HC Deb 27 July 1951 vol 491 cc843-5

Lords Amendment: In page 1, line 7, leave out from "factory" to end of line 16 on page 2 and insert: , magazine or store fireworks which he has reason for thinking may be dangerous when in the possession of the public, he may take a number of them as a sample and require the occupier of the factory, magazine or store to keep the remainder of such fireworks in the factory, magazine or store for a period of three weeks, or such shorter period as the inspector may specify, and to take such steps as the inspector may specify to secure that they are not moved or tampered with during that period. (2) If the Secretary of State is satisfied as a result of examination and testing that the fireworks removed by the inspector would be dangerous when in the possession of the public and is satisfied that the sample is a fair one, the Secretary of State may require the occupier to deliver at the factory, magazine or store the fireworks kept there in pursuance of the inspector's requirement to a person authorised by the Secretary of State to receive them; and the Secretary of State shall cause the fireworks so delivered to be destroyed or otherwise rendered harmless and disposed of as he directs. (3) Where the Secretary of State does not act under subsection (2) of this section, he shall return to the occupier any fireworks forming part of the sample unless their value after examination and testing is so small that it appears to him unreasonable so to do.

12.28 p.m.

Mr. Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment contains the powers of the inspector to seize and dispose of fireworks which in his opinion are considered to be dangerous to the public, and it places directly upon the Secretary of State the responsibility of ensuring, from investigation of samples produced before him, that such fireworks are, in his opinion, considered to be dangerous to the public before any action can be taken against the occupier of the factory.

The Amendment therefore provides two things: first, it safeguards the manufacturer from consequences which may prove to be unjust if the Clause as originally drafted stands; and, secondly, it places directly upon the shoulders of the Home Secretary the responsibility for deciding whether or not action is necessary. My only concern about this Amendment is that it exposes the Home Secretary to the possibility of having his hair singed by a doubtful squib or a lively cracker during the process in which he is called upon to investigate the charges made against the occupier of a fireworks factory.

12.30 p.m.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

I beg to second the Motion.

I said during the Report stage that it had been felt by many that the procedure that could be adopted against the manufacturer or dealer was somewhat harsh and liable to be immoderate, and the Amendments moved at that stage of the Bill were in the direction of protecting the manufacturer from undue victimisation. Here, we have a further step in the same direction, and I feel that this step may well be commended to the House. I have every sympathy and feeling for the Home Secretary in this matter, and I hope, as the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) has said, that he will not get his hair singed any more than he already does from hon. Members behind him in the usual course of the day's work.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I am very grateful to the two hon. Members for their solicitude. I assure them that the task of actually examining the fireworks will be delegated to a competent technical officer.

The effect of the Amendment is that instead of the inspector having complete discretion to seize and destroy fireworks, he is now given power to take samples of any type of fireworks which he thinks may be dangerous in the possession of the public, and require the occupier to keep the remainder of those fireworks and not tamper with them. The further disposal of the fireworks then becomes a matter for the Secretary of State who, before giving directions for the destruction of the fireworks, has to be satisfied that the sample is a fair one and the fireworks would be dangerous in the possession of the public.

It seems to me that this procedure now amply safeguards the manufacturer from the wanton and irresponsible act of an individual, and secures, at the same time, safety to the public because, while the matter is under investigation, he cannot sell any of the suspected fireworks. I, therefore, advise the House to accept the Amendment and those consequential to it.

Question put, and agreed to.