HC Deb 13 December 1878 vol 243 cc736-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If the Government propose to introduce an amending Act to mitigate the penalties permitted to be imposed by the Weights and Measures Act of last Session upon persons who, with no fraudulent intent, give publicity to market returns and price lists containing accounts of sales effected by local, customary, or heaped measures?


The matter is one which excites so much anxiety in many quarters, that I believe I had better inform the hon. Gentleman exactly what we have been advised respecting it. Section 23 of the Weights and Measures Act, 1878, is identical in every respect with section 31 of 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 63. The offence is expressed in identically the same words. The penalties are the same, and are to be recovered in the same way—before two Justices. Section 32 of 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 63, required some portion of the penalty, not exceeding a moiety, to be paid to the informer; whereas the present Act (section 57) (4) allows the Court a discretion as to whether they will or not assign any portion of the penalty to the informer. It is to be observed that, though the possible fine is a large one, it is a maximum only. It is not quite accurate to say that the penalties are imposed upon persons who give publicity to market returns and price-lists containing accounts of sales effected by local, customary, or heaped measures. What the section imposes a penalty for is, a person publishing a return in which the denomination of measure quoted implies a greater or loss measure than that of the same denomination of imperial measure; that is to say, it prohibits a newspaper from quoting a return which may mislead by naming an imperial measure, when, in fact, it means a measure which is not imperial. This clearly ought to be prohibited, as it is misleading. The name of an imperial measure should, in any formal or public document, be used for that measure, and that only. The section does not prohibit a paper from quoting market returns of sales effected by local or customary measures, if it states those measures in terms which will not mislead. For instance, a newspaper publishing a quotation of a sale at Smithfield of meat at so much per 8 lb. would not be liable to any penalty under the section. Even if it quoted the sale, as is commonly done, at so much per stone of 8 lb., it is very doubtful, however undesirable such a mode of quotation may be, whether the paper would be liable to a penalty under the section, because the denomination quoted—namely, a stone of 8 lb., does not imply a less weight than is implied by the same denomination of imperial weight. After this explanation, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is no need for us to introduce an amending Act.