Clause 140. — (Penalty on original vendor of unsound food.)

Private Business. – in the House of Commons on 2nd August 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

(1) Where it is shown that any animal or article liable to be seized under Sections 116 to 118 of the "Public Health Act, 1875," and Section 28 of "the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890," and found in the possession of any person was sold to him by another person for the food of man (the proof that the same was not sold for the food of man resting with the party charged), and when so sold was in such a condition as to be liable to be so seized and to be condemned under Section 117 of the "Public Health Act, 1875," the person who so sold the same shall be punishable as mentioned in the last-mentioned Section unless he proves that at the time he sold the said animal or article he did not know and had no reason to believe that the said animal or article was in such condition.

(2) Where any article of food has been condemned by a Justice under Section 117 of the "Public Health Act, 1875," as amended by Section 28 of "the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890," the person to whom the same belongs or did belong at the time of deposit of such article for the purpose of sale or of preparation for sale as well as the persons in those Sections mentioned shall also be punishable as mentioned in the said Section 117 unless he prove that at the time of such deposit he did not know and had no reason to believe that the said article was in such a condition as to be liable to be so condemned.

(3) Before any animal or article liable to be condemned under Section 117 of the "Public Health Act, 1875," as amended by Section 28 of the "Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890," and this Section is dealt with by a justice, the medical officer or the sanitary inspector shall inform the person in whose custody or possession the same was at the time when it was inspected by the medical officer or sanitary inspector of the intention of such medical officer or sanitary inspector to have the same dealt with by a justice, and any person who may be liable in respect of such animal or article to a prosecution under the aforesaid provisions shall be entitled to attend the proceedings before the justice and to be heard with his witnesses upon the application for the condemnation of any such animal or article.

(4) The Corporation shall forthwith after the passing of this Act give notice of the effect of the provisions of this Section by advertisement in the principal local newspapers circulating in the borough.

Photo of Mr Henry Cautley Mr Henry Cautley , East Grinstead

I beg to move, to leave out the Clause.

The Clause gives extended powers to deal, as the corporation say, with matters affecting public health, and the ground of my opposition to the Clause is, firstly, that no such powers are necessary for the protection of the public health, and, secondly, that if any Member of the House thought they were so necessary, such powers ought to be given by a general Act and not by a Clause inserted in an omnibus Bill giving powers to a particular corporation. The question arises in this way. By the general law of the land, in the Public Health Act, 1875, Sections 116 to 119, if anybody exposes for sale any article of food, the medical officer of health or the sanitary inspector in the particular locality can inspect that article, or can get a search warrant, if necessary, to inspect it, and if it be found to be unwholesome, he can seize it; he can then take it before a magistrate and have it condemned and destroyed, and the person who so exposes or prepares it for sale can be fined up to an amount of £20 for each article so exposed, and, in addition, can be sent to prison for some considerable period. The first point that I wish to make is that such a power is amply sufficient for the protection of the public health in the town of Bolton, or in any town, because it is apparent that if you take meat, for instance, it is sold only in a butcher's shop, and if a man be fined or imprisoned for selling bad meat, his business is ruined, and the offence does not occur again. For this reason the power of dealing with him is ample. Under Section 116 of the Public Health Act, 1875, that power applies Lo any animal, carcase, meat, poultry, game, fish, fruit, and vegetable, and by a further Section of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890, referred to in the Clause which I am now seeking to omit, that Section 116 of the Act of 1875 was extended to every article of food. Therefore, in every part of the country the sanitary officer has this power of condemning the food, having it destroyed, and having the man who is attempting to sell it, or even preparing it for sale, fined and imprisoned.

The Corporation of Bolton have got passed by a Private Bill Committee in this particular case a power which goes very much beyond that. It is shortly to this effect, that where a shopkeeper is so summoned and dealt with, if he says, "I bought this article or this animal from somebody else, say Mr. 'A,'" wherever he lives, however far away, and whatever length of time before, the sanitary inspector can issue a summons against "A" and bring him to Bolton, put him in the Bolton Police Court, and "A" is to be found guilty unless he proves that when he sold the animal or the article it was, so far as he knew, sound. I submit to the House that legislation of this sort is putting the producers of food throughout the country into an absolutely unnecessary position and casting a slur and a stigma upon them that they ought not to be put under. There is no need for it, from the public health point of view, and whatever steps are taken, the onus ought to be on the local authority which prosecutes them, and they ought to be prosecuted in the locality where the sale took place instead of being brought all this distance.

