HC Deb 29 March 1955 vol 539 cc319-35

9.29 p.m.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Wireless Telegraphy (Control of Interference from Electric Motors) Regulations, 1955 (S.I., 1955, No. 291), dated 23rd February, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st March, be annulled. Perhaps it would be in order to take with this Prayer the one which follows, which relates to the control of interference from refrigerators?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I think that would be to the advantage of the House. The two Prayers are very much on all fours.

Mr. MacColl

I think it would be to the advantage of the House because, owing to what to outsiders seems a strange procedure, my only object in moving a Prayer against the second Regulations is to show how much better they are than the first.

The first Regulations deal with the problem of the interference caused to television by electric motors. I should like to say at the beginning that I am not one of those who adopt a somewhat superior attitude towards television. I am myself a television fan, and I also have in my house a number of radio sets which are in fairly frequent use and, as far as I know, fully licensed. Therefore, I approach this matter from a perfectly sympathetic point of view, appreciating the difficulty and appreciating also the importance of people behaving like good neighbours and not making a nuisance of themselves to other people. But the acceptance of that general approach does not settle the question whether or not these Regulations are necessary or whether, if they are necessary, they are the kind of Regulations that ought to be laid before the House.

It is possible that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, who I understand, in the unfortunate absence of the Assistant Postmaster-General, is going to answer some of these points, may be inclined to say that this is all rather a fuss about very little and that there is not really very much involved. Of course, that is a very old and well-worn excuse, and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary's baby is as small as are most Ministerial ones.

The difference between these Regulations and the ones that follow is this. The second set of Regulations dealing with refrigerators refer to what is to be done in the manufacture of refrigerators, and that is a reasonable thing to do. It is reasonable to say that if somebody is going to put on the market an electrical apparatus, it ought to be made in such a way that it will not be a nuisance to other people. I do not think anyone can quarrel with that.

The present Regulations do not deal with that at all. They deal with the position of private citizens who in their own homes have got electrical apparatus which they have bought in perfectly good faith on the open market and which they have been using in many cases for quite a long time. Therefore, it is a serious matter. I hope that one of the things that the Parliamentary Secretary is going to tell us is precisely what the powers taken under these Regulations are, what the penalties are, what the procedure is as regards enforcement of them and what the right of entry into a house and the right of search are.

I think I know the answer. I think it is contained in Sections 11, 14 and 15 of the Wireless Telegraph Act, 1949, but I think the House and the public are entitled to know precisely what are the duties which have been laid upon them and what are the powers which the Government are taking in order to enforce those duties. They get precious little information from reading the Regulations and that is really the first point I want to make.

These Regulations are not technical Regulations dealing with professional and technical men who, in the normal course of their business, are able to cope with the problem. This is the position of the ordinary member of the public—the enormous numbers of people who have got some type of electrical apparatus and who need to know to what type of apparatus the Regulations are going to apply, what precise test is going to be applied and what they have got to do to comply with the Regulations.

If they try to find out what is involved, most of them, and certainly I, will find it somewhat difficult. The Regulations apply to electric motors having a continuous rating of less than 1 horse power per 1,000 revolutions per minute. How many housewives who have a vacuum cleaner or a refrigerator know whether or not it has a continuous rating of less than 1 horse power per 1,000 revolutions per minute "? What about the electric shaver—a very important and necessary piece of apparatus? I have not the foggiest idea how many horses it takes to shave my five o'clock shadow, and I do not know that I or any other member of the public can be expected to know whether that matter comes within the ambit of the Regulations.

Having ascertained the matter to which it is to apply, it has to conform to a requirement, and the requirement is defined in Regulation 3. This is where the human emotion of the Regulations begins to come out, because it reads: The requirement hereinbefore referred to is that when the electric motor is used:

  1. (a) the voltage of electro-magnetic energy at the electric supply line terminals of the electric motor, as measured and computed in accordance with regulation four, shall not exceed:—
    1. (i) seven hundred and fifty microvolts where the measurement is made at any frequency between forty and seventy megacycles per second; ".
    2. That is not the only point. It shall not exceed:
    3. " (ii) one thousand five hundred microvolts where the measurement is made at any frequency between two hundred kilocycles per second and one thousand six hundred and five kilocycles per second; and
  2. (b) the field strength of electro-magnetic energy radiated in any direction from the electric motor, as measured and computed in accordance with regulation four, shall not exceed."
and so on and so forth. That may cause a certain amount of difficulty to the conscientious housewife or the gentleman who is contemplating his electric shaver.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

Has the hon. Gentleman looked at page 4 and the paragraph " spurious responses"? He will find that very revealing.

