HC Deb 13 March 1963 vol 673 cc1443-63
Mr. Wainwright

I beg to move, in page 48, line 37, at the end to insert: (d) stop at all reasonable times any vehicle carrying solid fuel for sale or delivery to a purchaser for the purpose of carrying out his duties under this Act.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

With this Amendment will be discussed also the following one, in page 49, line 37, at beginning insert: Except as is provided for in subsection (1) (d) of this section".

Mr. Wainwright

The Amendment is intended to ensure that weights and measures inspectors continue to possess a power which they have held for well over seventy years. We are surprised that the Government have not accepted what was said in Committee when we discussed this aspect of the Clause.

The reason why the Amendment has been so worded is that we fully appreciate that an inspector would be reasonable at all times when he wanted to stop a vehicle. It is, I think, accepted that weights and measures inspectors are rational people. They are moderate and they are logical in thought and action in carrying out their duties. That being so, the Government should accept our Amendment.

On two occasions in Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary for Science made fairly long speeches in trying to convince my side of the Committee that we were wrong in our suggestions about the powers that should be conferred upon weights and measures inspectors. I have read again the hon. Gentleman's speeches and I still cannot see that he put forward any reasonable argument. If one accepted what the hon. Gentleman said, one could only assume from it that he did not have much faith in the weights and measures inspector in carrying out his duty.

The suggestion that an inspector might stop a vehicle in a very busy road takes a little accepting. If that is one of the reasons why the Amendment is not being accepted, it is hard for the Opposition to appreciate the attitude of the Government representatives. Who would believe that a weights and measures inspector, believing that someone was trying to defraud the public, would go on the M.1 to stop the vehicle during its journey? The Bill lays down that an inspector may inspect a lorry at the commencement of its journey and wherever it stops to deliver its goods to the customer, but during the period of transit he has no power to stop it. I should have thought that an inspector who was trying to stop a vehicle on the M.1 would be acting very imprudently and foolishly.

But that could be one of the places to stop a vehicle if its driver wanted to comply with the request of an inspector, because he could pull over to the hard shoulder and rest there. But we are not talking about delivering solid fuel a great distance. Usually solid fuel is delivered over only a short distance. Several miles at the outside—unless a firm is buying it from a colliery and conveying it to its works. But that has no connection with what we are trying to do on this issue. We are trying to prevent a trader from defrauding the public, and for that reason we ought to give as much power as possible to the inspector.

To say that an inspector might stop a vehicle in a busy town or a narrow street means that one does not place any faith in his common sense. I should very harshly criticise any inspector who stopped a vehicle so as to delay traffic going through a town, and I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary for Science nods in agreement on that point.

We are trying to ensure that the inspector shall retain a power which he has had for at least seventy years. Incidentally, it is about fifty years since a weights and measures Bill passed through the House of Commons, and on this occasion we want to ensure that the inspector shall retain that power for a further fifty years because we think it is a reasonable power.

I have examined the whole problem to find out why there should be any objection to our proposal. So far as I am aware, there has been no complaint in the past that an inspector has gone outside his duties, has acted foolishly, has caused a hold-up of traffic in a town or city or has caused an accident by stopping a vehicle in a very narrow road. The Government have brought forward no evidence of that sort to back up their statements. What are they afraid of? Why will they not accept the Amendment? It is accepted that an inspector could have traffic signs with him, and he could easily place them in a safe spot in order to stop a vehicle.

An inspector would want to stop a vehicle because he had received information that the trader or employee was delivering to a purchaser goods which were not of the proper weight or quality. The inspector might want to stop the vehicle while the goods were being conveyed. Under his present powers he could do that at a certain place which he knew the vehicle would be likely to pass through. What would happen if the Amendment is not accepted? The driver of the vehicle would probably know the car being used by the inspector or would see the inspector standing on the pavement ahead of him, and he would only have to keep his vehicle moving and the inspector would have no power to stop it.