Secondly, even if anybody thought that such a power was necessary, I venture to say that it ought to be given only by a general Act of Parliament, making it the law all over the country, in the same way as the Public Health Act provides for the retailer who sells food in his shop or exposes it for sale. It never ought to be given to any particular corporation and slipped into an omnibus Bill dealing with all sorts of other powers that they are seeking. It ought to receive the fullest consideration by the House, and it ought to be a measure brought in by the Government, so that its hearings might be considered in all directions, and it ought to be applied to every part of the community and to every part of the country. That that is the general view is abundantly clear from the practice that has always been adopted. In no case has such a Clause as this ever been inserted in a private Act, except in three cases, and in those three there were special circumstances. They are the cases of Birmingham, Salford, and Liverpool, where it was held that those places were the centres of the meat distributing trade of the country, and it was considered desirable in the Private Bills of those Corporations that these extensive powers should be granted. I have here a memorandum from the Home Office, where they state that this Clause was allowed to Liverpool in 1913, to Birmingham in 1914, and to Salford in 1920, in view of special local circumstances, namely, that these places are centres of the meat trade. Similar proposals, however, have been frequently disallowed. In the case of the Halifax, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northampton, Morley, Wimbledon, Lincoln. Dewsbury and Grimsby Bills, the attempt was made in each case to insert a Clause similar in character to this one, and in each case it was turned down by the Committee. Further, in the cases of the Corporation Bills of St. Helens, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Lowestoft in 1920, and one by Batley last year, the promoters after going before the Committee, found that the feeling was so hostile to it, that they withdrew it in each of these cases.

Therefore the matter rests in this way, that unless there have been special circumstances, as in the cases of the three towns I have mentioned, the Bills in at least 12 or 15 others, where there are no special circumstances, have been either withdrawn or rejected. On behalf of the producers of food, whether it be of meat, game, fruit or any article of food, I say it is an unwarrantable position to put them in, unless the House decide by a general Bill that it shall be made applicable to the producers of food all over the country. Look at the effect of giving it to one corporation. If there be any necessity for it—and I say there is not, because the powers are amply sufficient—surely the only effect of giving it to one corporation would be to drive the disposal of unsound food into neighbouring boroughs where this power has been refused. I regret most strongly this new departure in English law being extended, under which a man is to be charged on the basis of being guilty unless he proves his innocence. It has been suggested that there was a special circumstance in the case of Bolton, inasmuch as people were dumping bad animals in Bolton. No such ease was proved, and no such case could he proved. The Medical Officer of Health admitted that the people were taking bad meat in the adjacent towns, but no ease here could be proved or ever was proved.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I beg to second the Amendment.

I would like to put very shortly, in my own words, what is the effect of the Clause. Certain Sections of the Public Health Acts, very rightly and properly, make it an offence for a man to offer for sale, or expose for sale, food which is not fit for human consumption. He can be punished, and the unsuitable food destroyed. That is the law of the land, and it is the law which is enforceable through the administration of the local authority. The effect of this Clause, if passed, would be that the local authority of Bolton would obtain a very big extension of the law of the land; in other words, Bolton would be altering the law, not merely of the district of Bolton Corporation, but the law of the land of this country. My second point is that the proposed extension of the law by this Clause is entirely unnecessary for the purpose for which this portion of the Bill was promoted, namely, the protection of public health. That is sufficiently protected by being able to seize improper food which is exposed for sale, and by punishing the person who exposes it. I suggest that those two points alone should be fatal objections to this Clause, unless there be some very special reason shown why this Clause should be passed, notwithstanding those objections.

I will refer in a very few words to an objection to which my hon. and learned Friend has drawn attention. This Clause seeks to make liable to the same punishment as the man who exposes unfit food for sale, the man who sold it to him, unless he can prove his innocence. Unless there be some special reason for it, that surely is contrary to our sense of justice? The whole tradition of English law and English people is that a man is innocent until he is proved to be guilty, and one great and, to my mind, fatal objection to this Clause is that it makes the original vendor guilty as a result of the offence of the immediate vendor, unless the original vendor can prove his innocence. If you want to go for the original vendor at all, go for him in a proper way, and convict him if you can prove the offence against him. But do not, because some other man has been found guilty, say that he is to be found guilty unless he can prove his innocence.

