§ Again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Jay
It may be a pity that we are discussing these three Amendments together, and not separately, because the arguments are rather different. However, if that is your Ruling, Sir William, we accept it, although I apologise if the arguments become slightly entangled.
These Amendments follow logically from the main debate today about the gateway through which trades have to go to secure exemption. At present, subsection (2,a) says that one of the 1436 factors to be taken into account in deciding for and against exemption of a class of goods is the quality of the goods available for sale, or the varieties of the goods so available.
We are not convinced that the criterion should be confined to quality and varieties. Some hon. Members may feel that the word "quality" is so wide that it covers our other suggestions, namely, safety, durability and serviceability. That would not be a well-founded objection. I think that the Government will agree with me on the interpretation of the words. No doubt the word "quality" can be used in two senses: in the wider sense of the character or nature of the goods, in which case it might be argued that safety and durability, and so on, were already covered; and in the alternative sense, the more limited sense—it is rather hard to find a synonym, but one would speak of better or higher quality. That is the sense in which the Bill must be interpreted.
For this reason, the wording of the Clause is that the quality of the goods available for sale or the varieties of the goods so available would be substantially reduced. If we were using the word "quality" in the general sense of nature or character, we could not talk about quality being reduced. Therefore, I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree with me that "quality" is used in the limited sense, which cannot 1437 in itself cover safety, durability, serviceability or other characteristics of that kind. I start by saying that whether we think these alternatives should be covered or not, it seems certain that they are not already covered.
Therefore, our first proposal is that in deciding for or against the case for enabling resale price maintenance to go on the Restrictive Practices Court should be entitled to consider the argument that the safety of the public would, in effect, be prejudiced if exemption were to he refused.
It may be thought by some hon. Members that this is already covered by subsection (3), which reads:In this section 'necessary services', in relation 10 goods, means services which, having regard to the character of the goods, are required to guard against the risk of injury, whether to persons or to premises in connection with the consumption, installation or use of the goods…".But it is apparent from a rapid glance at those words that they cover merely the possibility of risk—that is to say, safety, looking at it the other way round —in connection with necessary services used in relation to those goods.
It is clear that questions of safety or risk can arise, quite apart from the issue of any services which are given in connection with the goods. For instance, in the case of oil heaters, to which I referred in the earlier debate, presumably it is possible for a purchaser to buy such a heater, for there to be no after-sales service, but for there to be a real risk of injury or accident because of the defective character of the oil heater when used in the home. I think, therefore, that the Minister will probably agree that this point is not covered by subsection (3), because that relates purely to services.
There has been some discussion about danger to health, both in connection with the Amendment relating to drugs, and in the longer debate this afternoon. I should have thought—and I should like to know what the Minister thinks about this—that danger to health is not strictly the only danger or the only risk against which we have to provide. For instance, if there were a defective or unguarded electric fire, or oil stove, the danger would be of injury, or, indeed, death. I do not know whether the words "danger to health" would cover a 1438 danger of injury or death. I should have thought that it would be much more effective to use the word "safety", which, so far as I can interpret the drafting, would cover a case of that kind.
I can see no reason for omitting this phrase from the Clause, because surely everyone would agree that this is notably a case when; the consumer cannot judge for himself. In the previous debate laid down the criterion that where the consumer t an choose he should be allowed to do so, but where it is not possible for him to choose because of lack of knowledge I think that we are entitled to put the criterion in the Bill and allow the Court, in these limited cases, to decide on the consumer's behalf.
By inserting the words "quality" and "variety" the Government to have admitted this distinction. They have admitted that in certain cases the consumer is not fully able to judge the quality of the goods. They have admitted the same point in connection with "variety", and our submission is that safety comes under this heading. Because of the complications of modern electrical and other devices, it is not possible for a consumer to be fully informed about the risks of the use or installation of equipment of this kind. For that reason, I think that there is a strong case; or the first Amendment on which we put the main emphasis for the insertion of the word "safety" in the Clause.
Dealing next with Amendment No. 73, I think that there is a case for including also "durability". If the Minister believes that there are cases where the consumer is unable of his own resources to judge the quality of goods, there must also be cases where the consumer is unable to judge their durability. To put it in plainer language, he is unable to judge how long the thing will last.
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by giving examples of the various items which the consumer might be purchasing, but I would have thought that there were many cases in which it was impossible for him to judge, merely by 'coking at the goods in question, and we exercising reasonable judgment and common sense, how long they are likely to last. Unless the Minister is prepared to argue that durability is already included in the 1439 term "quality", I would have thought that there was as good a case for including it as there was for including his own word, "quality".
Finally, it seemed possible that serviceability and if any hon. Member can think of a better word I shall be glad to accept it—
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
I have already made the point, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman could not have listened, that if the word "quality" is used in that sense I do not think that the Clause could refer to a substantial reduction to the detriment of the consumer. That phraseology would not appear to be appropriate, in that context. If the Minister thinks that it is included, let him say so. If he says that it is not, it seems to us that there are many cases in which a consumer cannot judge whether an article will work merely by making a casual inspection in the shop.