There would be nothing to prevent the lorry driver, knowing that the inspector was on his track, from continuing his journey for two or three miles and delivering the solid fuel. The difficulty about checking solid fuel is that it is in bags or other containers which are tipped into a place or receptacle in which solid fuel is kept, and usually there is already some similar fuel there. This makes it very difficult for the inspector. He may come along twenty minutes later and find that all the material has been delievered, and he may decide to take it out and weigh it, and then he may discover that the quantity is in excess of the amount purchased by the consumer. A person could be trapped only when the receptacle or place for the solid fuel was empty—there would have to be a prior arrangement with the customer—before the delivery was made. However, the lorry driver, knowing that the inspector was on his trail, might decide to go back to the depot and take off the short-weight bags or fill them up.

I know that there are only a very few traders who defraud the public, but we want to prevent them from doing so. That is why we want the Amendment inserted in the Bill. When my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) moved an Amendment in Committee which contained the words "cause to be stopped", the Parliamentary Secretary for Science said that that would give the inspector power to erect a barricade on the road in order to stop a vehicle. I agree that that could be so, but I can imagine what action would be taken against an inspector who erected a barricade in a roadway and help up all the traffic merely because he wanted to stop a certain trader.

8.0 p.m.

If he has no way by which to catch such a person in the act, he will enjoy very poor status among those in authority.

The inspectors have had this power for seventy years, without complaint, as far as I am aware, from the public, the police or anyone in authority. I do not understand why the Government do not wish them to continue to hold this power. Perhaps it is because the Minister of Transport is not carrying out his responsibilities so that traffic is becoming highly congested in most parts of the country. But there again, we could surely trust an inspector not to stop a vehicle in a congested town for examination for perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes but to have it driven off to a public weighing machine straight away.

Here is an opportunity for the Government to make certain that the inspectors have the power to carry out their duties. No worthwhile argument was put forward against this principle in Committee. I understand that the representatives of the Inspectorate wish the power to continue. I am all in favour of it. I want to make sure that those traders who want to defraud the public, no matter how few they are, are prevented from doing so, if possible.

There was much argument in Committee about sand ballast and things of that sort, but there is a vast difference involved in the price of the materials. Solid fuel is high priced by comparison. Smokeless fuel, which will be more and more widely used in the future, is even more expensive than other types. It is the Government's duty to ensure that people who buy solid fuel get the correct weight and quality.

After all, that is what we have weights and measures inspectors for, and the Government must ensure that they have the power to carry out their duties. We must remember that these solid fuels are bought in sacks by people with small incomes, and the cost does not leave them much out of the poor pittance they get. We must make certain that they get full value.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept this Amendment. It is a good one. It is wanted by the inspectorate. I do not see why we should not give it to them or at least allow them to retain the power they have had for seventy years in order to carry out their job efficiently.

Mrs. Slater

I make no apology for returning to this very important subject. Some of us consider that the principle involved is of very great importance, firstly, to the inspectorate, and, secondly, to the consumer. Under the Bill, an inspector has the right to enter premises at which he has reasonable cause to believe there may be a fraud. I am quite sure that the inspectors also feel that they should have the same right to stop a vehicle carrying solid fuel, where they have reasonable suspicion that short weight is being carried.

I said in Committee, and I say again, that the sale of solid fuel lends itself, more than the sale of any other commodity, to frauds of this kind. Perhaps seventy years ago, when coal was so cheap, it did not seem to matter so much, but bags of solid fuel now cost a great deal and it is important to protect the consumer from fraud.

The question of boundaries is involved here. A trader might load up at a wharf—as we call it in Stoke-on-Trent—and then, on the journey, find that a weights and measures inspector is on his track. Instead of going on to the place where he was to deliver the coal, the man may easily escape by leaving that inspector's area. The only way then for the inspector to catch him would be to ring the police in the hope that a police car would arrive in time and stop the lorry.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Science replied to this point in Committee. He made the point that the inspector could either inspect a lorry at the wharf or follow it and check up the load when it was delivered. But the driver might have the correct weight on the weighbridge and then, round the corner, take some fuel out of each full bag and put it in one or two empty bags. This is not exceptional. It happens regularly. I was a member of a committee which had to dismiss more men for this kind of fraud than in any other part of the business, for the sale of solid fuels, as I have said, lends itself to fraud so easily.

Of course, an inspector may catch a man measuring out extra bags from a load already weighed as correct, or he may go to the place of delivery in the hope of catching the man there. But all that will be very much more difficult, particularly as coalmen do not have to carry any scales and the customer herself has no real redress because we are making it extremely difficult for her, under this Bill, to get the coal check-weighed.