I come to what, I imagine, will be the answer which will be made to these objections. I think there are two. We shall be told that there are special reasons in the case of Bolton. The only special reasons in the case of Bolton, of which I have been unable to hear, after making considerable inquiries, are those which have been mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend, that it was said that for some reason or other—I do not know whether it was because of the supposed gullibility or dishonesty, or whatever it was, of the Bolton butchers or traders—but for some reason or other, anyone who had bad meat to sell, tried to sell it to the Bolton dealers. It hardly lies in the mouths of the promoters of this Bill to put that up as a special circumstance. If that was the only special circumstances for which they wanted this Clause, all they had to do was to make this extension apply to that part of the Public Health Act of 1875 which applies to meat. That particular argument is no justification whatever for extension to the later Act of, I think, 1890, which extends the offence to all kinds of food.

One word on this extension to other kinds of food, because it is a little bit illustrative of the difficulties there will be in the way of working this Clause. The later Act extends this offence of exposing for sale food unfit for human consumption beyond meat to other kinds of food, including, for instance, fruit. What does a fruiterer do in a big shop? He buys his fruit from no end of different producers. He does not keep the produce of one farm or one fruit-grower apart from that of another. He lumps it together. Therefore, if part of his stock is found to be unfit for human food, how are you going to trace the original vendor of that particular part which happens to be unfit for food? You are going at least to cast a slur upon, and the opportunity for prosecution against a dozen, and it may be as many as 50 producers of fruit, just because the fruit supplied by one of these 50 was unsound. Another objection, which I anticipate will be raised to our Motion to strike out this Clause, is that this action should have been taken at an earlier stage of this Bill. The answer to that argument is the fact that I, who have no interest in Bolton, have a considerable interest in opposing this Clause on general grounds. So long as the Bill remained purely concerned with Bolton affairs it might be all right. But our procedure here in regard to Private Bills very properly requires that at certain stages they shall come, not before any special Committee, but before the Whole House. When the Bill comes to the knowledge of an ordinary Member like myself, who is not interested in Bolton, but finds that a farmer or fruit grower, or half-a-dozen other people in his constituency in Hertfordshire may suddenly become criminals under the law of this land by virtue of a Private Bill of the Bolton Corporation, then that is an absolute justification for interference, and I hope it will persuade the House absolutely to refuse to allow this Clause to pass.

For reasons which I have already stated, I do not think it is advisable to extend this Clause of the Public Health Act. Admitting, however, for the purposes of argument, that it is advisable to go back to the earlier vendors of the diseased or bad food, the proceedings should, surely, be carried out fairly over the whole country and by public Statute! The matter should not be carried out by Private Bill of this character, promoted by a corporation of—I will admit—a very important town in the North. Others in Hertfordshire or Sussex may find themselves offenders under the Bill, of which they are not necessarily supposed to know anything, promoted by a local authority miles away from where they are carrying on their business, and miles away from any place that they themselves have anything to do with. I have some considerable doubt—perhaps I ought not to express an opinion on this point—as to whether this Clause ought ever to have been allowed as being within the scope and Preamble of the Bill. It is to protect the health of Bolton. But Bolton can perfectly well protect its own health by seeing that no food exposed for sale in its own district is unwholesome, and by seeing that those are punished who expose such unfit food.

What business is it of Bolton to go outside its own district? What need has Bolton for the protection of its health to go outside its own district? Therefore, I suggest that, however laudable any alteration in the general law of this country might be, that for this reason again it is quite wrong for it to be done at the instance of Bolton in such a way as to make criminal those people in Hertfordshire or Sussex who happen to be the vendors of meat to Bolton, and who are not criminal vendors in regard to meat sold to Brighton or York. The whole thing is ridiculous and absurd. If, therefore, there is no reason for this Clause—and I hope I have shown that—if I have shown that it offends against the ordinary Englishman's sense of justice by assuming that a man is guilty until he can prove his innocence, I suggest to the House that this Clause ought never to have been proposed. I suggest that if the promoters of this Bill will not immediately withdraw it this House will show its independence of Bolton, and its interest in the rest of the country; and that it should show its desire to protect is own right to make laws for this country generally in preference to allowing Bolton to do so.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

