HC Deb 14 December 1926 vol 200 cc2815-7

As amended, considered.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister)

There is one point with regard to the second Schedule. The House last night inserted the following Amendment: An invoice describing the weight or measure or number of the article shall be a sumcient warranty notwithstanding that it contains no words of express warranty or was delivered after the purchase of the article. That was passed by the House, but it does not figure in the Bill as printed. If the right procedure be that it should be moved again on Report, I will move it.


That point has already been brought to my notice. I am informed by the Chairman of Committees that these words were inserted in the Bill and therefore it cannot be done a second time. The correction has been made in the printed copy that comes to the House from the Committee.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I would like to thank the House for the very expeditious and businesslike consideration that they have given to the Measure. It may not be a perfect Measure, but it is a convenient instrument for its purpose.


I should like, in the first place, to thank the President of the Board of Trade very cordially for the way in which he has dealt with the objections which have been brought forward privately and before the House with regard to this useful little Bill. I confess that the fears which I have from time to time expressed in regard to the Bill have been considerably mitigated by the improvements which have been introduced during its passage through the House, but they have not been entirely dissipated. So far as the Bill is necessary to protect the consumer against dishonest or even careless distributors, everyone will readily assent to its provisions. I think the Bill will, with the machinery of prosecutions, put the fear of God into the dishonest, and, perhaps, the fear of man into the careless, distributor. The dishonest are relatively few, and I hope the careless are not too numerous.

There is one substantial omission from the amended Bill to which I would draw attention. Before the Bill finally passes from us one word of protest ought to be made in regard to the Amendment which was inserted in the Bill in the Committee stage, on the Motion of the Minister of Agriculture, the effect of which was to remove the wholesaler from the scope of the Bill. I am not desirous of arguing or re-arguing that question on its merits. I appreciate, no one can fail to appreciate, the strength of the reasons which were adduced by the Minister of Agriculture for the Amendment which he moved, but it has been brought to my notice that the deletion of that particular provision will work very considerable hardships upon certain classes of retailers, particularly fruiterers and greengrocers who deal in very perishable articles. Be that as it may, and I do not desire to argue the matter here and now, I would enter a respectful protest against what is, quite obviously, a fundamental alteration in the scope and purpose of the Bill made at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour of its passage through this House. I hope that the Bill will prove to be a workable and useful little bit. of legislation, and I hope that as regards the honest retailers it will be worked, as I have no doubt it will be worked, considerately and tactfully, and that it will not prove harassing, as other wise it might prove harassing, to the legitimate and honest trader.


The hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) said that the Bill would only apply to a very few people. I agree with that statement, but if it carries with it the implication that the only people that will be affected by this Bill are small shopkeepers, then I disagree with him. Unfortunately, the tendency of legislation of this kind in the past, has been directed against the little man and to let the big fellow go scot free.


I hope the hon. Member will allow me to correct that impression. That was not my intention. I said that it would only apply to the dishonest or careless distributor. I did not say that it would only apply to the small distributor.


While the number of persons who are practising dishonesty of the kind aimed at by this Bill is small, their ramifications, unfortunately, are very wide, and I am afraid they are increasing, particularly in the category of the supply of packet goods which are packed and sent out to retailers. The point which I rose to make was that I regret the Government did not see their way to introduce this Bill a month or two ago, in order that we could have had an opportunity of discussing it in the usual way in Committee upstairs. I do not think that anyone can say that the Bill is a better Bill to-day than it was when it was introduced; but I do think that had we been given an opportunity of stating the full facts as to the kind of deception that goes on amongst the consumers of this country, the Committee stage of the Bill upstairs might possibly have been able to improve the Bill. Such as the Bill is, I think we ought to accept it.

Question put, and agreed to.

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