The first example of this that comes to my mind is the ordinary ball-point pen. It may appear to write very nicely on a piece of paper in the shop, but an hour later it may cease to work. [An HON. MEMBER: "A bad choice."] The hon. Member may have a mystical way of foreseeing that this will happen before he buys such goods, but it is beyond me. I expect that similar examples could be given. If the Minister thinks that the question of quality ought to be included and he does not think that the word "quality" covers the question of serviceability, I submit that there is as strong a reason for including that word as the words in the other two Amendments that we propose.
Once again, I point out that we place the greatest emphasis on the question of safety, which is covered in the first and main Amendment.
§ Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)
My name appears in connection with Amendment No. 73, but I should like to make my point in this debate. I have conducted my own Gallup poll among the learned lawyers in the Committee and I have discovered that there is some uncertainty among them whether the word "quality" covers the question of durability.
1440 It is known on both sides of the Committee that my view, and the view of my union, is a little heretical, not only about the Government's view and the Opposition's view, but even the Liberal Party view—perhaps because I have spent most of my working life in the distributive trade. In the Gallery tonight are my advisers—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Order."] Very well—in the precincts of the House there are my advisers, the leaders of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—[HoN. MEMBER: "Still out of order."] I am prepared to accept your guidance, Sir William, but no one else's.
Sweden has had 10 years' experience of the abolition of r.p.m. and Denmark has had six. Surely I am entitled to say that I speak with knowledge and authority on the Amendment, having taken advice from those who know. In the Second Reading debate I challenged any Member, including the Chancellor and the President of the Board of Trade, to adduce evidence from Canada, Sweden, Denmark, or Norway to the effect that the level of prices or gross margins have been reduced as a result of the abolition of r.p.m. I added a rider that there were rare exceptions to that statement and the rare exceptions consist of durable goods particularly electrical goods.
It is true that statistical evidence could be adduced from Canada to show that in the larger firms gross margins for electrical and radio goods dropped following the abolition of r.p.m., but what also was involved was the collapse of durability, of after-sales service and the like, in respect of electrical and radio goods. I know that the Committee finds it a little tedious to deal with the experiences of Canada, Norway, Denmark or Sweden.
But what about Britain? When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was President of the Board of Trade he had a hand in the establishment of the Monopolies Commission of which the Liberal Party is so fond. One of the first references to the Monopolies Commission was electric light bulbs, the E.L.M.A. ring. The Commission recommended in 1950–51 that the producers' ring in electric lamps, on balance, was in the public interest and that resale price maintenance for electric lamps was 1441 in the public interest; adding a rider that the Board of Trade should exercise supervision and, where necessary, control the prices of electric lamps.
In those days the Monopolies Commission was ruled by a diarchy of women—
§ Mr. Padley
Yes. Dame Alix Kilroy was the distinguished secretary of the Monopolies Commission and Joan Robinson, an economist in her own right, was a member of the Commission. These distinguished women, with brilliant Firsts at the universities in academic economics, decided in the case of the lamps that light this Chamber that a producers' ring was in the public interest and r.p.m. was in the public interest, provided that there was public supervision of the prices and, where necessary, control. Joan Robinson, a Keynesian economist and Socialist, said that the State should also take a 51 per cent. shareholding in two or more of the firms.
I submit to the Government Front Bench, and to the economists on this side of the Committee, that the reasons which prompted the Monopolies Commission to take that decision are relevant. What constitutes quality in respect of electric lamps? Is it the brilliancy of the bulbs in this Chamber? Or is it the durability, the period for which the lamps will burn brightly? It is all very well to say that the interests of the consumer will be served by competition among manufacturers and retailers. But if, at the end of the day, the lamps burn brightly for a few minutes, the consumer has been robbed and the interests of the manufacturer and retailer have been damaged. These are not my views, but the views of the Monopolies Commission and of Joan Robinson, who, next to Keynes, was probably the greatest architect of the economic revolution on which full employment rests.
I therefore ask the Government: may we have an assurance that quality involves durability, because durability is of tremendous interest to the consumer as well as the manufacturer and the distributive workers? I ask for that undertaking.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edward du Cann)
I am sure the Committee i much obliged to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who seems to have left us for a moment, and the hon. Member for Ogmore (M Padley), both of whom have spoken obviously with a degree of strong feeling in this matter. Certainly no matter is more important to the consumer than aspects of safety.
I must disagree violently with something the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, said. He said in effect that he did not accept that the consumer could judge. I disagree with that view to tally. I think that the consumer can be a very good judge indeed. He went on to quote the example from his own experience of when he bought a biro which wrote for a time and then let him down. I have a biro in my pocket. It works admirably. It is coloured red. Perhaps the reason is that it is marked, "Government property".
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman know that there was a Which? investigation into twin t lb washers and staggering results were: disclosed in that report about the safety of some washers which have very good names? The consumer could not know about the safety until damaged b) the washer.
§ Mr. du Cann
It so happens that in bed a few nights ago I was reading that report. My difficulty was that I found the report extremely difficult to understand. Be that as it may, it had nothing to do with r.p.m., but it indicates that there are all sorts of advices open to the consumer and it confirms my view that the consumer is in a very good position to judge. I trust the consumer.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall, North)
I am sure tl at the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent in his absence my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to what my right hon. Friend said during the previous debate he would know that he did not wish to repeat himself. He said that there were technical considerations in respect of particular classes of goods in which no ordinary consumer without technical qualifications could judge of certain qualities, including safety.
