§ 10.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. George Darling)
I beg to move,That the Weights and Measures (Exemption) Order, 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th June, be approved.I ask for approval of this Order with some reluctance. The need for it arises from what I can only describe as a defect in the Weights and Measures Act, 1963, which was not foreseen by any of us, neither the then Government nor those hon. Members who, like myself, took part in the Committee proceedings. If the House does not approve the Order, although I am sure that it will, a large number of shopkeepers will be in serious difficulties next week. They will almost certainly commit offences under the Act which may render them liable to prosecution proceedings. If some of my hon. Friends are interested in this, I should think that nearly every co-operative society faces this somewhat perilous prospect.
The defect to which I refer is in the timing of the appropriate Regulations which carry out the terms of the Act. These Regulations were made a year ago and come into operation on 31st July, Saturday of this week. From then on all the goods, mainly toilet preparations, soaps, detergents, paints, and so on, that are covered by this Order will have to be marked with a net weight or a net measure of the contents of the container.
As the present Regulations are framed, this requirement to mark the net weight or the net measure on the container applies both to manufactures and to retailers, and this means that manufactures are not required by the law to mark their products until the end of this week, although many firms have anticipated the deadline and have been marking net weights on their containers for some months past.
I think I should explain, in passing, that practically all these goods are being marked with net weights or net measures for the first time—the Regulations apply to these goods for the first time—so that there is in past experience of marking to draw on in this sphere. Because of this innovation, many manufacturers have been sticking to the strict letter of the 610 Regulations and, as far as I know, some of them have been supplying unmarked goods to buyers right up to last week, so that in an extreme case a shopkeeper may receive supplies of unmarked goods on Friday of this week, still within the terms of the Regulations, and if he sells them next Monday, still unmarked, he will break the law.
This situation was not foreseen during the passage of the Bill, nor indeed during the examination of the Regulations, and naturally enough the shopkeepers who face these difficulties, and perhaps prosecution, through no fault of their own, made representations to the Board of Trade to see whether we could help them out of their difficulties. If we had foreseen what has happened, I feel sure that we would have amended the Bill before it got on to the Statute Book to provide two dates foe the operation of the marking Regulations, an appropriate date for the manufacturers, and then a somewhat later date giving a few months grace to shopkeepers so that they could clear unmarked stocks which they obtained before the manufacturers' marking Order became operative.
This Order somewhat belatedly provides for this period of grace for shopkeepers, and for the reasons that I have explained I am sure that it will be approved by the House, but in view of some, if I may say so not quite well informed, criticisms of this Order which have appeared in some quarters, I should like to explain briefly why the Order is presented almost at the twelfth hour, and what its effect will be for the shopkeeper's customers.
First, on the question of timing, when representations were made by some trade associations to the previous Administration about a year ago, I think that there was then considerable doubt about whether the Act allowed what I might call anticipatory amendments to regulations that had not come into operation and it was decided to take no action for the time being because no one knew just how serious the situation might become for the retailers. I think that that decision was right, and indeed I took the same line on somewhat similar representations that were made to me some months ago, but it is now clear that many shopkeepers—perhaps thousands of them—will have unmarked goods in the range 611 of Schedule 7 of the Act on their shelves next Monday, and something has to be done about their difficulties.
Moreover, we have found that some trade associations have misinterpreted the original Regulations and have wrongly advised their members that they already have a year's grace, up to July 1966, in which to clear their unmarked stocks. This arises from misunderstanding paragraph 1(2) of the original Regulations. We have had to do something, and we have found that the way out of the legal difficulty is to amend the Regulations as soon as they come into operation, that is on Saturday morning when, if the House approves, I shall sign this Order.
I now turn to the consumer's angle on this. We have informed the Consumer Council on these issues and asked for its views. I know that the Council have considered different suggestions for solving the shopkeepers' problems, but it has reluctantly accepted that postponement of the marking date for shopkeepers is the only possible course which we can adopt. Therefore, the Council approves—but with real reluctance and regret—the action which we are taking in asking the House to approve the Order.
