HC Deb 07 February 1968 vol 758 cc527-62

10.0 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Labelling of Food Regulations 1967 (SI., 1967, No. 1864), dated 14th December 1967, a copy of which was laid before this House on 21st December, be annulled. Although this Prayer has to be for the annulment of the Regulations, my primary purpose in moving it is to provide an opportunity for discussion, because we have been awaiting these Labelling Regulations for a very long time. Now that they have come they are so comprehensive, and indeed complicated, that it seems wrong that they should go through without discussing some of the more important points. Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that we now have these Regulations.

I congratulate the Ministry and my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, with whom I have had a dialogue over recent years, on the whole subject, and on their courage in bringing forward these Regulations. It takes courage to enter the realm of labelling and advertising, which has a mystique of its own, and which is even more complex than that of women's fashions, and other complex subjects.

Labelling is not simply informative. It can be a matter of glamour with regard to things like toilet preparations. It can be a matter of status with regard to some of the more exotic foods. It can be regarded as an art, and indeed it is. In many labelling departments of firms which I have visited, I have found that it has its devotees who are very much concerned if a label is produced in a way which to them is unthinkable, but which to the general public does not mean anything very much.

Because this subject is complex, because it has its own ritual, it is important that the public should be protected by the labelling being as informative as possible. This is the whole purpose of these Regulations.

One of our difficulties in a matter of this kind is to ascertain what the consumer really wants. We have a limited number of consumer organisations, but we have no means of measuring what the ordinary shopper in the street, if I may use that expression, wants when she—because it is usually a woman—goes shopping and looks at the goods on the shelves. I suppose that Members of Parliament have as good an idea as any through the correspondence that we receive from our constituents, and those who are perhaps rather more concerned with consumer matters get a considerable correspondence on these points.

It is because of this difficulty of weighing up what the consumer wants that we should pay particular attention when organised consumers, for example, the Consumer Council, put forward points on matters of this kind. I share the concern which the Consumer Council has expressed about the complicated requirements in regard to the size of lettering to be used on the label. The food manufacturers have made the same point, and. since the Consumer Council's complaint is based on consumer surveys, I think we must give some weight to it.

In the Food Labelling Bill which I have sought to introduce on a number of occasions, it is proposed that the lettering should be in legible block letters of equal size, conspicuously visible. This may not be very wonderful wording, but at least it is easy to understand, and one would think that something on these lines was preferable to the complicated requirements in the Regulations. I shall not say any more about that because I know that other Members wish to speak on it in more detail.

There are two smaller points to which I want to refer. The first concerns the exemption of very small containers from the labelling requirements. I appreciate the difficulty of making regulations to fit these small containers. Nevertheless some important goods may be exempted in this way which do not give the consumer the full cover and protection that he or she should have and where foods contain an ingredient made from two or more constituents and the permitted preservative or permitted antioxidant is present… in a proportion of less than 5 per cent. (calculated on the weight of the ingredients of the amount permitted". by earlier regulations the presence of that preservative or antioxidant need not be stated. Although this is a very small proportion it does not pay any attention to any known or possible cumulative effect of additives. This may be a serious exemption from the Regulations.

There are two points on which I feel strongly and upon which I know, judging from my correspondence, that consumers also feel strongly. One concerns meat. I am glad that the Regulations make provision for tenderised meat being so labelled. I would have welcomed the Ministry's grappling with the vexed question of meat which has been produced from animals and poultry which have been intensively reared. There is a growing demand from consumers for this to be indicated in butchers' and poulterers' stops. This demand will develop considerably in the next three years, so that by the time the Regulations come into force they may be out of date in this respect.

Similarly, with fruit and vegetables, there is no requirement to disclose whether fruit has been treated with accelerators, or whether vegetables and fruit have been sprayed with certain insecticides which may be considered harmful. Here again, public opinion is racing ahead on this point.

Recently, the Soil Association has announced that it has made arrangements for fruit and vegetables which are free from treatment of this kind to be on sale arid presumably they will be labelled as such, so that in self-defence greengrocers may be compelled to adopt their own system of labelling. It would seem preferable for these new points to be covered in the Regulations, which will be with us for a long time.

My main concern about the Regulations relates to Regulation 1(a), which covers cyclamates. This Regulation has been in operation from the beginning of this year, but it is not generally appreciated by the public—who have been very much concerned about the general permission to use cyclamates in food—that when they buy products containing cyclamates, consisting of any of the three kinds mentioned in the Regulations, or saccarin or other artificial sweeteners, they will not be able to see from the labelling which kind of artificial sweetener has been used. There will only be the generic term "artificial sweetener."

What is true of the artificial sweetener is true of preservatives, antioxidants, colouring, flavouring and all other additives. The specific name of the additive will not be on the label. There will be only the generic term "permitted preservative" and so on. The Minister argues that the generic term is preferable because it is easier for the general public to appreciate, and that specific names may be incomprehensible to the general public. This is true, of course, of many chemical names; they are very difficult to understand. But many people have allergies to particular substances and they are entitled to know from the label whether a product contains those substances or not. Other people may have objections to certain substances and they are also entitled to know whether goods contain those substances.