§ Mr. du Cann
I understand the point the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells) is making. I have no wish to misrepresent his right hon. Friend in his absence. From what I see of consumers in general buying complicated motor cars, television sets, hi-fi recorders and so on, I say that they are jolly well able to judge and I think that it is proved at present.
We are dealing with a single point in these three Amendments, a point concerned with the definition of the word "quality". The first Amendment, moved by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, seeks to add the words "or safety" after "quality". The right hon. Gentleman in his argument sought to pre-empt the view which we have formed on this matter. We take the view that these words are quite unnecessary because in so far as the inherent safety of goods is concerned I am advised that a reduction in safety would be a reduction in quality and it is a reduction in quality which we are talking about in relation to this gateway. It is therefore already covered.
I plead in aid evidence available for all to find in the Oxford English Dictionary, or any other dictionary, and more particularly in Section 62 of the Sale of Goods Act, 1893, which by definition states that the quality of goods includes their state or condition. While I appreciate the anxiety of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, and the hon. Member for Ogmore, we are entirely satisfied that safety is clearly covered under the term "quality".
The second Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore is equally unnecessary. I was interested when he said that in general in regard to the Bill he was the only one in step. I was interested, too, in what he said about his relations with a steering group apparently in some other part of the building. He is very much in step, at any rate, with a great deal of the discussion which has taken place in the Committee today and last night.
I can assure him, again, that I am advised that durability is clearly a facet of quality. If goods become less durable, then there will be a reduction in their quality. He went on to talk about the particular case of electric 1444 lamps and cited the example of an electric lamp wearing out earlier than it might otherwise do. That is precisely and exactly the point he is talking about—durability. That is an aspect of quality. There is no doubt in our minds about this whatever, and I can give him a clear assurance that lifetime, being a matter of durability, is an aspect of quality.
As to the third Amendment, the answer is exactly the same as in the case of the other two. I appreciate the difficulty of finding a precise word to cover what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I think we understand each other quite well about this. Serviceability again is simply a facet of quality.
In general we understand and appreciate well that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend, and with them the Committee as a whole, are concerned about standards. Of course, and rightly so. Electric installations, oil heaters, have been talked about. The fact is, as we agreed last night in discussing a very substantial number of Liberal Amendments, there is separate consumer legislation for dealing with these matters. I can tell the Committee that in general the Government are determined to see that standards are maintained for the good of and the protection of the public, but what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend have in mind in these Amendments is covered, and the extra words which they seek to add to this gateway are unnecessary, being already covered. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will, in view of the explanation which I have ventured to give, be good enough to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. du Cann
It would be very much better, however tempted I may be by the always plausible arguments of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), to stick to the Amendment, and that I endeavoured to do.
§ Mr. W. Wells
Longer years than I care to think of in trying to understand the law prevent me from dogmatising in the clear and confident way in which the Minister has about the meaning of words. Nor am I at all convinced or 1445 reassured by the reasons he has adduced for saying that the word "safety" is comprehended in the word "quality". If it is necessary to define the meaning of a word in one Statute, other than the Interpretation Act, it should be doubly necessary to define it in this Measure, if we are to attach any particular significance to it. We consider, for the reasons which my right hon. Friend has given, that it is doubtful whether any of these words are included in the word "quality" within the meaning of this Clause and that those reasons are right.
§ We consider that this is clearly doubtful. We art not satisfied by the reasons which the Minister has given, and because of the great importance we attach to making it completely clear that the word "safety" should be included, we shall divide the Committee.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 133, Noes 200.1447
|Division No. 80.]||AYES||[10.35 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Harper, Joseph||Pentland, Norman|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Hayman, F. H.||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Barnett, Guy||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Probert, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Holman, Percy||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bence, Cyril||Holt, Arthur||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Bennett, F. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Howie, W.||Rhodes, H.|
|Blyton, William||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Ross, William|
|Bowles, Frank||Janner, Sir Barnett||Short, Edward|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Silkin, John|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Small, William|
|Crosland, Anthony||Kenyon, Clifford||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||King, Dr. Horace||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lawson, George||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McBride, N.||Stones, William|
|Dempsey, James||McCann, J.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Diamond, John||MacDermot, Niall||Swain, Thomas|
|Dodds, Norman||McInnes, James||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Doig, Peter||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Albert||Manuel, Archie||Thornton, Ernest|
|Fitch, Harold||Mason, Roy||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Fitch, Alan||Millan, Bruce||Warbey, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||Milne, Edward||Watkins, Tudor|
|Foley, Maurice||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, David|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wigg, George|
|Forman, J. C.||Mulley, Frederick||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Neal, Harold||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)||Oliver, G. H.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oswald, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grey, Charles||Padley, W. E.||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Parker, John||Mr. Ifor Davies.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bishop, Sir Patrick||Channon, H. P. C.|
|Allason, James||Black, Sir Cyril||Chataway, Christopher|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Bourne-Arton, A.||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Box, Donald||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Cole, Norman|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braine, Bernard||Cooke, Robert|
|Barter, John||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cordeaux, Lt.-col. J. K.|
