§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Miss Elaine Burton (Coventry, South)
I beg to move,That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure, in the interests of the consumer, the effective enforcement of the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Acts and to utilise and promote other measures to protect consumers against any tendency on the part of a minority of manufacturers and traders to debase the quality of goods supplied to the public.I wish to preface my remarks by saying that hon. Members on this side of the House, and I am sure on the other side, realise that it is only a minority of traders and manufacturers who are seeking to debase the quality of the goods on sale to the public. Nevertheless we believe that this minority should be dealt with. We think that the Board of Trade is neither willing nor able to ensure the effective enforcement of the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Acts. Even if it were, we believe also that other measures should be promoted to protect consumers and reputable traders from that minority who are seeking to debase the quality of goods supplied to the public. I shall endeavour this evening to substantiate both these points.
In any debate dealing with the Merchandise Marks Acts, two dates in particular will obviously come to mind. The first is 1st February, 1954, when the extensions to the Acts became law. The other is 13th March, 1952, when the President of the Board of Trade told the House about the quality safeguards which were to follow upon the ending of the Utility scheme. The date 13th March, 1952, is a significant one, and I propose to commence with it.
The President will remember that, speaking in the debate on the Budget proposals, he stressed the guarantees of quality and performance which were to be offered to the consumer. With the full authority of his office—which is a very great office in this country—he gave a pledge that those would follow the abolition of the Utility scheme. On 13th March, 1952, speaking about the establishment of a range of British Standards (Utility Series) specifications 647 for cotton cloths and household textiles, he said:In particular, the cotton industry have told me that it proposes within a few weeks to deal in this way with the most popular specifications, which cover a wide range of cotton cloths and household textiles up to about 75 per cent, of the trade in those particular types."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1584.]When, on 12th November, 1953, we on this side asked the President what had happened to those guarantees which he had given, he replied:… the cotton industry has not found it possible to devise agreed standards based on Utility specifications as originally proposed.He went on to add:the cotton industry has fallen far short of what they said on that occasion, and I am making representations to them to that effect.I hope that tonight we shall hear what representations the President made and what effect they had on that industry.
On 13th March, 1952, we were also assured by the President that rayon cloths which satisfied tests of shrink resistance and colour fastness would be marked. When, on 12th November, 1953, we asked what had happened to those guarantees the President gave this answer:It is true that in March, 1952, I repeated the assurance given to me by the rayon industry that the cloths would be marked. The arrangements they have made have gone a long way to meet what they said then, but it does not include this marking."—(OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1119–20.]What did it include? The House may recall that what it did include was marking on the invoice. I distinctly remember asking the President on that day what good he thought that would be to the housewife on going into a shop to buy some rayon cloth to find, not the mark on the cloths guaranteeing any quality, but the fact that those cloths had been marked on the invoice sent to the shopkeeper.
The House will also remember that the President's replies were rather typical. I do not wish to be offensive, but it is an understatement to say that they were evasive. When we asked what had happened to the guarantees, all we got was a statement from him that he was not prepared to have compulsory marking. Nobody had asked him for that. I see that he is nodding his head, but we had merely asked what had happened to the 648 guarantees which he had given to the House. The right hon. Gentleman, as usual, wriggled out of it and, if I may use a colloquialism which is understood in this country, gave a "Smart Aleck" type of reply which will deceive nobody who is at all responsible.
The President looks amused, but the industry is not. I wonder if he realises that, in the two years since he announced the introduction of the kite mark scheme, the rayon and cotton industries have not been able to produce the results guaranteed by the Government. I want to ask him what he has done about that, and whether he really cares about the consumer in this respect.
During the same debate, the President stressed the necessity to work out standard tests for the strength of cloths used for children's wear. Everybody knows that children are very hard on their clothes. I do not know whether he has received the same representations as have been made to some of my hon. Friends and myself but, if he has, he will know that parents are particularly anxious that boys' knicker suits should be strong. They certainly need to be.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us why British Standard No. 2473, dealing with cloth for boys' knicker suits, has not even been granted a kite mark, although the President specifically stressed the need for this in connection with children's wear in March, 1952? I shall give him the answer I have received from the trade and, if he has a contrary one, he can give it to the House later. The answer from the trade is that the cloth has not been given a kite mark because the standard is not comprehensive. The minimum requirements dominated by it are so low as to give no guarantee whatsoever of satisfactory wear.
Bearing this fact in mind, it seems rather a mockery to read what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, again on 13th March. He said:Those who are accustomed to buy Utility goods will be glad of the assurance in the future that they are of British Standard quality. I like the term ' British Standard'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1584.]Does he like British Standard No. 2473, which is so low that it does not even merit a kite mark? Is that the kind of standard which the President is offering in 649 Place of the Utility scheme? If he is not aware of it, I can tell him that this British Standard No. 2473 is merely a specification by which the lower end of the shoddy trade can deal in certain types of cloths for making boys' knicker suits. So here, at the very beginning, are three examples showing how the Government and the President have fallen down on their jobs.
We believe they are responsible, because they gave the House and the public the guarantees. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary is noting these points. What reply shall we be given about the pledges made by the rayon industry, the cotton industry and the manufacturers of cloth for children's wear? So far, when we have asked Questions, we have been given evasions rather than answers, but I am hoping that a detailed answer will be given as we are now discussing an official Motion.
During the Second Reading debate, which took place on 26th June, 1953, the President made some general remarks about the Bill, as it then was. I wish to quote only one sentence. Speaking of the Bill, the President said:This Measure presents no obstacle to honest traders. Instead, it offers them some protection against unfair competition and gives some safeguard to consumers against false descriptions."—]official report, 26th June, 1953; Vol. 516, c. 2248.]That sounded all right, but it depended on what the President meant by the word "some." I do not know whether he has seen a copy of the "Drapers' Record" for 10th April of this year, which has an editorial on this subject. That periodical has a weekly circulation of approximately 50,000. It does not belong to the Labour Party, and it does speak for the drapery trade. It made this comment upon the right hon. Gentleman's remarks:Nine months ago the head of that Department"—Meaning the right hon. Gentleman—said it offered honest traders some protection against unfair competition and gave consumers some safeguard against false claims. But he appears to display small interest in ensuring the observance of this beneficial legislation.If the President is not prepared to take any notice of what I say, perhaps he will take some notice of what is said by an official organ of the drapery trade, which, to the best of my knowledge, is certainly 650 not of the political opinion of hon. Members on this side of the House.
During the Second Reading debate we expressed the belief that the Bill should have given the President power to make compulsory marking schemes. The President objects to this idea; but that is our opinion. We have always been told by the President of the Board of Trade that it is up to the public to find out the quality of goods for themselves. The cry of the right hon. Gentleman was that the public should be given freedom of choice.
In the case of some of the shoddy goods which are on sale in the shops—whether they are textiles, furniture, or pseudo-leather goods—it is quite impossible for anyone to know what they are like until they have bought them and taken them home, when they find that their money has been wasted. We say that it is the duty of the Government, whichever party may be in power, to protect the shopper from that sort of thing, just as the ordinary citizen is protected by law from the burglar or anybody who breaks into his home and steals—because it is stealing to take money in exchange for shoddy goods.
In the Second Reading debate, the Parliamentary Secretary said:It nevertheless remains very important that the buyer should exercise some intelligence."— [official report, 26th June, 1953; Vol. 516, c. 2309.]I would ask him whether he is capable of knowing what ingredients go into different goods, because I am not. During that debate I mentioned goods which were lapelled "wool and nylon," and said that it was quite impossible, merely by looking at them, to tell how much wool or nylon they contained, and that I thought they should be lapelled accordingly.
I want to mention the President's attitude on the question of informative labelling. Whenever hon. Members on this side of the House have raised the matter, we have got nowhere. It seems as though the right hon. Gentleman has a completely closed mind on this matter. It is not merely a case of his trying to jibe at me or at others who raise the-subject. I do not know if he is aware that the informative labelling of textiles is being steadily pursued in Australia, South Africa, the United States and 651 Western Germany, to mention only a few countries, and that information on fibre content, against which the President so steadfastly sets his mind, roust, in many cases, be supplied by manufacturers exporting cloth or clothing from this country.
In November last year I asked the President whether, as our exporters had to label any wearing apparel sent to Australia, United States or South Africa, British shoppers could not have the same information made available to them. The right hon. Gentleman said that it could not be done and that he was not going to have it. I wonder if it fills him with horror to realise that the trade not only thinks that informative labelling is necessary, but that there should be percentage labelling, according to fibre content? The reason for that is that nowadays there is the custom, growing more common every day, of using strong synthetic fibres in our ordinary and classic materials. We can all think of many of the strong fibres— nylon, terylene, perlon, orlon.
The use of these strong synthetic fibres in materials makes it quite essential that the customer buying the materials should know what proportion of those strong synthetic fibres is in them. In a debate on the Adjournment on 23rd March last year, I gave the Parliamentary Secretary one example. He did not think a great deal of it. It was the example of the laundries. The laundries are complaining today, with considerable justification, that they are not responsible for the damage done to many of the goods during the laundering process. They say it is quite impossible to tell without labelling what synthetic fibres are in the materials. It is not until the damage is done, either by their using a too hot iron or too hot water, that they find out. They have been asking for this informative labelling for some time.
I think it will be admitted throughout the trade that, speaking generally, if we use up to about 10 per cent, of nylon in a material it does not have any strengthening effect. It affects the manufacture only. The strength of a material is, however, added to in a fantastic way if the proportion of nylon in it goes up to about 25 per cent.
652 About three weeks ago I went into a shop in London and I saw some knitting wool on sale there. Not being as clever as the Board of Trade, I did not know what proportion of wool and nylon was in that wool; I could not tell from looking at it. However, hope springs eternal, and I thought I would buy it, and send it to the President if it was not right. I obviously am still an optimist. Anyway, I bought that wool, and here it is. It has on it a label that says:Argyll Double Knitting. Wool and Nylon.It is manufacturered by Arthur Mortimer and Co. (Wools) Ltd., Bradford. This is the wool.
I bought it, and I had it researched into at a laboratory, and got a report. The report says that the percentage of nylon in it is 1.2. I say that it is robbery to label goods "wool and nylon "when the percentage of nylon is 1.2. It is robbery to say of anything that it is made of such and such materials if any constituent mentioned is only 1–2 per cent, of the whole. I hope the President will agree.
I thought I would try once more, and I sent this to the right hon. Gentleman, in the hope that even he would think l.2 per cent, really was a little too much. [hon. members: "Too little."] Yes, that is what I mean. I was told that information had already been laid with the President about this wool. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies to the debate, would tell us what action is being taken about this. If the answer is that some action is being taken, I shall be both surprised and very pleased, but if the answer is that action is not being taken, I shall have great pleasure in letting him have the report on the wool.
During 'the Second Reading debate, to which I have already referred, the President told us a good deal about the British Standards Institution. He told us that in recent years the Institution, in consultation with the trades concerned and with consumers' representatives, had been working out standards for consumer goods and non-consumer goods. During the past two years I have done my best to try to find out the poistion of the Institution in so far as the kite mark standards are concerned. Although the Institution may find it hard to believe, I am a friend of the Institution and an admirer of the work 653 it has done. My complaint has never been about that. It has been that I think both its power and its authority are insufficient, and any criticism of the British Standards Institution that I have made in this House has always been directed at that weakness.