Cyclamates are a case in point. Partly because of the articles in the Daily Telegraph and other articles in the Press and our debate on the subject, the public have become aware of this additive and are wary of it, knowing that research on it is still going on. They have become so familiar with the word "cyclamate" that if they saw it on a label in any form they would recognise it.

The same is true of any other additive. Knowledge of these additives, which are being used increasingly in foods, is very limited. We think we know a lot, but in fact we know very little, and any time any one of them might become suspect. If it does, it should be readily identifiable on food labels by its specific name, so that the public may avoid that product if they so wish.

A great deal has been said, and I have no doubt will be said tonight, about the cost of these Regulations to food manufacturers. Undoubtedly, preparing new labels will be costly, but I discount the figures, excessive sums of £2 million or double that amount, which have been quoted by food manufacturers. Food production is a very competitive business and it has been known for several years that the Regulations were coming and there are three years more until they come into operation. In a competitive world, comparatively few food manufacturers, during that long time of five or six years, will not, in any case, have intended to revise their labels. Labels are constantly being changed, without any Government Regulations forcing them to be changed.

During that time, I would have thought that many, if not most, food manufacturers would have been revising their labels and, at the same time, of course, complying with the Regulations. I would have hoped that, this being so, they would also have been encouraged by the Regulations to put in the specific names of additives instead of the generic term. They are permitted to do so, and, since the Regulations do not compel them, I hope that as many as possible will do voluntarily what the Government should have insisted on their doing mandatorily.

Although I have voiced some criticisms, I recognise that this subject is complex and that, whatever Regulations were introduced, there would be criticisms, since it is impossible to please all the interests concerned and it is an extremely delicate operation to try to balance the interests of the food manufacturer against those of the consumer in exactly the right way. Because of this, and because I believe that these Regulations, in spite of my criticisms, are a great step forward and will be extremely useful to the consumer, although I am praying to annul them, I have no intention of forcing that Prayer to a Division.

I wish to make it clear that if, by chance, a Division is forced, I shall vote in support of the Regulations because I regard them as being an advance. The only opportunity we have to secure any sort of discussion is by praying against the Regulations. It is a question of take them or leave them. I wish that we could improve them, but, since we cannot, I shall support them if a vote is forced.

10.16 p.m.

Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)

I am happy to speak following the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), although I was sorry to hear her say that while the Regulations could be improved, she would not be prepared to vote against them. I wish to make it clear at the outset that we do not object to new Amendments to the 1953 Act. As the hon. Lady said, there is a good case for making Amendments to cover cycla- mates, additives and the like. Nevertheless, we have great objection to some of the proposals contained in these Regulations and, as a result of what will be said tonight, I trust that the Minister will decide to withdraw them, give the matter further consideration and, if he considers it necessary, reintroduce them at a subsequent date.

Last Friday I addressed a Question to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in which I asked what evidence he had received to indicate that there was any need for revised Regulations of this sort. He replied: When the question of the revision of the Labelling of Food Order, 1953 was referred to the Food Standards Committee in 1961, the Order had already been amended five times and many requests had been received for further amendments, both general and specific. The Committee invited comments and representations. A very large number were received, the vast majority proposing amendments to the Order. The Committee took evidence in the course of their deliberations. When their report was published in 1964, and again following the publication of proposals for new regulations in 1965, further written and oral evidence was received, all of which has been considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 442–3–4.] What was considered? The Minister did not say in that Answer that, as far as I know, at no stage during the drafting of these Regulations were the people responsible for the design and packaging of products properly consulted.

It is interesting to note that the Council for Industrial Design, a Government-sponsored body, and other design associations protested vigorously against an attempt to find an arithmetical, watertight formula to ensure that the housewife or purchaser has information "clearly and legibly" about the nature of any food product, such as a chocolate bar, breakfast cereal or a tin of Horlicks. To insist that the ingredients be presented next to the name block and be one-quarter the size of the largest printed matter—invariably the name of the product—is to insist on an inflexible yardstick which, while it may be of assistance to the enforcing authorities, will take away the freedom of manufacturers and traders to design and label their products within generally stated legal requirements for protecting consumers.

As far as I know, the Minister has produced no evidence to show that the change proposed in these Regulations is in any way required by consumers. Has he at any time commissioned market research to discover whether the housewife requires this change? Has he put these proposals to any body of housewives or consumers? We know that he has not adequately consulted the design authorities—that even the Council of Industrial Design is opposed to this change, and this Council should be listened to because it is a body which depends a great deal on Government finance for its continuance.

As I say, the Consumer Council, another Government-sponsored body, has objected to these proposals. At least that Council has carried out research among housewives and consumers, but has found that the suggestions contained in the Regulations are, in its view, not required. Only yesterday I received a Press handout from the Consumer Council saying that it found the Regulations still very objectionable and hoped that the Minister would withdraw them.