In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary suggested that we were arguing that a weights and measures inspector should be able to stand in the middle of the road and force a lorry to stop. A few minutes ago we were told that these inspectors had a lot of common sense. We agree, and we think that they would not be difficult and awkward if they had power to stop vehicles when they suspected that fraud was being committed. We are not saying that everybody will commit fraud. We know that there are honest traders, but the Parliamentary Secretary must appreciate that coal is a commodity which is dear and whose cost, apart from rent, is the biggest item in an old-age pensioner's budget. We have to take every precaution to prevent fraud.

The Parliamentary Secretary also said that the Government would turn down our proposal because they had had representations from the Ministry of Transport and the British Road Federation. There are occasions when representations even from the British Road Federation and the British Transport are completely unfair. The people who are prepared to carry on frauds of this kind may find that it pays them to risk a fine. Although they will be fined if they are caught, they may find that the number of times they can escape more than compensates them for the fine.

Every report by a weights and measures inspector which I have been able to read refers to the danger of fraud with solid fuels. The inspectors have met the problem and have seen the difficulties. If the Parliamentary Secretary had discussed this proposal with the Institute, or with individual inspectors, he would have found that their view was that they would be more sure about preventing fraud if they had this power and did not have to rely on being able to contact the police and the ability of the police to have a car available and to arrive at the spot on time to stop a lorry to let the inspector investigate a possible fraud. The Amendment is extremely important to the inspectors and to the consumers of a very expensive commodity.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Edwin Taylor (Bolton, East)

I had not intended to take part in the debate for I was happy with the way in which the Bill was handled in Committee and with the progress which had been made. It is not part of my duty to delay the Bill which I want to go through as quickly as possible because it is a good Bill, but I cannot permit the comments of the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) to go unchallenged when she presents a sordid picture of all traders being criminals—

Mrs. Slater

I did not say that.

Mr. Taylor

—and dodging—

Mrs. Slater

On a point of order. I did not say "all traders". I was very careful to say that there were honest traders, but that there were some who were dishonest.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

That is not a point of order.

Mrs. Slater

The hon. Member misquoted me.

Mr. Taylor

The emphasis was on dishonest traders. I did not hear the hon. Lady make the qualification.

The important question is whether we want civilians wearing civilian clothes to have authority to stop traffic. There are many reasons why they should not. It might be an excuse for a hold-up. I would not like to stop for some of the civilians who have wanted to stop me, and I would not do so even if I were a coalman.

The inspectors in Bolton are quite happy and do not want this power. They liaise with other authorities and they have their friends in neighbouring authorities and they can chase suspects right to the borders of Scotland if need be. I do not know about going into Scotland, because there is a border and one may have to have a passport to cross it, but they can certainly chase these men all over England if they want to.

I do not like the picture of tradesmen making it their first duty to be dishonest and to cheat the public. From time to time, one or two are caught being dishonest, but most tradesmen, whatever they may be—and I am a baker—are honest and work hard. It is not our intention to cheat the public. By and large, the tradesmen of this country are out to give a fair and square deal to the public. I do not want to filibuster and I am content that the Bill should go through as it is, without the Amendment.

Mr. Loughlin

I do not for a moment doubt the absolute honesty of the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor). He said that he was a baker. He is a pieman and I can tell the House that he makes some very nice pies—I have had some. On this occasion he has misconstrued our argument.

On Second Reading I referred to coal merchants and the necessity to have scales on their vehicles to weigh their coal. No one could suggest that I was attacking men who work on coal wagons, because for a number of years before I came to the House I represented coal workers as a trade union official. Just as the hon. Member for Bolton, East is jealous for the good name of traders, I am jealous for the good name of coal deliverers. It is because I am that I urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary the reasonableness of the Amendment.