I hope that the President will consider this seriously. Because the power and the authority of the Institution are insufficient, we have not good enough quality standards for the consumers. I would mention only some obvious ones, curtain materials, dresses and children's shoes. Hon. Members can add to those as they like. We have not even compulsion for the standards that are agreed.
As hon. Members will know, the Institution developed from the Engineering Standards Committee appointed by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1901. It was incorporated as an Association in 1918. Its present title dates from the grant of a Royal Charter in 1931. By 1939 the Institution already covered a wide range of products. In the war these was need for standards in certain war materials, and for A.R.P. and Utility goods. When the Utility scheme ended in April, 1952, it meant the demand for new standards for furniture, textiles and clothing.
The point I wish to underline, with which everybody may not be familiar, is that the original Committee laid down certain basic principles for the Institution. There are only three I wish to mention. I should be glad if I could have the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, because I hope he will comment on these points. The first is that the work on a standardisation project should be undertaken only on receipt of a request from industry. Secondly, that there should be agreement by all interested parties before a standard is issued. Third, that the British Standards Institution staff should not initiate proposals for standards. One word about the funds of the Institution. They come from three main sources, from membership subscriptions, from the sale of its publications, and through a grant in aid from the Government.
These facts show that the B.S.I., with all the good will in the world, has neither the power to demand that standards be produced nor the authority to compel a sufficiently high quality. It has not even the standing to demand that such 654 standards as are agreed shall be compulsory.
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The hon. Lady will surely agree, in fairness, that she has forgotten one point about the Institution? It has set up and made use of an advisory panel to try to arrive at some determination where the need for standards exists. I think she must give it credit for that. I happen to be the Chairman of the subcommittee of the Select Committee on Estimates that examined the Institution only last year. I think we were all impressed by that progressive step it had taken.
§ Miss Burton
If the hon. Gentleman had waited he would have heard me come to that. I am only half way through dealing with the Institution. As the present set-up between the Board of Trade and the Institution is what I have described, I would put forward five points to help solve our problem. I do not know whether everybody on this side of the House agrees with me about them, but they are five points in which I believe.
The first is this. I think that quality must be decided before price. Secondly, I think that a quality standard should be a standard worth having as judged by the ordinary consumer who buys the goods. Thirdly, if this quality standard is to be worth having, some manufacturers will have to be excluded because their standard will be too low. Fourthly, I should like to see such a standard mark of quality made compulsory for all goods attaining or bettering it. If compulsion is not regarded with fourthly, I should like to see an agreement among all the manufacturers and industries concerned that such marks would be used.
If these four suggestions were adopted, the B.S.I would need to launch a big publicity campaign to get over to the public that all goods not bearing these marks were not worth having. To do that, the B.S.I, would need a further grant from the Government and, in common with other hon. Members, I have asked for that grant. The last comment we had from the Government was that it was being considered. That was following a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and, if he is in any doubt on the point, I can give him the column number in HANSARD.
655 I believe that a real guarantee of quality or performance for the consumer should be prepared without any reference to minimum specifications. Any reputable manufacturer who sets a standard of guarantee to the public sets it in relation to the properties which are essential for the satisfactory end-use of the article in question. I would tell the President, if he does not already know, that the reason why the rayon and cotton industries have left him in such a mess and have fallen down on the guarantees which he gave on their behalf lies in this very fact— that they thought in terms of absolute minima.
I do not know whether he is prepared to admit it, but I can tell him what the trade says; for the trade says, that we did not get these kite marks on rayon and cotton cloths, which he pledged himself that we should have, simply because the quality suggested was so low that to use the kite mark would have been an infringement of the Merchandise Marks Acts. I do not know whether the President would care to contradict that. I will give way if he wishes to do so. As he makes no comment, presumably I am correct.
I have talked this matter over with a good many housewives of the low income group. Consumers will tell the Government that they would much rather pay a little more per yard for material which is worth having than throw away their money on rubbish. That is why we want a higher quality standard.
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir I. Orr-Ewing) referred to the women's committee. I thought the Parliamentary Secretary might refer later to the women's committee of the B.S.I. I know this Committee; I have had the pleasure of meeting its members and I believe they have done a grand job. But the Committee needs technical assistance. I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary, if he does not know, that the women's committee has sent many excellent recommendations forward suggesting that the standards have been too low, and every time the other committees have replied, "We cannot make the quality better as you suggest. It just cannot be done." Because there is no technical representation on the women's committee, its members can make no reply to that. I have 656 stressed that fact before and have asked the President to do something about it.
As 1st February, 1954, drew nearer, it was obvious to us all—consumers and industry alike—that, because the British Standards Institution was not authorised to obtain high enough quality standards, the Merchandise Marks Act would have to be enforced; and the question which clearly arose was, who was going to enforce it?
I want to quote to the Committee three short sentences from my letter in "The Times" of 28th January. First I wrote:During the debate on the Second Reading I welcomed the Government's action in strengthening the Act. I still do, but I think they have not gone far enough.The second point which I made was:1st February will see an improvement in the machinery for strengthening honest trade descriptions; but who is going to work that machinery? Private persons certainly have not the money to enter upon legal battles, and neither do I think this is a job for the ordinary shopper. On the other hand, trade associations have not unlimited funds… Surely it is the task of the Board of Trade, having produced the machinery, to guarantee its effective working.In that letter I mentioned trade associations. I have had experience of only one, but I am sure it is one of many which are doing a first-class job in this country. I come now to the Retail Trading Standards Association, which has been mentioned. [HON. members: "Oh!"] I would only say, for the amusement and edification of the Committee, that the secretary of the Retail Trading Standards Association has been approached by hon. Members from both sides of the Committee for material in this debate, so that I hope everybody will agree with me at the end of the day.
I have mentioned this Association many times in the House, and I think that consumers and reputable traders owe it a debt of gratitude. I hope that at some time the President will be generous enough to admit that, had it not been for the work of this Association and its secretary, Mr. Roger Diplock, even more people would have been defrauded because of the incompetence of the Government. I am sorry that the right hon Gentleman is not generous enough to admit this. It happens to be true.
From 1950 to the end of 1953, the Retail Trading Standards Association took 16 cases to court on behalf of the 657 consumer. It won every one of the 16, and in every case costs were awarded to the Association, yet on those 16 cases alone the Association lost £1,070. I submit to the Committee and the public that it is fantastic that, when a trading association takes cases to court to safeguard shoppers and reputable manufacturers, it should have to pay more than £1,000 for doing so. That is just crazy.
It becomes even more fantastic when the secretary of that Association says that the number of such cases, far from being 16, could well have been 1,500 but for the effort and cost of undertaking such prosecutions. I underline for the right hon. Gentleman in all sincerity, quite apart from the cost of prosecutions, that every one of those cases could have been eliminated if informative labelling had been used. I have a list of the 16 cases. He may have it and check it if he wishes.
What is the attitude of the Government? The Government—not only this Government—have brought six cases in 15 years. This Government have not been in power all that time; we were in power for part of it. But I do not care who was in power; six cases in 15 years was far too few, and if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "You were in power part of the time," what are they doing about it now? On 11th February the President told us:We can best rely on the responsibility of manufacturers in general, and on the good sense of the public in exercising free choice in a competitive market, to maintain quality." — [official report, 11th February, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 1334.]I see that the President nods his head. All I can say is that in all the cases taken to court none of that seemed to work.
We have the other suggestion from the President, that the consumer who buys a faulty pair of stockings may go to her solicitor about it. I will come to that point later, but it was a most unfortunate agreement by the right hon. Gentleman with one of his hon. Friends. Bearing that in mind, there are two questions which I want to ask. I expect that the right hon. Gentleman is very glad that he has not to reply tonight, but perhaps he will ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reply to them. These are the two questions. Who will protect the consumer under this new Act, and who will safeguard consumer standards?
658 As I see it, the Government have three choices. They can give more power to the British Standards Institution to safeguard consumer standards, and this they have refused to do. They can authorise reputable trade associations, such as the R.T.S.A., to bring cases to court where this is deemed desirable, and they can guarantee to pay the costs of the prosecutions. We on this side of the House asked for this when the Bill was going through the House. This the Government have refused to do. If they will not give the B.S.I, more power and authority and authorise the trade associations to bring the cases, it only leaves one thing —the Government will have to do it themselves.
I come now to ask what the Government intend to do. I do not wish to leave any loophole tonight in the reply. [An hon. member: "The hon. Lady will not leave time for it."] I am sorry, but I have waited a long time for this moment. I am proposing tonight to give the right hon. Gentleman, or his Parliamentary Secretary, every opportunity to decry me or to say that I am wrong. I am taking three examples which I have already taken in this House and on which the Government have had all the details available. I am prepared to stand by the answer, but I want a detailed reply. As moving an official Motion, I think that I am entitled to it.
I have tried at Question time, over some considerable period, to get a satisfactory answer from the President of the Board of Trade on this matter of goods which were not up to standard. That has been my only opportunity as a back bencher. I know that it is the job of any Minister, when back benchers are a nuisance, to ride them off if he can. Of course he did. I think that I am making an under-statement when I say that these points have hardly been treated with the serious consideration that they merit. I say that, not because they come from me, but because they affect people who have spent money on buying these goods in the shops. As the House knows, I have always been very ready to admit when I have made a mistake, and I am prepared to do so again, but on these three points I do not think that I have made a mistake. I think that the Government have made a mistake. It is a fair challenge, and I want an answer.
659 On 2nd March and 8th April this year, I raised in this House the question of gloves made by the Supreme Supply Company. I showed the President the advertisements, and he will find in hansard, 2nd March, 1954, the details I am going to raise, so I need not weary the House with these details. The President in his reply of 8th April—as it is nearly always the same reply, I am sure that he will remember it—told me that his officers had bought some of the gloves, but that:They were found to comply substantially with the descriptions in the advertisement.…" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 497,]He also said that he was advised that there was nothing false or misleading in any material respect, and there were no grounds for instituting proceedings. In fact, the President's investigators had bought a pair of gloves which were very much like the pair of gloves I got.
This morning I received a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary. When I read it my heart leapt for joy. I thought that it was too good to be true. I am not being rude to the Parliamentary Secretary, but I could not believe that he would deliver himself right into my hands on the day of the debate.
In a letter dated 5th May, he said:We have now received the examiner's report on the further pair of gauntlets. Their findings on these are the same as on the other pair. The gauntlets are being returned to you,I take it that the pair of gloves which the Parliamentary Secretary has now had examined, and which I gave to him, are exactly the same as the pair of gloves which his investigators bought; because the same results have been achieved.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)
There may be a difference of size, because there are various sizes, but on the findings as to the material they were the same, and, needless to say, I gave that answer precisely because I thought that the hon. Lady would like to have it.
§ Miss Burton
I did, and I loved it. I did not raise the matter of size under the Merchandise Marks Act. I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary has been given this report. I know that he does not go about examining gloves. The gloves in respect of which I have had 660 this letter were not gloves which I bought or which even the wicked R.T.S.A. bought and gave a description about. The gloves I sent to the Parliamentary Secretary had a report made on them by the British Leather Manufacturers' Research Association on 15th February. Their report includes the following statement:The palm and back are made from hide (split to the required thickness) and the gauntlet made from sheepskin.Does not the Parliamentary Secretary, or his President, or. the Board of Trade realise even now that it is fundamental to the prosperity of the cow-hide industry that sheepskin should not be sold as hide? Have they not got round to that yet? They seem mystified. I think that the President has not understood the point of the leather manufacturers' association's statement.
