HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1269-70
18 and 19. Sir R. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he is aware that the recommendations of his Department on the thickness and perforations of plastic bags are being disregarded; and what steps he proposes to take to ensure compliance with these recommendations in future;

(2) if he is aware of the danger to small children of the distribution of plastic bag containers of a gauge of less than 150 and with inadequate perforations for ventilation; what action he plans to take; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. George Thomas

My right hon. and learned Friend is well aware of the dangers which plastic bags present to young children and it is for this reason that the Home Office has strongly pressed manufacturers of plastic bags to ensure, so far as possible, that purchasers buying bags for house-to-house collections are supplied only with perforated bags made of film not less than 150 gauge. If distributors are using bags which do not comply with these recommendations, the Home Office is anxious to receive particulars so that the matter may be taken up with the distributors concerned. Meanwhile, my right hon. and learned Friend is considering what further action is necessary.

Sir R. Thompson

Would the hon. Gentleman act with all possible speed in this matter? Does he realise that the present recommendations are not really effective enough? Would he consider, for instance, taking statutory powers under the Consumer Protection Act? Does he know that over 100 deaths of young children by asphyxiation from plastic bags have occurred in the last four years and that there is intense anxiety on the part of mothers about this?

Mr. Thomas

My information is that the number of children under the age of 15 who have died in this way is as follows: 1960, nil; 1961, 9; 1962, 10; and 1963, 4. So far as the Home Office is aware, none of these deaths was attributable to a polythene bag distributed by a house-to-house collector of old clothing. There is no power under the Consumer Protection Act for us to regulate the use which is made of consumer goods, but we do not underestimate the importance of this matter. My right hon. and learned Friend is giving it consideration.

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