Mr. MacColl

I was warming up to the question of measurement. The next stage in the preparation is, having as it were isolated the matter and having dis- covered the requirement, we have to find out whether or not, as law abiding citizens, we are conforming to these Regulations; and in order to do that we have to use a " calibrated radio receiver " and we read that: attenuators calibrated in decibels shall be provided in the input circuits of both R.F. and 1.F. amplifiers. Of course the Parliamentary Secretary knows what a decibel is, but in case there should be anybody who does not know what a decibel is the Regulations kindly explain, as follows: The term ' decibel ' (abbreviated db) expresses the logarithmic ratio of two voltages or e.m.f's. The ratio of two voltages V1 and V2 expressed in decibels is 20 times the logarithm to the base 10 of V1/V2 One could go on picking out these points, and I know that it is perfectly easy to get a little amusement out of pulling to pieces the technical jargon of many Orders, but I again emphasise that these are not Regulations passing through in the ordinary course of business to be dealt with by technicians. They vitally affect every householder and every lay person, and if those of us who are sent here by our constituents to represent them have not the foggiest idea as to what most of this means and what a calibrated attenuator is or a decibel or a sine wave. we cannot expect other lay people to know. It is important to know that references to the voltage of a sine wave are to its effective or root mean square value, and therefore we must keep that in our minds while contemplating our vacuum cleaner.

That is the first point to which I want the Parliamentary Secretary to address himself. To what does it all apply; how do we find out whether it applies to our own piece of mechanism; what do we do when we have found out whether it applies to it?

The second point I want to make concerns penalties. Is it right, as I think is the case, that the Wireless Telegraphy Act allows a right of search? It may be—I do not know—that there is a strong case and that this kind of interference is so vital that it may be the sort of horror comic of the electric world—something for which we must drive a coach and horse through our civil liberties. I do not know.

I do not know what evidence there is that this is necessary, but it is a pretty serious thing when one is quietly using one's electric shaver and contemplating oneself in the mirror if there suddenly pops up a little gentleman in a bowler hat and pin-striped trousers, with an attenuated calibrator or a calibrated attenuator, as the case may be, and starts telling one that the decibels are excessive. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. We are here legislating against the liberty of the subject, and I venture to say that not even my right hon. Friend in his most fervid planning moments would have lightly undertaken something like this.

I am an ardent and fanatical planner, and I am perfectly well aware that where the public interest demands it may be necessary to interfere with the liberty of people and to enforce Regulations of this kind, but I do not believe in snooping and that sort of thing and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary why a Conservative Government, which has set the people free and stands above all for the fact that an Englishman's home is his castle, has found it necessary to prevent one shaving in peace in one's own home and should have the right of search and the right of inspection, not only of one's shaving, but of whether one is using the right amount of decibels.

There is a further point which arises out of these complications. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary may be inclined to say that this is all rather exaggerated stuff and that what will happen is that a nice gentleman from the Post Office will come and tell us that we are causing a little trouble with our Hoover and we had better have something done to it, and that he will himself have the right measuring instruments and so on.

But there is a very real danger here of the exploitation of these Regulations by people with dubious technical qualifications and by the kind of small-time spiv who likes to bluff simple people into thinking that he knows something about this matter. It would be very easy for someone to come knocking at the door, saying, " There have been complaints in the street of your interference. I know a lot about this, and I am very willing to help you." He has a look round and says, " Obviously it is your refrigerator that is causing the trouble." He then tries to sell some kind of phoney and perhaps unnecessary piece of apparatus at considerable expense.

The Parliamentary Secretary may say, " This can be done for a few shillings, but it is easy to convince people that in their case it is a very complicated type of decibel and therefore will have to have a very complicated piece of machinery. There is a danger that because ordinary members of the public cannot understand what the Regulations are about, they are open to exploitation by unscrupulous people. If the Government want legislation on a private and domestic matter like this, it is up to them to make the legislation perfectly clear, plain and simple.