We are attempting to legislate for the sake of all coal merchants and all coal deliverers and to beat the small minority who seek to defraud the general public by giving short weight. There are two ways of delivering short weight to the consumer. One is by skilfully manœuvring the number of bags which are taken down from the wagon at the time of delivery so that when the consumer says that only nine bags, for instance, have been delivered, the coalman can say that every time a bag is emptied, the empty bag is put on the pavement and that more than nine empty bags are on the pavement. This is done by manœuvring the bags in such a way that fewer than the appropriate number are delivered, although the correct number of bags is on the pavement. The other method is to leave the coal wharf with X bags of coal on the lorry, and between that stage and the second or third delivery another man on the back of the wagon transfers some coal from a number of bags to another one to make an additional bag.

Mr. E. Taylor

Would the hon. Gentleman please tell us how he obtained his knowledge? I am rather interested in this. He seems to have inside knowledge of how this is done.

Mr. Jay

May I ask the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor) how he got his knowledge of the hold-up which he described just now? Has he personal experience of a serious road block caused by someone disguising himself as a weights and measures inspector?

Mr. Loughlin

I had not come to the point about the hold-up. I am annoyed with my right hon. Friend for blowing the gaff.

My reason for having knowledge of this is that as a trade union official I have been closely associated with this trade. I have had to recognise that all the members of the union were not saints. There were occasions when some of them went off the rails and were dismissed. They then came to me to make representations to their employers to have them reinstated. If I as an official did not know what fiddles were likely to go on, I could not possibly have done my job. I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is my only reason for having knowledge of this. I have never been a coal deliverer.

I do not say this in any patronising or clever way, but I think there is a lesson for the Parliamentary Secretary to learn from this, because it is only through personal experience that one appreciates the difficulties with which the Government are faced in trying to formulate proposals of this kind. I agree that it is only a small minority who are dishonest. The only way to discover whether men are making X plus Y bags out of X bags is to give inspectors the right to stop wagons and weigh the sacks while the coal is in transit from the wharves to the points of delivery.

I do not think that there is anything in this hold-up business. I do not think that an inspector would stand in the middle of the road and stop the coalman. These inspectors are pretty sensible men, and they should be given the right to weigh bags on a wagon. If we were dealing with cigarettes, it may be that people would pose as inspectors for the purpose of organising a raid on them. I know that the lads in this racket have got things down to a fine art. They have gone in for raiding bullion vans and hi-jacking wagons carrying cirgarettes and food, but I have yet to hear of them hi-jacking a wagon of coal. I cannot imagine that it would be a very profitable business.

Let us not confuse the issue. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) said, there are a minority of people who are exploiting the present position to defraud the consumer. It is incumbent on the House to see that every step is taken to prevent these people exploiting the public. I pay tribute to the coal trade and to the coal deliverers as a whole, but I still think that we ought to deal with the minority who abuse the present position.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

The hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) began his' speech by referring to two of my speeches in Standing Committee when we discussed this matter. I was not sure whether he said they were reasonable, lengthy speeches or reasonably lengthy speeches, but we discussed this matter fairly thoroughly and there is very little fresh which I can add in reply to a discussion which, I must say, without any disrespect to the House, has not thrown up any new points.

The hon. Member for Dearne Valley reminded us that the power to stop vehicles carrying coal is a power which goes back to the Act of 1889 and suggested that because that Act had functioned effectively and well since then it would be a good thing to continue to have it on the Statute Book. This was the exact reverse of the argument which hon. Members opposite were deploying on the previous Amendment, when they were suggesting that although something had apparently functioned well over the past fifty years, we ought to consider whether, with the new powers under this Bill, it should continue so to operate. We must remember that the traffic situation in 1889 was different from what it is today. In 1960, Parliament, in the Road Traffic Act—that was a consolidation Measure, the last operative Act was the 1956 Act, and I served on the Standing Committee which discussed that legislation—decided that only a policeman in uniform should be able to stop individual vehicles in a traffic stream. The number of weights and measures inspectors will be increased if this Bill becomes law and we must be careful about perpetuating a traffic problem by increasing the number of people with the right to stop individual vehicles in a traffic stream.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Jay

Is the Parliamentary Secretary suggesting that the 1960 Act repealed the previous Act of 1889 to which he has referred? Surely both Acts are running concurrently?

Mr. Freeth

I am subject to correction, but my impression is that the 1960 Act ended the right of certain people—not weights and measures inspectors—to stop traffic, and I think we should consider carefully whether this last outstanding anomaly should be permitted to continue.

