HC Deb 23 February 1954 vol 524 cc188-91
23. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Furniture Development Council was formed by his Department in 1949 to implement the proposals made in the working party report by the development and consumer protection provisions of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, including the establishment of an independent testing authority for devising standard performance tests and for testing manufacturers' products to ensure that they conform; that excellent work has been done in this connection but that the industry itself has not given the support and encouragement expected to the Furniture Development Council; and if. therefore, he will make a statement upon Us future position and work.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)

The purposes for which the Furniture Development Council was established are laid down in the Second Schedule of the Furniture Industry Development Council Order, S.I. 2774 of 1948. I agree that the Council has done much useful work and has contributed greatly to the working out of the B.S.I. performance standards. A considerable and increasing number of firms are using its services, although I understand that there is criticism in some quarters. The Council publishes an annual report of its activities and no occasion has arisen for my right hon. Friend to make a fresh statement.

Miss Burton

Is the Minister aware of the great satisfaction which hon. Members on both sides of the House will feel that he has been able so to praise the work of the Furniture Development Council? May I also ask if he is aware that the London and South-Eastern Furniture Manufacturers' Association recently demanded the abolition of this Council? Can he give the House an assurance, in view of his commendation, that no notice will be taken of that recommendation?

Mr. Strauss

I think I need only add that no representation has been made about the Council to the Board of Trade since the last statutory review.

Sir V. Raikes

Arising out of the answer, is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, quite apart from the fact that greater use is being made of the services of the Council by employers, if qualified technicians could also be provided by the Council that would lead to even greater use of its services by those concerned?

Mr. Strauss

I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mrs. Mann

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, in view of all the loopholes that are available and the criticism directed against the scheme, it would be very much better to bring back the Utility stamp? Will he consider reintroducing Utility furniture?

Mr. Strauss

I think that the hon. Lady is asking a supplementary question on the wrong Question.

24. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the British Furniture Trade Confederation has issued a leaflet, "Setting a Standard," and that in it a detailed analysis is made as to why every manufacturer should support the British Standards Institution Kite mark scheme for furniture; that the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives welcomes the pamphlet, but that some employers are refusing to use the Kite mark; and, as such an attitude is in direct contradiction to the pledges given by the Government on behalf of the industry to hon. Members on 21st January, 1953, if he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Strauss

My right hon. Friend welcomes the support given to the scheme by the trade interests who have co-operated in the publication of this leaflet.

Many manufacturers have applied for licences to use the Kite mark but the adoption of the scheme is voluntary. Her Majesty's Government have never given a pledge that all manufacturers would apply the Kite mark, but they hope that the value of the mark will become more widely known and appreciated.

Miss Burton

With regard to the last part of the Question, is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend some time ago said that the Government were considering making a bigger grant to the British Standards Institution to publicise the Kite mark? May we take it that he is giving consideration to that?

Mr. Strauss

I am afraid that is quite a different question, and I should not like my remarks to be interpreted in one way or the other in relation to that question.

Mr. Porter

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the adoption of the Kite mark would not only guarantee the quality of the goods but would also guarantee the conditions under which men and women working in the industry were employed? For that reason, if for no other, will he use his further efforts in order to make the introduction of the Kite mark universal in the trade?

Mr. Strauss

No, it must remain entirely voluntary, but how far it is adopted will, in my opinion, depend on what the public wants.

Mr. John Hall

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that manufacturers of two-thirds of the cabinet goods already use the Kite mark?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, that is quite accurate.