HC Deb 17 July 1963 vol 681 cc664-6

Question again proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Freeth

Perhaps I might repeat the beginning of that sentence. If the loss of weight is wholly due to circumstances which are outside the control of the trader, and which he could not foresee, then there is a defence. But where there is more or less known evaporation, let us say, evaporation which is unavoidable, but the extent of which can be foreseen because it is a regular occurrence, or where the evaporation can reasonably be estimated, that must be taken into account by the seller and no defence lies under the Amendment.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

Would the hon. Gentleman say why the advantage which appears to be conferred on the retailer by subsection (2,a) is confined to a retailer in food not prepacked?

Mr. Freeth

Here, we are trying to meet the case which arises with a delivery between shop and customer of food which is not prepacked, but which is subject to a high rate of evaporation. Wet fish is the perfect example of this. We do not want to enlarge this defence more than it is necessary to do, but we want to be fair to the fishmonger. I believe that we have reached a form of words which is as fair as it is possible to get, and because of that I would commend the Amendment to the House.

Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I raised this question in Committee on behalf of the fishmongers. On that occasion, I suggested that the question about evaporation could perhaps be cleared up, and the Parliamentary Secretary promised that this would be done. The only thing that I quarrel with is the statement that the Parliamentary Secretary made a moment ago, when he said that the thing is now clear. I accept—I do not know whether my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) does—the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation. I found his explanation clear, but I regret very much indeed—we cannot do anything about it—that in trying to meet our point we end up with two subsections of what was previously a very clear Clause which seem to be completely inexplicable.

No doubt the explanation that the Parliamentary Secretary has given will be taken into account if, unfortunately, anyone gets dealt with under this Clause. I do not know what else we can do about it. This was the point that we raised, and I suppose that we must thank the Parliamentary Secretary for dealing with it.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I cannot let this go without pointing out the very serious danger from the use of the word "drainage". A lot of food is being sold from butchers' shops in a frozen state. When food is frozen, such as tripe, or liver, in its frozen state it will weigh heavier than when it is thawed out, because as it thaws out it loses moisture. Drainage takes place and it loses weight. When a lady goes to a butcher's shop and buys tripe or liver it is in a frozen state. The butcher chops it and it is wrapped up in greaseproof paper. By the time that the lady gets it home a lot of moisture has been lost, and if she is unwise and has put it in her handbag it will be wet from the loss by drainage from the tripe or liver.

This loss by drainage could lead to difficulty. It could, demonstrably, lead to short weight. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) when he says that there is more complication now than there was before.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Does my hon. Friend really suggest that there are women—

Mr. Bence


Miss Herbison

—or ladies silly enough to put tripe or liver in their handbags?

Mr. Bence

I assure my hon. Friend that I did not mean that. I must have expressed it very badly. What I meant was that there are women stupid enough to ask their husbands to do the shopping and who lend their husbands the shopping bags for the purpose. The husbands, not used to shopping, put frozen foods of this kind in the shopping bags, which are thereby spoiled, and they get into trouble when they get home.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.