The hon. Member for Dearne Valley referred to the question of police cooperation. I think it is obvious that a weights and measures inspector will be well known to the police in his area—at any rate, they would be able to recognise the inspector's card—and that the police would co-operate in stopping any lorry which the inspector wished to have stopped. It is obvious also that the police in neighbouring areas would co-operate to the full if asked to do so by the police of a county borough, or vice versa.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor) referred to the liaison between weights and measures authorities in different areas and the liaison between county and county borough police forces. My hon. Friend also asked whether we wanted traffic stopped by civilians. The fact that a civilian might attempt to stop traffic could be a muddling procedure for the drivers of other, vehicles. There could be fears that on some roads hi-jacking and hold-ups might occur.

Mr. Loughlin

What, with coal wagons? Do not be so silly!

Mr. Denzil Freeth

Even involving coalmen—despite the courtesy of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). That has been put to us by those whose livelihood might well be affected.

There is nothing to stop a vehicle being examined at the depot or at its destination, or when it is stopped while the coal is being delivered. The vast majority of coal wagons are used to deliver coal to domestic consumers and the wagon has to be stationary outside the house when a delivery is being made. A weights and measures inspector could then approach the lorry. Under the provisions of Clause 49 an offence would be committed if a coalman drove off without permitting the inspector to inspect the coal on his lorry, or without complying with a request to drive the vehicle to a weighbridge.

The hon. Member for Dearne Valley made quite a long speech about the possibility that drivers of coal vehicles would continue to proceed slowly and never actually stop if they saw the car of the local weights and measures inspector. I should have thought that such a situation would provide a classic case in which an inspector in a neighbouring area could be warned to be on the spot immediately the lorry did stop.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West said there were two methods of defrauding the customers which were used by vanmen delivering coal as opposed to frauds which might be perpetrated by coal merchants. I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) will read what she said in HANSARD because I have a horrible feeling that the hon. Lady went further than she intended in suggesting the degree to which there might be defrauding in the delivery of coal. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West referred to the practice of "fiddling" the number of empty coal bags left on the pavement after the coal had been shot into the coal cellar. In such a case the vehicle would be stationary, and so the hon. Member's example was irrelevant.

Mr. Loughlin

The Parliamentary Secretary should listen to what people say, or, alternatively, try to understand what they say. I merely illustrated two main methods of defrauding a customer. I did not say that the methods were relevant to this Amendment. I said there were two main methods.

Mr. Freeth

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member. I could not think why he mentioned it if he did not think it relevant to the Amendment.

The second point was on the question of transferring to another bag. In that case one would have a complaint from a person who received a short weight bag, or, alternatively, from someone who believes he has been given short weight but is unable to substantiate it. Suspicions would be raised and a complaint or a near-complaint would be raised with the coal merchant or with the weights and measures inspector, and a watch would be kept on that particular carman in future. When he was going on his rounds and as he stopped, the local inspector would be able to catch up with him.

For those reasons, as I said in Standing Committee, it is not necessary in our opinion to give this additional power, or rather to perpetuate it, in the case of coal wagons. This Amendment, unlike the Amendments moved in Standing Committee, applies to solid fuel alone and not to the sale of sand and ballast, but in our opinion it is not necessary in modern traffic conditions to perpetuate this power. I cannot, therefore, advise the House to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Jay

I think the Parliamentary Secretary is unreasonably obstinate on this issue. He cannot complain that some of my hon. Friends have brought forward arguments consistent with those employed in Committee. The reason is that he was unable to answer those arguments in Committee yet they appear to us—and to me —equally cogent today. There did not seem to be any substance in his argument that this House a year or two ago passed a Road Traffic Act in which it agreed that no one other than the police and weights and measures inspectors should have the power to stop vehicles on the road. That is exactly what we are asking, that weights and measures inspectors should continue, as they have under the present law, to have this power. The hon. Gentleman proved nothing by his argument on that.

It is admitted that a certain number of frauds occur on the part of a minority —no doubt a very small minority—of traders engaged in the business of distributing coal, but even the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor), who takes an extremely favourable view of human nature provided human nature is engaged in the retail trade, admits that a certain number of frauds occur. So I do not think any of us find ourselves in serious dispute about this.