Finally, there is one other point which I want to raise. I am told in my constituency that one—not, perhaps, the most important but a very significant and important—cause of interference to radio is in fact television itself. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary why is there not a quid pro quo. I am a television fan, and I am not trying to crab television at all, but if it is necessary to interfere with people's private domestic life in order that their neighbours may have decent television reception, why should a quid pro quo not be provided so that people whose radio is interfered with by television can have some kind of protection? That is not provided, I understand, in these Regulations.

I am told that interference is caused to the Third Programme by television. To a Government which wants to desecrate our cultural standards by commercial television, that may seem a matter of very little importance, but I think that my hon. Friends—who always listen to the Third Programme—will agree that this is a matter in which we want to preserve the standards of those who take their listening seriously. Some hon. Member listening quietly to a talk on " Mithraic sex customs " may suddenly find the whole thing distorted and interfered with by the oscillations of the television next door. If there is a real danger of interference by television, surely the Parliamentary Secretary can include that in his Regulations.

I have tried to make the case as best 1 can on this subject because, as I say, it might be a small matter. I should have thought that in the passage of time most electrical apparatus would have the necessary protection automatically put on at the manufacturing end. Surely that is where the advantage of the second Regulations comes in—refrigerators should be tackled in the factories.

In the process of time old electrical apparatus will wear out and be replaced and the problem will become increasingly smaller. I should have thought that with the two great weapons to protect television—that the old-fashioned apparatus will gradually diminish and the fundamental decency and good neighbourliness of most people—this problem would be dealt with. If advised what to do, most people would be most anxious to prevent interference with other people's enjoyment. Approached in the right way, they would do what was necessary perfectly willingly. But, brandish Regulations at them and start rushing around with attenuated calibrators, with decibels and sine waves, quite rightly we put people's backs up. A right-thinking householder does not want a snooper to tell him what to do.

I think the Government are defeating their own ends; they would have been wiser to have left the matter alone, or tackled it in a more tactful way. If we have a law giving the right of search and right of entry into a private house, we must first have an overwhelming need for it and, secondly, make quite certain that the law we are enforcing is so crystal clear that the ordinary layman, the decent citizen, can understand what it is all about. These Regulations are a mockery which ought never to have been laid on the Table of the House.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has dealt so eloquently and comprehensively with these Regulations that it is not necessary for me to add anything to what he has said.

9.49 p.m.

Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

If I remember rightly, it was the Labour Government who passed the Bill which gave powers to the Post Office to make Regulations of this kind. I was one of the very few in this House who objected to that Bill at that time. I remember saying that I thought it was up to those who made television sets and who transmit television so to design it that it achieved its purpose without causing inconvenience to millions of householders.

It seems strange that opposition to this set of Regulations should come from hon. Members opposite. If there is any blame in this matter it ought to be squarely placed on the Postmaster-General of five or six years ago, who obtained the powers which are now being criticised. I do not want to make a party point—[Laughter.] —I really do not—but to deal with the merits of this matter, to which there are two sides.

I suppose it is almost impossible to transmit a satisfactory television signal to a fringe area 50 or 60 miles away from the transmitter against a strong wave of local interference. Unless a very good neighbourly attitude is developed among our people, or unless powers of advice or persuasion are available, I suppose that large numbers of people will have their television sets spoilt.

Some of the spoiling is done by public authorities, owners of vehicles—who can quite well afford to fit suppressors—and by railways. In my constituency, an electric railway runs alongside a number of streets, and when it came into operation a few months ago, having been suspended for the war period, it interfered with literally hundreds of people trying to watch their television. I made representations and the Post Office did very well in helping to cure the trouble. No doubt public authorities will take a public interest view about such matters.

I do not think it is really wrong that there should be some power to deal with the matter. What I am not quite so sure about is the power to compel the little person, who does not understand what it is about, to fit apparatus to common household articles.

There is a little lady in my constituency who wrote to me about this very matter. She said, " Am I to be compelled, for the sake of a rich neighbour with a television set, to look at my electric iron, to fit something to my vacuum cleaner, and to consider whether the fan in my kitchen will interfere with his television set? He is rich and I am poor, and if he wants to see better in his television set, let him pay for the suppressor."

There is something to be said for that point of view. Why should the poor little person, using his accustomed appliance that he has had for years, be made to pay for the rich neighbour who has a television set? That is the other side of the matter. The Government should hesitate before taking powers to interfere with little people in their homes and their private domestic apparatus.

9.53 p.m.

Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)

I have great sympathy with what has been said in support of the Prayer. I feel that in this matter we are getting ourselves into a completely absurd position.