Manufacturers, of course, will have to mark the net weights and net measures on the containers of their products from Saturday, 31st July. They get no relief by this Order. A number of manufacturers have been marking their products for some months, and these manufacturers, I think, have a real sense of being unfairly treated by the Order. There is a wide range of properly marked goods in the shops already and, from Monday onwards, all new supplies to shops direct from manufacturers will have to be properly marked.
In a few months' time, all these goods on sale to the public will be marked with their net weights or net measures. It will depend on how quickly the shopkeepers can sell the unmarked goods which will have been supplied to them by the end of this week. As the Order gives a year's grace—the Act does not easily provide for a shorter period—it is confidently expected that the vast majority of shops and stores will have 612 cleared their unmarked stocks long before the Order expires.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I have listened with great interest to the explanation by the Minister of State of the necessity for the Order. Complaints have been made to me that it may not be possible for the shopkeepers concerned to guarantee to get rid of their stocks of these unmarked goods by the date mentioned in the Order, 31st July, 1966. Some of the goods which they will have to dispose of within this period are not goods which are necessarily sold quickly. I am thinking, in particular, of soap, which is very often kept in a small shop for a protracted period. If it is a large quantity of soap, it cannot be easily shifted.
I should like the Minister of State to tell me whether he is absolutely satisfied by the trade associations that this period is adequate. It would not have been difficult to provide that any goods which had been dispatched from the factory by 31st July, 1965, which had been pre-packed, could be sold after almost any period, provided that it is clearly seen that they have no net marks on them. It does not matter whether they are sold before the 31st July, 1966 or 1976. They are old stock.
I see no justification for having any limiting date by which the goods must be sold. Long before 31st July, 1966, people will get used to seeing marked on packs the net weight or measure of the article which is being sold. I cannot see the need for a limit at all. It would be adequate for any article dispatched from the factory before 31st July, 1965, to be disposed of at any time. No one will seriously suggest, I hope, that if this concession were given the manufacturers would take the risk of sending out prepacked goods without the correct figures on them. I am certain that no reputable manufacturer would do that. The fact that some goods are "sculling around" without the net weights marked on them is not relevant.
I cannot see the justification for the limit mentioned in the Order. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give further consideration to this matter with the object of amending the Order so that 613 people may sell these goods at any period. I hope—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot propose an Amendment at this stage. He can only argue that the Order ought to be withdrawn so that a new Order may come forward to meet the point he has made.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams
I apologise for not putting my point more clearly, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not suggesting, when I used the word "amending", that the Order before us should be amended. I was suggesting that it be withdrawn, then amended and brought before the House in its amended form. I appreciate that we are unable to amend this Statutory Instrument so that the limiting date is not mentioned.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
If the proposition of the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) were accepted, the fullest implementation of the implications of the Measure would be delayed for even longer than the period suggested by my hon. Friend the Minister of State.
Like some of my hon. Friends who are in that group which is representative of not only the Labour Party but also of the Co-operative Movement, I have given careful consideration to the Order. The Act was, in the view of my hon. Friends, a step forward in consumer protection, even though it did not go as far as some of us would have liked. Schedule 7 of the 1963 Act provides that a very wide range of goods must bear an indication of the quantity and must be adequately labelled. To indicate the scale of the goods involved in that wide range, it is well to remember that the Schedule covers lubricants, fertilisers, perfumery, toilet preparations, soap, ribbon, tape, sewing thread, pet foods, varnish, enamel, paint, detergents, polishes, cigarettes, cigars, antifreeze and postal stationery.
The inadequate labelling of pre-packed goods has resulted in the housewife, from the point of view of consumer protection, having been in a weak position for a long time. Many manufacturers and retailers adopted good labelling practices, even before the passage of the 1963 Act. 614 No hon. Member will deny, as the Minister of State pointed out, that shopkeepers with stocks of inadequately labelled goods on their shelves and in their storerooms will be inconvenienced if the Order is not carried. Indeed, if retailers are carrying such inadequately labelled stocks in such large quantities now, two years after the Act was passed, we should look carefully at why this position exists.
