HC Deb 13 December 1926 vol 200 cc2644-50

I beg to move, in page 4, line 20, after the word "such," to insert the words "associations of local authorities, and."

7.0 P.M.

Since I put down this Amendment a further Amendment has been tabled by the President of the Board of Trade to leave out the word "trade," and to some extent this tends to meet the difficulty which my Amendment was designed to deal with. Nevertheless, I should like to move my Amendment, because I desire to point out that in the view of the local authorities they should be consulted by the Board of Trade with regard to any regulations or rules issued in connection with the administration of this Act. Local authorities claim that they are as much interested as traders in the administration of this Act, and that they are as much entitled to consultation as the other interests involved in it. Moreover, they claim that they will have a first-hand knowledge as a result of the practical working of these Acts of the difficulties, as and when they arise, and that therefore they will be able to give practical assistance when amending Regulations are being considered and framed. I would like further to point out that there is a precedent for an Amendment on these lines, for under an Act passed in 1922 the following words appear: And after consultation with such associations of local authorities, as appear to them to be concerned. Therefore, with a precedent of this kind, it is not unfair or unjust to ask for a similar provision in this Bill.


As the hon. Member has pointed out, I propose to move immediately afterwards to delete the word "trade." I entirely agree that the local authorities ought to be consulted, both in framing Regulations, or considering additions of new articles to the list. We had great assistance from them in the framing of this Measure, and they have to administer the Act. Undoubtedly, we should consult with representative bodies of local authorities, both associations and same of the more important of them individually, and we should also consult with the Food Council. I did not wish in the Bill to specify particular bodies in order that any expression should not be held to include the one and exclude the other, and I propose to cut out the word "trade" and leave the wording general in the Act. The associations of local authorities will most certainly be consulted.


In view of the assurance which has just been given by the President of the Board of Trade, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 4, line 20, leave out the word "trade."—[Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister.]


On a point of Order. I would like to suggest that it would be convenient to discuss together the next Amendment and a later Amendment in Clause 11; both standing in the name of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton), as they raise the same point.


Would the second Amendment he covered by the first Amendment?


No. If we agree to insert the first Amendment then the second Amendment will require to be inserted, because that is consequential on the first.


If we are to discuss both Amendments at the same time, I would like to ask the sanction of the Committee to move the second Amendment, standing in my name, in a somewhat different form. It would have practically the same meaning, and I think it would meet with the same reception. I do not know whether I should he right in reading this Amendment now, but I should like to move the second Amendment in the following form—


I think the hon. Member had better deal with one Amendment at a time. Very much depends whether the first Amendment is accepted or not.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 40, at the end, to insert the words and the manner of re-sealing wrappers and containers broken open under this Act. The primary object of the Bill is to provide for the better protection of the public, and to see that the housewife, if she does not get full measure pressed down and running over, at any rate gets good weight and measure. It is claimed by those who will be charged with the difficult duty of administering the Bill that if their administration is to prove effective, there must be power to re-seal packets, where those packets are opened, in cases where they can be so re-sealed without damage to the contents. If this power be not given to local authorities, it is feared, and I think on very good grounds, that the expense entailed under the administration of the Bill will be such as to make it almost a dead letter, and that fewer articles will be purchased and that the primary object of the Bill will be defeated.

Under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, inspectors are restricted as to the number of packets they can purchase by financial limitations, and we do not want to be up against similar financial limitations in the working of this Bill. Local authorities, on behalf of whom this Amendment, and the other Amendment referred to, are being moved, feel that if the re-sealing is done in this way by a sealing label, in cases where it can be shown that no damage has been done to the contents, the value of the article will not be lessened and it may be that it will even be increased, in that the re-sealing will in effect be a guarantee that the contents are as stated. That is not a new principle. It has been advocated before, and under the Sale of Tea Act, 1922, resealing is permitted and undertaken, and I have some confidence, therefore, in submitting this Amendment to the House.


I am roach obliged to the hon. Member for intimating to the Committee that when we come to the later Amendment he will move it in a modified form, because I think in a modified form the Committee will be pleased to accept it. We should then be following what is a regular precedent, for where under previous Acts the action of the inspector would necessarily lead to the goods being damaged, then it is incumbent on the local authority to buy the goods. That is so where the samples are taken away for testing under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act. But on the other hand, under the Sale of Tea Act, where it has been proved that the packet can be opened and then re-sealed without damage to the contents, there is no obligation on the local authorities to purchase. Therefore, on the understanding that when we come to the second Amendment, it will be moved in a form which will oblige the inspector to re-seal where re-sealing can take place without injury to the contents of the wrapper, and be limited to such cases, and that there will be an obligation, if the retailer so requires, that the goods should be purchased where they cannot be re-sealed without damage, then I shall he glad to accept the Amendment, and the later Amendment in that modified form.