It is not disputed that weights and measures inspectors have had this power for the last 70 years and that on numerous occasions they have used it to good effect. The Government are asking that this power should be taken away. I would have been impressed by that argument if the Minister, or anyone else, had produced any evidence that the use of this power had either caused danger on the road or any sort of abuse, or that it was being misused by weights and measures inspectors. We have had no attempt to give evidence of this in Standing Committee or in this debate.

We have had a fantastic picture put before us of what the Parliamentary Secretary described as "hi-jacking". We are asked to believe that a serious argument put forward by the Government is that there will be substantial danger if weights and measures inspectors are to continue to have the power which they have had for seventy years to stop vehicles on the road. It is suggested that there will be an outburst all over the country of serious accidents and of hold-ups by dangerous criminals disguised as weights and measures inspectors. I ask even the hon. Member for Bolton, East who takes such a favourable view of human nature but who, nevertheless, apparently believes that this kind of thing is liable to happen all over the place, to give us a single example from his personal knowledge.

We have three Ministers here from the Board of Trade and one from whom the Board of Trade has to have support on the Bill. I ask any of them whether they have any evidence that anything of this kind has occurred or is ever likely to occur. I should have thought it clear that weights and measures inspectors will not make frivolous or foolish use of this power if we give it to them. We have had no evidence to the contrary.

It has been pointed out that there are people other than the police and weights and measures inspectors who are given power to stop traffic on the road. They are the local authority employees which hold up traffic outside schools in order that schoolchildren may cross the road safely at dangerous places.

Mr. Denzil Freeth rose

Mr. Jay

I know what the hon. Member is about to say. He said earlier that this was a power to stop all the traffic and not just to hold up one vehicle, but that is an argument in favour of our side of the case because obviously, a fortiori, if I may say so, one is more likely to cause a serious hold-up if one holds up all the traffic on the road than if one stops just one vehicle.

Mr. Freeth

If the right hon. Member will go outside during the rush hour and see the effect of a policeman stopping all the traffic coming down Whitehall, and then try to imagine what would happen if he stopped only one vehicle in the middle of Whitehall, he will see that we are right.

Mr. Jay

I do not agree with that at all. I do not think that this is the main issue between us. It is obvious that if a policeman in the rush hour or any other hour holds up all the traffic, the interference with the flow of traffic will be greater than if he holds up a single vehicle and allows all the rest to continue.

We therefore come to this stage in this rather remarkable argument—that the Parliamentary Secretary admits that these frauds occur, that he wants to take away this power and that he says that the solution is to send for the police. But he admitted earlier that it is not an easy matter for a weights and measures inspector to get hold of the police; they may not be there at the time. Even if they are telephoned, the weights and measures inspector has to make out a case. He has to have a discussion with the policeman, to argue the matter and to convince him that he has a valid case for help. I do not know where the fraudulent trader will he by that time.

The hon. Member for Bolton, East painted a picture of these vehicles dashing all over the country, for example escaping to Gretna Green and taking refuge in Scotland. This, too, was a somewhat imaginative picture, but it is more likely to happen if we let it be known to the minority of fraudulent persons that as long as they are an the move they are all right. And that is the effect of what the Government now wish to introduce into our legislation.

I think that the Parliamentary Secretary has treated this in a rather frivolous manner. He has produced purely imaginary reasons against our Amendment and he has been totally unconvincing. The weight of argument is surely in favour of leaving the law as it is at present and allowing the inspectors to continue to use this power which has been useful in the past.

Mr. William Wells (Walsall, North)

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a short question? I understood that the gist of his argument at one stage was that we need not worry about the power to stop a vehicle when appropriate because the police would always co-operate. I understand that a policeman has power to stop traffic for purposes of traffic control and also has power to stop a vehicle when he is informed or has reason to suppose that there is a suspected offence. But what authority has a police officer to stop a vehicle merely for the purpose of inspecting it? What the Government are doing in the Amendment is to withdraw a power of inspection which has existed for over 70 years.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Milne

I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary for Science with considerable interest. His arguments against the Amendment could be used as arguments against the whole Clause. The Title of the Clause is General powers of inspection and entry". If, to carry out the functions of the Bill, it is necessary to have powers of inspection and entry, obviously these powers should extend to the various selling points in the retail distributive trade and, as is sought in the Amendment, the sale of coal from vehicles.