|Batsford, Brian||Buck, Antony||Corfield, F. V.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Bullard, Denys||Coulson, Michael|
|Biffen, John||Campbell, Gordon||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cary, Sir Robert||Critchley, Julian|
|Curran, Charles||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dance, James||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Kershaw, Anthony||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Doughty, Charles||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kitson, Timothy||Roots, William|
|du Cann, Edward||Lambton, Viscount||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Eden, Sir John||Leather, Sir Edwin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Farr, John||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Sharples, Richard|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Shaw, M.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longbottom, Charles||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Loveys, Walter H.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Foster, Sir John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||McLaren, Martin||Stainton, Keith|
|Freeth, Denzil||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D,||McMaster, Stanley R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gammans, Lady||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Gardner, Edward||Maddan, Martin||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maginnis, John E.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Marten, Neil||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maydon, Lt-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Temple, John M.|
|Gower, Raymond||Miscampbell, Norman||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mere, Jasper (Ludlow)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Green, Alan||Morrison, John||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Neave, Airey||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Turner, Colin|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Orr. Capt. L. P. S.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Walker, Peter|
|Hendry, Forbes||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Partridge, E.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Whitelaw, William|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Percival, Ian||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Holland, Philip||Peyton, John||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hopkins, Alan||Pitman, Sir James||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hornby, R. P.||Pitt, Dame Edith||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pounder, Rafton||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Woollam, John|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Mr. Pym and Mr. R. W. Elliott.|
|James, David||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I beg to move Amendment No. 199, in page 5, line 10, after "reduced" to insert:or an improvement in the quality or an increase in the varieties would be impeded or deferred".
§ Mr. Irvine
This Amendment refers to subsection (2,a), in connection with which the Committee has been discussing what have been called gateways. It deals with a narrow but important point and it may well be, and our hope is, that the Government will be prepared to accept the Amendment.
To take paragraph (a), as an example, and equivalent considerations apply to paragraphs (b) and (c) in my submission, the Bill refers to the detriment that may occur to the public as consumers or users in default of a system of maintained minimum resale prices where the quality of the goods available for sale would be substantially reduced. We suggest that it is an irresistible proposition that it is equivalently detrimental if an improvement which would otherwise have occurred does not occur in default of r.p.m. That is the short but logical point which we seek to cover.
I do not think that very much will be gained by developing it further than I have done, except to mention one particular instance which emerged in the course of discussion in an earlier Amendment. That discussion revealed the special relevance of this Amendment in its bearing upon paragraph (b) of the subsection, because an hon. Member opposite drew attention to the difficulty that sometimes occurred in a new housing estate where the need for an establishment retailing articles for consumption might be greater than in another territory and where, as housing development was proceeding, there would he a need for a greater number of shops and establishments for retailing goods.
Our Amendment to paragraph (b) would meet that point because, whereas the Bill at present speaks of a detriment 1450 suffered by the public in default of a system of maintained minimum resale prices, in that the number of establishments in which the goods would be sold by retail would be substantially reduced, one of our Amendments would alter that, to take; account of the example which I have just put before the Committee, by inserting the wordsor an increase in the number would be impeded or deferred".We think that this, though a small point, is not an unimportant point. Rightly or wrongly, I regard the logic in support of the argument as impeccable and I recommend it to the Committee.
§ Mr. Heath
The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) has advanced his argument briefly and to the point. As he has said, his Amendment would alter each of the existing gateways under the Clause. It really modifies them with a hypothetical situation in the future. Under the Clause it has to be shown that in default of a system of maintained resale prices applicable to the goods there would be a substantial reduction in the quality of the goods, in the number of retail outlets, or in any necessary services to such detriment of the public as would outweigh any detriment from the maintenance of r.p.m. The Amendment would put the alternative argument that there would not be an improvement or increase in these things. Once one moves from the field of showing a substantial reduction, or an adverse effect on the consumer, in this situation one is moving into a difficult concept.
§ Mr. Heath
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Hypothetical concepts come easily to him. I think it is a very difficult concept to consider in the context of these gateways. It may be that if r.p.m. continued indefinitely, there would be places where it would lead to an increase in the number of shops or a mare lavish standard of service. That is possible. But what we are dealing with is the adverse effect on the consumer either as a consumer or as a user. I think it is going too far to widen the gateways to cover the non-attainment of a standard which at present does not exist. The Court can deal with 1451 the question of detriment, but to introduce the idea of attaining a standard which at present we have not got, and using the non-attainment of that standard as a reason for maintaining r.p.m. is a very difficult concept indeed.
It is extremely difficult in those circumstances to envisage a case on which the grounds could be effectively argued in practice, if we were to adopt the grounds suggested in this Amendment. Therefore, I think it is not justifiable to amend the gateways in this respect, because I think it would confuse the situation. In a way, it is trying to guard against every possible contingency; but it is not a contingency of deterioration. It is a contingency of attaining some object which one casts into the future, or some standard which one makes. I suggest that we should adhere to our present standard of deterioration of an existing situation, which can be judged by the Court. We should not try to project this concept into the future and put it to the Court as one of the things which it has to judge.