§ Mr. Strauss
Has it occurred to the hon. Lady that possibly we have had them examined by people equally distinguished?
§ Miss Burton
I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should say whether he agrees with the British leather people or not. That is his fights not mine. I do not think that the President realised in his answer what a blow he had dealt at that industry when he said that to describe sheepskin as hide, as in the case of these gloves—the gloves which his officials have got—was not false or misleading in any respect. Is he telling the House that the report made by the British Leather Manufacturers' Research Association concerning their own industry is just incorrect?
When he comes to reply, would he let me know on which of these six points I was wrong? I am sorry that the President seems to think this such a joke. That has been the trouble all the way through. I am making serious allegations. I do not think that this is a joke. If the President bought low grade goods because he could not afford others, he would not think it is a joke either. He will perhaps consent to be a little serious to the problems of the consumers, even if he does not think a lot about me‐I can bear that. May I go on about the gloves?
I want an answer to these six points. The Leather Manufacturers' Research Association have told us that the gauntlet 661 part of the gloves was not really hide but sheepskin. May I know if that is true? The second point is that the hide of these. gloves could not in any circumstances be described as super-quality. That is in the advertisement which I have here. Further, the glove is not fur-lined throughout because the thumb is not fur-lined. The length measurement of the glove is 14 inches and not 15 inches. He may not think that is a very important matter, but the measurement on the back said 15, and it is 14. The width is 11 and not 12, and lastly—and I think this serious—this type of glove can be bought anywhere for about 40s. or 50s. It is quite inaccurate to say that the value is £4. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say which of these is incorrect? If they are not incorrect, I say to the President, with the backing of the Association, that there was infringement of the Merchandise Marks Act on several of those points.
My next example—I am taking only three, and as quickly as I can—is the matter of pillows. It is very serious if the public are to buy goods which are falsely described and the President, every time that the matter is referred to him, says that he cannot do anything about it. Either the President is wrong, or the law is wrong, and we on this side want the matter investigated.
I first told the President about these pillows made by the Downland Bedding Co., on 1st April. After raising the matter in the House, I had a letter from a lady in Cheshire, and I sent it to the President. I shall not mention the name or address because, as will be remembered, there were unfortunate consequences when names and addresses in a letter were given from this side of the House not so long ago.
I quote only one paragraph from the letter which I sent to the President:If the President of the Board of Trade requires proof of these statements you made,"—that is, about the Downland pillows—I can supply it. I recently bought a pillow labelled as having been made by this firm. If any of the feathers in it are not more suitable for decorating a hat, I am prepared to eat the same hat. I will give a representative of the Board of Trade permission to open the pillow and examine the contents for himself.I need hardly say that the right hon. Gentleman did not think that was worth 662 bothering with. Here was somebody who had bought a pillow, who would give the President proof of buying, and who thought she had been swindled, but the right hon. Gentleman was not even prepared to bother about it.
The manufacturer of the pillows wrote to me—I wish to be fair about this. He said in his letter that he had no intention of defrauding, and he continued:I am aware that this is no defence, but I do suggest it was a borderline case of infringement.To prove that to me, he enclosed the leaflet which he sends out to the trade. That leaflet says that the filling was "washed poultry feathers." That was quite honest. If that is an honest leaflet, why was not that one used to sell the pillows to the public? It was not the leaflet saying that the pillows were filled with washed poultry feathers that was sent to the President. He was sent the one that I sent him, saying that "' Soft, resilient,' says Downy Duck." [Laughter.] I am glad the right Gentleman regards it as humorous, when the housewives get at him he will not think it is so funny.
The Parliamentary Secretary in his reply told me that I know nothing about this matter and that it is simply a publicity puff. These opinions, however, come not from me. The filling of the pillow was examined by one of the leading experts in the trade, and was reported upon as being old poultry feathers. Therefore, it is not only the Leather Association who have expressed this kind of opinion. We now find that the experts in connection with the bedding trade also think that the Board of Trade is wrong.
The same company is making another pillow. It is called the'Downland' Curlew full size down pillow.I do not know whether the President from his experience will say that a "full size down pillow" on a leaflet is a publicity puff or a statement of fact, but that is what it says. The filling material of this pillow was examined by still another committee, an expert committee of the National Feather Purifiers Association. [Laughter.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) is amused. I would regard it as serious if I were at the Board of Trade. The National Feather Purifiers Association is 663 affiliated to the National Bedding Federation, both of which are represented on the committee responsible for preparing the British Standards glossary of terms applicable to filling. The advice given by this committee on the Curlew pillow was that it could not correctly be described as down.
Have the Board of Trade, as, I believe, is the case, been given information about this Curlew pillow and about the findings of the expert committee, who say that it is not correctly stated to be made of down? I should like to know whether the matter is being investigated. If not, what redress does the President of the Board of Trade think that people have who buy a Downland pillow or a Curlew pillow, thinking in all honesty that these pillows are what they are described to be, and then find that they are not?
The last example concerns the case of the Masnage bedspread, which I raised in a Question to the President on 8th April. I prepared my notes on this before Tuesday of this week, and underneath a copy of the President's reply I wrote:This is one of the most disgraceful and incompetent replies of any.The President has been in the House longer than I have, but I always understood it was the custom here that if one made a mistake one said so. I always understood it was common courtesy that if one said something which was not true about somebody outside the House, one admitted it, as the President, I think, will agree.
On 8th April, following a letter which I had sent to the President giving details of this transaction, the right hon. Gentleman said:The hon. Member referred me for further information to an organisation known as the Retail Trading Standards Association, but it was unable to give any assistance in the matter. I did, however, obtain enough evidence from other inquiries to satisfy me that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution."— [official report, 8th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 500.]
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
§ Miss Burton
The President nods his head; he remembers that. At the time, I told him that he had been misinformed 664 and that the Association had given him every assistance. Following that, the Secretary of the Association wrote to the President and sent me a copy of the letter, because it had arisen in connection with a Question of mine. On Tuesday of this week, when I asked him about this, the President inferred that the matter was nothing to do with me, that he had not made a mistake, and that he had written to the Secretary of the Association. Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it would have been more courteous if he had got up and said, as he said in his letter, that there seemed to be a conflict of evidence and had invited further discussion on the matter? Would that not have been a little more polite than telling me that nothing was the matter?
The investigator from the Board of Trade went to the offices. He was given full access to the correspondence and made copious notes from it. He asked whether he might take the letter away to the Board of Trade, but the Secretary of the R.T.S.A. declined and said that as he had made the allegations he would keep the letters but would give them to the Board of Trade if the Department was prepared to issue a summons.
As I informed the right hon. Gentleman in a letter, the agents were Afco Agencies Ltd. They told us in the correspondence that some clients of theirs had asked for the wrong labelling of these bedspreads, quite flagrantly, and that the agents' customers who made the request were Messrs. A. L. Allen & Co., of 109–111, Newington Causeway, London, S.E.I. That information was given to the right hon. Gentleman's investigator, together with the address of the stores where he could buy two of the bedspreads. The President, however, says that he received no help and had no case to bring. I should like him to answer what I have said.
Finally—and I know the House will be very glad I am coming to an end— I believe that tonight I have shown four things. The first is that the guarantees given by this President of the Board of Trade are just not worth having. The guarantees I aim quoting are guarantees on behalf of the rayon industry, the cotton industry and children's wear. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the 665 Board of Trade will clear the President's name when he comes to reply.
Secondly, the British Standards Institution has neither the authority nor the power to raise the quality of the standard of the kite mark. Thirdly, a minority of traders and manufacturers are taking advantage of the Government's incompetence and disinclination to act to debase the quality of goods supplied to the public. Fourthly, the Board of Trade and the Minister responsible do not realise the gravity of the situation or are not prepared to do anything about it.
We on this side of the House believe that the kite mark should be of a much higher standard. I myself believe it should be compulsory. Secondly, I think we should have informative labelling by percentage of fibre content. Thirdly, the President must realise that the minority of manufacturers and traders who do this sort of thing should be prosecuted and the cost borne by the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade legally has the power to do it. It is empowered to take action under the Merchandise Marks Acts of 1891 and 1894. It is in the interests of the country that the standard of goods should be high; it is in the interests of the consumer that they should get the best value for their money; and it is in the interests of the trade that any unscrupulous people should be exposed.
Before I sit down, I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to note the article in the "Drapers Record" of 10th April from which I have already quoted one or two passages. The article in question is headed: "B.O.T. must back this Act" with the word "must" underlined. This is what it says:During a recent discussion the president expressed ' very full agreement' with the view that people who think they have cause for complaint should go to a solicitor.What an instruction to consumers in general, including all those who cannot afford to consult a lawyer, let alone pay him to compile the necessary evidence and, if need be, launch a prosecution.…So far, Mr. Thorneycroft appears to have been masterly at evading responsibility under this Act. But both traders and the public expect his department to take action and not leave the policing to private enterprise.Unless this legislation is rigorously enforced, its provisions will soon be ignored by the dishonest. We regard it as the duty of the Board of Trade to protect consumers and traders in this matter.666 On this side of the House we believe that the Board of Trade under this Government and under this Minister has neither the experience nor the ability to carry out its undertakings with regard to the Merchandise Marks Act. Prompt actions are necessary and speedy decisions with a minimum of red tape. At present the Board of Trade is so hidebound by red tape that it is incapable of using the Acts. Most Members in all parts of the House will join in protecting honest traders, and I hope, therefore, that this Motion will be approved
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I beg to second the Motion.
I will take up one or two points which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) has raised, and one of them is the question of information. Personally, I do not see why this information cannot be given to the public. As a manufacturer myself, I have always given the information to a subsequent processor as to what is in the cloth when it is made. If it is important for a manufacturer to give information to his finisher as to what the cloth is composed of, then surely it is as important that the person who buys that piece of cloth should have information so that when it is cleaned, washed or whatever is done to it, the necessary knowledge should be available.
I should like very briefly to mention wool and nylon in connection with mixed fibres. My hon. Friend has been rather misinformed about this. Ten per cent, of nylon added to light wool dress fabrics increases its strength by up to 20 per cent. That has been the experience of the trade after many tests. It is also my personal experience, and I should not like it to go out to the public that nylon does not increase the strength of wool cloth when it is put in even in small mixtures. Ten per cent, does make an enormous difference.
If a manufacturer sells to a wholesaler or to a maker-up, and does not say that the cloth contains nylon, when it comes in and is examined and analysed it may be that the manufacturer will be subject to damages because he introduced an inferior thing. It cuts both ways. It cannot be said, simply because there is a popular view of nylon, that fundamentally 667 it can improve all woollen cloth to that extent.
Having said that, I want to make a few remarks about the position of marking and standards. The Utility scheme finished in 1952. We know its history and I would put it as short as I possibly can. The country was informed that there would be a voluntary scheme brought out to provide a British Standards Institution standard of quality to preserve or to replace that in operation under the Utility scheme. It was agreed that some of the standards under the Utility scheme should be preserved if possible. There was to be a quick review, but there was also to be a longer term so that other standards could be worked out meanwhile.
