodity which they are advertising. In fact, we are asking that the consuming public should have a second line of defence.
I am surprised that the Minister has not accepted an Amendment which is, I should have thought, scientifically desirable, and desirable on the grounds of common sense, but as he has thought fit to refuse it, I must ask my hon. Friends to divide against the Government.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 222.1801
|Division No. 216.]||AYES||15.22 p.m.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Barber, Anthony||Black, C. W.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Barlow, Sir John||Boothby, Sir R. J. G.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Bossom, Sir A. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Beach, Maj. Hicks||Bowen, E. R.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn. W.)||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, M.)||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Braithwaite, Sir Gurney|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Birch, Nigel||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Bishop, F. P.||Browne, Jack (Govan)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hughes-Hallet, Vice-Admiral J.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hurd, A. R.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Cole, Norman||Iremonger, T. L.||Redmayne, M.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rees-Davies, W. R|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Johnson, Erie (Blackley)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Kaberry, D.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Keeling, Sir Edward||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kerr, H. W.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Lambert, Hon. G.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Russell, R. S.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Leather, E. H. C.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R|
|Drews, Sir C.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Shepherd, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Longden, Gilbert||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Fell, A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Finlay, Graeme||McAdden, S. J.||Speir, R. M.|
|Fisher, Nigel||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)||McKibbin, A. J.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Fort, R.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Storey, S.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Maitland, Cmdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Summers, G. S.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Glover, D.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Godber, J. B.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maude, Angus||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maudling, R.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Tilney, John|
|Grimond, J.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Mellor, Sir John||Turton, R. H.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Molson, A. H. E,||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wade, D. W.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Neave, Airey||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Nicholls, Harmar||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Heath, Edward||Nugent, G. R. H.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Oakshott, H. D.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Wesminster)|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Odey, G. W.||Wellwood, W.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Williams, Rt Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Holt, A. F.||Page, R. G.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hope, Lord John||Partridge, E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Perkins, Sir Robert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hersbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Mr. Wills and Mr. Robert Allan.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hargreaves, A.||Paton, J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Pearson, A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hastings, S.||Peart, T. F.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Hayman, F. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Porter, G.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Herbison, Miss M.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Balfour, A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J,||Hobson, C. R.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Bartley, P.||Holman, P.||Rankin, John|
|Beattie, J.||Holmes, Horace||Reeves, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hoy, J. H.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Bence, C. R.||Hubbard, T. F.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Beswick, F.||Hudson, James (Eating, N.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Richards, R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Boardman, H.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Ross, William|
|Bowles, F. G.||Janner, B.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Short, E. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Keenan, W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Callaghan, L. J,||King, Dr. H. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Carmichael, J.||Kinley, J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Champion, A. J.||Lawson, G. M.||Steele, T.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Clunie, J.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Collick, P. H.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Collins, V. J.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Logan, D. G.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Cove, W. G.||MacColl, J. E.||Summerskill, Rt, Hon. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||McGhee, H. G.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Grossman, R. H. S.||McInnes, J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Daines, P.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McLeavy, F.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Manuel, A. C.||Timmons, J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Tomney, F.|
|De Freitas, Geoffrey||Mason, Roy||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Deer, G.||Mayhew, C. P.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Delargy, H. J.||Mellish, R. J.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Messer, Sir F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bremwich)||Mikardo, Ian||Warbey, W. N.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mitchison, G. R.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Monslow, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Moody, A. S.||Weitzman, D.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Morley, R.||West, D. G.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Finch, H. J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewitham, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Follick, M.||Mort, D. L.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Moyle, A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mulley, F. W.||Wigg, George|
|Gibson, C. W.||Murray, J. D.||Willey, F. T.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Nally, W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Grey, C. F.||Oldfield, W. H.||Willis, E. G.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oswald, T.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Padley, W. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Yates, V. F.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Pannell, Charles|
|Hannan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hardy, E. A.||Parker, J.||Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."1803
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I shall not detain the Committee for very long, but I want to say a few words upon the more general question of chemical manipulation. I know that the hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Dodds) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) have already raised several points in regard to this matter, particularly in the Second Reading debate on 23rd July. I am also aware that many points have been raised by several noble Lords in another place, and that the Parliamentary Secretary is well aware of the arguments which have already been propounded. In opening the debate on 23rd July, he said:Now that chemical substances are added to food, there is the problem that it is not easy—in many cases, it is not possible—to determine in advance what may be the long-term effects of the regular consumption of small quantities of new chemicals."—[QFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1954 Vol. 530, c. 1762.]Now that we are tending towards increasing urbanisation and have large populations grouped in centres, the difficulty of the transportation of foodstuffs tends to lead to an increase in chemicalisation. Various chemicals are added to foodstuffs for many reasons, and this problem is daily becoming very much greater.