§ Mr. Jay
There may be a case against these Amendments, but I think the case the Minister has made is quite unsound. What he is doing is to take a sort of legalistic, static view of the trading or economic process, which has led him into a fallacy and has led him to say something which he does not really mean. What he really means to say is that if the absence of r.p.m. leads to a worse situation for the consumer in the matter of the number of establishments and the other points covered here, then this should be a case which should be argued.
He then falls into the error of thinking that by "worse situation" he means, in the case of the number of shops, fewer
§ shops than before. But what is meant by "worse situation" is a worse situation than there would have been if r.p.m. had been continued. Suppose one took the case of a new housing estate in which, but for the abolition of r.p.m., the number of shops would have increased. The proper criterion is whether this increase would be prevented. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman has fallen into a very natural logical error here. I confess that it did not occur to me the first time I read the Bill; it only occurred to me when I read it for the third time. It is demonstrated by the fallacious argument that he has advanced.
The right hon. Gentleman said that our criterion, the prevention of an increase as well as the enforcement of a decrease, would be hypothetical. But this whole criterion is precisely in the future and is hypothetical. The words are:
the quality of the goods available for sale, or the varieties of the goods so available, would be substantially reduced…".
If it would be substantially reduced, whatever else one thinks of it, it is just as in the future and as hypothetical as if an increase would be prevented. The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman had to advance so evidently a fallacious argument, even at this time of night, shows how unsound his point is.
§ Although this is a small point, I suggest it is a good one. We are merely trying to help the right hon. Gentleman to say what I think he really meant to say, and I hope that he may be able to look at this again in a slightly more reasonable and accommodating spirit.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 127, Noes 192.1453
|Division No. 81.]||AYES||[10.55 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Carmichael, Neil||Finch, Harold|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fitch, Alan|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Fletcher, Eric|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Crosland, Anthony||Foley, Maurice|
|Barnett, Guy||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Dalyell, Tam||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Forman, J. C.|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Blyton, William||Dempsey, James||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)|
|Boardman, H.||Diamond, John||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Dodds, Norman||Gourlay, Harry|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Doig, Peter||Grey, Charles|
|Bowles, Frank||Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Evans, Albert||Harper, Joseph|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mason, Roy||Silkin, John|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Millan, Bruce||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Milne, Edward||Hater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Holman, Percy||Mitchison, G. R.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Holt, Arthur||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Small, William|
|Howie, W.||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mulley, Frederick||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Neal, Harold||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oliver, G. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||O'Malley, B. K.||Stones, William|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Oswald, Thomas||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Padley, W. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pentland, Norman||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Popplewell, Ernest||Thornton, Ernest|
|King, Dr. Horace||Prentice, R. E.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Probert, Arthur||Watkins, Tudor|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Redhead, E. C.||Weitzman, David|
|McBride, N.||Reynolds, G. W.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|McCann, J.||Rhodes, H.||Wigg, George|
|McInnes, James||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ross, William|
|Manuel, Archie||Short, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Lawson and Mr. Charles A. Howell.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Allason, James||Freeth, Denzil||McLaren, Martin|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Gammans, Lady||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Gibson-Watt, David||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Maddan, Martin|
|Barlow, Sir John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Marten, Nell|
|Barter, John||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Batsford, Brian||Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Mawby, Ray|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Goodhew, Victor||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Biffen, John||Gower, Raymond||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Green, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Morrison, John|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Box, Donald||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Neave, Airey|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Braine, Bernard||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Buck, Antony||Hay, John||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)|
|Bullard, Denys||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hendry, Forbes||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hirst, Geoffrey||Partridge, E.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hocking, Philip N.||Percival, Iain|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Holland, Philip||Peyton, John|
|Cole, Norman||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cooke, Robert||Hopkins, Alan||Pitman, Sir James|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hornby, R. P.||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Corfield, F. v.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Coulson, Michael||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James|
|Critchley, Julian||Iremonger, T. L.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Curran, Charles||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Currie, G. B. H.||James, David||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Dance, James||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Doughty, Charles||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, Anthony||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|du Cann, Edward||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Eden, Sir John||Kitson, Timothy||Roots, William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lambton, Viscount||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Farr, John||Lilley, F. J. p.||Sharples, Richard|
|Fell, Anthony||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Shaw, M.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Longbottom, Charles||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Foster, Sir John||Loveys, Walter H.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Stainton, Keith||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon, Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Stanley, Hon. Richard||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Whitelaw, William|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Touche, Rt. Hon, Sir Gordon||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Stodart, J. A.||Turner, Colin||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||van Straubenzee, w. R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Tapsell, Peter||Vane, W. M. F.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Woollam, John|
|Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)||Walker, Peter|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wall, Patrick||Mr. Pym and Mr. R. W. Elliott.|
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I beg to move Amendment No. 204, in page 5, line 15, at the end, to insert:(c) the goods would be sold by retail under conditions likely to cause danger to health in consequence of their misuse by the public as such consumers or users or.This Amendment would provide an additional gateway. In view of the lateness of the hour, I do not propose to discuss the matter at length. The case for a gateway of this kind—although not necessarily in these precise words—has already been established by a number of earlier speeches today, including one by my hon. Friend concerning a possible gap in the gateways in relation to the protection of public health.