I will give this to the President of the Board of Trade and to the Government, because I want to be perfectly fair before we divide the House. The market changed. It turned from a sellers' into a buyers' market. Seasonal purchasing began. No longer was it all one kind of trade. Fashions and decorations came into the picture. Colour and other fibres were introduced into the cloth because there was a revolt against the drabness which had been going on for many years. But that in itself is not a sufficient excuse to warrant the delay that has taken place.
The President of the Board of Trade knows that he has been let down badly. I would ask him to consider the reluctance of some branches of the industry to toe the line on this business, and 1 would ask him whether he is satisfied with the response which he has had from the cotton industry? We appreciate his difficulties, which vary from industry to industry according to how things are measured. It is not easy. The engineering industry is comparatively easy to deal with, yet ever since 1901, when the British Standards Institution began what has been gradually built up, all the standards have become married into all types of engineering. But they are dealing with an inert commodity. It can be measured, worked and weighed meticulously, but even so it is very difficult to bring the scheme into operation.
My hon. Friend was not criticising the whole gamut of consumer goods manufacturers; far from it. We on this side 668 of the House are as proud as any hon. Member opposite about the fine quality of British consumer goods. What we are after is the defaulter, the man who is degrading standards. We are all after him, if we are any good.
The hon. Lady was perfectly correct when she put quality before price. What happens in a sellers' market? When one goes into a place to sell cloth, the purchaser is disposed against it from the start if the price is wrong, and it must come down and down. The manufacturer is driven all along the line either to alter specifications or to substitute.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Has not the D scheme a great deal to do with that, and also the fact that Purchase Tax starts when the item is over 4s. 3d. per yard?
§ Mr. Rhodes
No, not to any great extent. It comes in in fabrics which are designed for the export trade. It has a bearing on the matter; I do not deny that. I was speaking of the difficulty of arriving at standards. I can illustrate the point simply by referring to engineering. During the war it was necessary to standardise various pieces of equipment. I recall seeing an account describing the steps taken to standardise parts for a concrete mixer. The experts set about the job with a will. It was war-time and they wanted to economise on metals, time and so on. Eventually they got a standard out, but, with the best will in the world and with the best brains on the job, it took 12 months.
It may be said that that would not have happened in Germany, Switzerland or America, but would it not? Not many days after the standards were approved in this country, information came through the Secret Service, through Lisbon. Among it, as a quaint coincidence, was the statement that the concrete mixer which the Germans had been working on had occupied slightly over 12 months before a decision had been made.
If full co-operation had been received by the President of the Board of Trade, or if he had insisted on it, I do not see why there should not have been a glossary of terms for the cotton industry, followed by marking on a really first-class basis for the domestic textile section of the industry. I do not see why a kite mark should not be introduced at an 669 early date for all domestic textiles. The best of the old Utility specifications could have qualified for the kite mark.
In case anybody looks down his nose at the old Utility specifications, the answer I give is to tell him to look down the list of advertisers in the "Manchester Guardian" in the column headed "Business Opportunities." I doubt whether a week goes by without someone advertising for one of the old Utility specifications. People have great confidence in the Utility specifications that we had.
A great deal of opposition has come from the branded goods section of the industry. We know that, and we know the difficulties that the British Standards Institution has been working under. The right hon. Gentleman will have to take the matter in hand and exercise his authority before very long. The industry will dilly-dally unless the President of the Board of Trade says, "Yes, this is what we must do." They have an argument. They say that they have gone to all this expense for years to market and sustain a branded line; but it can be overdone. There are not really many branded goods which are worth much. There are a good many that can claim it, but there are not really many that can justify it.
What are they afraid of? They are afraid of a mark being put on to similar types of cloth with which cutomers will be satisfied. In that case the customer will say, "All right. If I can get the kite mark, or whatever it is that the British Standards Institution applies to a good quality article, the branded article is not necessary now." Surely, they are arguing against themselves. If we relate the point to another industry or trade, I can mention Mappin and Webb. They, to mention but one name, would never be under suspicion for their type of goods. Theirs is a world-wide name, yet it is true to say that every piece of silver sold by Mappin and Webb has a hallmark on it. Why cannot it be exactly the same with some of the consumer goods?
I should like to deal with the question of the glossary of terms. The British Standards Institution and the trade have done a good job. The wool trade has responded admirably to the appeal of two years ago. It has done its stuff. It is always on the job. It recognises that if 670 it can bring up the standards of the poorest there is more opportunity for better workmanship and craftsmanship.
The glossary, admirable thought it may be, needs teeth. Before very long the President of the Board of Trade should come to the House with legislation to support it, otherwise we shall have a real mess. We shall not get much benefit from all the labour and trouble that has gone into the preparation of the glossary. In the glossary there should be provided standards for all the cloths we know that can be given standards. They could be certified, but before we can certify we must legalise the glossary.
It is open to dispute, for example, whether a cloth made out of fibres spun on the worsted system can be called worsted, irrespective of the fact that it might be made out of rayon. According to common usage of the word, worsted cloth has always been held to be cloth which is wool throughout, spun on the worsted system, but there is an argument about this, and this is where the Board of Trade should try to clear up die matter. Can one conceive of a situation in which rayon at 24d. a lb. can be called worsted, when real worsted itself is made from tops which may cost 140d. per lb.? I mentioned this to the Parliamentary Secretary some weeks ago, and this is what he replied:I am afraid that I cannot give you a clear-cut answer to the question you asked. 'Worsted' can relate to a process of manufacture, and it may well be that as between two traders it might properly be used in this sense; but that in relation to the public it might mislead the purchaser into supposing that the article was of wool. Whether its use constitutes a false or misleading description in any particular case can only be determined by the court. What is certain is that the 1953 Act has not made legal anything that was illegal before.I support my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South when she says that power should be exercised by the Board of Trade to bring prosecutions. Unless more interest is taken in this subject by the Board of Trade, it may be a long time before this matter is cleared up, and confusion, delay and hindrance will be caused to thousands of people engaged in the manufacturing industry.
I do not think that legislation as such is altogether the perfect answer. I think it would be a good thing from everybody's point of view, for the economy of 671 the country and to enable the young housewife to make her own money spin out better, that in the last year at school information and demonstrations should be given to girls, and perhaps to boys, about the integral difference between the varieties of cloth which they will have to buy when they reach a responsible position.
We have done something on these lines in our schools in the area where I live, and, as a result, and because the people engaged in the manufacture of cloth know something about the subject, we have this situation. In the town adjoining mine, a lot of apparel is sold for schoolboys and schoolgirls. It is no coincidence that in that town a different technique has to be adopted from that which is adopted in my district, because in the other town the people are more critical judges of cloth. There should be an effort by the Board of Trade to get the co-operation of the Ministry of Education in this very elementary precaution before children leave school.
The greatest amount of essential information, in the simplest terms, should be available to customers, at the same time leaving the customers free to exercise their own tastes, to suit their own pockets in design, appearance and general suitability of the goods they buy. Our remarks tonight are directed not at the majority of good manufacturers who have a pride in their jobs, but at those backsliders whom we all wish to see eradicated.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Assheton (Blackburn, West)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:while recognising the improving standard of goods now available to the public in competive conditions welcomes the increased protection afforded to consumers by the Merchandise Marks Act, 1953.I have no doubt whatever that hon. Members on both sides of the House want to achieve the same object. I am bound to say that I feel more in sympathy with the speech made by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), whose approach to this problem seemed to me more constructive than that of the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton). I felt that the hon. Lady's 672 approach to the subject was very severe and critical, and I thought that some of her observations about the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary bordered on the offensive, if I may say so.
Be that as it may, I want to make quite clear that in moving this Amendment I shall not in any way traverse all the arguments which the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman have put forward. I want to indicate rather a different approach and a different attitude which hon. Members on this side of the House take to this problem. I think it is fair to say that, on the whole, hon. Members on these benches feel that it is less possible to do things by an Act of Parliament, and in fact the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne made the same point just now. We feel that less can be done by Act of Parliament and by intervention by the President of the Board of Trade than some hon. Members opposite seem to feel.
The terms of the Motion seem to me to suggest that the Merchandise Marks Acts are not being effectively enforced by the present Administration, and I think that the tenor of the hon. Lady's speech unquestionably bears that out. The hon. Lady made a long and extremely fully documented speech, and I have not the slightest doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who I believe is to reply, will deal with all the detailed matters about which she spoke, and about which, having no knowledge of them, I naturally cannot make any comment upon. My hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is very capable of defending himself, and I am sure he will deal most effectively with the various charges which the hon. Lady made.
I wish to say a few words on the point that it was never the intention of Parliament, when these Merchandise Marks Acts were first brought forward—this goes back some 60 or 70 years, I think—that they should only be enforced by Government action. That was never the intention. They are there for everyone to use. I should not like to discourage private persons or private organisations from making use of them at any time. Prosecutions have often been brought by local authorities and are frequently brought by organisations, trading associations and trading bodies.
673 I do not, however, share the hon. Lady's view that the President of the Board of Trade should give carte blanche to every such body by saying that he will pay the whole of the expenses in any case in which such a body chooses to engage. There would be no limit to the expensive counsel who might be engaged, or to the expenses which might be incurred. That suggestion is not one which those Members of the House who have experience of legal affairs would be prepared to support. Nor would I have thought it right for the Board of Trade to prosecute in a case which was merely for the protection or defence of some trade mark of some manufacturer. That is something for the manufacturer concerned to deal with, and a matter in which he should prosecute.
There is, however, the question—and this is what the hon. Lady had much in mind—of taking action in cases in which false or misleading descriptions are used, not just for the purpose of cashing in on somebody else's trade mark, but simply to persuade the public that they are getting something very much better than they are, in fact, getting. I find that on 2nd March the President of the Board of Trade said:If any trade association, or if any hon. Member, brings to my attention, or to the attention of the Board of Trade, cases where, in their view the Merchandise Marks Act has been broken we shall certainly look into the matter and, if necessary, institute proceedings." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1954: Vol. 524, c. 992.]The hon. Lady had a lot to say about this. I am quite certain we shall hear that the Board of Trade is willing to prosecute when adequate evidence is produced, but allegations are often made which are not supported. Allegations are frequently made both here and out of doors, and they have to be sustained before the President of the Board of Trade can be expected to support action. I agree that there should be readiness to take action, always readiness to investigate and readiness to prosecute on appropriate occasions. I do not know anything about the gauntlets to which the hon. Lady referred, but the Government spokesman will no doubt deal with them and the other cases which have been referred to.
It is clear that there is a great deal of common ground between both sides 674 of the House; I have no doubt whatever about that. We on this side of the House are just as anxious7mdah;at least I am, and I am sure my hon. Friends are—to protect consumers as are Members opposite. I am perfectly willing, anxious and ready that offenders, if they can be, and are, caught, should be properly punished. We must do all we can to prevent and check unscrupulous trading of whatever kind.