One would conclude, listening to the speeches on the Motion for rejection, that we were dealing with some matter where some private conspiracy was on foot to interfere with the liberty of the subject. We are dealing with a matter promoted by one of the largest towns in Lancashire, supported by the Corporation, endorsed by the con- stituents, and having been further considered by the House of Lords and unanimously approved, referred to a Committee of this House, and again approved. What we are asked to do is not only to ignore the wishes and requirements of Bolton, not only to say we are better judges of your requirements and much better guardians of your health, we are more concerned with your protection than you are yourself, but, over and above that, if the Motion that is now being moved is carried we are called upon to say that those Members of the House of Lords who considered this matter knew nothing about the subject, we are asked to say that they did a grave injustice, and over and above that, notwithstanding that counsel argued as eloquently as the Mover and Seconder had done against this Clause, the whole thing was thrashed out pro and con by a Committee upstairs, and they came to this decision, and we are asked to assume that, notwithstanding all that evidence and argument, and the case presented, that this House is entitled to throw both the Committee of the House of Lords and the Committee of the House of Commons overboard, and accept the statement made by my hon. Friend.

What shortly are the facts? Will it be disputed that it is not only right, but it is the duty of a public authority to safeguard the health of its people. Will hon. Members on the opposite side of the House say that the Bolton Corporation, when they came, to this House for these powers, were not entitled to say to Parliament, "We, as representatives of the Bolton people, are satisfied that this Clause is necessary in the interests and for the protection of the health and the life of our community." That is precisely what they have said. They say, "Our experience shows that meat, damaged fruit, and other things come into the town of Bolton which are a danger and a menace to the health of the people." They further say, "We have taken action often against the butcher who has sold diseased meat; we have prosecuted him, but when we have prosecuted we have found that the real culprit has been someone else, and we have been unable to get at the real culprit." That, after all, is the essence of the ease. Boiled down, the case is that a butcher in the town of Bolton is selling diseased meat which is admittedly diseased and poisonous, and may result even in the death of one of the inhabitants of Bolton. The Bolton medical officer of health, in the exercise of his duty, institutes a prosecution, and when the case comes before the Court, the butcher who sold the meat is able to show that he is innocent.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

I am stating what actually happened. This butcher pleads that he is innocent, and he proves that this meat or fruit has been sold to him, and he has no knowledge whatever that it is diseased, and then the medical officer of health for Bolton says, "Very well, we want the power to get at the real culprit." That is exactly what this Clause provides.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I am sure my right hon. Friend does not want to mislead the House on a question of law. May I point out to him that the butcher who exposes meat which is unfit for food cannot get out of a conviction by putting up as a defence the guilt of the man who has sold the meat to him. It is an offence in law for that butcher to have exposed meat unfit for sale, and it is no defence to the charge that it was sold to him when it was in an unfit state.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

It may not have been a right defence or a proper legal defence, but it is a defence that has succeeded.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

Then those justices are not fit to administer the law.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

Surely the interruption of my hon. Friend opposite justifies my case. If the hon. Member admits that the person responsible, whether it is an individual or a dozen people, whether it is a man in Bolton or London, whoever is responsible ought to be prosecuted. That is all the Bolton Corporation are asking for. That is all that this Clause does, and it is all that the. Committee decided that they ought to have the power to do. I put it on other grounds. I do not know where the representatives of Bolton are now.

Mr. FOOT:

Bolton wanderers.

Photo of Mr James Thomas Mr James Thomas , Derby

I know that one of the Members for Bolton is very ill and the other has just resigned his office in the Government. I should like either of the hon. Members representing Bolton to state from the Floor of the House how anyone representing the traders or anyone else in the town of Bolton could object to the town council having power to deal with the real culprit. That, I contend, is the essence of this Clause, and I submit that we ought to have far more evidence than we have heard to-night to convince us of the necessity of, in the first place, rejecting the claim of a corporation like Bolton; secondly, of saying that those Members of the House of Lords who considered this matter were not competent to judge; and thirdly, that having appointed a Committee of this House to go into the matter and to hear the evidence, and after being satisfied as to the merits of the case making a recommendation to us, I put it to the House that we not only ought to endorse their action, but we would be taking upon ourselves a very grave responsibility if we reject what, after all, they are most competent to deal with, having regard to the evidence. Upon all these grounds I submit that the House might not to accept the Motion which has been moved and seconded.