The Delaney Committee has estimated that about 700 chemicals are now used in foodstuffs, for a very wide range of reasons—for extending their life, colouring them, protecting them in various ways or sweetening them. Chemicals are also applied while foodstuffs are growing, in order to protect them from insect pests and diseases.
I want to stress the fact that some of these chemicals have been tested in laboratories and have been found to do considerable harm to animals there. One well-known pesticide or insecticide—D.D.T.—is used very widely in protecting growing foods from pests and diseases and is also used in homes, hospitals and other places where food is stored, in order to keep away insects. This substance is known to be very toxic and harmful to animals. It is known to occur in the fat residues of human beings as well as animals and to be thereby transmitted to animal and human milk.
In these circumstances we carry a grave responsibility for public welfare if 1804 we allow these substances to be handled very widely by people who are not sufficiently aware of the possibly dangerous consequences. We ought to try at least to understand and take note of the findings of all the various independent authorities and of the investigations which have been going on in this country, in Canada and in the United States of America. Much is known about these dangers, and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is well aware that they exist, yet nothing seems to be done.
So many times the criticism is thrown back upon those who speak in this way that they are either too great enthusiasts, eccentrics, cranks, or are advocating this course for a special reason. All I am saying is that we have a very grave responsibility in this matter, because there is a definite possibility that some of these harmful chemicals may be part of the cause of the increase in the incidence of certain diseases, such as poliomyelitis and cancer. I say that only because the origin of these diseases is not well known; we have still not reached the point of deciding where and how they originate.
I cannot understand why we cannot have something similar to the food and drugs administration which exists in the United States of America. If it is impossible to list the drugs which are known to be safe and which may be included in foodstuffs, can we not have a list of the drugs which are known to be dangerous? I do urge that this question be given serious consideration. I am very glad to see that the Minister of Health is here, because it seems a poor argument to say that all drugs are safe until they are proved dangerous. I should have thought it would be much safer to assume that they were all dangerous until they had been proved safe.
§ Dr. Stross
The hon. Gentleman said that there might be some association between insecticides and other substances which are used for agricultural purposes and certain diseases, including poliomyelitis and cancer. I would point out to him that both these diseases—though it may be best to think in terms of poliomyelitis alone—existed long before these substances were ever dreamt of, let alone manufactured. It would be a mistake to 1805 allow the hon. Member's suggestion to go unchallenged.
§ Mr. Eden
I merely want to point out that there has been an increase in the incidence of these diseases.
In today's "News Chronicle" there is an article headedPolio; Is the weather to blame?It is written by someone who signs himself "the Medical Correspondent" and, amongst other things, he says:It is known for certain that the virus of poliomyelitis is in many cases swallowed … I would counsel that at this season all fruit should be very carefully washed or peeled even if picked from the hack garden.He is there referring to the infection of the skin of the fruit by insects while it is on the tree in the orchard. I am only throwing out the suggestion, which is worthy of investigation, that it may also possibly be due to the incidence of poisonous sprays.
To help in such an investigation there should be some kind of overseeing body, such as the food and drugs administration in the United States. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary said that it would take a long time to establish beyond doubt the safety of a substance. I agree with that view, and that it would involve more administration, which would cost money. Yet it would be wise to take time for such an investigation, to make quite sure that the drugs used in our foodstuffs are safe for human consumption before they are actually used. The Ministers concerned with health and food and agriculture have that responsibility, and they should be careful not to let this opportunity pass.