In addition to those two bodies, both Government-sponsored, the proposed Regulations have been objected to by the Confederation of British Industry, the Food Manufacturers Federation, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers and the Institute of Packaging. As I have said, we do not oppose the Regulations in general, but we are bitterly opposed to these restrictions. Once more, I believe, it is a case of the man in Whitehall thinking that he knows what is best for the housewife when all he is doing is looking for an inflexible yardstick to help the enforcement officer and not the housewife. I believe that the Regulations will do the housewife a positive disservice.

As far as I know, no other country has indulged in, or has found it necessary to indulge in, such restrictive requirements as are here proposed. At this time above all, the British food manufacturer and exporter should not be placed at a competitive disadvantage because our packaging designers are so fettered with unnecessary Regulations—and Regulations, moreover, which will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I thought that the hon. Lady was a little naughty in suggesting that the figure of £2 million given by the food manufacturers was an over-estimate. It may very well be an under-estimate, in spite of the fact that the manufacturers will have two or three years in which to make the changes, because not only will the Regulations, if the Government insist on them and the House accepts them, make the package far less appealing and attractive but they may result in manufacturers needing two packs, one for the home market, observing all these silly Regulations—and absolutely ruining the design —and another for export markets, thus losing a great sales aid in the identification of the product. We have only to think of the effect on Coca-Cola if the manufacturers had to have a different package in America from that used in the rest of the world. The whole idea is nonsense and should be recognised as such.

We in industry are not opposed to providing the housewife with a clear and legible statement of the ingredients and contents, but I ask the Minister: why should we handicap our exporters at this most crucial time when the economy is under strain and manufacturers should be encouraged in all their efforts to export more, and not saddled with a lot of theoretical mumbo-jumbo thought up by some civil servant out of touch with reality?

I appeal to the Minister to withdraw these Regulations, enter into further discussion with the people responsible for design and packaging, and then reintroduce Regulations with the offensive restrictions omitted. These are days of fierce competition, when the country's economy is in a very parlous state and dependent a great deal on export markets. A well-designed pack is an enormous aid to selling a product, and anything which inhibits a designer is serious and should not be tolerated unless a clear case can be made that the housewife is at the moment grossly deceived.

The present Regulations show a stupidity and an insanity which cannot be masked by the camouflage of the legalistic verbiage in which they have been presented. I therefore appeal to the Minister to believe that we are not opposed to providing all the help we can for the housewife to have proper information about the contents of products, but this Regulation insisting that next to the name block should be shown the contents. beginning with the word "containing", and a quarter of the size of the largest printed matter, is nonsense.

The vast majority of the products to which these Regulations will apply are those that are bought once a week—it is not a question of deceiving people with Mars bars or Kellogg's Cornflakes. Housewives know what is in the package, and provided that somewhere on the package the contents are written clearly and legibly I think it is all the housewife requires. I strongly appeal to the Minister to have the courage to withdraw these Regulations and reintroduce them after further conversations with packaging designers.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

The House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for initiating this debate. She has a very wide knowledge of the need for consumer protection and has given a great deal of time and effort to the work of improving consumer protection. Like her, it is not my intention to press this Prayer to a Division because I believe we have a strong enough case to present to the Parliamentary Secretary to persuade him to adopt the course which I shall suggest.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers), who said the Regulations are silly. Most of the Regulations are perfectly sound, reasonable and welcome. Only in one specific instance had the hon. Member a point. That was when he said that they could be a little better. I hope that the debate will not deteriorate into a party political battle between the two sides of the House, because I think the intention of all hon. Members will be to persuade the Minister to amend the Regulations at a future date. I do not believe it realistic to ask him to withdraw them, but it is realistic to ask him to consider certain aspects of them.

The hon. Member for Sevenoaks was right in saying that a well designed pack is a great aid to selling and a great aid to our export market. I ought to declare an interest here because for many years I earned my living in the highly competitive field of merchandise presentation. I welcome the general aim of the Regulations, which is to improve and en- hance consumer protection. There are a number of small points in which the Regulations could have been better. I should like to have seen a requirement for the liquid content of products to be specified on the label. I should like to have seen the alcoholic content to be by percentage by volume rather than by percentage of proof. I should have preferred, instead of complete meals, that the individual constituents of the complete meals should be stated on the labels. None of this information is on the labels and I hope that on future occasions the Minister will cover these points.

My main case deals with Part II, particularly Schedule 4. I have taken the trouble to contact a large number of bodies engaged in design work and selling. Overwhelmingly they are agreed on two things. They agreed without any dispute whatever that there is a clear need for clarity and legibility on each pack stating the contents of the product and the right name. This should be done in the interest of the consumer.

The second thing about which all agreed is on trying to relate the letter size of the appropriate designation to the largest letter on the pack. All agreed that this was unnecessary and restrictive. I agree on that. I contacted the Council of Industrial Design, whose members told me that they have written to the Minister expressing their views that this part of the Regulations will be difficult to operate and will inhibit design. They asked the Minister to reconsider it.

The Society of Industrial Artists and Designers told me that at no time in the consideration of the Regulations was the Society asked to give its views. I think that regrettable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope that hon. Members opposite will not say "Hear, hear" too much or my hon. Friends will have more suspicion about me. I find it quite regrettable that the very body set up to bring together industrial designers and artists should not have been consulted on Regulations specifically aimed at trying to legislate for their work. I hope that in any future consultations the Minister will make absolutely certain that that body is consulted.