Photo of Mr Albert Atkey Mr Albert Atkey , Nottingham Central

In the absence of the Chairman of the Local Legislation Committee, I venture to submit to the House a few of the considerations which led the Committee to grant the powers sought by Bolton in respect of this particular Clause which it is now sought to delete, and, in the first place, I would like to correct one or two misapprehensions under which the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) apparently suffers. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that somehow or other it had slipped into the Bill.

Photo of Mr Henry Cautley Mr Henry Cautley , East Grinstead

Slipped through the Committee.

Photo of Mr Albert Atkey Mr Albert Atkey , Nottingham Central

My reply is that it slipped into the Bill so long ago as last December, and has therefore been available for those who take the view of the Mover and Seconder to deal with ever since that date. Then, again, the hon. Gentleman admitted that the Local Legislation Committee had in three cases granted these powers, but he laid emphasis on the fact that the same Committee had refused the powers in many other cases which had been submitted to them. I venture to suggest to the House that the very fact that the Local Legislation Committee have had this Clause before them on so many occasions, and had in some cases exercised their discretion in favour of it, while in other cases they have rejected it, is the very best indication that before they granted the powers sought by Bolton they considered the case presented to them by Bolton most carefully. I feel that the Committee and this House are entitled to resent the intrusion upon their time of a Motion of this nature. My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion (Mr. Dennis Herbert) anticipated this point, which I am raising most strongly, and he made the very ingenious suggestion, by way of counter-attack, that this was the first time that his attention had been drawn to the Clause. But this Bill has not been brought mote particularly to his attention in the course of the last week or two. It has been in existence since last December.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

Surely the fact that it has been brought to my attention is proved by my action in seconding the Motion.

Photo of Mr Albert Atkey Mr Albert Atkey , Nottingham Central

The Bill was just as much brought to the attention of my hon. Friend in January this year as it has been now, and his subtle suggestion that this Bill comes before the House like a Government Measure and has therefore attracted his attention is a little too thin, if I may say so respectfully, even for him. I emphatically protest that after a Bill of this character has been considered by the House of Lords and its Committee and by the House of Commons and its Committee, and after this Clause has been subjected to special consideration and debate, my hon Friend should now seek on the Floor of this House to get a recommittal of the Bill and to try and prejudice the decision of the House in favour of the rejection of this Clause without the House having an opportunity which was given to the two Committees of hearing evidence in favour of the Clause, of cross-examining the witnesses, and of coining to a very definite conclusion on the matter. 'The Mover of the Amendment has suggested it is a matter which affects public health. I agree. But in this particular Bill it is the public health of Bolton only which is affected.

9.0 P.M.

I join issue with my hon. Friend in the suggestion that matters of this kind, which are the peculiar and particular functions of the Local Legislation Committee, should be rejected by this House in favour of a proposal to make them the subject of the general law. It would be fatal to the usefulness and destroy the scope and purpose of the Local Legislation Committee if that were agreed to. Bills from corporations submit for our consideration the powers they require because of the special circumstances of their case. Is it to he supposed that the peculiar and special circumstances of each city and borough in this country shall he made the subject of general legislation? The law at the present moment is often rendered ridiculous, but if in general legislation we try to reflect the idiosyncrasies of every part of the United Kingdom, well, one cannot contemplate what would be the result. I do not propose to turn this Sitting of the House into a meeting of the Local Legislation Committee, nor do I desire to ask the House to consider the evidence in extenso which the Committee had before it, hut there is one passage from the evidence I would like to read, more especially in view of the fact that my hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Clause seemed to think there was no evidence whatever sumitted to the Committee which justified the action we took. The medical officer of health is, of course, the officer in charge of the health of the borough, and if we are not to take his evidence as a guide on the wisdom of granting or refusing a Clause of this kind, I would ask, what other evidence are we to take? This question, which was put to the medical officer, will indicate to the House the thoughts that were running through the mind of the Committee. The question was: Will you explain to the Committee the reasons which, in your judgment, in the interests of the health of the borough, make it desirable that you should have these powers? I commend the answer to the careful consideration of the House. It was as follows: The cases for which we want these powers are cases where the people make it their trade to endeavour to smuggle into Bolton diseased animals knowing them to be diseased—to smuggle them into the private slaughter-houses and so escape inspection, and to put the carcases of these beasts on the market as sound meat. We do all we can, but it is quite impossible to detect all these cases. These men—I know the names of two or three—make it a regular business, and they run very slight risk of lass. I understand from those acquainted with the trade that if the beasts are detected they only lose about 30s., but if they succeed in passing the beasts as sound and in getting the carcases put on the market as sound meat then they make a very considerable profit. It is absolutely essential to get at these men who make it their business to go round surrounding districts to find and buy diseased beasts and to try and introduce them into Bolton and other towns. There is a plain statement of fact. I quote it because I think it will immediately convert my hon. Friend who seconded the rejection of the Clause, and who apparently is alarmed in respect of the farmers whom he represents so ably in this House. It is not an attempt to legislate for the North, the South, the East and the West, and although technically—and our lawyer friends are very prone to take a technical point of view—the passing of this Clause might give the Bolton Corporation power to follow a purveyor of diseased meat into distant parts of the country, it will be seen, from the evidence which was submitted to the Committee, and upon which we agreed to this Clause, that the city of Bolton is faced with the fact that this practice has grown up around the district and in the neighbourhood. We were satisfied that Bolton had proved their case, and we gave them the Clause. I should be sorry to think that the same sort of thing prevailed all over the country. So far as the city which I have the honour to represent is concerned, we have no smugglers of diseased meat around us, and we have not wanted a Clause of this character up to the present; but if we proved our case as well as Bolton I am satisfied that the Local Legislation Committee would give us those powers.

