HC Deb 24 February 1960 vol 618 cc397-401
Mr. Godber

I beg to move, in page 8, line 7, at the end to insert: (h) undertaking the certification of produce or of articles of any description, the registration of certification trade-marks and the functions of proprietors of such marks. Here, we move away from the somewhat controversial subject on which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) sought to threaten us with legal interpretations. I am satisfied with the last Amendment, and I am glad that he is.

This Amendment is perfectly straightforward. It is designed to give the Council certain additional powers, but subject, again, to the proviso about which we have been talking. These additional powers are very simple. They are powers to certify produce and to register certification trade marks. I repeat that the Council will be a non-trading body except for a limited purpose of experiment and demonstration. In the ordinary sense of the word, therefore, it will not need trade marks. On the other hand, it is possible that the Council will wish to be able to certify the quality of produce and the suitability of containers, for example. For instance, it may well wish to introduce standard grades of produce. Some of my hon. Friends feel very strongly that there is a need for this.

When it comes to encouraging the use of these grades, it could well be important that produce conforming to them is distinguished by a mark. This could be done by the registration of certification trade marks, which the Council could then license packers to use. A packer who failed to conform to the grading standard would run the risk of losing his licence to use the mark.

The Committee will note that the Amendment goes beyond produce and enables the Council to register the mark of any article. This appears fairly wide, but it is limited to the purpose of improving the marketing and distribution of horticultural produce. The Amendment would enable the Council, if it wished, to approve any piece of equipment used in marketing and distribution and to signify that approval by allowing its mark to be used.

That is the purpose of the Amendment. It is a useful provision which the Council might well need. I very much hope that it will commend itself to the Committee.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Darling

We welcome the Amendment and thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary very much for it. This is an issue which we raised in Standing Committee, and there was some discussion about it on both sides of the Committee and general support for the proposition that one of the main improvements which need to be made in horticultural marketing in this country is the grading of the produce which is marketed for sale.

This is a matter which is causing great concern, we know, to some sections of growers, particularly tomato growers. We have to consider how the grading is to be done and how growers who play the game and conform to the grading are to be protected from the sturdy individualists who do not play the game and who put sub-standard produce in containers bearing the certification mark. We have to consider who will do the grading and how the protective provisions will be carried out.

It is obvious that the decision as to the grades and designation to be given to grades should be taken by the Horticultural Marketing Council. As far as possible we want designations which can be advertised to the consumers so that they know, in the shops, what kind of produce they see and what grade. The Council should do this work, and in order that it may be done it is necessary to include the Amendment in the Bill.

We welcome the Amendment and we think that it will be one of the most important of the duties which the Council will undertake. We sincerely hope that it will have the effect of improving the marketing of produce in this country to the extent that it will satisfy growers about the handling of their goods by people engaged in the distributive trade and will give customers the satisfaction of knowing that they are getting honest value for their money.

Major Legge-Bourke

It is pleasant to be able to congratulate the Government most warmly on this Amendment. I am certain that it is right. It is a function which the Council ought to undertake.

I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would elaborate a little on the stage at which, in the movement of produce from the grower to the consumer, the certification is to be made. I very much hope that the Minister has already taken account of the fact that, as prepackaging is developing, we are getting much more direct supply to the eventual retailer from the producer-packer, and much of the wholesaling and secondary wholesaling which applies in other industries is beginning to disappear. My own view is that it is right that it should. It is, therefore, important that no one should have to suffer by pre-packaging virtually on his own doorstep and then being compelled, for certification purposes, to send the produce to a central point miles out of the way of the journey to the eventual consumer.

Mr. Godber

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) for his reception of the Amendment, although I again ask him not to overdo it, because he only sows seeds of doubt in the minds of my hon. Friends. Because of this I was particularly glad to have the reassuring welcome of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who, I know, feels strongly about these matters.

My hon. and gallant Friend asked at which stage the certification trade mark would be added. This is a matter for the Council, and I do not want to infringe on what it will decide. I want the Council to decide at what stage it should be done. My hon. and gallant Friend made a valid point about the importance of pre-packaging and about changing circumstances. These are all matters which the Council will be in the best position to consider. It is up to the Council, in the light of the circumstances, changing quite rapidly, as they are at the moment, to decide when and where the certification trade mark should be added.

The Amendment provides the machinery which gives the Council the opportunity to do the sort of thing which both my hon. and gallant Friend and I want to see done, but the Council is the appropriate body to decide questions of timing and I do not wish to lay down any specific rule.

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

I want to ask a question about the English of the Amendment, without discussing its merits at all. I was not on the Standing Committee and I may be stupid about this subject, but I do not see the relationship between the last few words of the Amendment and the first words. The opening words are: undertaking the certification of produce … Later in the Amendment are the words: the functions of proprietors of such marks. Are we undertaking the certification of the functions of proprietors or are we undertaking the functions of proprietors? If is not clear to me. If the English needs clarifying, perhaps my hon. Friend will see whether it can be made a little clearer in another place.

Mr. Godber

I always listen respectfully to a Scotsman telling us how to use the English language. The point that my hon. Friend has raised is interesting, but the answer is "neither" when he asks which of the two descriptions is right. It says: undertaking the certification of produce or of articles of any description, the registration of certification trade marks … That is the point. It is the registration, not of certification, but the registration of certification trade marks.

A certification trade mark is a trade mark which is registered with the Registrar of Trade Marks by a non-trading body for use by others. It is the normal trade mark. It is a certification trade mark which a non-trading body, such as this Council, would apply for and provide for use by other people.

If my hon. Friend reads it in that sense he will see that it is the registration of certification trade marks. The … functions of proprietors of such marks. means that having registered this mark they are then the proprietors of the mark. I think that it is logical if my hon. Friend follows it in that way. It is the fact of a certification trade mark being added to another type of trade mark which requires this form of English.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), considered.