I have shortened my remarks and I have spoken as moderately as possible in the hope that we can get an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that consideration will be given to the points raised by hon. Members opposite and by myself. Whilst we welcome the Clauses in the Bill, we should welcome also specific action to regulate the use of harmful drugs in our foodstuffs.
§ Mr. Willey
We cannot let this Clause pass without saying that we are disappointed at the attitude of the Government to advertisers. This is becoming a serious matter. It is clear that probably the strongest lobby in the Tory Party 1806 is that of the advertisers. It has been very marked during this Session.
It is no good talking about free private enterprise and thinking that advertisers and other such people should get off scot-free. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to look at the American and Canadian legislation on this matter. There should be a real sense of public responsibility about advertising, but one of the signs of weakness in the present Administration is the way, time after time, they give way to the advertisers' lobby.
Having said that, I commend this Clause to the Committee. Even with that blemish, it is a genuine advance on existing legislation and, as the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden) said, it deals with an important subject affecting food hygiene. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will take the opportunity to tell us what at present is being done, and what is to be done, by the Food Standards Committee and particularly by the Metallic Sub-Committee. The work being done there is relevant to what we are discussing here and to the matter raised by several hon. Members; namely, the desirable objective of getting lists of approved and not approved substances. I think the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary is probably right. Let us have this work continued and, in the light of its results, we can take effective steps.
I have two questions to put to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food which, however, really affect the Minister of Health. Speaking on the first Amendment, I said that for obvious reasons we are not anxious to go outside the purposes of this Bill, which amends the principal Act. I wonder whether any consideration has been given to the question of the definition of drugs? I know that representations have been made by some of the professional bodies, and I ask this question in order to be reassured that at any rate the opportunity of this amending legislation has not been lost, if there should be a case for a further and better definition.
I put my second point in the same way. We were invited to put down an Amendment or a new Clause but I would invite the views of the Government at this stage, although I apologise for not having given notice of the point. Representations have 1807 been made to the effect that in the case of a dangerous drug it would be an advantage for the antidote to be printed on the label. Again, that matter does not arise from the Bill as it stands, but if there should be a suggestion that merits consideration, we should take the opportunity of legislation to deal with it.
I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with these points and assure us that, in the short time between now and Report stage, the Government will see whether it would be possible, if desirable, to introduce Amendments to deal with those two points.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
One or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) have brought me to my feet. May I ask him to be a little more precise about what he calls the "advertisers' lobby"? The suggestion apparently is that there is a group of advertisers or advertising agents who have been "getting at" hon. Members on this side of the Committee in relation to this Bill. I can only say that I have taken the closest interest in it from its introduction, and this is the first time that I have heard of any move on the part of any advertising lobby to influence the views of anyone. I think the advertising lobby resides only in the imagination of the hon. Gentleman.
Before we leave this Clause, it is desirable to point out that, as it now stands, there is a perfect defence for the public in the event of any misleading or fraudulent advertisement being published. The speeches that we have heard from the other side of the Committee rather suggested that the public is getting no protection. Yet Clause 1 makes the manufacturer—who, after all, is basically the person responsible—the defendant in any prosecution for the use of a fraudulent advertisement. So there is no question of removing fraudulent advertisements beyond the scope of being dealt with properly under the law.
The hon. Gentleman made another interesting remark about the desirability, in the case of dangerous drugs, of printing the antidote on the label. That proposal has been made from time to time and has been referred to the Poisons Board, which is the body charged with the duty 1808 of advising the Minister of Health on the labelling of poisons. I happen to be a member of that Board. On two occasions it has considered the proposition and has decided against it on the purely practical ground that in many cases the treatment for poisoning is not an antidote but a course of treatment. If, therefore, information given on a label were to be of any real value, so much would have to be given as to destroy totally the nature of the label. So the advice given to the Home Secretary twice has been that this is not practically possible.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
As one who has been closely connected with the chemical industry for many years, I am sure that hon. Members will forgive. me for making a protest against the unsubstantiated remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden). He has allowed his imagination to run riot in suggesting that diseases like poliomyelitis and the more complex cancer might be connected with the chemicals which are used in the food industry. The chemical industry, like everyone else concerned; is very much concerned to make sure that nothing which is added is injurious to health. All those who are engaged in the industry with whom I have spoken have welcomed the Bill, because it is contributing to the end that all reputable manufacturers of chemicals and food processes want to see, namely, better food.