We are extending the field of regulations for all sorts of electric apparatus, and it seems to me that that is quite absurd when one considers that one of the greatest means of interference with television reception is the aeroplane. I live in Hendon, not far from the Hendon aerodrome, where aircraft are continually taking off and landing. There is constant interference from those aircraft. I am informed by my technical friends that it is quite impossible to do anything with an aircraft engine which would stop that interference.

If that is so, it strikes me as quite absurd that any Government, of whatever complexion, should be indulging in what I am bound to regard as petty restrictions, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) said, may well bear heavily on the small person. I should have thought that the proper way was to turn the whole position the other way round.

I am informed by my technical friends that it is possible to attach a gadget to a television set to screen it and so prevent any interference. If that is correct, and I am told on very high authority that it is, I should have thought that that is the way to tackle this problem. I hope that the Government will look at the matter again on the lines which I have mentioned.

9.55 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Sir Edward Boyle)

It might be for the convenience of the House if, at this point, I explained the purpose of the Regulations and answered some of the points which have been put in debate. I am sure that the whole House regrets the absence through illness of my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General. I am glad to say that he is recovering and that he should be back with us after Easter. I should like to thank the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) for the very agreeable manner in which he moved the Motion. In view of his earlier remarks, I might say that I have neither marital nor parental responsibility.

These Regulations have been made by virtue of powers conferred upon my noble Friend the Postmaster-General by Section 10 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, as my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) correctly said. Part II of the 1949 Act requires the Postmaster-General to set up advisory committees to advise him on the substance of any regulations which he may wish to make for dealing with interference from various types of electrical apparatus. As the House will be aware, Regulations have already been made with regard to the ignition systems in motor cars. All new motor cars have had to be fitted with suppressors by the manufacturers, as from 1st July, 1953. There has been pressure on more than one occasion to make this requirement compulsory for old cars as well, but this pressure has been always resisted, for reasons which are outside the scope of this debate.

I pass on to the two sets of Regulations which are being prayed against tonight. I deal, first, with the Regulations relating to refrigerators. Under these Regulations, every electric refrigerator manufactured, assembled or imported after 1st September this year must be fitted by the manufacturer with any necessary suppressors. What about the many thousands of refrigerators sold before 1st September this year? There will be no obligation on any manufacturer with regard to those, but if they cause interference they will come under the other Regulations dealing with small electric motors, which I am about to explain.

Statutory Instrument No. 291, which contains the other Regulations, lays it down that, after 1st September this year, the owner of any new or old appliance which contains a small motor and causes any interference with television or radio sets can be compelled to stop the interference. I will give examples, for which the hon. Member for Widnes asked, of some of the appliances which are most likely to cause trouble. In the home there are vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, hair driers, egg beaters, cake mixers, electric washing machines and electric floor polishers. In industry there are electric drills and tools of that kind.

In passing, I might say, on the point of publicity, that there was a normal Post Office " Press Notice " of these Regulations on 1st March this year. As far as I know, there has been no difficulty in the Press and the general public discovering the main lines of the Regulations. We shall do all we can to see that they are generally known.

The House will have noticed one important difference between the two sets of Regulations. The hon. Member for Widnes alluded to it. Whereas Statutory Instrument No. 292, relating to refrigerators, places an obligation upon the manufacturers, Statutory Instrument No. 291 applies to the users of apparatus which incorporates a small motor. Hon. Members may reasonably ask why we are dealing with refrigerators differently from other apparatus incorporating a motor. The reason is quite simple.

It is that a refrigerator may often be in use throughout the 24 hours of the day and, therefore, can cause much more constant trouble than, for example, a small motor working a sewing machine or a hair drier, which is used only occasionally. Suppose it is a hot summer day, and the family think they would like to watch the television broadcast of the Test Match. It is then quite possible to arrange not to use the hair drier on that day whereas it may be disastrous to turn off the refrigerator. That is why these two sets of Regulations are rather different in form.

I think the House might like to know to what extent refrigerators and small motors have been causing trouble up to now and what action we have already taken. I understand that 2,800 complaints were received about refrigerators during 1954. Most of these complaints arose from old types of refrigerators, and all that was necessary, in the vast majority of cases, was the simple operation of inserting a suppressor.