The Society told me that by trying to put these things into rigid wording one loses sight of what they call the laws of visual perception. I do not understand very much about the laws of visual perception, but I certainly know that these Regulations in respect of the letter size will be difficult to apply. The Institute of Practical Advertising, of which the distinguished president sits on the benches opposite, is very much against the Regulations. The Society considers the Regulations complicated and rigid and that they should be completely withdrawn. I do not go all the way with the Society, but it has part of a case.

One organisation which I myself did not contact but which one of my hon. Friends contacted was the Co-operative Union, which believes that these Regulations in respect of lettering size will be restrictive and difficult to apply and will have an inhibiting effect on design. If My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), whom I consulted on this. is correct, the Co-operative Union believes that further consideration should be given to this matter.

We know that the Food Manufacturers Federation is against the Regulations. It claims that they will increase costs. I shall not develop that argument. It believes that the restriction on lettering size will have a very bad effect on the production of good, attractive and informative design work on packages. The many other organisations which I contacted held similar views. In all the inquiries that I made not one voice was raised in defence of Regulation No. 17. The only voices that I heard which were even slightly in favour of it were those of my right hon. Friend the Minister and some of the gentlemen with him when I had the pleasure of having an interview with him.

It could be argued that all the bodies I have mentioned have a vested interest and want the status quo to prevail. If that were so, it would be a very telling argument, but it is not so. The consumer protection organisation takes a very similar view. I am pleased about this, because if there was a conflict of interest between manufacturers or professional bodies and consumers, I believe that the consumers' interests would have to be paramount. There is no conflict in this case, because the Consumer Council shares the views. I had intended to quote a passage from its magazine which makes it clear that it subscribes to the view of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and believes that it is wrong to make these provisions as to label size. I shall not detain the House by quoting that in full. The magazine is available in the Library if any hon. Member wants to read the passage. The Consumer Council has also conducted a survey, which supports the theory that it is not necessary to relate the size of letters one to another to get clarity and legibility and to keep the general public informed.

This is a long list of professional bodies and organisations, plus the Consumer Council, all taking the view that it is wrong to relate the size of lettering to the largest letter on a pack.

It is important that the Minister should reconsider these Regulations. I said at the beginning of my speech that I do not believe that it is realistic at this stage, part of what is provided for in the Regulations having come into operation already, to expect the Minister to withdraw the Regulations. That might be a good point for the Opposition to make, but it is not a responsible point of view to take at this moment. It would be helpful, however, if the Minister would as an interim measure decide to drop out Regulation No. 17(2, b), if this is possible. [Interruption.] I realise that he could not do that and that he would have to withdraw the Regulations as a whole.

However, I hope that the House will be told that the Minister will continue to hold consultations with interested bodies, particularly with the Society of Industrial Designers and Artists, and will, in the light of further consultation, further consider the Regulations with a view to reviewing them in the foreseeable future. Then, in 18 months' time, after thorough consultation and after the Minister has reviewed the Regulations in the light of representations, he could bring forward a much better set of Regulations which would meet the views of the interested bodies and of the Consumer Council.

10.34 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)

We have heard two quite powerful speeches by hon. Members opposite. Unfortunately, I do not think they will influence the Minister and persuade him to withdraw the Regulations. It is not good enough that the Regulations should be considered a year from now. We have to deal with them tonight. Either the Minister must meet the views which have been expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) or we should take strong action and demonstrate in the House that the Regulations should not be approved and secure that they are duly considered. It may not happen, but it should, because I accept as much as anyone else that there is in these Regulations a great deal of sense. There are some very good points about them.

I spent 25 years in the pharmaceutical trade. I do not have to declare an interest because I am no longer in it, but I was in it, and I think I did every job from that of salesman upwards. We manufactured over 850 and sold over 2,000 labelled articles. It was a tremendous job. I hope that that practical experience may he allowed to underline one or two comments which I want to make and which will be fairly strong.

We get too much sometimes of the grandmotherly character about these sorts of Regulations. Of course, that is one of the faults of having this extra and growing number of civil servants. I suppose they have to do something, and they cough up these fussy Regulations, which are not required by the housewives who are much more discerning in these matters than we sometimes in the House give them credit for being. They are not really taken for a ride. They know what a Mars Bar is and that a Kit-Kat has biscuit in it. There is some sense in these Regulations but they are too fussy, and they will cause a great deal of trouble and difficulty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Seven-oaks mentioned the two packs. That is something I have had something to do with in my time. There sometimes has to be more than one. The Indian market, no matter what one does, will not have too big a container. The Egyptian market, on the other hand, likes the biggest possible bottle. Really, it does not matter very much what one puts in; the important thing is the size of the container.

With all the detail which has to go on the label one needs quite a large one or else there is scarcely room for the name.

People still hardly know what is inside. They only know there is no cascara in it. I suppose there could be some element of doubt about it.