I respectfully suggest that it will be a sorry day for the machinery of this House, and for the methods which it has adopted for dealing with local legislation, if, at the last stage in the proceedings, when every opportunity has passed for a considered judgment to be taken on this matter, when it, is too late to have the suggestions and statements of those who seek to destroy this Clause really examined in the light of the facts and submitted to an impartial tribunal— it will be a sorry day for the legislation of this House if it then permits its machinery to be reversed and the decision of its Committee to be ignored, on the representations of one or two hon. Members who, after a lengthy sleep during all the earlier stages when this Bill was open to their inspection, now come down to the House and ask for a reversal of the Committee's decision. Had they taken their case in proper and due season to the Local Legislation Committee or to the Committee of the other House, those Committees would have welcomed any evidence which they chose to submit to them. I do say that, when a tribunal of that character, composed as it is of all shades of opinion in this House, has heard and considered evidence peculiar to the city whose Bill we are considering, and has come to the conclusion that the powers sought are reasonable and ought to be granted, the House should hesitate a long time before, in the circumstances with which we are faced to-night, they should reverse that decision and delete the Clause.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

I have some advice to give to the House on this Bill, but it only amounts to this, that they should come to a speedy decision upon it. This particular Clause is only one Clause out of 232, and I venture to suggest that, with matters of great national interest before the House, we should not spend too much time upon it. The Clause is one that has been proposed in a number of Corporation Bills. In three cases it has been accepted; in a somewhat greater number it has been rejected. The question for the House to-night is whether they will accept the finding of the majority of the Committee—I think they were not unanimous—that the circumstances of Bolton warrant this special Clause being put in. If they do that, they will vote for the Clause. If, on the other hand, they think that a question of principle is involved, and that no extension should be given to that principle by a private Act, they will vote against the Clause. Whether, however, they vote against it or whether they do not, I trust that, in view of the arguments that have been adduced on both sides, the House is now ready to come to a decision.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

The hon. Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. Atkey) says that, because the Committee upstairs have passed a certain Clause, that Clause is to be accepted, and this House is not in any kind of way to overrule the decision of the Committee. If that be so I would ask, what is the use of this House? Have they surrendered their functions to four gentlemen sitting upstairs, who, as we now know from the statement of the Chairman of Ways and Means, were not unanimous? That is what the hon. Member asks us to do. A more absurd doctrine was never put before this House.

Photo of Mr Albert Atkey Mr Albert Atkey , Nottingham Central

May I point out that the reason which prompted me to make that statement was this, that the opposition could have been heard before that Committee? Had they been heard and failed, I should have agreed that it would have been quite proper to pursue their objection on the Floor of the House. But they failed of their opportunity, and I do not think they have now any right to ask the House to reverse the Committee's decision.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

I really do not know what the hon. Member means by saying that they have failed of their opportunity. My duty, and the duty of all Members of this House, is to sit in this House and express our opinions. We are not obliged to go upstairs and wait outside a Committee Room in order to be able to give our opinions there. This is the place where we should give our opinions.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