Fortunately, I was very glad that no suggestion has been made in the debate that any large amount of such trading is going on in this country. The Opposition Motion refers to "a minority," and I hope and believe that it is a very small minority. I share the views that have been expressed that the greater part of the trade of the country is conducted by highly reputable people, that employers are men who have the highest possible regard for the standards of the businesses which they are conducting and that the workpeople are anxious to turn out the best products possible. All of us naturally believe that.
There is, however, a minority who no doubt must be dealt with, although we must always beware in these debates of crying stinking fish, because the emphasis which goes out from a debate may not quite emphasise the good character which speakers have given to the vast majority of manufacturers, and may rather tend to emphasise, through the medium of the newspapers and wireless, the criticised exceptions such as those which the hon. Lady mentioned, if in fact those cases were proved. More attention is drawn to those cases than to the 99 just persons who continue to manufacture to the best of their ability.
In my view, there is no doubt that no Act of Parliament can altogether protect the buying public. It is very important that the buyer should realize—as the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne said— that it is his or her duty, and that it is prudent, to exercise judgment and intelligence in buying. The hon. Lady may say, "How can anyone tell what is in this or that?" I agree, but the best safeguard for buyers is to look at what they are buying. The other great safeguard is to change the supplier if in fact the buyer finds that the goods are not satisfactory. Buyers should take their custom elsewhere if they are not satisfied.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Is it not a fact that many people have spent large sums of money which they could ill afford on unsatisfactory articles, and that the community, by an occasional prosecution, could stop that kind of thing?
§ Mr. Assheton
I am not against the community doing some good by a few prosecutions, but in the vast quantity of everyday purchases which the women of this country make week by week the important thing is for them to be as careful as possible in making those purchases, and, if they do not get satisfaction, to change their supplier.
§ Mr. Assheton
The hon. Member says that he does not think that I understand, and perhaps I think that he does not understand everything.
§ Mr. Assheton
I am afraid that there is so little time that I cannot give way. The hon. Member for Coventry, South and the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne spoke for an hour and a half. I shall not speak for very long, and then probably an hon. Member opposite will be called, and that will not give hon. members on this side of the House very long in which to present our case.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sorry, but I think this is an important question. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that one of his ordinary constituents in Blackburn, West is in any position, when she goes to buy a mattress, to say whether that mattress is made of good or bad quality material?
§ Mr. Assheton
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that there are plenty of honest shopkeepers in Blackburn who would give good advice to their customers. My 676 experience confirms that; and the experience of many people, not rich people but people who are moderately well-off, is the same. If they deal with reliable people, they obtain reliable goods.
It is a libel on the employers and the workpeople of this country to suggest that a great quantity of shoddy goods is being produced. That has not been suggested tonight, and I am glad that it has not. Some shoddy goods are produced. We are ashamed that they are, and we want to prevent it—there is no doubt about that. But I do not think it unfair to say that a sellers' market and a high level of employment may tend to debase the quality of certain goods. I think that that is so, and I believe that all people who are interested in business would agree with me.
It is fair to say that a good deal has been done in recent years to improve standards, but the problem of devising satisfactory standards is full of technical difficulties, as anyone knows who is connected with industry. The fact is that the British Standards Institution bases all its work, as hon. Members know, on voluntary agreement. I think that progress is sometimes slow, but I am sure that it is right to base that work on voluntary agreement. I am sure that it would be wrong for the President of the Board of Trade to interfere.
There may be some disappointment that some marking schemes which have been formulated have not yet been adopted, and that there has been rather slow progress, particularly regarding certain cloths The failure to agree on marking schemes is partly due to a genuine fear that they may mislead rather than inform the consumer. I also believe that quite a genuine underestimate was made by the cotton industry of the technical and commercial difficulties involved in the general undertaking which they gave to the President of the Board of Trade in March, 1952, and which he passed on to this House. None the less, I believe that progress is being made. But we must take care to avoid undesirable rigidity, because that would inhibit progress in the development of new constructions and certainly in the use of new fibres, blends, and so on.
677 Of course, everyone should remember that cotton goes through the hands of spinners, weavers and finishers, and it is not always easy to ensure that the finished cloth complies exactly with a given standard. All sorts of difficulties arise throughout that very long process, as I am sure all hon. Members who are interested in this section of the trade appreciate.
For instance, the different dyes used in some of the multi-coloured prints cannot all be expected to have just the same degree of fastness to light. If we set too high a standard, we shall restrict quite unreasonably the range of colours which will very seriously affect our sales overseas. We must remember that our export trade is something that has to be looked after very carefully in the textile industry.
I should like to see more progress, and am not unhopeful of seeing it. I think that the point made by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne about the difficulties of suppliers of branded goods is an important one. It has not been solved and we must help to solve it.
I think that progress is also being made in another direction. Some time ago, I was worried at the considerable amount of inferior furniture that was about. I thought that it was a disgrace. But I am glad to say that, as a result of public opinion being aroused in the matter and of standards being adopted, things are now very much better. I am told that half the output of furniture now comes from firms licensed to use the kite mark. That is a very encouraging improvement and something for which we as citizens and as Members of Parliament can take credit. These things do not move very fast.
I began by saying that there was no difference between both sides of the House as to where we wanted to go. The only difference is really a matter of approach. We on this side of the House are a great deal more convinced than hon. Members opposite that the best guarantee of all to the consumer is provided by competition. I am not ruling out competition from imported goods in this connection, because that is the best guarantee of all from the point of view of the consumer. I am glad to say that competition is something which has increased very much indeed since this 678 Administration took office, and I believe that it is a very good thing for the country.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham. Northfield)
I make no apology for the fact that I propose for a few minutes to take the attention of the House away from purely textiles and allied products to a quite different field. I feel fortified in doing so by the fact that I am one of the lucky people in the sense that I have a promise from the President of the Board of Trade that he is considering a prosecution. I feel that we cannot let this opportunity go by because tonight we may get some indication that someone is to be prosecuted under the Merchandise Marks Act as a result of a matter having been raised in this Chamber in recent weeks.
I shall refer not to textiles but to one or two pseudo-medical products in respect of which it is high time that some legal action was taken. Some weeks ago I raised in the House the subject of a product which, I understand, has been selling for some time as a slimming aid, called "Slimswift" When I brought this to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade, I think he genuinely felt that here was a very blatant case of fraud and exploitation, of false claims and false descriptions. I understood from the way in which he replied to my questions that he felt that here was a chance of bringing somebody to book.
The product is a very interesting fraud. This is how it works. People responding to advertisements are told that if they pay £1 or 25s.—at the moment anyway it is £1—they will be given a product which will enable them to slim. With the present slimming craze among women, I should not be surprised if the product has been selling merrily.
The treatment is divided into two parts. One part apparently consists of bathing in a solution made from a certain preparation which is sent to the client as part of the treatment. The person has to bath in the solution about twice a week. There is a subsidiary part of the treatment which amounts to a diet. It is a simple diet, the sort of thing that anyone could write out for himself. It is worth something in that it is good advice, but not more than a few pence.
The major part of the treatment relates to a magic powder, in a solution of which 679 Women are supposed to bath twice a week. The powder has been analysed, and it turns out to be a very simple substance. It consists, quite simply, of common salt and Epsom salts in fairly equal proportions, and nothing else at all. When the analyst reported upon the product he remarked that the women would do much better to drink the solution than bath in it for the purposes of getting slim.
It may be said that that is all right— that the treatment produces a psychological feeling that one can slim as a result of bathing, and this makes people keep to the diet, and that that is what does the trick, and that that is really what people pay their £1 for. But that is not the claim which is made. This is where there is a real contravention of the Merchandise Marks Act. The literature distributed to these people is medical nonsense. It says that the substance is based on some finding by an eminent specialist who:…discovered that obesity is largely due to the failure"…to dissolve and eliminate certain waste"…substances"…from the body and skin.It says that the cause of being fat is that the pores of one's skin are not working to eliminate the 2–3 stone that one is overweight. That is nonsense.
The fraud consists of the fact that the literature does not refer to diet but mentions the magic powder which is supposed to have the effect claimed. One is supposed to:…lie in the 'bath, quietly relaxed, while SLIMSWTFT does its work by stimulating the pores of your skin to active elimination of fat-forming products.I have never heard such nonsense. Clearly, neither had the President of the Board of Trade, because he promised me that if I could find someone who had bathed in the solution or drunk it, he would consider prosecution. His words were so strong that I understood that he only wanted evidence and then he could go ahead. What I want to know is what has happened since.
I personally took along a relative, suitably clothed in a fur coat twice the size she required, so that she looked really fat, and we pretended that we wanted to buy this stuff. We went along to where it is made, which is a four-roomed flat in Brighton, and she rang 680 the front door bell. After a lot of scurrying upstairs and a few heads had appeared over the banisters, she was told that since presumably my relative looked fat enough she could be sold the preparation, and that if we would pay £1 we would get the magic powder.
Many other people have done the same thing, and I can produce plenty of letters from people who have been caught by this swindle. It is easy to get evidence from people who have bought it, and have bathed in it or drunk it or whatever is supposed to be the best way of using it, but we still have no idea that the President of the Board of Trade is taking any action about it. Indeed, when I put a further Question to him several weeks later, he was still investigating. In the meantime, I have done all my investigating, and could have given the right hon. Gentleman all the evidence that he needs. What is happening? Why is there no proper investigation? Why does he not take immediate action?
There is one further point about this swindle which is worth mentioning. There is a money-back guarantee, and the point about it is a simple one. The purchaser does not get her money back unless she has had a chemist to weigh her at each stage of the six weeks' treatment, so that, at the end of that time, he can certify that she has not lost weight. Of course, no woman who is foolish enough to send for this rubbish feels sufficiently confident or sufficiently willing to advertise what she is doing to go to a chemist all the way through the treatment. Of course, at the end of it, she finds that she has only been swindled and has no chance under the terms of the guarantee of getting her money back.
While I am on the subject, let me also say that this is only an example of many more cases which have reached me since I took this matter up. There is, in fact, at the moment, some admirable work being done by newspapers, which are doing the work of the President of the Board of Trade under the Merchandise Marks Act for him. For instance, the "Sunday Pictorial" "John Noble Service" employs a staff of some 17 people and is spending about £40,000 a year, mainly in exposing frauds like this. Good luck to them; I take off my hat to them, because it is a socially useful service.
681 I should like to bring to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary one case which was exposed by the "Sunday Pictorial" and which is ripe for prosecution under the new powers, which would show that the hon. Gentleman intends putting teeth into the use of the legislation that is now at his disposal. This substance is called Drake's Cider Vinegar, which is manufactured and widely advertised in Barnstaple, and has been exposed by the "Sunday Pictorial."
It is manufactured there by a man who claims to have after his name the initials M.S.F., P.M.O.S., A.B.B.A., and all that sort of rubbish, which is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. Nevertheless, this so called Cider Vinegar is guaranteed to cure anything from deafness to cracking fingernails, or from rheumatism, pregnancy, heart troubles, falling hair to diarrhœa. If I were to mention all the other things which it is supposed to cure, it would be on the verge of the indelicate, but the point about this product is that it is ordinary cider vinegar, which is sold, apparently, at something like four times the price—
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I am glad that the hon. Member has mentioned that point. No doubt he would be interested to know that it was right hon. Gentlemen opposite who created all the debasement involved in this question. In 1950, the Lord Chief Justice gave a judgment regarding what was called— not imitation vinegar—but non-brewed vinegar. It was shown that labels were supplied by the Board of Trade and the description given was also authorised by the Board of Trade, and the Lord Chief Justice gave judgment to the effect that, in fact, the substance was not vinegar.