I suggest that the former Government, during their period of office and after the Act was passed, manufacturers and retailers—and, to a certain extent, the present Government—have been dilatory and apathetic in effectively carrying out this piece of legislation. After all, the Act received the Royal Assent on 31st July, 1963, although it did not lay down the actual manner in which goods had to be marked. That is one argument in favour of the manufacturers' and retailers' case for delaying this matter the fact that it took another year before the Weights and Measures (Marking) Regulations, 1964, were laid before Parliament, on 28th July, 1964.
My hon. Friend may say that it is not directly his responsibility, but perhaps hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite may explain why it took a whole year before the Regulations made under the Act could be carried out and why after a year's delay from July 1964 there were further representations from manufacturers, as suggested in recent letters to hon. Members from the Consumers' Association, but principally from the distributors and notably from the Multiple Shops Federation, who claimed that the situation was anomalous and would result in hardship to some retailers. We need further clarification as to what exactly was the nature of the anomalies.
So far as I am aware, the co-operative societies have made no formal representations pleading for delay of one year in the full implementation of the Act. From long experience of the movement, I know that the 13 million consumer members of the co-operative societies will be considerably inconvenienced as housewives and shoppers by having inadequately labelled goods on sale in our shops during the next year, which will be the case if this Order is carried this evening. After a further year of consultations and a year before the Regulations came out, we are to delay for 615 another year, so full implementation will take place three years after the passing of the Act.
We have heard tonight that goods may still be leaving warehouses inadequately labelled, two years after the Act was passed. I should like to know whether or not the alleged anomalies under the Act will be removed during the coming year and how much further delay there will be. If further representations, however and legitimate they may be, are made on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Exeter, and are given further consideration by the Board of Trade, possibilities of further delay are quite likely. It is true that, as my hon. Friend said, the Consumers' Council has made expressions of view on this problem, but he did not draw attention to the fact that the Council did not only refer to some difficulties involved for retailers but specifically regretted that the Board of Trade had not put enough pressure on the trades concerned to be ready to implement the Act on time.
One factor to which the Consumer Council drew attention was that the Board itself took a considerable time to bring out draft Regulations after the Act had been passed, thus cutting down the time which manufacturers had to get new labels on their goods. Did the Board of Trade publish notices concerning this matter in the trade Press? If so, where and on what scale? It is extremely important that the Board should make clear exactly what will be the position after the end of this month, because then both marked and unmarked goods will be in the shops. Some retailers may complain that they have a grievance. If the Order had not been brought in this evening retailers and manufacturers who are more conscientious in this matter may feel that they have a grievance because they have carried out the provisions of the Act and get no benefit, but may even be at a disadvantage.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I am rather interested in the remark about a sense of grievance. I am not sure why a manufacturer or retailer should feel a sense of grievance for doing something which it is obviously right to do.
§ Mr. Rhodes
Some may feel that if they are dilatory in adopting the Regulations 616 they may get away with it, whereas those with a deep sense of consumer protection will feel that they have been penalised in a negative sense by acting in this way.
My last point is that this differentiation between goods marked and unmarked is, according to the Consumer Council, a serious matter, particularly in relation to cosmetics. I should like my hon. Friend to comment on this. We suffer a great deal from what I have called on previous occasions exploitation and misleading of consumers. Consumers are in need of protection. The Act would give them a large measure of that protection, but I believe that the present difficulties are not entirely the responsibility—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I warned the hon. Gentleman before that he must not get outside the Regulations. All the rest may be very interesting, but it has nothing to do with what is before us.
§ Mr. Rhodes
I appreciate your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The point which I was about to make was that I appreciate that the difficulties in carrying out the Act, which have led to bringing forward this Order, are not entirely the present Government's responsibility. They are largely the result of the delaying period of one year before the Regulations were issued under the Act, but there have been nine months during which there could have been an acceleration in carrying out the processes of the Act. Whilst I feel that at the moment, the situation being what it is, the Order must be approved tonight, we must give approval with considerable regret.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Rhodes
I was in the middle of my concluding remarks. I was about to say that many consumer organisations feel very much let down in that the Order has become necessary. Whilst I make my remarks not by way of any criticism of my hon. Friend, who I know has this subject dearly at heart, I emphasise that it is with regret that we must accept the Order.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes), who was not with us when we put the Act on the Statute Book, at least agrees with its main purpose. I think that I am the only Member present who was a signatory of the Act, although the present Minister of State. Board of Trade, played a considerable part in its passage through the House. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East is right in saying that there is a basic defect in the Act which makes the Order necessary. The particular problem was in my mind at the time of anticipating the delay between an Order being made compulsory on a manufacture and the time which the goods would take to go through the trade before they reached the shops.