My hon. Friend spoke as if things were added to food without much thought or investigation, whereas, in fact, all hon. Members who are concerned with the food industry and chemical production know that prolonged investigations are carried out by entirely independent bodies, such as the Medical Research Council and numerous committees set up by the Government. Continuous investigations are also carried out by the universities as well as by the industries concerned. All these results are correlated to make sure that nothing injurious is added to food.
§ Mr. Fort
There are certainly a large number which have not had the full, exhaustive tests of the United States food and drugs administration investigation. There is no proof at all, either in this country or in the United States, on the tests carried out, that these things are in any way injurious, although it is perfectly true that they have not been through the five years' or seven years' investigation which is carried out in America. The bodies concerned have done the most intensive investigation over a vast range of chemicals that are in use and I think that the medical profession is well satisfied at the present time, whatever their opinion in the distant past, that what is added to food cannot be regarded as in any way injurious to health.
§ Mr. John Eden
My hon. Friend made the mildly worded accusation that I probably made my remarks without having given them due consideration and that my charges were rather wild. I assure the Committee and my hon. Friend that I have given very careful consideration to what I said. I have been very interested in this question for a long time and I am personally concerned with a long-term experiment involving the use of chemicals on growing foodstuffs. I assure the Committee that many of the chemicals that are used now are absorbed and stored in the growing plant and thereby can be passed on to human consumption. I would—
§ Sir L. Plummer
I do not want to widen the split in the party opposite, but I should like to make one comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden). I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will correct any impression which may go from this Committee that the use of chemicals in growing foods is automatically injurious to health. I live in the country and I am a farmer. I do not know that the incidence of poliomyelitis in the country, where artificial fertilisers and insecticides are used, is much more than in urban areas, or that we have more cancer in the country than in the towns. We must deal with this matter precisely, 1810 otherwise a development in agriculture that is absolutely essential to the welfare of the industry, in the use of insecticides, might be injuriously affected at a time when a declining agricultural population is already making things difficult.
Reference has been made to the systemic treatment of plants. The only way of killing caterpillar moth by this method is to spray cabbages with systemic poison. The cabbage imbibes the poison and is then unfit for human consumption for about six weeks. I do not know whether the period is five or seven weeks, but the responsibility is on the Ministry of Health to keep a careful watch on the systemic treatment of plants so as to ensure that there is no alteration in the effectiveness of the poison in the plant because of the mutations of plant life every generation. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to try to dispel any view that modern developments in agriculture automatically mean that we are becoming a more disease-ridden or disease-prone population.
§ Dr. Hill
If I may echo what the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) has just said and extend it a little more widely, I should like to say to the Committee that we must retain a sense of balance and not get into the habit of thinking that because a substance is a chemical it is necessarily harmful when added to food. The immense progress that has been made in food technology in recent years indicates the extent to which chemistry can be brought to the aid of food production. I urge hon. Members to beware of what is so temptingly easy, namely, relating a particular disease to a particular cause, without there being scientific ground for the assumption.
Do not let us be lulled into apathy, let us take proper precautions and engage in all possible investigations, but do not let us allow to develop round the word "chemical" a kind of hoodoo. After all, we are all composed of chemicals.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) referred to advertising and spoke of the advantages of or advances made in the Clause. As he knows, it rationalises and modernises the first two Sections of the 1938 Act and adds processing and the use of ingredients to the various factors which may cause food to be injurious to health. The references to offering and 1811 exposing and advertising are new. There is also the new suggestion that in interpreting the words "injurious to health" those words may be taken to include the cumulative effect of substances consumed over long periods.
Other questions put in the course of this debate suggested the publication of a white list. That may come up later in the Committee's deliberations but for the moment I believe that the Clause represents as substantial an advance as we can make. There may be a reference to the cumulative issue when we come to Clause 4, which provides machinery for obtaining the necessary information.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) referred to antidotes, a subject which may be discussed on another occasion.
In general I believe that the Committee will agree that this Clause represents a reasonable advance towards the objective we all have in mind.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.