HC Deb 03 November 1959 vol 612 cc845-6
30. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade when legislation is to be introduced to amend the law relating to weights and measures.

33. Mr. Owen

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement of general policy concerning the Report of the Hodgson Committee on weights and measures.

36. Mr. Darling

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce new weights and measures regulations for pre-packed foodstuffs and other articles on which the appropriate trade associations have been consulted.

Mr. Maudling

Preparation of a comprehensive Bill is in hand, but I cannot yet state definitely when it will be introduced. I am not proceeding with the proposed regulations about pre-packed foodstuffs, which were intended only as an interim measure.

Mr. Dodds

Is it not regrettable that it has taken such a long time to take adequate action to protect consumers? The Hodgson Committee reported as long ago as 1951. Does it not emphasise the ineptitude of successive Tory Governments that a Bill is now before the American Senate, and likely to become law, to set up a Ministry of Consumers, with a Cabinet Minister in charge, whilst here all we do is to pay lip-service to and tinker about with this vitally important matter?

Mr. Maudling

I am not sure that the pattern of American administration would suit this country in every case, but I agree that this is a very important matter. An immense amount of consultation with representatives of consumers, traders and local authorities has been necessary, and we are now preparing a Bill which, inevitably, will be rather big and complicated.

Mr. Darling

Will the Minister clear up the confusion now surrounding the Government's intentions? Is he aware that the Minister of State told a meeting of retailers in London only a week ago that regulations in regard to this matter would be introduced? We are now told by the President of the Board of Trade himself that we are to have a Bill. Is he aware that this legislation is not foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech or elsewhere, and can he now tell us precisely what the Bill will cover?

Mr. Maudling

The Bill will be a comprehensive piece of legislation on the subject. What my right hon. Friend said was entirely right. We cannot yet give an exact date for the introduction of the Bill, but it is now being prepared, and we will introduce it as soon as we can.

Mr. Peyton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on both sides will be delighted to hear that a Bill is being prepared? Will he give an assurance that there will be a minimum of delay in its introduction, as it has waited in the Parliamentary queue for a very long time?

Mr. Maudling

That does not rest entirely with me, but I certainly accept the importance of this legislation.