I visualised that the time given to the manufacturer at the point when it was then compulsory for him to mark the goods—otherwise he would be committing an offence—was sufficiently in advance for him to be able to get his stocks into the trade through the wholesalers and retailers. Certain products named in the Schedule might be moved slowly by the small wholesaler or small retailer, and individual retailers might have found themselves with a certain residual stock left at a point where it became an offence to sell goods which were not marked with the net weight. But this would not mean that they had to destroy their stocks and accept a complete loss. At the worst, they would have to get the stuff out, measure or weigh it, and put on a sticky label on showing the net weight, which is rather different from having one's whole stock, so to speak, condemned.
Therefore, even if the Order had not been brought in, it would not have been quite so oppressive a state of affairs as, I suspect, representatives of the trade have suggested. Those of us who have done our stint at the Board of Trade know how persuasive these delegations can be. They bring tears to the eyes of Ministers—as politicians we are sensitive in these matters—but, more than that, they bring tears to the eyes of one's officials, which is a much tougher proposition.
I am not absolutely satisfied that the strictures of the hon. Member for 618 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East regarding lack of diligence are well founded. The year after the passing of the Act and before the Regulations were approved by both Houses of Parliament was largely devoted to consultations with various trades. The hon. Gentleman read from Schedule 7 the references to some products and he left out certain others, no doubt, for the purpose of brevity, but ii have it here, and it is a very miscellaneous range of products. The Board of Trade took some time and had considerable consultations, and, from the moment when the Act was passed, or even from the moment when it was published, the trade knew that it would have to mark its goods. People in the trade knew broadly what would happen, although they understood that there might be some alterations in Committee, and certainly after the Royal Assent they knew what the scheme was. The only question was the precise manner in which it should be done, and I well recall some of the discussions about how one marked small bottles of scent, for example, which are one of the items covered by Schedule 7 to which the Order applies.
It was not a wasted year. People in the trade knew that they would have to mark, and they were being consulted on the precise manner of doing it. Subsequently, they have had a further year, and, as both the Minister and the hon. Gentleman pointed out, many of the more forward-looking manufacturers have gone ahead and done it so that, through the normal course of trade, a lot of stock in retailers' hands will be ready marked for the day when the Regulations come into force. As I have said, there is just the problem of residual stock, but one must draw a line somewhere, and occasionally one has to be a little harsh or abrasive on a trade. This is part of consumer protection. The most that would be required would be for the shopkeeper to weigh the products. I know that scent would have to be dealt with somewhat differently, but for the majority of products weighing and marking would be fairly straightforward.
I know the Minister of State far too well to realise that he would not have given way on this unless he and his officials were persuaded that there was a very good reason. I shall not, therefore, oppose the Order, but I want him to explain why it is necessary to hold back for a year. I should 619 have thought that six months, or until the end of the year, would have been sufficient. As the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East said, with this interim year in which the manufacturers are having to mark and with the further year in which the retailers and wholesalers are holding back, this Act for consumer protection, under Schedule 7, will not begin to give protection until the year proposed in the Order has been completed. The Minister of State and I have had too many discussions, in public and in private, for me to doubt his sincerity or his devotion to consumer protection, but I wonder why he found it necessary to give as long as 12 months' grace. I should have been inclined to be a little tougher.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
We have at least one measure of agreement tonight, and that is the measure of agreement on both sides that the Weights and Measures Act, 1963, designed to give additional protection to the consumer, was a good Act.
On the other hand, the Minister said that there were some slight defects in the Act which had come to light recently, and that is why we have this Order before us. I am not at all sure that I accept that there are defects. In fact, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) has given the view that there is not a defect in the Act. If there is, perhaps it is due to the fact that the then Opposition were not so diligent in their examination of Bills before the House as the present Opposition are.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
This is fascinating, but the hon. Gentleman must come to the Instrument before the House.