The figures for interference caused by small motors are interesting. During 1954 there were about 10,000 complaints about sewing machines, 7,500 complaints about hair driers, 4,300 complaints about vacuum cleaners and 3,500 complaints about electric drills. The vast majority of these complaints related to television reception, but quite a substantial number of these small motors affected ordinary sound radio reception as well; and in this connection I should like to emphasise that the Regulations which we are discussing this evening relate to sound broadcasting as well as to television.

This may seem a rather large number of complaints, but it is worth remembering that the sales of these electrical appliances have been extremely large during the past year. For example, I understand that during this period vacuum cleaners have been sold at the rate of 70,000 a month, and electric sewing machines at the rate of about 4,000 a month. All these cases of interference were duly investigated by my noble Friend's Department, and in the majority of cases all that was needed was for suppressors to be fitted. With very few exceptions this was done without any demur, but I should like to make it quite plain that the sole purpose of these two sets of Regulations is to give my noble Friend the Postmaster-General the power to deal effectively with those relatively few cases where the spirit of co-operation has been lacking.

Before I go on to describe how these Regulations will work there are just two other points which I should like to clear up. First, there are, of course, many kinds of electrical appliances which do not use small motors such as electric lamps and electric blankets and the diathermy apparatus which means the sun-ray lamp on the top floor. These have not yet been covered by Regulations, and my noble Friend will receive the necessary advice from the Advisory Committee at a later date.

The same applies to neon signs, about which the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) asked my hon. Friend on 2nd February. My hon. Friend pointed out, in reply, that neon signs accounted for about 1 per cent. of the interference cases which the Post Office has investigated.

Secondly—and I think this takes up a point which was made by the hon. Member for Widnes—these Regulations do not cover the question of interference caused by television sets to radio sets. Indeed, this type of interference does not come within the scope of Part II of the 1949 Act, but as we are on this subject of interference perhaps I might be allowed to make this very brief comment. One of the conditions under which a person takes out a receiving licence for radio or television is that he does not cause interference with any other radio apparatus. If a man with a television or radio set does cause such interference then, in the last resort, the Post Office would withdraw his licence. If he then continued to use the apparatus without licence he would be committing an offence under Part I of the 1949 Act, and be liable to prosecution. The House will be glad to learn that the Post Office has had to withdraw only three licences for this reason.

This is, clearly, a problem which should be tackled at the manufacturing stage and my noble Friend's Department is discussing it with the radio industry.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

Would the hon. Gentleman also give the figures of the number of complaints he has had on this particular source of interference?

Sir E. Boyle

I have not got those figures because they are not strictly relevant to the debate tonight, but if the hon. Member would like to have them I will see that he gets them.

I should explain briefly to the House how these Regulations will work. Let us suppose that a complaint is received by the Post Office that interference is being caused to a television set or a radio set. Inquiries are made and, let us imagine, the trouble is tracked down in due course and found to be caused by a hair drier. Before the Post Office ask the owner of the hair drier to take any action at all—and certainly before he is asked to spend money—the Post Office would make absolutely sure that all reasonable steps have been taken by the man making the complaint to minimise the interference. I think that that takes up a point made by one of my hon. Friends.

If it becomes plain that the trouble is due to the hair drier and nothing else, the owner would be asked not to use the apparatus at a time when it caused interference or, alternatively, to insert suppressers. In 99 cases out of 100 that would be the end of the matter, but in the hundredth case where the owner of the hair drier, or whatever it might be, refused to co-operate, the Post Office has to serve a notice upon him giving him not less than 28 days in which to put the matter right.

During that time he has, under the Act, the right of appeal to a special tribunal. If he does not appeal, or if his appeal is rejected, then, and only then, if he continues to use the appliance without inserting suppressers, he is committing an offence under the 1949 Act and is liable to prosecution; with a maximum fine of £10 for the first occasion and £50 on any subsequent occasion. Incidentally, the tribunals have already been set up. There is one for England and Wales, one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. They can meet in any part of the Kingdom, indeed the Act lays down that they should deal with any particular case at a place reasonably near where the interference occurred.

The hon. Member for Widnes asked about the question of search. There is no automatic right of entry. It is strictly limited by Section 15 of the 1949 Act. If the hon. Member examines that Section, he will see that the right of entry is dependent on the granting of a search warrant by a justice of the peace or in Scotland by a sheriff. It is rigidly circumscribed.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

In that case, how is the hair drier tracked down?

Sir E. Boyle

I am told that in the majority of cases it is tracked down by apparatus used outside the house and that no right of entry is, in fact, necessary.