§ Mr. Chapman
That does not matter tuppence ha'penny to my case. This stuff is on sale at five times the price of ordinary cider vinegar. Supposedly it has had something done to it and will cure all these ills. The man's justification, as exposed by the "Sunday Pictorial," is:My recent research into the medical uses of oscillating circuits, and certain knowledge I have acquired, have led me to improve on ordinary cider vinegar.When analysed, this substance was found to be ordinary cider vinegar, yet it is selling at one reputable chemist's whom 682 I will not name tonight. Even a most famous chemist's shop was bamboozled into having it on sale, and had to withdraw it when the facts were pointed out.
I would bring to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary a further case which has nothing to do with any newspaper but has reached me. It is typical of many on which there could be a good prosecution to bring order into the chaos of the patent-medicine racket. This preparation is most profusely advertised and is beautifully put out and, as one might half expect, it is one of the many cures for baldness. It is a racket in which people are today making thousands of pounds claiming to cure people who are supposed to be bald. I commend it not so much to the Parliamentary Secretary as to his hon. Friend behind him, the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. R. Fort) who is more in need of it.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am not surprised. It is made by a man called Pye, who has supposedly some consulting rooms in Blackpool. This preparation is a most amazing collection of stuff. The customer is supposed to get individual treatment for his symptoms of baldness. He does not get the same thing every day. He has something for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, something for Tuesdays and Thursdays, and something for Saturdays only. In fact, if he is foolish enough to pay £3 he gets a whole set of bottles, ointments, and all sorts of things as part of the treatment.
This substance has been analysed and and we know precisely what it contains. We know precisely what people are paying £3 for, and it is a beautiful example that the Board of Trade could use for a prosecution. The orange lotion for Wednesdays and Saturdays contains mainly water, with a little borax and salicylic acid, and its value is ½d., according to a reputable city public analyst. The red lotion for Tuesdays and Thursdays contains ammonia, borax and glycerine and just a small amount of dye. The rest is water, and together its value is ½d., too. In the yellow lotion for use on Mondays and Fridays there is something called "resorcinol ester," which apparently is 683 worth 1½d. The special spirit wash, consisting of soft soap, green dye and methylated spirits, which is worth 5d., is second in value only to the ointment which, consisting entirely of vaseline containing green dye and perfume, has a value of 7½d. The total value of all this, for which people are paying pound;3, is 1s. 3d. That is the kind of thing sold with all this ballyhoo as a cure for baldness.
I make no apology for bringing this sort of thing forward. We have no other opportunity of mentioning these frauds and swindles. I salute the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) moved this Motion. It mainly relates to textiles, but I hope that some corner of the Parliamentary Secretary's reply will be devoted to these swindles—patent medicines, cures for every ill—which are going on day after day. They deceive many people. They exact many pounds from the public until those responsible are exposed, when they decamp, having made thousands of pounds. Why does not the Board of Trade have a good prosecution? Let it take the one I have given—Slimswift— and let us have a prosecution which will frighten a few more of them off the market.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I suppose that it is the difficulty which the Labour Party has in finding something which will bring its Members together that explains why we spend half a day on this son of thing. I wonder what contribution this debate has made to our export trade, how much richer Britain will be as a result of it, and whether anything will have been contributed to the wealth of the country out of which come all the good things we want for mankind? I wonder also at the zeal with which individuals seek out the extremely small number of cases in which there is fraud. Is there not from time to time fraud amongst all mankind? Is there any class or group or body of men amongst whom, every now and then, we do not find some fraud?
§ Sir I. Fraser
No, but I do not think we are necessarily doing the best thing in devoting so much time to looking for 684 it. I even think that by doing so we hold up British goods to obloquy, as one of my hon. Friend said, and tend to cry stinking fish about them.
The truth is that almost all our manufacturers are reputable persons. They want not only trade for today and this week but a continuous trade for themselves and, if they can leave anything to their children, for their children afterwards. They want to make and keep a good name. Numbers of them impose upon themselves voluntary standards of the highest order. Many of them band together in trade associations to provide voluntary methods of controlling their claims, advertising and standards. That is the case for the manufacturers.
The implication at least in the speech of the hon. Lady is that all our retailers are either fools or knaves. It is my opinion that again the overwhelming majority of our shopkeepers and retail factors want to keep the goodwill of their customers and do so by serving good quality stuff. They know perfectly well whether or not the article they are selling is good, even if the customer does not always know. It is better to trust them than to go on asking the President of the Board of Trade and other Ministers to set up more machinery, institute more proceedings, and secure armies of officials to go round snooping and looking at this and that. The way for all our people— and not just one class—to get rich is to attend to making money rather than trying to catch out an odd person here and there.
I disagree with the attitude of mind reflected in the speeches of hon. Members opposite, except that made by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) the last part of whose speech was very realistic. He said that we should teach the children standards of quality in textiles and household goods, and that is quite right, but the more we mollycoddle the people and act as a kind of grandmother to them by asking the Government to protect them, the less capable are they of judging for themselves. It will be a poor thing for them if they have to rely upon "Aunt Elaine" and "Grandfather Dalton" to do what ordinary shopkeepers ought to do for them.
There is a good old rule that the person who buys should take care when he buys 685 —caveat emptor—and the more we take away responsibility from the individual and put it on to the Government the more we raise taxation and multiply the number of officials, and the less we think about the serious business of making the nation's living. I deplore this debate. I even deplore the fact that the Government have spent so much time during the last two and a half years in introducing the Merchandise Marks Bill and passing it into law. I also deplore their intention to introduce the Food and Drugs Bill. It would be very much better if we had much less grandmotherly legislation.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)
I am glad to be able to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). I want to speak for a very short time on a very limited field, namely, the wool textile industry, especially in regard to blankets. The introduction of this new set of artificial fibres has created a vast number of problems, not only for consumers but for manufacturers in this industry. I would point out to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale that it is as much in the interests of the manufacturers as of the consumers that the good manufacturer should be protected from the debasement of standards which is the inevitable result of what is happening now.
There are two reasons why artificial fibres are being used in the textile industry. One, which is an entirely good reason, is that they provide a considerably wider range of materials than we have ever had before. But there is also the fact that most artificial fibres are very much cheaper than the natural fibres, especially raw wool. Natural fibre cotton is only about half the price of raw wool, and artificial silk is less than half the price. Before the war the housewife who wanted to buy an all-wool blanket could be sure of getting one, because if it consisted of a mixture of cotton and wool she could always tell.
§ Mr. Burden
Would not the hon. Member agree that the debasement which made it possible for a material containing only 15 per cent, wool and 85 per cent, cotton to be described as wool was introduced by the right hon. Member for 686 Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) when he was President of the Board of Trade, and that he set the lowest standard of wool merchandise that this country has ever known?
§ Mr. Brook
The hon. Gentleman is trying to impose on me a party attitude to this question. All I want to do is to state the problem of the wool textile industry at the present time. I shall not give way again to a Member who wants to make a speech as an interruption.
There has been marketed for the first time a blanket which is scarcely distinguishable from an all-wool blanket, and yet the entire warp consists of cotton; 'that is, 50 per cent, of the blanket is cotton; and 25 per cent, of the weft consists of artificial fibre. So only 25 per cent, of the blanket is wool.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) said that the housewife could depend upon her judgment on looking at the material when she buys it. I have here pieces of two blankets, and one of them is of the blanket I have described. I am prepared to show them to the right hon. Gentleman, as I have shown them to hon. Friends of mine. More than 75 per cent, of them, though they knew what they were looking at, guessed wrongly which had only 25 per cent, of wool.
§ Mr. Brook
The firm that made that blanket of 25 per cent, of wool had submitted to it by a wholesale house another blanket which was cheaper. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, West speaks of competition. Let him remember that there are two kinds of competition. There is competition in price as well as competition in quality. This debasement of quality is the result of trying to get a lower price, and it is that which is hamstringing the manufacturing fraternity at the present time. When my friends had this blanket at the lower price submitted to them, they examined it in their own laboratory and found that, instead of its being 25 per cent, wool, as their own blanket was. it was only 12½ per cent, of wool.
The right hon. Gentleman must remember that this is a process which must inevitably develop. It is common now not only in the blanket industry but in 687 the carpet industry and in other branches of the wool textile industry. The housewife is at the mercy of the manufacturers and retailers, because she is not technically competent to judge whether a blanket or any other textile article is made all of wool or not, or partly of artificial fibre.
This blanket will wash. It will wear. The only way in which the housewife can test the blanket for its main properties is by learning its quality in the preservation of warmth. She can do that only after a long period of use of the blanket. So it is useless to tell the housewife that when she goes to shop she must use her own judgment whether an article is all wool or not. Any hon. Member can have a look at these pieces of blanket. More hon. Members will guess wrong than will guess right as to which is all wool and which is not.
What we are pleading for, in part at any rate, is protection of the housewife by the Government when she goes to shop. Her own judgment cannot be allowed to be the sole factor in deciding whether she is buying an all-wool article or something consisting of only 25 per cent, of wool—or even less than that. It should not be too difficult to define the amount of wool in a simple product such as a blanket. I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) that it is much more difficult to define what is the wool content of other products of the woollen textile industry than it is in the case of blankets, of which I have been speaking particularly.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us, when he replies to the debate, whether he has had brought to his notice the problem the industry is now facing, and which is not agitating the housewives as much as it is agitating the manufacturers. The problem which the industry now faces is the inevitable result of a debasement of quality which results from competition—but not the kind of competition to which the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West referred. This is the kind of competition which will drive down prices, and the only way in which good manufacturers can compete is by lowering their standards. That is the problem of the textile industry in the future.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John Edwards (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I have seldom heard a more shocking speech than that of the hon. and gallant Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). He deplores our having a debate but thinks it worth while to take part in it. He says there will always be people who go astray and that we are wasting our time here if we make it more difficult for them to do so.
I should have thought that we could at any rate agree, first of all, that the great majority of traders and manufacturers in this country are honest people anxious to do a good job. We have been at pains in our Motion to make that plain. We have referred to "a minority of manufacturers and traders and we have referred to a "tendency" on the part of the minority. That being so, we must not be accused of having cried stinking fish. Everybody who has taken part in the debate has been at pains to make it plain that we are concerned to try to prevent something from happening among a minority.
After all what is our job? I submit that, regardless of party, our task in Parliament is not to assume that we can make people good or honest by Acts of Parliament but, as far as we are able, to produce such legislative or administrative arrangements as make it more likely that people will be honest, easier for them to be honest and more difficult for them to be dishonest. Neville Figgis, many years ago in one of his books, said that the task of Government was to make it easy for the perennial social instincts of mankind to work. That is something we ought all to accept. The hon. and gallant Member dismissed not only the Merchandise Marks Act but even the Food and Drugs Act, and that is something about which his party may not be at all pleased.