Certainly, on Private Bills. They are the most necessary Bills on which we should give our opinion, because Corporations in these matters think they are a sort of God Almighty and can do anything they like, but all their proposals, or the majority of them, are bad and arbitrary. Therefore, this is the place where decisions of that sort ought to be given. Look at the evidence which, as the hon. Gentleman says, was placed before the Committee. A medical officer comes and says that there are certain people round, about Bolton who do wicked things, and, because there are certain people round about Bolton who do wicked things, there is to he an alteration in the law of the land which will allow any official of a Corporation to prosecute, say, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley), because, per-adventure, some butcher in Bolton has bought from my hon. and learned Friend, three or four weeks ago, a beast. The butcher in Bolton, perhaps, has not kept it in a proper way, it becomes ill, and tuberculosis set in. Then the butcher says, "I will see if I cannot sell it in Bolton." But he is a Bolton man, and probably a friend of the Corporation, so they will not prosecute him, but they will prosecute my hon. and learned Friend who has nothing whatever to do with it, and who is not a friend of the Bolton Corporation. A more absurd contention was never put forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) says that the man who does this ought to be prosecuted, and that it is necessary that the people of Bolton should not be poisoned. I agree; and who is the culprit? It is the man who puts in his shop an article which he knows to be bad, and then tries to get out of it by saying that someone else sold it to him. I am not dealing for the moment with the legal point, but it is a very important point that, in English law, no man is supposed to be guilty until he is proved to be so. This Bill, however, says he is guilty unless he has proved his innocence, which is a totally different thing. The hon. Member for Central Nottingham asks why was not something done in January? First of all, this House was not sitting in January; and, secondly, does he suggest that, on the Second Reading of a private Bill of 230 Clauses or more, we should move the rejection of the Bill because we disagree with one Clause? Surely, our proper course would be to allow that Bill to go upstairs, and, if we disagree with the finding of the Committee, to endeavour to put that right when the Bill comes down for consideration in this House. The hon. Gentleman asks, "What were they doing? Were they asleep?" I do not wish to claim for myself any particularly prominent position in this House, but I believe that the majority of this House, and, indeed, the majority of Members present, will say that I am not more asleep than the ordinary Member. I had not the remotest idea that there was this Clause in the Bill or that the same Clause had been given to three other corporations. Let me read the Title of the Bill: An Act to empower the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the County Borough of Bolton to construct additional waterworks and tramways and to run services of omnibuses, to execute street improvements, to make further provision in regard to their water, tramway, electricity, and market undertakings, to make further provision for the improvement of the health and good government of the Borough and for other purposes. The ordinary Member of Parliament naturally does not go through the whole list, but he reads the Title. How on earth is he to suppose that there is a Clause in the Bill which lets off the guilty shopkeeper in Bolton and convicts my hon. and learned Friend? I trust the House will show the just indignation which it ought to feel against an attempt to introduce by private legislation that which, however good it is, ought to be in a general Act, when everyone in the House knows what is going on. The rejection of the Clause, if it is necessary, will not prevent the Government from bringing in a Bill to put the Clause into general effect, but it will prevent the attempt which is being made by corporations to smuggle into private Bills of this sort Clauses which deal with the general law of the land.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I would have acceded to the request of the Chairman of Ways and Means if it had not been for the intervention of the right. hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who, I think, has given the whole case away of those who are opposing the Bill. He said it was a Bill with 240 Clauses and he quoted the Preamble and asked, how did we expect a. Member of the House to know all that was in the Bill? The fact that an hon. Member does not know all that is in a Bill does not justify him in opposing it after all the investigation it has gone through by the Committee of the House of Lords and the Local Legislation Committee. The Local Legislation Committee has the highest respect and regard for the functions of the House and my hon. Friend has not raised any question about the right of the House to review the decision of the Committee. What he says is that the fact that this Committee and the Committee of the House of Lords having heard all the legal arguments for and against this Clause, and given serious and due consideration to them, is evidence that they were competent to come to a deci- sion of that kind. Again, the right hon. Baronet complained that there were only four Members on the Committee. I think, if he will look at the records, be will find that there were more than four Members present. It would be well that be should acquaint himself with these things and find out whether he is correct or incorrect in his statements. I am informed that there were ten members of the Committee present.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

I thought it went before an ordinary Private Bill Committee. I now understand that there were seven members of this Committee present and that four were for the Clause and three against.

