SEEDS ACT (1920) AMENDMENT BILL.

THURSDAY, 9th JULY, 1925.

435

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Hamilton, Sir Robert (Chairman)

Allen, Mr. Sandeman (West Derby)

Applin, Colonel (Enfield)

Astbury, Lieut.-Commander (Salford, West)

Bethel, Mr. (Eccles)

Bird, Sir Robert (Wolverhampton, West)

Blundell, Mr. (Ormskirk)

*Boothby, Mr. (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester)

Churchman, Sir Arthur (Woodbridge)

Connolly, Mr. (Newcastle, East)

Courtauld, Major (Chichester)

*Courthope, Lieut.-Colonel Sir George (Rye)

Craig, Captain Charles (Antrim)

Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)

Dean, Mr. (Holland-with-Boston)

De Frece, Sir W. (Blackpool)

*Dixon, Mr. (Belfast, East)

*Drewe, Mr. (Devon, South Molton)

England, Colonel (Heywood and Radcliffe)

Evans, Captain Arthur (Cardiff, South)

Everard, Mr. (Leicester, Melton)

Fermoy, Lord (King's Lynn)

Forrest, Mr. (Batley and Morley)

Garro-Jones, Captain (Hackney, South)

Gee, Captain (Leicester, Bosworth)

Greenall, Mr. (Farnworth)

Greene, Mr. (Worcester)

*Groves, Mr. (West Ham, Stratford)

Hayday, Mr. (Nottingham, West)

Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel (Barnard Castle)

*Huntingfield, Lord (East Suffolk, Eye)

Hurd, Mr. (Devizes)

Jenkins, Mr. (Neath)

Jones, Mr. Mardy (Pontypridd)

Kelly, Mr. (Rochdale)

Knox, Sir Alfred (Bucks, Wycombe)

Lawson, Mr. (Chester-le-Street)

Lee, Mr. Frank (Derby, North-East)

Locker-Lampson, Mr. Godfrey (Wood Green)

Looker, Mr. (Essex, South-East)

Moreing, Captain (Camborne)

O'Connor, Captain T. J. (Luton)

Philipson, Mrs. (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Power, Sir John (Wimbledon)

Rice, Sir Frederick (Harwich)

*Robertson, Mr. John (Bothwell)

Rose, Mr. (Aberdeen, North)

Salmon, Major (Harrow)

Sanderson, Sir Frank (Darwen)

Savery, Mr. (Holderness)

Shaw, Captain Walter (Westbury)

Shiels, Dr. (Edinburgh, East)

Strickland, Sir Gerald (Lancaster)

Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan (Middlesbrough, West)

Wells, Mr. (Bedford)

Welsh, Mr. (Coatbridge)

*Wheler, Major Sir Granville (Faversham)

Whiteley, Mr. (Blaydon)

Williams, Mr. Herbert (Reading)

*Williams, Mr. Thomas (Don Valley)

*Wood, Mr. Edward (Ripon)

* Added in respect of the Seeds Act (1920) Amendment Bill and the Protection of Animals Bill.—July 9, 1925.

MR. WILLIAMS, Committee Clerks.

MR. DENT, Committee Clerks.

436
437 STANDING COMMITTEE C Thursday, 9th July, 1925.

[Sir ROBERT HAMILTON in the Chair.]

SEEDS ACT (1920) AMENDMENT BILL.
[OFFICIAL REPORT.] CLAUSE 1.
—(Amendment of 10 & 11 Geo. 5. c. 54.)

To Section eleven of the Seeds Act, 1920, shall be added the following Sub-section, namely:— (3) All proceedings for an offence under this Act for making or causing to be made a false statement as to the class or variety of seed potatoes, shall be commenced within twelve months of the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed.

Mr. DREWE: I beg to move to leave out the word "all" and to insert instead thereof the words "Notwithstanding any enactment prescribing the time within which proceedings may be brought before a court of summary jurisdiction." This is a purely drafting Amendment, as are also the following two Amendments which stand in my name.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: Leave out the words "shall be commenced," and insert instead thereof the words "may be commenced at any time."

Leave out the words "offence is alleged to have been", and insert instead thereof the words "alleged offence was."—[Mr. Drewe.]

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson): I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the following new Sub-section. "(2) This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland." 438 This is purely a drafting Amendment. Under the Government of Ireland Act (1920) the Parliament of Northern Ireland has jurisdiction over questions of this kind, and, therefore, we have to put in these words to safeguard the rights of that Parliament.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. T. WILLIAMS: I think that we should have from the promoter of the Bill some explanation as to the need for this further legislation, as there are many Members present who are not too closely acquainted with the need for this Bill.

Mr. DREWE: The object of this Bill is to give the same security to the grower of seed potatoes as is given to the grower of other agricultural seeds.

Captain GEE: The grower or the purchaser?