I am sorry that the Government did not feel able to accept the Motion. It provided a form of words behind which we might have joined so that we could have said for the House as a whole that we wanted the Merchandise Marks Act rigorously and effectively enforced and wanted to do everything we could to protect the consumer. It is useless for the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) to try to divide us by 689 pointing out the distinction between the speech made by my hon Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) and the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). They spoke from their own experience and in their own way, but let it be remembered that both their names are behind the Motion and let it further be remembered that the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West and his hon. Friends put down their Amendment before they had heard either of the speeches, so that we must take it that they objected not to what was said but to what was on the Order Paper three days ago.
§ Mr. Edwards
The right hon. Gentleman said he was quite sure that the Board of Trade was willing to prosecute in any clear case. I should have thought that the cases advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South was so clear that there must be something wrong if prosecutions cannot be brought. It does not necessarily follow that what is wrong is wrong in the administrative machine; it may be something wrong in law. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us, where is the trouble? Why is it that in what appear to ordinary people to be perfectly clear cases we are told time and again, "We cannot do anything about it." If it is a change of law that is needed, could we be told so?
The right hon. Gentleman will recollect when I interrupted him and he somewhat reluctantly gave way that I asked him whether the ordinary housewife in his constituency would be able to tell a good mattress from a bad one. I thought that he was a little unfair to me when he retorted that there were plenty of good shopkeepers in Blackburn. I know Blackburn just as well as he does, although for reasons which we need not go into tonight, I do not happen to have had recent experience of the shop people of Blackburn.
He was unfair to himself, because only a few minutes later he went on to say what a good thing the kite mark was. What he ought to have said to me, if I may say so respectfully to him, is that 90 per cent, of bedding now bears the kite mark and that is, as the housewife 690 should now know, an indication of certain standards. She may not always know that, but if she does, she will say, "Has this mattress got a kite mark?" Almost all mattresses made in this country at the present time have the kite mark.
I say that the right hon. Gentleman is not doing justice to his own case if he says, "We merely rely upon the good shopkeeper" In all that we are doing we are trying to make it easier for the good shopkeeper, so that he will not be preyed upon by the bad shopkeeper. That is the whole point of our legislation. I am sure that it is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman or of his hon. Friends, but some of the things they have said would seem to show some doubt about their enthusiasm for these things to which the Government is just as much committed as we were.
§ Mr. Burden
I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that it has already been shown from this side of the House how we stand, because it was from this side that the Amendment to the Merchandise Marks Bill came, and that has been the expression of our views on this side of the House for a considerable time.
§ Mr. Edwards
That is perfectly true, but it is not from this side of the House that the Amendment has come to delete the whole of our Motion and substantially to replace it by reliance upon competition.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about reliance upon competition. May I read to him a few words from a pamphlet called "Setting a Standard," issued by the British Furniture Trade Confederation. It says:Under the economic pressure of a keen buyer's market there is a constant danger that a few people—both makers and sellers—will sacrifice even the lowest standards of materials and workmanship dictated by common sense in order to secure an immediate price advantage. From this arises the second danger, that substandard goods which do not stand up to normal use will bring censure not only on the individual manufacturer and retailer concerned, but even more damagingly on the trade and industry as a whole.We cannot rely exclusively upon competition. We have to do our best to make it easier for the good trader and good manufacturer and as difficult as we know how for the person who is not going to play the game.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
It the right hon. Gentleman reads the Amendment, he will see that we do not rely solely upon competition. We approve of that, and we also welcome the extra protection given.
§ Mr. Edwards
It is true that the Amendment submitted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite refers to the Merchandise Marks Acts, but let me make it plain that the Amendment which has been tabled deletes the whole of the words which we have put down, and the effect is to put the Government in the position of saying, "We will not vote for a Motion which asks the Government to utilise and promote other measures to protect the consumers." This is where we must ask the President or the Parliamentary Secretary to make plain their position.
I would say about the furniture scheme to which I have referred that it is a great pity that some of the firms with household names in furniture-making have not so far agreed to come into the kite scheme and to have their products certified in accordance with the B.S.I. standard. It is important that the people whose goods are known throughout the world should come into the scheme. It is in their interests to do so, and if they do not, they will be making it more difficult for proper standards to prevail over the trade as a whole.
There is a world of difference between relatively unimportant items in our expenditure, which we are able to test for ourselves, and things which cost a good deal, about which nothing that we can do unless we are experts can enable us to judge. The example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. D. Brook) and the examples given by my other hon. Friends who have spoken demonstrate that conclusively. For my part, I do not know, nor do I presume to know, the qualities of a piece of cloth merely by looking at it or feeling it. There may be people who can do that, but I am not one of them. In fact, I sometimes doubt whether anybody can do it.
We have in recent times seen the growth of the application of standards and certification to consumer goods. This was contemplated as far back as the Commonwealth Standards Conference in 1946. It was made more imperative when the Utility scheme was abandoned. 692 Perhaps it is dangerous to admit this, but I would admit that the Utility scheme was in a certain sense inflexible. I believe that it is possible to have quality standards of a more flexible kind and that a large amount of this can be done voluntarily.
Let me make it plain—I think I speak for all of us on this side—that if we can get something done voluntarily, we always prefer that to compulsion. We would hope to see the growth of these schemes covering whole industries and groups of products. But let me make it also plain that if that does not happen, when we have the opportunity next we will not hesitate to see that the consumer is protected by anything that we can do, either here in Parliament or through the administrative machinery of the Board of Trade.
It is no use having a kite scheme or anything of the sort unless it has backing from public opinion. The early standardisation was nearly always by technical sellers facing technical buyers. In cases like that, it is from the customer that the demand for certification most often originates, but it is not so in the case of consumers. Here is a matter in which we have to tell the consumer what it is all about.
I wonder how many people at present know what the kite mark means. We badly need a big propaganda drive so that people may know the meaning of this symbol. Who is to do it? Probably the British Standards Institution do not have the resources to do it, even if it were their job. If the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary are serious about the development of the kite mark scheme, who is to do the work of public education so that people may know what this mark means? It is important that somebody should do it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Commercial television."] It is suggested that commercial television should do it. If the Parliamentary Secretary tells us that if and when there is commercial television he will use it for this purpose, at any rate that would be something. What I want to ensure is that something will go on record about how this knowledge is to be distributed to the community so that more people will know about it.
I am inclined to think that we need to go further than we have done. While 693 I do not myself favour an advisory service on the pattern of the American model, there is a gap in our arrangements and we need some kind of consumers' advisory service. That service could not examine everything, but particular cases could be brought to its notice and it might even be—and here I might be thinking aloud, for I am speaking for nobody but myself—that some such service could relieve the Board of Trade of this difficult business of initiating prosecutions, if we had the right kind of body. This body might both advise and deal with the prosecutions that arise under the Merchandise Marks Acts.
Some way has got to be found by which we do not leave to the trade associations or to the individual consumers the duty of carrying out those tasks. It may be that the creation of a new body which would give advice on matters referred to it specifically and charged with the duty of seeing that the Merchandise Marks Acts were enforced would be the right thing. I am most anxious that the Parliamentary Secretary should have the maximum amount of time in which to deal with the massive case presented to him by my hon. Friend, but I should like him in all sincerity to give us clear and unequivocal answers to the questions that have been put. If we cannot agree on the form of words, let us see where we disagree so that when we come to the Division lobby there will be no doubt about what we are voting for.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. J. Edwards), winding up this debate for the Opposition in his usual agreeable manner, paid a great compliment to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton), for his wisdom and foresight in putting this Amendment on the Paper. Anything more fantastic than there being no Amendment differing from the Motion on the Paper when it was supported by the sustained attack on the Board of Trade by the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) it would be difficult to imagine. Certainly a ludicrous position would have resulted had this Amendment not been put down.
Nevertheless I agree with some of the things said by the hon. Gentleman the 694 Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), who seconded the Motion, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough, and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, West who moved the Amendment. In spite of some differences in approach between us as to the problems raised in the Motion and in the Amendment, I believe there is a considerable amount of common ground between us. We all desire that reliable goods of high quality shall be available to the public. There is no difference there. We all desire that the public shall be able to get good value and we all desire that the law designed for its protection shall be obeyed.
Let me start my remarks with a subject which is specifically mentioned in the Motion and the Amendment, the Merchandise Marks Acts. That means for present purposes mainly the 1887 Act as amended by the Act we passed last year. Under those Acts a person commits an offence if he applies a false trade description to goods or if he soils or exposes for sale or has in his possession for sale goods to which a false trade description is applied. A false trade description for this purpose is one which is false or misleading in a material respect as regards the goods to which it is applied. The Acts do not compel the seller to apply a trade description at all, but if he does apply a trade description it must not be false or misleading.
In the debate complaint has been made not so much of the terms of the Acts, as of their alleged inadequate enforcement. That has been the complaint at Question time by the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South, and it has been her complaint today. I am very glad that she had ample time to develop these matters, which cannot be dealt with very satisfactorily at Question time, but I am sorry that by speaking for over an hour she excluded so many of my hon. Friends who wished to take part in the debate.
I should, like at the outset to try to correct two widespread errors: these errors are clearly commonly and genuinely held in many quarters. The first error is to suppose that it is invariably the duty of the Board of Trade to prosecute if there has been a breach of these statutes. That is not the view that 695 has ever been taken by Parliament. The principal Act, that of 1887, cast no such duty on the Board of Trade, but the Merchandise Marks Act, 1891, laid down that the Board of Trade, with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor, could make regulations providing for prosecutions by the Board of Trade in cases appearing to it to affect the general interests of the country or of a section of the community, or of a trade.
The current regulations under that Act were made on 7th July, 1913, and they have been followed by all Governments, irrespective of party, ever since. What do these regulations provide? I am here summarising, because I do not wish to read the document as a whole. In effect, they say that a person who asks the Board of Trade to prosecute may be required to give a statement in writing of the nature and circumstances of the case, and then to give any further information or provide any further evidence that may be required, or to give security for costs. The Board of Trade is never required to prosecute if it thinks that there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction.
If the Board does not prosecute, that does not mean that others cannot do so. Many prosecutions under these Acts are conducted by trade associations and others by the Retail Trading Standards Association. I agree that that Association has performed useful work in this field.
There is nothing unusual or unique in an Act imposing criminal sanctions being mainly enforced by private bodies. The Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, is largely enforced by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The Protection of Animals Act, 1911, is largely enforced by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Dramatic and Musical Performers' Protection Act, 1925, is largely enforced by the Performing Rights Society. There is nothing unique or strange, therefore, in the Board of Trade not being the only or the most frequent prosecutor for offences against these Acts, and in fact it has not been the main prosecutor under any Government at any time. That is the first error which I wish the House to realise must be corrected.
696 The second error is the idea that goods themselves can contravene the Act. An examination or analysis of the goods may be helpful, or necessary, to establish that a trade description applied to the goods is false, but such examination can never in itself dispense with the necessity—if there is to be a prosecution—of proving every other ingredient in the offence, for example, the sale or offer for sale, or that the trade description was applied to or could be deemed to have been applied to the goods in question.