I am intrigued by paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 4, on page 32: Any declaration required or permitted by regulation 11(4) or (5) shall appear in dark coloured characters upon a light coloured ground or light coloured characters upon a dark coloured ground"— [Laughter.] Just listen to it — and where by reason of the transparency of the container the contents thereof are visible. those contents"— wait for it— shall be taken to be the ground for the purposes of this paragraph. It is so wonderful, is it not? How on earth is it done, except by some super-graduated chap from a university bouncing into Whitehall to help to increase the number of civil servants by 43,000? It goes on: The characters shall be of uniform colour and size, save that the initial letter in any word may be taller than any other letter in that word"— most gracious, is it not?— and the letters in any preposition, conjunction or participle"— nobody I ever employed knew what a participle was— may be shorter than the letters in any other word. Frankly, I did not have time to read all of this, and I just spotted that paragraph in particular. But one cannot take this sort of thing seriously. It is too fussy.

Many of the Regulations, as the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green said, are hopelessly complex. Time after time in this House we have talked of the strain put upon the capacity of the courts to interpret some of the stuff we put in Regulations like these. Not only that, there is the question of the manufacturing firms themselves.

I recall my experience when I worked between the wars in Germany for a time. It was extremely interesting. The Regulations under the Hitler ré gime were absolutely incredible, and this is the sort of thing which developed. I am not speaking of Nazi laws, but this sort of bureaucratic balder-dash we are dealing with today. The result was that firms up and down the country had permanently to employ in their offices legal advisers to interpret the sort of regulations which their parliament passed. I am sorry, but this is the sort of stage that we are reaching now, and I deprecate it.

I cannot imagine that there has been any realistic consultation in this matter. I stress the word "realistic", because, frankly, it does not mean anything to send round a piece of paper unless there is realistic, effective consultation to ensure that the voices of those doing the job are listened to and taken into account. I cannot believe that that has occurred in this case. Certainly it has not in matter of design. That is painfully obvious.

Labels should have many purposes. It is not enough that they should measure up the Whitehall idea of what should be on a label, which really comes down to what a young post-graduate thinks. Other factors are important. There is the design entity, which is a great technique. That cannot be decided by measuring with a tape the size of letters, or by dealing with participles and so on. It has to have factual information on it, and that is not always as the Government think. It also has to have character, a nature, and salesmanship. Those are all important.

I deprecate the Government's lack of appreciation of the capacity of the public to be discerning in these matters, and their failure to take into consideration the views of those who have long experience in these matters and who know a bit about the subject. Of course, there are some people in all trades who try to pull a few "smart alec" tricks, but they can be dealt with without all the difficulties involved in these Regulations, which will increase costs enormously.

There is one point which is not clear to me, and perhaps the Minister can deal with it. Advertisers are interested in it, and so am I in connection with an interest which I have disclosed to the House before, and that is a modest part-time connection with the drink trade. We are flummoxed as to what is meant by "selling by retail trade". To what extent does it take in catering? To what extent must a caterer label a sausage roll, saying that it contains bread and, before it dried out, originally contained some gravy?

Then there are questions of "major" and "minor" ingredients. The Regulations say that if the product contains a minor ingredient, the lettering must not be unduly prominent in relation to the major ingredient. In other words, the major ingredient must be in taller letters. It goes on to say that the size of letters for the minor ingredient is governed by the one-quarter rule size.

Let us examine that. It is fortunate that water is not counted as an ingredient, which helps the drink trade. But in pharmacy, peppermint is an ingredient which is frequently used. It is put in many medicines to conceal an otherwise unpleasant taste. On the other hand, the quantity of an ingredient like chloroform or opium would he expressed in decimal places. It is very much a minor ingredient. But by featuring the peppermint in large lettering and the chloroform in small, who is protected?

When we sold things which we call dangerous drugs, apart from the Regulations peculiar to dangerous drugs and foreign preparations, we drew attention to the minor ingredients by making the lettering bigger. As I read it, that would probably be an offence under these Regulations.

This is nonsense. There is no shadow of doubt that these Regulations ought to be taken back and given proper consideration. This is yet another case of this Government giving ill-digested consideration to something thought up by some back-room academic boy who does not know anything about industry or commerce or salesmanship or labels and comes here with this stuff, part good and part bad, like the curate's egg, but in this case the greater part bad, there having been no consultation beforehand. I do not know of a single organisation—I know of many and I am closely connected with the C.B.I.—that approves of this. The Government must not feel fit to go against everybody's opinions, except our political ones, by some high pressure job of a few people. They have not even got the Consumer Council on their side. If they have not got that, what have they got except their back-room boys?

Let this be taken back, I beg. If not, let us register firmly our view that it ought to be taken back, despite the hon. Lady's respect for her own side. I did not always have the same respect as she has. I carried my convictions many times against my own party when I felt strongly about anything. We should demonstrate that the Government must not continue to abuse their position and abuse the nation by bringing forward ill-digested, ill-thought out legislation which does nobody any good, least of all the Government.

10.47 p.m.

Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)

I do some work as a consultant in the marketing and advertising business, and packaging, with which these Regulations are closely concerned, can from time to time be an important factor. To that extent I have an interest. But because one has an interest in this field, it does mean that one has worked with manufacturers and designers on the production of packs. Though I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) that in principle the Regulations are a step forward, my experience makes me wonder whether it is necessary that some aspects of the Regulations should go into so much detail as they do.

