§ 44. Mr. Awbery
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the Utility furniture scheme gave the public an assurance of a certain standard of quality and, as the scheme is to be discontinued, what steps he is taking to ensure that purchasers will not have shoddy furniture sold to them as was so common before the scheme started.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
In pursuance of the policy announced by my right hon. Friend on 13th March during the Budget Debate, the British Standards Institution, in co-operation with the Furniture Development Council and the industry, is preparing British Standards for furniture. I would add that the Utility Furniture (Supply) Order, 1952, protects the utility mark, and ample stocks of furniture to which the utility mark was lawfully applied before 15th December are still available in the shops.
§ Mr. Albu
Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the trade considers this an extremely experimental scheme, and that a standard for furniture, which is still being worked out by the Furniture Development Council, cannot possibly be agreed to in a period of less than 12 1187 months, within which time, of course, the Utility furniture to which he has referred will have been exhausted? May I ask whether it was at the pressure of his Department that the British Standards Institution issued to the Press the highly misleading statement that gave the impression that in the interim period there would be standards for furniture when the D scheme was introduced?
§ Mr. Strauss
In answer to the last part of the question, the British Standards Institution issued its statement, as it is entitled to do, without being urged to do so by the Board. On the time that will be taken before the standards, or most of them, are effectively in use. I take a considerably more optimistic view than the hon. Member, and so, I think, does the industry.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the standard quality of furniture ceased yesterday and that a shoddy standard of furniture starts today, and that the withdrawal of this Order has been opposed by employers, manufacturers, and by the trades unions, and that the voluntary standard of the quality is not sufficient? Will he do something more now to see that people are guaranteed that they get the proper quality of furniture for which they pay?
§ Mr. Strauss
If the hon. Member had listened to the conclusion of my reply he would have known that the Utility mark is still protected. I disagree with him entirely that, as a result of the action taken, the shops are going to be filled with shoddy goods. I hope and believe that the industry will do what it has undertaken to do, and I see no reason to insult it.