Captain Duncan

Then how is it known that it is a hair drier?

Sir E. Boyle

I ought to say a word about the cost of fitting suppressers to existing equipment. I hope that the House will not press me to give exact figures, because the charges are likely to vary considerably. They will depend on the kind of appliance to be suppressed; whether suppression is to be obtained for sound, or television, or both, and, not least, whether the owner fits the suppressors himself or, alternatively, gets a retailer to do the job. Shortly after these Regulations were laid, a spokesman of the raido industry remarked that suppressors for most domestic electrical appliances would cost from 15s. to 30s. I understand that that cost includes the cost of fixing the apparatus, but not what is known technically as " travelling time."

Anyone who possesses a television set knows very well how annoying it is to have the picture continuously cut up by lines splashed across the screen; just as anyone with a radio set knows how exasperating it can be to have a good programme spoiled by loud scratches and crackles caused by a neighbour's electrical apparatus. The only comparable type of annoyance which occurs to me is when a long-playing gramophone record, with what looks like a perfect surface, suddenly develops a noise like a log fire just getting going.

On the other hand, my noble Friend fully recognises that the owners of electrical apparatus have their point of view. The principle of these Regulations is simply to stop interference—or, at least, to reduce it to a low level—when it is unreasonable and when the owner will not take action of his own accord. As I have already stated, I believe that it is only in a small minority of cases that it will be necessary to invoke these Regulations. I hope that, in view of that explanation, hon. Members opposite will feel able to withdraw their Motion.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I am quite sure that the whole House would wish to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply for the very courteous and full way in which he has answered the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). I do not wish the Assistant Postmaster-General any but I hope it will be conveyed to him that his place has been particularly well filled on this very difficult occasion.

The Parliamentary Secretary seems to live in a rather different world from mine, because he said, " Suppose it is a hot day and the family think they would like to watch a Test Match." But when was a Test Match played on a hot summer's day? If I could feel certain that there would be a hot summer's day on which a Test Match was being played, I should look forward to watching it with great deal more pleasure than I have been able to contemplate doing so during the last three or four years when Test Matches have been played in this country.

Sir E. Boyle

I think that the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is the third day of the Test Match at Lords in 1953.

Mr. Ede

When one recollects what happened during the whole of that Test series until Laker and Lock were allowed to play on a wicket which Jupiter Pluvius had prepared for them, it just shows the relevance of the observation which I made on the hon. Gentleman's supposition.

The thing about which I complain in these Regulations is their extreme tech nicality. As the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford-Craddock) said, these Regulations cannot be understood by anybody but a person who is either in the fourth form at a secondary school or who is a technical expert with an expensive training. I have no doubt that small boys would be able to arrange that the Regulations should be complied with at home and would find a good many excuses for staying up late to see that the family did not get into any difficulty through any breach of the law in this respect.

However, I should not have thought that it was necessary to be so highly technical in the matter, which was really the main burden of my hon. Friend's complaint. After all, when we were in office we may have passed the Act, but, at any rate, we did not draft these Regulations, and, in spite of what the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) said, it is the Regulations against which we are praying.

I also wish to emphasise what has been said by the critics of the Regulations and by the Minister himself. In this modern world, with the various forms of domestic apparatus that depend upon the understanding and, at any rate, the application of scientific principles, the habit of good neighbourliness is more than ever important. One must hope that that will be developed.

Just as the raucous loudspeaker tuned in a great deal too loud for the comfort of the neighbourhood is now recognised as a form of social misbehaviour and one to be generally deprecated, so failure to comply with reasonable requirements that one's own apparatus shall not interfere with one's neighbours will come to be regarded as one of the essential social duties in a world where much pleasure can be obtained by the exercise of good neighbourliness and much annoyance caused where that habit is not cultivated.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

I shall detain the House only for a minute. I disagree with my right hon. Friend, not in wishing ill to the Assistant Postmaster-General, but in my view that the way in which these Regulations have been defended by the Parliamentary Secretary shows that a reasonable approach to the House in these matters enables a reasonable answer to be given by it. The Parliamentary Secretary, who certainly had the advantage of not being in the House in 1949, when the original Act was objected to in such stringent and violent language, has shown that the House can face these technical problems.

Despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has said, I think we have taken a sensible view in this matter, and I hope that when the party opposite find themselves back upon these benches in the near future they will continue to take the reasonable view which has been adopted by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply tonight.

Question put and negatived.