When one reads paragraph 1 of Schedule IV, which my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) referred to, things like the fact that the appropriate designation … shall not be in any way hidden or obscured or reduced in conspicuousness by any other matter, whether pictorial or not, appearing on such label", and the question of the height of the lettering, make one wonder whether sufficient account has been taken of the essential nature of design and typography.

I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) was right in what he suggested about that, but I did not agree with him on some of the examples that he chose. There was one that he called balderdash relating to the contents of the bag. This is a sensible provision concerning polythene bags. It makes a great deal of difference to the sort of lettering that one puts on a bag whether one is putting green peas in it or fish of any sort.

To give another example, legibility is not just a question of the height of the lettering. The Regulations emphasise the height of the lettering. It is possible to have a heavily condensed type face in a fairly large point size, but such a type face can be much less legible than a more expanded type face in a smaller point size. This is the sort of design point that should be taken into account.

Visual impact has not got a great deal to do with size. We have all seen advertisements where the advertiser has bought much more space than in fact he needed, simply so that his message, set in a comparatively small size, could be surrounded by a large amount of white space to give it more impact than if the lettering had been very big.

The marketing business is generally efficient, and it is one in which people have to work fast, and at times very much under pressure. Decisions have to be taken quickly. I think that some aspects of these Regulations will make the approval of new pack designs a very slow business, because professionals will no longer trust their judgment to approve even rough designs. It could become a a field day for lawyers, with a lot of time wasted. One thing that the Ministry can do to help is to set up an advisory centre to give manufacturers a quick turn round on rough designs so that they know that the design is all right. Unless something like this is done, a great deal of time will be wasted.

As consumers, we are very sophisticated. and it is doubtful whether the regular purchasers of many reputable products need to be protected to quite this extent. When they are confronted with an unfamiliar product, I think that they are sufficiently educated to look for the information they want on the pack.

I understand that in the United States, where consumers are probably much better protected on the whole than they are in this country, and where they have much more experience of pre-packed foods and goods, the type sizing is mandatory only for weight, and the common or usual designation has only to be in a size reasonably related to the prominent printed matter on the label, which seems a more reasonable state of affairs.

The Regulations do not cover the size in which the weight must be on the packs. I understand that the Board of Trade will shortly be introducing further Regulations or Orders to specify this. I hope that if this is done the Board of Trade will bear in mind what is rather an abuse at the moment, namely, the multiplicity in some markets of similar pack sizes at different prices. This can be confusing for the housewife. This sort of situation arises when the main person in the market, the person with the biggest share, has a ½lb. pack, and others have 7 oz. packs at a lower price. There is a multiplicity of pack sizes at different prices, and it becomes difficult for the housewife to know which is the cheaper buy unless the weight of the contents is clear to her. I hope that the Board of Trade will consider this, because it gives rise to genuine confusion.

I think that in bringing in Regulations of this kind the Government ought to as far as possible to concentrate on what the public feel are real abuses, but it still seems doubtful whether all this legislation—these Regulaitons, and the Consumer Protection Bill, which has now become the Trade Descriptions Bill—will in any way affect the grossly misleading labelling of wines, which is increasingly becoming an irritant as more and more people buy and drink wine. It is possible that this may not be covered by the Trade Descriptions Bill. I urge the Government to concentrate on bringing in Regulations to deal with what people feel are the real abuses, and to resist the temptation to legislate in greater detail than is necessary.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

One of the unusual aspects of this debate is the high degree of accord between both sides of the House. I hope that this will not be lost on the Minister, because when speaker after speaker from both sides of the House makes the same point it seems to show that there is something wrong with these Regulations which requires the Minister to take them back.

One other thing which the debate has done is to highlight the problem which al says faces the House when we are debating Statutory Instruments and Regulations of this nature. Quite often one agrees with most of the Regulations, and disagrees with only a minor part of them, though in this case it is a very important part. The House has either to pray against the Regulations as a whole, or accept them as a whole. It is time that we amended our procedures so that the Minister is able to withdraw those parts of the Regulations which offend the House as a whole.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Does my hon. Friend see that according to the Regulations the Minister may exempt Any kind of meat when forming an ingredient of a sausage, meat pie, meat pudding, sausage roll, vol-au-vent, faggot, hamburger. rissole, croquette or meat ball…"? Haggis is not exempted. I have no doubt that the Minister would want the opportunity to do what my hon. Friend has suggested he should have power to do in that case.

Mr. Hall

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to a very grave oversight and I am sure that it is a matter which the Minister will wish to put right, if he does not want to put anything else right.

I want to draw attention only to one matter which has not yet been discussed. The Minister knows that I take a considerable interest in the addition of artificial substances to foodstuffs. As a nation we are gradually poisoning ourselves by adding to our foodstuffs many chemicals the nature of which we are not entirely certain and the long-term effects of which we do not know.