§ Mr. Hall
I accept your guidance, Mr Deputy-Speaker, but I think that I have made the point that I wished to.
There are one or two things about this matter which puzzle me a little. The Minister said, and it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes), that some manufacturers are still supplying pre-packed Schedule 7 commodities without the requisite markings. This means that 620 a large number of manufacturers must already have started marking their products. I find it hard to understand why the manufacturers, the distributors and the wholesalers and retailers did not get together on this some time ago, knowing that they were bound at this date to retail goods which bore the requisite markings. I should have thought that the retailer and wholesaler organisations could have made it clear to the manufacturers that they could receive only properly marked goods because they would be bound by the Act, subject to certain penalties, to provide goods properly marked with quantities. So I am puzzled why at a rather late stage the trade has had to ask the Board of Trade for this additional time.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh, I wonder whether a year is not a little too long and whether six months would not be sufficient. Nevertheless, I appreciate that as it took practically a year to introduce regulations giving the form of marking and so on, it is possible that even manufacturers marking their goods after that date might be selling goods which could remain on the shelves for longer than the following 12 months and that some persons might find themselves in difficulty if the strict letter of the law were enforced now. For that reason, I would not suggest to my hon. Friends that we should oppose the Order.
However, I should like to ask a question which was raised in the other place when this matter was debated. It was suggested that publicity should be given nearer to the time that it will be necessary to mark all Schedule 7 goods and that it should be stated quite clearly who is responsible for so doing if they are not already marked. It was agreed in another place that some consideration should be given to that. Probably one of the problems is that not enough publicity has been given to the requirements of the Act in trade and other papers, and perhaps in some cases this has taken people unawares, because often people do not take as much notice of new Acts and regulations as they should.
With just that one question to the Minister, I think we must support the Order. Otherwise there may be some hardship and difficulty caused to retailers, possibly through no fault of their own.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Darling
If I may, with permission, reply to the points raised, I should like to deal with the last point first. We shall probably have to enforce an Order at the end of this period to indicate the manner in which the markings are to be put on the containers. During this period, even without this amending Order, the manufacturers can put the markings on in any way they like. That is obvious, because they have to reorganise all their printing arrangements and so on. By July, 1966, markings will have to be effected according to the terms that have been laid down in the Act and the Regulations. At that point, when we come to deal with that situation, we shall certainly carry out the suggestion which was made to us in another place. We shall put out the appropriate press notices and give all the publicity that we can to inform everybody concerned that they must mark everything according to the manner laid down in the Regulations—size of type, display of type, and so on.
I have to tell the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) that this will not be done at the end of the period—July, 1966—but that those concerned will be informed in plenty of time beforehand, and, if they have clearance sales to get rid of unmarked stocks, then this will benefit both the shopkeepers and the customers.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams
But at the end of the period they may well have some of the goods which have left the factory marked but not in the way they will have to be marked after the end of the period. Will they be given any grace to get rid of these items?
§ Mr. Darling
Yes. The obligation will be on the manufacturers from that point onwards. We can do both operations at the same time, and the suggestion made in another place will be carried out.
There is another slight defect in the Act, discovered when we came to deal with the situation. Schedule 7 covers such a comprehensive range of goods that, although we do not need this Order for some of the goods in it because the manufacturers concerned have made arrangements beforehand, we have to cover the whole range. As the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) 622 and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) said, this is a comprehensive list of products.
We are primarily concerned with such things as toilet preparations. Here, of course, there would be enormous difficulty if we followed the suggestion, which we discussed in the Board of Trade for a considerable time, of putting an obligation upon the retailer to mark unmarked products—if a person starts buying toilet preparations on any scale after Monday he will find that the quantities are marked in most cases in metric measurements—a concession we gave in order to stimulate the export trade to the continent.
The measures are so different and cover such a wide range that, quite frankly, the retailer would have enormous difficulty in getting from all the manufacturers concerned the weights of all the different products. How much talcum powder is in a tin? How much perfume is in a bottle? What is the weight of bath salts? And so on. One can imagine the poor retailer trying to find out—he cannot very well empty the containers and then put the contents back. He would have to keep shop assistants fully employed on nothing else for months until everything was properly marked.