The drafting of the Amendment arises out of the decision taken by the Committee on Amendment No. 17, when it was decided that there should not be specific exemptions in the Bill, and that everything which might qualify for exemption should pass, by way of the gateways, through the Court. Drugs are an obvious group of goods which the Amendment covers, but there are a number of other groups to which I should like to refer. There is a whole group of medical and surgical equipment, such as hearing aids, artificial limbs, surgical appliances—such as crutches—and surgical dressings. There is another group of electrical appliances, of which the sun-ray lamp is probably the most obvious example. Then there is a whole group of agricultural and horticultural poisons of various kinds—pesticides, weed killers and fungicides—the use of which has greatly increased in recent years.
In regard to all these groups we have to ask ourselves whether or not it would be possible, in the event of our desiring to see the maintenance of r.p.m., to see them through the gateways which are at present in the Clause. So far as I can judge, there is considerable doubt whether some of those goods could pass 1456 through the gateways, because the two most likely activities which would be affected if r.p.m. disappeared would be a reduction in the advice given when they were sold and a substantial increase in the number of establishments, through large groups of traders who had not been previously interested in that class of goods being tempted to embark on their sale.
The reduction of the advice given might, in the case of agricultural and horticultural poisons, result in a refusal of supplies. In some cases there would be a strong obligation upon a knowledgeable supplier to refuse to supply the article asked for and to recommend an alternative.
Agricultural and horticultural poisons are not the sort of things the sale of which one wishes to see extended, so that they can be sold in every kind of retail establishment. It is clear that we are dealing here with a class of goods the sale of which by retail might cause danger to health in consequence of their misuse by the public, and it is therefore desirable that the manufacturers of those goods should have the right to go to the Court and plead a special gateway in putting up their case for permission to continue r.p.m.
It is against that background that I commend the Amendment to the Committee.
§ Mr. Crosland
I rise to make only one point. I cannot combat what the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Lin-stead) said about horticultural and agricultural poisons, and about fungicides. I have no doubt that what he said carried the ring of truth, but when the hon. Gentleman speaks about pharmaceutical goods, he gives the impression that a dispensing chemist gives his customers advice. I believe that not to be the case. I have made this point before. If a chemist gave the kind of advice which he ought to give me when 1457 I go into his shop and ask for aspirins, he would advise me to buy Aspirin B.P. and not branded aspirin. As we know, these are similar types of goods, but one costs very much less than the other.
There are a whole range of B.P. products which are as good as, but much cheaper than, branded products, and I object to the assertion that chemists are engaged in a 24-hour daily round of giving advice to people to go to their shops to seek their assistance. That is not true. I sometimes think that the views which the hon. Gentleman puts forward with all sincerity about chemists are utterly mythical and quite unrelated to one's experience of going into a chemist's shop.
§ Sir H. Linstead
There are two observations that I should like to make in reply to that very brief speech. The first point relates to advising the hon. Gentleman to take something other than what he asks for. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman gets just what he asks for. If he ask for aspirins, he gets them. If he asks for a proprietary brand of aspirins, he get that, too. That seems a sensible way of dealing with the hon. Gentleman.
On the point of giving advice, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will do me the justice of going to the Home Office and finding out the large number of occasions on which the Pharmaceutical Society has told its members to refuse to sell to the public such things as tranquilisers, or pep-pills, or whatever it may be, until such time as the law has caught up with the Society's advice and made illegal the sale of such goods over the counter. The Home Office could give the hon. Gentleman many examples of that, and I assure him that what I said was not just a casual advertisement but was based on substantial facts.
§ Mr. Crosland
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because this is the first piece of practical advice that I have had. I shall go to the Home Office if the hon. Gentleman will give me its address.
§ Mr. Heath
I hesitate to intervene in this interesting argument between the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), especially 1458 at this late hour. Indeed, I think that there is very little need for me to do so.
We discussed this subject at considerable length on the main Amendment today, and said then that I thought there was a sphere in which we had left uncovered an area in which there might be a risk of danger to health if r.p.m. were ended. I was not dealing specifically with some of the points mentioned by my hon. Friend. I was dealing in general with a number of these cases and I said that I would be willing to extend the gateways under to the Clause to deal with this point, and that the wording was a matter which we could arrange later.
I would be able to accept the wording of the Amendment, and this would probably be embodied in Clause 5 at paragraph (d). When winding up the debate on the earlier Amendment I found that this point received fairly general support from both sides of the Committee, and was welcomed by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree t) accept the Amendment.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
Before we part with this Amendment, will the Minister tell us what is the quid pro quo for the accommodation of his hon. Friend in accepting this Amendment?
