HC Deb 29 July 1965 vol 717 cc658-9
5. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the practice of retail distributors of coke of putting a water hose on their coke at depots; and what legislative or other steps he intends to take to protect the consumer from this form of exploitation.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. George Darling)

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that after this week fraudulent or deceptive damping of solid fuel will after 31st July be an offence under the Weights and Measures Act, 1963. This part of the Act comes into force on Saturday.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the House will welcome that decision? Does he realise that I myself have seen a tradesman actually on top of a coke pile watering the coke like I water the garden, and can he tell me what steps the housewife has got to take to protect herself if she feels that the coke contains an undue proportion of water?

Mr. Darling

If the coal merchant from whom she gets the coke belongs to the approved coal merchants' scheme, I think she will be able to get redress straight away from the coal merchant himself, but if that fails to get her satisfaction, she should ask the assistance of the local weights and measures authority which has responsibility in this matter.

Mr. John Hall

While everyone would deplore deliberate attempts to defraud the consumer, would not the Minister agree that there are many cases where local authorities ask coal merchants to damp down in order to keep down the dust? They do it on instructions.

Mr. Darling

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Would not the Minister agree that the next step in this very desirable progress is the encouragement of the covering of stocks in coal merchants' yards? Would not this lead to the housewife getting a fairer deal?

Mr. Darling

Yes, Sir. Discussions are going on within the trade itself to get better depots with covering and all the other modern facilities for weighing, and so on, which will be for the benefit of the consumer.