It has been argued that if this power is granted there will be a danger of hi-jacking. I followed the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. E. Taylor) very closely, although I do not know the definition of "hi-jacking". We may hear the definition from him later. This argument could be used against the other parts of the Clause. If persons are to use the powers sought in the Amendment for illegal purposes, they could equally be used for illegal entry in connection with the other types of inspection. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) in Committee quoted the recommendations of the Hodgson Committee on this subject. These is no need to go back to the nineteenth century.

Paragraph 424 of the Hodgson Report says this: …in various sections of our Report we have recommended that inspectors should be empowered, or should continue to be empowered, to stop vehicles for the purpose of making test weighings or measurements and of checking documents. This power should be interpreted as relating to any vehicle travelling on any street or highway to which the public has access: and we recommend that all local authorities should provide their inspectors with traffic signs suitable for this purpose and authorised under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1930. The question of waiting until delivery has stopped is not a strong argument. Any vehicle under observation could be kept moving until the patience of the inspector was exhausted. There are a sufficient number of places for inspection to be carried out without there being any danger to traffic. The police have powers to stop vehicles in Whitehall and other places, no matter what the flow of traffic is. The Parliamentary Secretary for Science should think very carefully about this and look closely indeed at the Amendment.

Mr. Winterbottom

I am one of the few persons in the House, if not the only person, who has had to deal with this

problem. There was a time in my duties in the distributive trades when I had to exercise oversight over coal delivery. One of our difficulties was that there were more bags on the lorries going out than there were bags filled with coal. The places where exchanges took place were well known geographically. That is why this Measure, if it becomes an Act, will be inadequate to check the abuses which occur in the distribution of coal. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the Amendment, not for the sake of those who carry the bags of coal, but for the sake of those who do the checking. These persons, after checking the lorry and the number of bags of coal on it, after having had the coal put on scales, or after having had the lorry put on a weighbridge and deducted the tare from the gross weight as shown on the weighbridge, still find sometimes that there are more bags of coal half a mile from the depot than there were when the lorry started. This is important for the consumer. I have yet to meet a consumer who has a pair of scales in his garden or back yard on which to weigh the coal delivered to him. Until he is able to weigh it he is unable to trap the coalman.

Believe it or not, when one has ordered ten bags of coal one must watch, when the coal is delivered, to make sure that ten bags arrive. Sometimes, even after one has counted them, one may have received only nine. [Laughter.] Somehow, somewhere one bag has gone, and I believe that the Amendment would prevent that sort of thing from happening. To make the industry and the men who work in it more honest, I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 185.