Photo of Mr Thomas Cape Mr Thomas Cape , Workington

I cannot say what were the numbers of the Division, but the fact remains that a Committee much larger than four considered and decided upon the Bill. Before a private Bill can come before the, Local Legislation Committee there are certain stages to go through in the town from which it is promoted. It has to go before a meeting of the town council and then it has to go before a specially called meeting of the burgesses of the town, and is therefore subject to opposition before it can be presented. After it has gone through those processes, any person resident in the town has a right to petition this committee and to be heard. On this occasion there was no opposition to the Clause of that kind and it would be most interesting to the members of the Local Legislation Committee if we could only get to know the real motives which prompted the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the rejection of the Clause. They are not subject to its ramifications because neither of them lives in Bolton. [Interruption.] If you do anything wrong, you ought to be prosecuted. We gave this Clause in this Bill due consideration. We rejected a similar Clause in other Bills when the evidence was not strong enough to warrant us in coming to a decision in its favour. In other instances, as in this, we were satisfied that sufficient evidence had been produced to warrant us in coming to the, decision we arrived at.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 74 Noes, 80.

Division No. 271.]AYES.[9.25 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeHenderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Bagley, Captain E. AshtonHodgde, Rt. Hon. JohnSexton, James
Banton, GeorgeHogge, James MylesShaw, Thomas (Preston)
Barker, Major Robert H.Houfton, John plowrightShort, Alfred (wednesbury)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Irving, DanSmith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)
Barrand, A. R.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Stevens, Marshall
Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund RobertJones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Sugden, W. H.
Betterton, Henry B.Kennedy, ThomasSutton, John Edward
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Kenyon, BarnetSwan, J. E.
Bramsdon, sir ThomasLaw, Alfred J. (Rochdale)Taylor, J.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Lawson, John JamesThomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)Thomas, Brig.-Gen, Sir O. (Anglesey)
Cowan, D. M, (Scottish Universities)Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Doyle, N. GrattanMalone, Major P. B (Tottenham, S.)Warren, Sir Alfred H.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Mason, RobertWaterson, A. E.
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)Morris, RichardWatts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Foot, IsaacMurray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Forrest, WalterMyers, ThomasWignall, James
Frece, Sir Walter deNeal, ArthurWilliams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Gee, Captain RobertNewbould, Alfred ErnestWilliams, Penry (Middlesbrough, E.)
Greenwood, William (Stockport)O'Grady, Captain JamesWilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Parkinson, Sir Albert L. (Blackpool)
Gritten, W. G. HowardParkinson, John Allen (Wigan)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hamsworth)Raffan, Peter WilsonMr. Atkey and Mr. Cape.
Halls, WalterRatcliffe, Henry Butler
NOES.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James TynteGreen, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Perkins, Walter Frank
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.Perring, William George
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Hallwood, AugustinePollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Renwick, Sir George
Barnett, Major Richard W.Hamilton, Sir George C.Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Barnston, Major HarryHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryRoundell, Colonel R. F.
Bennett, Sir Thomas JewellHills, Major John WallerRutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)
Birchall, J. DearmanHopkins, John W. W.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Samuel, Samuel (W'dswortn, Putney)
Breese, Major Charles E.Inskip, Thomas Walker H.Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveJameson, John GordonSueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Brittain, Sir HarryJodrell, Neville PaulThomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)Tryon, Major George Clement
Bruton, Sir JamesKing, Captain Henry DouglasWheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)White, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesLort-Williams, J.Whitla, Sir William
Cautley, Henry StrotherLoseby, Captain C. E.Williams, C. (Tavistock)
Cobb, Sir CyrilMacquisten, F. A.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Col. L. O. (R'ding)
Conway, Sir W. MartinMarriott, John Arthur RansomeWindsor, Viscount
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)Molson, Major John ElsdaleWise, Frederick
Dawson, Sir PhilipNewman, sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, c.)
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)Newson, Sir Percy WilsonWorsfold, T. Cato
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)Worthington Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Fell, Sir ArthurNicholson, William G. (Petersfield)Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Ford, Patrick JohnstonNorton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John
Forestier-Walker, L.Oman, Sir Charles William C.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamParker, JamesMr. Thomas Davies and Mr.
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnPease, Rt. Hon. Herbert PikeDennis Herbert.

Ordered, "That Standing Orders 223 and 243 be suspended, and that the Bill be now read the Third time."—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.