§ Mr. W. Wells
I listened, I confess with some bewilderment although as always with great interest, to the Secretary of State, but the argument he used on this Amendment was completely contrary to that which the Minister of State used in connection with the previous Amendment, the hon. Gentleman having argued that the word "quality" included all blanches of safety. We on this side of the Committee listened with some astonishment to the argument the Minister deployed in the previous debate. because it seemed completely out of line with what the Secretary of State said in the last debate but one. The state of disarray into which 1459 the party opposite has fallen in respect of this Bill seems to have been carried from the field of policy into the field of technicalities.
We sought to widen the gateway in respect of safety and this Amendment to some extent does so. It does not do it so far as we should like, but it goes some distance on the way we should like to have travelled much further and we shall of course not vote against it.
§ Sir Patrick Bishop (Harrow, Central)
Reference was made to electrical appliances. The only one mentioned was a sun-ray lamp used for the purposes of health. Would this provision also cover domestic appliances such as electric blankets, which might be liable to cause accident if not properly used? Would the reference to danger to health cover them?
§ Mr. Heath
Dealing first with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells), I do not think there is any contradiction between what the Minister of State said and what I said, because this gateway deals specifically with the misuse of these items. It is not a question of safety being included in quality, but a question of the misuse or abuse of these items because of the removal of resale price maintenance in their selling. Therefore, I think that the wording we have here is fully justified. Liability to misuse is quite different from the point about safety characteristics.
I shall have to consider whether there is a danger to health in the sense in which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Sir P. Bishop) referred to certain articles.
§ Mr. Jay
Either the right hon. Gentleman is getting rather mixed or he is behaving in a rather devious fashion. We discussed the main issue earlier and referred to danger to health, accident and danger to life. Winding up the first debate, the Minister gave an assurance of some sort that he would cover the main points.
It may have been a misunderstanding, but this led me to believe that he would accept our main, plain and simple Amendment to insert the word "safety". The Minister of State turned 1460 that down, and now we have from the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) this Amendment which covers, I thought, only part of the ground. In moving that the word "safety" should be accepted, I put forward the argument that it was not clear that an accident, a serious accident—indeed death—arising from the use of an oil heater, an electric fire or an electric blanket was necessarily a danger to health. I should have thought, in the normal use of the English language, that if a child knocked over an electric fire or an oil stove and an appalling accident occurred, that would not normally be described as a danger to health. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to cover the case where someone does something wrong, but to say, on the other hand, that if a child knocks over an oil stove and the family is killed this is not to be taken into account. I also do not see why, having turned down our Amendment for the simple insertion of the word "safety", the right hon. Gentleman now prefers an Amendment which contains the slightly ambiguous phrase:danger to health in consequence of their misuse by the public".What precisely does that mean? Supposing that owing to a strong wind or a draught an oil heater catches fire, then clearly there has been an accident and that clearly means danger to life and limb. Whether there has been misuse of the oil heater or electric fire, I do not know.
Frankly, I am puzzled as to where the Minister is getting, and I am almost persuaded that there is something in these sinister bargains about which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) speaks. Is the Minister covering the danger of accident? If he is not, why does he think that we should cover danger to health and not danger to life?
§ Mr. Heath
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the words he will see that that they say:the goods would be sold by retail under conditions likely to cause danger to health in consequence of their misuse…".It is the condition of sale which is really the cause of danger to health, and this area has been left uncovered. It depends to a certain extent on the way in which the goods are sold. This is a separate point from the right hon. Gentleman's point, which was to insert simply the word "safety" and which is already embodied in "quality".
§ Mr. W. Wells
I find it very difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The wording of the Amendment which he proposes to accept is:the goods would be sold by retail under conditions likely to cause danger to health…".In other words, I should have thought, sold under conditions which are unsafe. If conditions are such that they are likely to cause misuse, a character that is likely to lead to danger to health, I should have thought, as a matter of common speech, that this is a matter of safety. It is that which the Minister of State expressly precluded in the argument with which he rejected our last Amendment. It really is very difficult to follow the distinction which the Secretary of State has sought to establish.
§ Mr. Heath
I am sorry if the hon. and learned Member finds it difficult. As far as quality and safety are concerned, the goods can be judged on quality or safety. That is the point with which my hon. Friend dealt on the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. This is dealing with the condition of sale of the goods. It is these conditions of sale which may lead todanger to health in consequence of their misuse by the public…".That is a Separate point, and that is why I said that there was an area which had been left uncovered and which we had to deal with.
The most straightforward case, perhaps, is that mentioned by my hon. Friend, namely, that some items such as medicines might be sold by unqualified 1462 retailers and as a result of that fact a danger to health might exist. Hon. Members will appreciate that this is a separate point from the quality or the safety of the goods, which is what we were dealing with in the last Amendment. That is what I meant by saying that there was this area which was uncovered, and I am now explaining that this is the form of words which covers it.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I think that the Minister is failing in his duty to this Committee if he does not deal with the point which has been raised by his hon. Friend on the question of certain types of goods which would be involved if this Amendment is accepted. When his hon. Friend mentioned electric blankets and other electrical goods which, in themselves, could be a danger if they were misused by members of the public, I was prompted to think that they might not affect the health of the individual but might involve the death of the person using them. Furthermore, they might involve death, not only for the person who owned the items but, quite likely, for other people as well.