We bring forward this Order with great reluctance. I took the view, perhaps for too long, that we should, as the hon. Member for Eastleigh did when faced with the same situation, stand firm by the original Regulations and not give way. But when we saw more clearly the difficulties that retailers would be up against, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that we had to produce the Order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East wanted to know how many manufacturers of Schedule 7 goods had done the job before they were in a sense legally required to do it. I cannot give him an arithmetical answer, but quite a number of them have done the job and I agree—I have said it myself before—that they have a sense of grievance, quite rightly, that this Order should be brought forward in order to cover the other manufacturers who have not been so forthcoming and who have not responded to the terms of the regulations in advance of the deadline laid down.
623 But we also discovered, as I have said, that quite a number of traders have been led astray by their misinterpretation of the original Regulations. Paragraph 1(2) of the original Regulations said:Before 31st July 1966, nothing in these Regulations shall apply to the manner of marking any container which left the premises at which it was filled or otherwise made up for sale before 31st July 1965.We were surprised to find that, in spite of all the press notices which were put out and for which the hon. Member for Eastleigh was responsible, and the further information given to the press increasing the publicity about this matter, quite a number of members of the trades concerned, manufacturers and so on, interpreted that to mean that they did not need to mark net weight or measurement of the goods until 31st July, 1966. Of course, what it means and clearly says is that the manner of marking, which the Regulations themselves go on to define, shall not apply until 31st July, 1966. For this year they can mark their containers any way they like. For the reason I gave, this will help them to get their printing presses and containers, packages and so on, into line with the Regulations.
My hon. Friend also said that we had been dilatory, both the hon. Member for Eastleigh and I, in carrying out the terms of the Act. If he will read the long discussions which we had in Committee about how the terms of the Act should be carried out, he will see that we discussed at great length the amount of time which should be given to manufacturers to alter their packages and packaging. It is not an easy job. We did not want anybody to lose money over this and we did not want any packages to be scrapped. Manufacturers order packages in bulk and we discussed with them the manner of marking and so on. The time which was taken to produce the first Regulations was not unreasonable. There is some complaint about the amount of time taken to produce this amending Order, but the reason for that is that we were reluctant to produce the Order and were more or less forced to do so in the end.
My hon. Friend asked how long it would take to clear the unmarked stocks. We have asked about this and there are 624 different views in different trades, but my own guess from the discussions which I have had is that in most shops, apart from those in country districts where stock tends to stay on the shelves a little longer, stocks in most of these lines will be cleared in a very few months, and although the consumer will lose something in buying goods which are not properly marked, I do not think that the period will be so excessive as to cause any alarm or despondency.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh and the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) asked why the Order could not be for less than twelve months. We, too, asked that question. Our legal advisers say that under the terms of the Act—I do not know whether this is another defect—it would be difficult to produce an Order which did not run for twelve months. However, perhaps this is something which we can discuss on another occasion. Of course, it would not be possible between now and 31st July to make an amending Order.
I think that I have more or less answered the hon. Member for Exeter. Goods still on the shop shelves could be marked by the retailer, and we can help him in that by giving him the actual weights of the goods concerned; or he might have a clearance sale and get rid of the whole lot.
It is not the retailer who is responsible for the marking of the goods. It is the job of the manufacturer and the retailer has to take what is given to him. With such things as perfumes—I do not know whether the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) can help us here—when the shapes of the bottles and so on seem to change quite considerably and where lines have been discontinued, and apparently they are discontinued quite quickly—it is impossible for the retailer to find out what measure was inside the bottle. In those circumstances, we cannot put an obligation upon him to mark unmarked goods himself.
I repeat that we can bring this Order forward very reluctantly. The delay is due to the fact that we were reluctant about it. We did not want to bring it forward and we waited till the last moment to see if we could deal with the problem in another way. Unfortunately, this is the only practical way in which 625 we can deal with the shopkeepers' difficulties, and therefore I ask the House to give us approval for the Order.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Weights and Measures (Exemption) Order, 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th June, be approved.