HC Deb 08 July 1965 vol 715 cc1793-5
5. Mr. Boston

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to prohibit salesmen and other tradesmen and door-to-door callers from leaving polythene bags at dwellings in circumstances potentially dangerous to young children.

13. Mr. Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce legislation to prohibit the distribution through private letter boxes of plastic bags.

Sir F. Soskice

I have for some time been keeping under close review the danger to children from polythene bags and following discussions between the Home Office and the Packaging Film Manufacturers' Association in 1962 the trade has arranged for many such bags to carry a printed warning of it. The Home Office has also asked the firm mainly concerned with the door-to-door use of old clothing to use bags of not less than 150 gauge, with holes down the side and centre.

There are practical difficulties about legislation of the kind suggested in the Questions, but the possibility is receiving consideration.

Mr. Boston

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there is very real and grave widespread concern about this and that his own efforts and the efforts of other Ministers in his Department are very warmly appreciated? Will he accept that the indiscriminate distribution of bags of this kind is a very great danger and that notices on them are not very effective where young children are concerned, especially when the bags sometimes contain things attractive to children, like toys? Will he keep the possibility of legislation very firmly in mind?

Sir F. Soskice

Yes, Sir. I certainly have in mind the risk of the use of these bags. The difficulty about introducing legislation is this. Polythene bags are now an object of ordinary household use in their millions. Simply to prohibit their distribution to private houses would not make any significant impact in diminishing the risks which they involve. The difficulty about legislation is that we would have to try to do something to prohibit the use of polythene bags in general, and that is a scarcely practical proposal, having regard to their extraordinarily widespread use.

Mr. Sharples

Will the Home Secretary look at this matter from the point of view of bags which are put through letter boxes? Will he see whether they can be banned entirely, particularly in view of the danger, not only to young children, but to mentally handicapped children? Will he also have a look at the case which I brought to his notice in which the implication is that these bags are distributed on behalf of handicapped people? Will he see whether action can be brought in cases of this kind under the Trading Representations (Disabled Persons) Act, 1958?

Sir F. Soskice

I will certainly bear all those things in mind. So far as I am aware, none of the casualties which have taken place is traceable to polythene bags put through letter boxes or distributed to houses. That is one of the difficulties. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have the danger of polythene bags fully in mind and will certainly examine what he has suggested.