This issue is treated by the Minister saying that he is not too sure about the matter; and that is an honest thing to say. Indeed if there is any criticism to be made of the Minister it is that he is sometimes too honest, although I do not criticise him for that. At the same time, the Committee is entitled to know, so fat as is possible, about the extent of the application of the Amendment. If an hon. Member of this Committee—and an hon. Member who is not antagonistic towards the Minister—raises the legitimate point about the application of this particular Amendment, then the Minister should secure, if he has not the information to hand, the requisite facts from his advisers. Cannot the Minister say now whether the adoption of the Amendment would cover the class of goods described in the omnibus term of electrical goods, that is, goods which might involve death, as distinct from danger to health? Does what we might call danger to health by misuse apply to electrical goods which might involve the death of persons who buy them?
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I do not want to prolong the proceedings but I think that the Committee would be grateful if the Minister would look at this again. Is the way to protect the public against improper conditions of sale the continuance of resale price maintenance? I cannot accept his argument that quality includes safety because that is stretching a word. A safety razor blade may be good quality, but it is certainly dangerous if misused, and as I see it the point at issue is that we must have it made quite clear whether this Amendment is confined to the goods mentioned by the hon. Member who moved it, or whether it is intended to cover all sorts of appliances which have been mentioned by another hon. Member. If it were the latter case it would be a quite different situation, and surely the word "misuse" would be inappropriate. It would surely be anomalous to say that certain goods sold under conditions which were likely to lead to their misuse by the public might be protected by r.p.m. but that similar goods which might be equally dangerous if used by the public—not misused, but simply used by them—should not go through the same gateway.
I do not think that at this time of night we want to pursue this matter very much further, but I think that there would be some sympathy with the view that the Minister should look at the wording again and tell us at a later stage what exactly it means and to what goods it would apply, and what he has in mind in the wording of the Clause.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I take up the point that the Minister said that what we are concerned about is covered by the words "necessary services". That is 1464 subsection (3). The Parliamentary Secretary was at pains to assure me behind his back that this was so. The subsection deals with services in regard to the character of the goods. It would apply to electrical goods of this character, but we were dealing with the Amendment, which talks not of the goods themselves but of their misuse by the public, which puts a completely different complexion on the matter and the meaning of the Amendment in relation to the goods concerned. It is not true to say that the point raised in the Amendment is covered by subsection (3) because of the wording of the Amendment itself. This is an important issue, and there is still time, of course, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will try to meet the feelings on both sides of the Commitee on this matter by some subsequent Amendment of this own.
§ Mr. Jay
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in arguing that the reason injury is covered is that the subsection refers to services. This covers only cases of injury where there are services. What we are putting to him is the case where injury occurs as the result of the use of goods where there are no services at all. Suppose the conditions of sale were such that the use of the goods thereafter led, not to danger to health, and involved no services, but led to injury. Suppose, for instance, an oil heater were sold in a shop in such conditions that no proper advice was given to the purchaser on how to use the oil heater safely. Let us suppose, which would normally be the case, that there were no after-sales services, and, as a result of the purchaser having had no advice, and not understanding the safety regulations about the oil heater, thereupon, not ill health, but injury or death, arose. Surely this case is not covered by the Amendment.
§ Mr. Jay
—to the argument in the main debate. I put it to the Minister that if we had been told quite emphatically that "danger to health" covered injury or death we should know better where we are. Since we have not been told that, I am entitled to ask whether the case of injury or death is covered by those words. If it is, we should have been told so emphatically by the Minister.
§ Sir P. Bishop
I should point out at this stage that I was ready earlier to accept my right hon. Friend's assurance that he will look into the question of whether electrical appliances would be covered. An electric blanket, for example, can be misused by the public. There are different kinds of electric blanket. There is one called the "under blanket" for which the instructions are, briefly, that one must switch it off before getting into bed. The "over blanket", on the other hand, may be left on the whole time. These things are perfectly safe if properly used, although they should not be sold except by responsible retailers. The same applies to other electrical appliances. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend would look into the matter.
§ Mr. Heath
As I have said, I think that my hon. Friend's point is covered by the present wording of the Clause, which refers to necessary services. In that respect we are in agreement, even though the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) is not in agreement with us.
I return to my original argument—that the words in the Amendment:…sold by retail under conditions likely to cause danger to health in consequence of their misuse by the public…mean exactly what I said they mean when I cited the example given by my hon. Friend. There may also be an area of overlap between the Amendment and paragraph (c) but, as I pointed out, I wanted to make certain that this point was covered, and, according to our understanding of the position, it is.
§ Amendment agreed to.1466
§ The Chairman
As Amendments No. 82, 86, 87 and 92 have not been moved, the next Amendment to be called is No. 95.
§ Mr. Heath
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.The next amendment, No. 95, standing the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) and several hon. Members of Website, is, I think, an Amendment of substance to which, I understand, he right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and his hon. Friends would like to give their attention, It mil ht, therefore, he for their convenience if we report Progress now and start with that Amendment tomorrow. Perhaps I might also express the hope that, by dealing with it in this way, we may be able to finish the rest of our labours in Committee on this Bill tomorrow.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.