I want to draw attention to Regulations 1 and 2, which refer to cyclamates. The Minister knows that there are some associations—the British Diabetic Association, for example—which have expressed concern lest diabetics and other people in a similar situation, in the course of their daily intake of food and drink, absorb more than 3 grammes of cyclamates in any one period of 24 hours. It seems to me that it is possible for an adult—it is certainly possible for a child —to absorb more than the amount recommended by the sub-committee which considered the matter. I believe that the sub-committee said that the accepted amount which an adult could take was 50 mg. per kg. of body weight which, interpreted, means about 317 mg. per stone or 14 lb. of body weight.

As the labelling Regulations stand it is impossible for anybody to know whether he or she is taking foodstuffs or drink which contains cyclamates. Generally speaking, manufacturers cover saccharin and cyclamates by the generic term "artificial sweeteners", and anyone warned by his or her doctor not to exceed a certain intake of cyclamates each day cannot measure it. I should have thought it would be possible to amend the Regulations so as to require manufacturers using cyclamates as artificial sweeteners to say what they are using and how much of it, so that it would be possible for consumers to know what they are taking. I suggest that instead of using a term such as 50 mgs. per kg. of body weight there should be an interpretation in terms which people who have to eat or drink these things can understand.

We are entitled to know what we are eating and drinking. We are entitled to know whether there are any substances in what we are eating and drinking which are likely to do harm, especially if they are taken in excess of a certain limit laid down for us. If our desire is to protect the consumer, this is one way in which the Minister can do so.

I beg the hon. Gentleman, in view of the views expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House on the general aspects of these Regulations, to take them back in their entirety and reproduce them in a way which is acceptable to us all.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)

The House will be indebted to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for having moved the Prayer. It is clear from the speeches that have been made—and I am sorry that there has not been time for more—that there is a genuine feeling on both sides of the House that these Regulations, in one aspect at least, do not meet the needs or wishes of hon. Members and, I believe, of people outside the House. The speeches made represent a genuine cross-section view of concern about one aspect of the Regulations.

I accept—as do my hon. Friends—that the bulk of the Regulations are valuable and useful. We do not oppose the generality of the Regulations, as such. But there are one or two aspects—and one in particular which has been referred to by everybody—which we find offensive. We feel that it has not been properly considered and I shall seek to show that there are several reasons why it should be taken back. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) spoiled otherwise excellent speeches by saying that they would not go into the Lobby against the Regulations. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford went so far as to say that it would not be responsible to call for their withdrawal. I cannot agree: I think that these Regulations should be withdrawn.

His solution to the one aspect which he thought should be changed was that these Regulations should go forward and amending Regulations be brought in later. But that would put an unreasonable burden on industry. The main Regulations do not come into force until January, 1971, but, once these are on the Statute Book, industry must take account of them. This is the real difficulty—

Mr. Wellbeloved

Surely there are so many good points about these Regulations that it would be wrong, on one narrow, although important, issue, to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Mr. Godber

I agree that there are many good points, but, because the Regulations do not come into effect until January, 1971, they could be amended and then there would be time to reintroduce them in a generally acceptable form. This would be the proper solution.

Any Government, after all, know that Regulations they bring forward cannot be amended, and it is therefore their duty to have the fullest possible consultation before hand so as to get a fair consensus. There has not been adequate consultation on particular aspects of Schedule 4(2, b), which has been condemned by many. Those who have spoken against this point on the other side of the House have not made their case for not voting and I hope that we can persuade them to do so, as I believe they should.

Schedule 4 (2, b) defines the size of the letters, saying that the letters shall he not less than one quarter of the height of the tallest letter, other than an initial leter, in any word of more than one letter appearing on any label on the container. That is very involved, but I think that the meaning is understood.

The people affected feel that this puts an unreasonable and unnecessary restriction on those providing and designing labels. We must consider the effect of this Regulation on manufacturers and the attitude of consumers, as hon. Members opposite have done.—[An HON. MEMBER: "The whole thing."] One of my hon. Friends says, "The whole thing", but I want to concentrate on the single point. Although there may be arguments against some other aspects, in the time available I can only develop sufficiently the case on what I know will cause the gravest concern to industry and is a matter of concern to the Consumer Council.

The main dispute is the size of the lettering. What is the purpose of this definition and who is it designed to help? Those are fundamental questions, which should be answered clearly. There are other points, particularly in relation to paragraph 4 of the same Schedule, in sub-paragraph 2(b, i and ii), in regard to questions of proximity. I do not intend to deal with that, because of the shortness of time. I wish to concentrate on the question which has been of particular concern to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The impact on manufacturers of this paragraph is considerable indeed.

The labelling and attractive presentation of products is an important factor in so much of the food trade today. This was clearly shown by the remarks of the hon. Member for Wood Green, although I was surprised that she said that the effect of this change would not be as great as had been estimated. She is entitled to her view, but I would have thought—considering the extent and variety of these proposals—that this estimate is reasonable.

I will give only one small example of the effect this change is likely to have. I hold a package of a well-known product—[An HON. MEMBER: "Open it."]