Division No. 75.] AYES [8.52 p.m.
Abse, Leo Brockway, A. Fenner Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Ainsley, William Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Dempsey, James
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Diamond, John
Bacon, Mlss Alice Carmichael, Nell Dodds, Norman
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Castle, Mrs. Barbara Ede, Rt. Hon. C.
Bancs, Cyril Cllffe, Michael Edward, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Coillck, Percy Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Blackburn, F. Cronin, John Fernyhougn, E.
Blyton, William Crosland, Anthony Fletcher, Eric
Boarthnan, H. Culler), Mrs. Alice Form an, J. C.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Daly ell, Tarn Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Lelca. S.W.) Darling, George Gtrtsburg, David
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Davlee, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Davles, Harold (Leek) Gourlay, Harry
Grey, Charles McKay, John (Wallsend) Skeffington, Arthur
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Manuel, Archie Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mapp, Charles Slater, Joseph (Sedgefleld)
Gunter, Ray Milne, Edward Small, William
Hannan, William Mitchison, G. R. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Harper, Joseph Moody, A. S. Spriggs, Leslie
Hart, Mrs. Judith Mulley, Frederick Steele, Thomas
Hayman, F. H. Neal, Harold Stonehouse, John
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regie) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Swain, Thomas
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Noel Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Dorby,S.) Taverne, D.
Hilton, A. V. Oliver, G. H. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Holman, Percy Oram, A, E, Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Houghton, Douglas Oswald, Thomas Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Hoy, James H. Padley, W. E. Thornton, Ernest
Hughes, Cledwvn (Anglesey) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Wade, Donald
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pargiter, G. A. Walnwrlght, Edwin
Hunter, A. E. Parker, John Warbey, William
Hynd, John (Attercllffe) Parkin, B. T. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pavitt, Laurence Whitlock, William
Jay, Rt. Hon Douglas Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Wilkins, W. A.
Jeger, George Peart, Frederick Willey, Frederick
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pentland, Norman Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Jones, T. W. (Merloneth) Price, J. T, (Westhoughton) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Kelley, Richard Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Winterbottom, R. E.
King, Dr. Horace Rankin, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Lawson, George Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Woof, Robert
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Robertson, John (Paisley) Wyatt, Woodrow
Loughlin, Charles Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rodgere, W. T. (Stockton)
MacColl, James Rose, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
MacDermot, Niall Short, Edward Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Mclnnes, James Silverman, Julius (Aston) Mr. Redhead.
Aitken, W. T. Farey-Jones, F. W. Linstead, Sir Hugh
Allason, James Farr, John Litchfield, Capt. John
Ashton, Sir Hubert Finlay, Graeme Longbottom, Charles
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Fisher, Nigel Longden, Gilbert
Bainiel, Lord Forrest, George Loveys, Walter H.
Bartow, Sir John Freeth, Derail Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Batstord, Brian Galbralth, Hon. T. G. D. McAdden, Sir Stephen
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gllmour, Sir John (East Fife) McLaren, Martin
Bell, Ronald Goodhew, Victor McMaster, Stanley H.
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Gower, Raymond Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Bidgood, John C. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maddan, Martin
Biffen, John Gurden, Harold Magtnnie, John E.
Bishop, F. P. Hall, John (Wycombe) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Bourne-Arton, A. Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Marshall, Douglas
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mawby, Ray
Box, Donald Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Boyle, fit. Hon. Sir Edward Hastings, Stephen Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hay, John Mills, Stratton
Buck, Antony Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Miscampbell, Norman
Bullard, Denys Hiley, Joseph Montgomery, Fergus
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Morgan, William
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hirst, Geoffrey Oakshott, Sir Henrtrle
Cary, Sir Robert Hobson, Sir John Osborn, John (Hallam)
Chataway, Christopher Holland, Philip Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hollingworth, John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hopkins, Alan Page, Graham (Crosby)
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portemth, W.) Hornby, R. P. Partridge, E.
Cole, Norman Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon, Dame P. Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Cooke, Robert Hughes-Young, Michael Peel, John
Cordcaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hulbert, Sir Norman Porclval, Ian
Corfie-ld, F. V. Hutchison, Michael Clark Plckthorn, Sir Xenneth
Coulson, Michael James, David Pitkington, Sir Richard
Craddock, Sir Bereaford (Spelthorne) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwleh) Pott, Pereivall
Crawley, Aldan Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Powell, Rt. Hon, J, Enoch
Crltchley, Julian Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crowder, F. P. Kerarts, Cdr. J. S. Prior, J. M. L.
Cunningham, Knox Kershaw, Anthony Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Curran, Charles Kimball, Marcus Proudfoot, Wilfred
Dalkeith, Earl of Kirk, Peter Pym, Francis
Deedea, Rt. Hon. W. F. Kltson, Timothy Ramsden, James
de Ferranti, Basil Langford-Holt, Sir John Rawlinson, Sir Peter
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Leather, Sir Edwin Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Drayson, G. B. Leavey, J. A. Rees, Hugh
Eden, John Leburn, Gilmour Renton, Rt. Hon, David
Elliott,R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry RldBdale, Julian
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Errotl, Rt. Hon. F. J. Lilley, F. J. P. Scott-Hopkins, James
Seymour, Leslie Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Shepherd, William Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side) Ward, Dame Irene
Skeet, T. H. H. Teeling, Sir William Webster, David
Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chlswick) Temple, John M. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Smithers, Peter Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Spearman, Sir Alexander Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Speir, Robert Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Stevens, Geoffrey Turner, Colin Woodhouse, C. M.
Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Tweedsmuir, Lady Worsley, Marcus
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm van Slraubenzee, W. R.
Storey, Sir Samuel Vane, W. M. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Studholme, Sir Henry Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John Mr. Ian Fraser and
Summers, Sir Spencer Walder, David Mr. Mac Arthur.
Tapsell, Peter Walker, Peter