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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) .- In my opinion the clause should be amended. It provides that any person selling, or having in his possession, illicit methylated spirit or any article of food or drink, or any scent, essence, tincture, or medicine containing methylated spirit shall be liable to a fine of £100. It seems to me that this provision, if not' amended, might operate harshly and unjustly. A young lady who buys or is given a bottle of scent cannot reasonably be expected to know what it contains. But, if it contained methylated spirit, she would be liable,, under the clause, to a penalty, of £100. I suggest the insertion of the word "knowingly " in the first line of the clause, so that it shall read " a person shall nol knowingly sell or have in his possession."

Sir William Lyne - That amendment may open a very wide door. We must be very strict, as otherwise we cannot prevent the illicit use of methylated spirit. It seems to me that the person proceeded against should at least have to prove that he did not know that he was selling, or that he had in his possession, methylated spirit.

Mr JOHNSON - Chemists and medical men might well be held responsible for the preparations} with which they were dealing, because they would know what they contain; but the average layman could not reasonably be expected to have such knowledge.

Mr Hutchison - Ignorance is no excuse under the local health Acts.

Mr JOHNSON - If so, that does not make the injustice of this provision any the less. The honorable member might, with that generosity which characterizes a young man during a certain phase of his existence, purchase from a druggist a bottle of scent to present to the object of his affections, not knowing that it contained methylated spirit, and if it were found in his possession he would be liable ito .a penalty of ,£100. The young lady to whom the scent was presented would be similarly liable.

Mr Hutchison - The honorable member does not suppose that the inspectors would search every private citizen?

Mr JOHNSON - We have had sufficient experience with regard to the exercise of unlimited powers conferred on officials to make us careful in matters of this kind. We know that certain provisions have been administered in a manner that was never dreamt of by those who enacted them ; and what has happened in other cases may occur in this instance. At any rate, we' should do our best to safeguard innocent persons. I suggest that after the word "not" the word "knowingly" should be inserted.

Sir William Lyne - I could not accept that amendment.

Mr JOHNSON - Then perhaps the Minister might consent to amend the clause by providing that a person should not "knowingly" have in his possession any illicit methylated spirits.

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