Mr. DREWE: The man who ultimately grows it, the purchaser when he grows it as a crop. It is proposed to give him the same security as is given to the purchaser of other agricultural seeds when he grows his crop. At the present time, under the Seeds Act, if an offence be committed, the man who commits the offence is liable, without any prejudice to a civil action, to a prosecution in a court of summary jurisdiction. But in reference to seed potatoes the Act does not give the purchaser sufficient protection, because he can only take proceedings within a period of six months. The experience of potato growers shows that a period of six months is not sufficient to determine, in many cases, the variety of the potato, and the object of the Bill is to extend the period to 12 months so that a man, if he buys seed early, will have an opportunity of growing his crop of potatoes and finding out what he has got, and then if an offence was committed he has the same protection under the Act as is afforded to other agriculturists. This in no way alters the position with regard to a civil action; it simply gives power to enter a criminal prosecution if an offence has been committed. It happens frequently, particularly in potato areas which are affected by wart disease, that a man who buys immune varieties, and pays the price for them, finds after he has paid the price that he 439 did not get what he thought he was getting, but that he got a variety which was not immune, and that, as the six months period had elapsed, he has no opportunity of entering a prosecution. The object of the Bill is to give the seed potato grower the same measure of security as is afforded to the grower of other seeds. I think it is a reasonable Measure to bring forward and one which the respectable and high-class potato merchants will welcome. It can in no way injure them, but, on the other hand, it gives them protection against the unscrupulous dealer, just as much as it gives protection to the man who buys the seeds.

Mr. ROBERTSON: It gives a reasonable time within which the seeds can be tested, consistent with the growing of potatoes?

Mr. DREWE: Yes. It is considered by the Ministry of Agriculture and by the National Farmers' Union that this period of 12 months is reasonable.

Mr. BLUNDELL: I will give the Committee a concrete example of what happened in my own constituency. Two years ago, a farmer purchased some Scotch seed potatoes. He intended to sell the seeds and, therefore, he applied to the Ministry of Agriculture to have the seeds inspected in order that he might obtain a certificate to sell them as certified stock. When the Ministry of Agriculture's inspector came he said, "I cannot give you a certificate for these seeds, because there are something over 40 per cent. of rogues in your crop." That meant that 40 per cent. of the crop was not of the variety that was supposed to have been planted. The farmer, therefore, wrote to the Ministry of Agriculture and asked them to prosecute the seedsman who had supplied him with the seed, on the ground of fraud, that he had supplied him with a type of seed that was not the type which he had purported to sell. The Ministry of Agriculture sent another inspector down to inspect the crop, and he came to the conclusion that the seedsman had sold seeds which did not bear the description he put upon them. Under the existing law, the Ministry of Agriculture cannot prosecute in Scotland. The Ministry of Agriculture 440 thereupon placed the evidence which they had secured before the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, so that a prosecution could be undertaken, but the Board of Agriculture in Scotland consists of canny Scotsmen, who were not going to be run into a prosecution by investigations undertaken by the English Ministry of Agriculture. They sent inspectors down to re-open the investigation. The inspectors arrived at the same conclusion as the English Ministry of Agriculture, but by the time they had arrived at their conclusion three days had elapsed over the six months within which a prosecution could be brought. The seedsman was able to get off scot free, because the time had elapsed and he could not be prosecuted. It is to meet that kind of case that my hon. Friend has introduced the Bill. The Committee will agree that it is a proper case to be met.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clasue 2 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be reported to the House."

Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON: As the Committee knows, I am not an agricultural authority. The only reason I am here is that my Department is interested in the Bill which follows this, the Protection of Animals Bill, and the Minister of Agriculture asked me to be present during the proceedings on the Seeds Act Amendment Bill to answer any questions, with the help of his advisers, that might be put to me. He asked me to say that the Ministry of Agriculture are very much in favour of this Bill, and they hope that it will go through as a completely non-controversial Measure, although the Government cannot promise that they will be able to give facilities for the Bill at this juncture of the Session. Probably it will not require any special facilities. It appears to me to be an entirely uncontroversial Measure, and, therefore, I hope it will go through after 11 o'clock formally.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported to the House.

441

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Hamilton, Sir Robert (Chairman)

Applin, Colonel

Blundell, Mr.

Connolly, Mr.

Dean, Mr.

Drewe, Mr.

Everard, Mr.

Frece, Sir W. de

Garro-Jones, Captain

Gee, Captain

Greenall, Mr.

Groves, Mr.

Huntingfield, Lord

Kelly, Mr.

Knox, Sir Alfred

Locker-Lampson, Mr. Godfrey

Rice, Sir Frederick

Robertson, Mr. John

Shiels, Dr.

Strickland, Sir Gerald

Whiteley, Mr.

Williams, Mr. Herbert

442