Do we understand that the Amendment, as now suggested, leaves it to the discretion of the inspector as to whether the request of the trader that the goods should be purchased is legitimate or otherwise?


No. That would not be so, and the words proposed will mean that where the wrapper or container can be re-sealed without injury to the contents, the inspector will re-seal the wrapper or container. If the inspector does not so re-seal the wrapper or container, there will be a right to require purchase. Those will be the words of the Act of Parliament, but the construction of the Act and the decision as to whether the action of the inspector or the trader is reasonable must, in cases of dispute, rest with the Courts. I do not think that the discretion as to whether one party or the other is acting reasonably should rest with the local authorities, but should, in cases of dispute, rest with the Court.


Is it the case that where the container is opened and the inspector re-seals it, the correctness of the contents is stated.


That is exactly what this Clause is intended to provide, namely, that where it can be sealed up without damage it shall be so sealed.


And stated?


And stated. That would be under the Regulations, but there is the right to require purchase where damage is done to the contents.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 1, to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert instead thereof a new Sub-section: (2) Before any Regulations other than Regulations under paragraph (d) of Subsection (1) of this Section are made the draft of the proposed Regulations shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and the Regulations shall not be made unless both Houses by Resolution approve the draft either without modification or addition or with modifications or additions to which both Houses agree, but upon such approval being given the Regulations may be made in the form in which they have been so approved. Regulations made under paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of this Section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made. The Committee will remember that I gave an undertaking on the Second Reading of the Bill that I would introduce an Amendment in this form in order to ensure that where, as a result of the draft Regulations, any article was brought within the scope of the Bill which had not hitherto been inspected under the Bill, or where any article now within the scope of the Bill was taken out, that Regulation should not be effective without a positive Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. The House has approved the principle of this Bill, and now both Houses of Parliament will have, by the simple means of a positive Resolution, control over whether we should increase or reduce the burdens which this Act imposes. That will mean that paragraphs (a) (b) and (c) of Subsection (1) of Clause 9 will require a positive Resolution and that only paragraph (d), which relates merely to administrative Regulations to carry out the provisions of the Act in regard to articles already included, will be dealt with by an Order which will not require a positive Resolution.

Captain BENN

In the case of paragraph (d) under the original Bill, it became operative by laying the Regulations on the Table, and it was then in the power of the House to amend those Regulations. Under the amending scheme, however, in regard to the other three paragraphs, the Regulations require a positive Resolution of the House, but under paragraph (d) they are merely to be laid on the Table, and there is no power for us to move that those Regulations may be set aside. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade has some explanation to give on this point.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite correct in regard to those particular Regulations. I would point out, however, that they are only Regulations in accordance with the general provisions laid down, and they are dealt with in a form according to the existing practice.

Captain BENN

But it is quite a different thing to authorise a Department to make Regulations which have the force of law over which this House has no power.


This is merely carrying out the orders of the House, and I shall be careful not to introduce anything which interferes with the powers of the House of Commons.


I would like to know if a positive Resolution of this kind is introduced, will it be taken after Eleven o'clock.


I think the consideration which has just been urged by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn) is very important. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could place paragraph (d) along with paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). I understood that on the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman was anxious that the House should maintain its control over all these Regulations, and it seems to me that in regard to paragraph (d) he is taking away the power he previously gave in reference to them.


If I put paragraph (d) in the positive Resolution, it might seriously hold up the working of the Bill because it might involve considerable debate. If it were an important matter, of course the House would insist upon a full debate; but I ask my hon. Friends to draw a distinction between a new legislative enactment and a mere making of an effective order which is really only following the common form of what has been done under existing Acts. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) of course this would be exempted business.


I do not think Resolutions of this kind should be taken after Eleven o'clock at night. If we are to have a method of shorter and more brief legislation by affirmative Resolutions of this kind, I wish to express the opinion that in my view the House will have to consider whether the Standing Order should not be amended so as to prevent Resolutions of this kind being exempted from the Standing Order.

Captain BENN

I think we must welcome the expression of opinion on this point which has just been stated by the last speaker, and I hope he will bear that in mind when in future any proposition is made under the Emergency Powers Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made; In page 5, line 10, after the word "Regulations," insert the word "made."—[Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister.]