Having said that, let me deal with some specific cases put by the hon. Lady. Let me start with the case of the gauntlets. I hope the House will follow me when I give the particulars. On 2nd March the hon. Lady made these allegations in a Parliamentary Question. She asked the President of the Board of Tradewhether he is aware that in recent advertisements, of which he has been informed, the Supreme Supply Company offer super quality real hide gauntlets, fur-lined throughout, of 15 inches length and with 12 inches wide gauntlets; that the gauntlets themselves are of sheepskin, are not fur-lined throughout, are not 15 inches long nor 12 inches wide; that the hide is not of super quality; that the value of the glove in no way approaches the £4 which is claimed in the advertisement; and whether he will initiate a prosecution.…Let me inform the House what the Board of Trade did when these allegations appeared on the Order Paper. We caused a pair of these gauntlets to be purchased by someone who, in ordering them, mentioned the advertisement, which, of course, was necessary. The gloves were then examined on the recommendation of the Government chemists' office by the Principal of the Leather-sellers' College, who certified that the gloves were wholly hide, cow or horse, and heavily pigmented. The gloves were later examined by the secretary of the Association of Glove Manufacturers, who endorsed this opinion.
If hon. Members -have followed me, they will realise that, toad our expert examinations upheld what the hon. Lady said about the gauntlets, we should have had all the material for a prosecution. But 'in fact they did not. They showed that the description was not false in any material respect.
The hon. Lady asks whether we say that there would be no contravention if they were of sheepskin. Of course, we do not. But our expert evidence is that 697 they are not of sheepskin. The hon. Lady is absolutely entitled, if she so wishes, to say that all our experts are wrong and that she has better experts, but I think it is a little strong when she attacks the good faith of my right hon. Friend and of myself for giving answers in the House which are based on material which we have.
When on 8th April the hon. Lady asked what was the result of the investigation, my right hon. Friend said:I have had a pair of the advertised gauntlets purchased by one of my officers and examined by experts. They were found to comply substantially with the description in the advertisement. I am advised that this description was not false or misleading in any material respect, that there is no prima facie evidence of a breach of the Merchandise Marks Acts, and that there are no grounds for instituting proceedings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th April, 1954; Vol. 526. c. 497.]I justify every word of that answer.
The hon. Lady asked me some specific questions about the gloves. She is right in one respect; the thumb was not lined, the rest was. But these gloves were made to be used when driving a motorcycle, and I am told that that is usual and proper, and helps with the controls. Then the hon. Lady had further correspondence with me. I tried to explain to her where I thought she had gone wrong, and why we did not need the further pair of gloves which she sent us, because, in fact, whatever the examination showed, we should not have the necessary evidence. Nevertheless, as a matter of interest, I had the gloves examined and I promised the hon. Lady that I would let her know the result. I let her know the result, and she referred to it triumphantly. She seemed to think that it entirely destroyed the Board of Trade. Why, I cannot think.
The hon. Lady then proceeded to the case which we will call the case of the pillows. I explained to her that the particular case about which she was then inquiring would not justify proceedings against the company concerned, but as there is another product of this company which is under examination, and which may result in proceedings, I should prefer not to say anything more about that case tonight, for reasons which I think the House will appreciate.
The third case which the hon. Lady mentioned was that of the Masnaga bedspread. Here there is a complete 698 conflict as to what happened when the Board of Trade investigator went to the Retail Trading Standards Association and on that account an official of the Board of Trade has offered to see the secretary of the Association. Meanwhile, I ask the House to agree with me that it is not a crime for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade or for me to believe, until we have reason to think the contrary, that our own investigator is a man of truth.
Why should it be thought that the Board of Trade is at all reluctant to prosecute in a proper case? After all, the House knows, as a result of an answer recently given by my right hon. Friend, that between 1st February and 5th April we initiated prosecutions in 95 cases. Of course there is no reluctance to prosecute, if the case is a good one, but that does not mean that there are unsupported allegations in the House of contraventions but that there are contraventions which can be proved by direct evidence in a court of law and not by hearsay.
§ Mr. Strauss
I have too little time to enable me to give way. The hon. Lady took over an hour for her speech, and I am entitled to reply. If the hon. Member thinks that I have lost my temper. I at once apologise for any hastiness in that remark.
§ Mr. Strauss
The hon. Member is flattering himself.
The other main topic this evening has been the British Standards Institution and the voluntary standards which it is cooperating with industry in preparing. Since the war the B.S.I, has extended its activities to consumer goods. It has produced not only standards but, in many cases, certification trade marks combined with them.
The hon. Lady referred to the standard fairly recently produced for boys' wool knickers. I disagree with her view that it is not a good standard. It is the first standard of its kind, and I think it is a good one. It is quite true that it is not one which has been accompanied by the kite mark, but no undertaking 699 was ever given by my right hon. Friend in the speech to which so much reference has been made that every one of these standards would be accompanied by such a mark. The certification trade mark— the kite mark—is amply protected by statute, by the Trade Marks Act, 1938, and by the Merchandise Marks Acts.
The essence of the scheme is that it is voluntary. I know how much the hon. Lady and some other hon. Members opposite detest anything that is voluntary. Compulsion has an extraordinary merit in their eyes. The hon. Lady asked why we did not give this, that and the other power to the British Standards Institution. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the British Standards Institution has never asked us to do anything of the sort. When members of the B.S.I, read the hon. Lady's criticisms, I am sure that they will be much comforted by her assurance that she is their friend.
The Douglas Committee, which was set up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the previous Administration, reported in February, 1952, and said, in numerous passages which have often been quoted to the House, that 'the Utility schemes—as they developed and became increasingly flexible—no longer gave any real assurance either of quality or of value for money, except in the case of furniture. The Committee advised the Government to encourage industry to work out with the British Standards Institution certain standards.
What progress has been made? In furniture—the only sphere in which the Utility scheme was still giving any guarantee of quality—the B.S.I. has evolved a series of performance standards covering virtually all types of domestic furniture made of wood. There are five different standards, which may be known to many hon. Members. Many furniture makers, together responsible for more than half the industry's total output, are licensed by the British Standards Institution to apply the kite mark and are regularly visited by its inspectors. The shopper can ensure, by buying from a well-known reputable maker, or by buying furniture with the kite mark, that he will get sound furniture and not shoddy furniture. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough on the subject of 700 bedding. Very good progress has been made, and the greater part of the output of the industry now carries the mark.
Textiles have been mentioned, and I agree with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, West that we could have wished that more rapid progress had' been made; but, after all, we must not assume that, if more rapid progress has not been made, that necessarily means some villainy in the industries concerned. After all, the problem was novel and a very difficult one.
Let me give examples of the difficulties which have made progress slow. There has been a genuine fear that, if marking were used in connection with a form of standard covering some only of the properties of a cloth, it might mislead rather than inform, and certainly in the case of cotton the industry seriously underestimated the technical and commercial difficulties when they gave my right hon. Friend the assurance which he repeated to the House. Constructional standards could lead to undesirable rigidity and inhibit progress in the development of new constructions and the use of new fibres and blends.
Performance standards perhaps offer more hope, but here, too, there are serious difficulties that may affect our export trade. Let me give the example of multi-coloured prints. Not all the dyes would have the same fastness to light, and to set too high a standard might restrict unreasonably the range of colours and severely affect sales to overseas customers. Nevertheless, I agree that there is still scope for informative labelling, and the B.S.I, have been for some time conducting a comprehensive review of descriptive standards for textiles with the object of evolving such appropriate standards as will be most useful to the consumer.
For the reasons I have given, I commend the Amendment to the House. It omits the false accusations against us that we are not properly enforcing these Acts; it records what can be done by competition in a free society; and it records the advance which we made in the law, which is beyond anything done by right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."702
§ The House divided: Ayes. 149: Noes, 180.703
|Division No 91.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hamilton, W. W.||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C.R.||Hannan, W.||Reeves, J.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hargreaves, A.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Baird, J.||Hastings, S.||Rhodes, H.|
|Bartley, P.||Hayman, F. H.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bence, C. R.||Herbison, Miss M.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Holman, P.||Ross, William|
|Benson, G.||Holmes, Horaee.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Beswick, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Short, E. W.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hudson, James (Eating, N.)||Silverman, Julius (Erdingion)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Irving, W. J.(Wood Green)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Keenan, W.||Steele, T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belpir)||Kenyon, C.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||King, Dr. H. M.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Lawson, G. M.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morperth)|
|Champion, A. J.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Lindgren, G. S.||Thomas, Ivor Owen(Wrekin)|
|Chetwynd, G R.||Lipton, Lt.-Col.M||Thornton, E.|
|Clunie, J.||MacColl, J. E.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Collick, P. H.||McGovern, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Cove, W. G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Viant, S. P.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||McLeavy, F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Weitzman, D.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Mellish, R. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|de Freilas, Geoffrey||Messer, Sir F.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Deer, G.||Mitchison, G. R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Moody, A. S.||Wigg, George|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Morley, R.||Wilcock, Group Capt.C A. B|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Moyle, A.||Wilking, W. A|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Murray, J. D.||Willey, F. T.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Oliver, G. H||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Follick, M.||Orbach, M.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Oswald, T.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Padley, W. E.||Willis, E. G|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon.H.T.N.||Paget, R. T.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Winterbotlom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Glanville, James||Pannell, Charles||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Gordon-Walker, RI. Hon. P. C||Parker, J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Grey, C. F.||Popplewell, E.||Younger, Rt. Hon K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Price, J. T. (Westheughton)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Coine Valley)||Proctor, W. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Pryde, D. J||Mr. Wallace and Mr. Arthur Allen|
|Aitken, W. T.||Carr, Robert||Erroll, F. J.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Channon, H.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.(Blackburn, W.)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Cole, Norman||Fletcher Cooke, C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Banks, Col. C.||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fort, R.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Foster, John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F C||Fraser, Sir Ian (Moreocambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Black, C. W.||Crouch, R. F.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G||Crowdar, Sir John (Finohley)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Bowen, E. R.||Crowdar, Petre (Ruislip— Northwood)||Glover, D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Braine, B. R.||Davidson, Viscountess||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||De la Here, Sir Rupert||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gunny||Deedes, W. F.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H||Doughty, C. J. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfield)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hay, John|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Drayson, G. B.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionet|
|Bullard, D. G.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Heath, Edward|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Duthie, W. S.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Marples, A. E.||Snadden, W. MoN.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maude, Angus||Speir, R, M.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Molson, A. H. E.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E||Strauss Henry (Norwich S)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Neave, Airey||Stuart Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Sutcliffe Sir Harold|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Oakshott, H. D.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Teeling, W|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Orr-Ewing, Charles lan (Hendon, N.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|Kerfay, Capt. H. 8.||Orr-Ewing Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Osborne C.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Page, R. G.||Turner H F L.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Turton, R. H.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Perkins, Sir Robert||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Lindsay, Martin||Pitt Miss E. M||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Powell, J. Enoch||Vosper, D. F.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Price. Henry (Lewishafn, W)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lookwood, Lt.-Col, J. C.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Wall, P H B|
|Longden, Gilbert||Redmayne, M.||Ward Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Robson-Brown, W.||Weflwood, W.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Williams, GeraW (Tonbridge)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roper, Sir Harold||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Maclay, Ri. Hon. John||Roper, Col. Sir Leonard||Williams, Paul iSunderland, S.)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Russell, R. S.||Wills, G.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E||Shepherd, William||Sir Cedric Drewe and|
|Mr Robert Allan.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.
That this House while recognising the improving standard of goods now available to the public in competitive conditions welcomes the increased protection afforded to consumers by the Merchandise Marks Act, 1953.