I will say no more about the product than that. I am told that the whole design of the pack will have to be changed if this Regulation is passed. This package is easily recognised by everybody as a standard commercial product, yet the warding and size of the description is not large enough to conform with the provisions of this Schedule. Nevertheless, it is an excellently presented product which no one would have the least difficulty in recognising.

In considering the total effect of this on producers and manufacturers, I was startled when I asked one firm what effect these proposals would have on its activities. The firm produced for me four volumes containing different labels and I was told that, of the 2,500 to 3,000 different labels in those four books—I have the books with me, although I have not counted the labels—about three-quarters will have to be changed as a result of this provision. That indicates the size of the problem. Thus, I do not discount the estimate of between £2 million and £4 million as the total cost of the change We must remember that that is merely the cost of getting the work done. There is then the question of designing and preparing the work. This will make a substantial difference in many ways.

Why must this change be implemented at all? At a time when, for example, the Minister of Agriculture has repeatedly called on the food trade to keep prices down, why put an additional on-cost on to its products, which must in some way be passed on to the consumer? It is definitely wrong that this should be done in a way which will have such a great impact—that is, unless that impact can be shown to be necessary and desired by consumers. It has been made clear that consumers, as represented by the Consumer Council, do not support this aspect of the Regulations. Indeed, in the Press hand-out issued on 5th November, Miss Ackroyd, Director of the Consumer Council, said: I want to make it clear that the Consumer Council warmly supports the Regulations for improved food labelling taken as a whole. But we think that some of the more complicated requirements about the size of lettering used on the label may simply create problems for the designers of food packs without shedding any light for consumers. The Consumer Council is not really resting on its own view. It has recently conducted surveys and has pointed out that it emerged from them that consumers do not read a great deal of significance into the size of letters used in the words describing food products. The Council said: … we think that the complicated control over the height of letters in relation to each other will simply wash over the consumer without bringing any special benefits to her. That is the view of the Consumer Council and the result of the survey it held among consumers. It is up to the Minister to tell the House why his information is so much at variance with that of those who claim to represent consumers.

The manufacturers have shown the difficulty and have resisted, and the consumers have certainly not asked for these Regulations. Why are we as a House asked to endorse them? So far as I can ascertain, no hon. Member on either side of the House wants the Regulations endorsed.

Another aspect is that of consultation. I want to put one or two pertinent points to the Parliamentary Secretary. I shall quote from a letter from the President of the Food Manufacturers' Federation dated 23rd November 1967. He had indicated in a previous letter that he agreed that the Federation had better go along with the Regulations, but he then quote that letter of 14th November in which he said: I have felt it incumbent upon me to stress the view which I know to be diametrically opposed to the advice you have received from other quarters. In his letter of 23rd November he said: I was, of course, referring to the basis of the case made by you…"— the Minister himself— and consistently made by your officials throughout, that the consumer wanted and was indeed pressing for the sizing of type regulations. We now find that the Consumer Council, following its recent survey, is taking exactly the same view that we put to you. He calls for the Regulations to be withdrawn. The significant thing is that, two days afterwards, Miss Ackroyd. head of the Consumer Council, went to the Ministry—no doubt she was asked to do so—and then wrote to the Ministry again explaining the point of view put in the House tonight. She says this was first the view of the Consumer Council and remains its view, and adds: We did not like the proposals of the draft sent to us on 21st June, 1967, but your covering letter actively discouraged comment at that stage. Mark that point. She goes on to say that the survey of attitudes towards food labelling shows that housewives wanted the type of thing we have been talking about, which is not contained in the Regulations. Subsequently she saw a high official in the Ministry and he wrote to her expressing a view which he thought was the consensus of the discussion they had had. He said: Any possible reconsideration of this point at this stage would inevitably lead to delay in the making of the food labelling regulations and, in the light of what I told you, you agreed that this would be undesirable. In the earlier letter Miss Ackroyd made the point that they had been actively discouraged from putting forward suggestions, but at the later stage they were told that the Regulations must go forward, in the light of what I told you. The Minister must tell us what the official told Miss Ackroyd and what is the reason for pressure for speed. If there is that pressure it must be on the basis of what Miss Ackroyd was told and I expect the House will be told tonight. If we are not told the reasons for the speed—remember, the Regulations do not come into force until 4th January, 1971—and acknowledge that this point is in dispute and accepted neither by the manufacturers nor recommended by consumers. there is an overwhelming case for the withdrawal of these Regulations so that they can be resubmitted in more reasonable form at a future time.

11.15 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)

There is a fair amount to reply to, and I shall do my best to reply to it. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) quoted Miss Ackroyd's most recent statement, because this dispels the argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) and by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst). Although Miss Ackroyd and the Consumer Council have some objection to the print —they have made that quite clear, they have put it on record and there is no doubt about it—she says this: I want to make it clear that the Consumer Council warmly supports the regulations for improved food labelling taken as a whole". That is her considered opinion.

I will say where certain of the wording is taken from. I am a little surprised that the right hon. Member for Grantham did not even notice where the wording had been taken from. It may be that we have taken some wrong examples. Paragraph 7(1) in Schedule 4 is almost identical with the wording in Article 4(2) of the Labelling of Food Order 1953, which was introduced by the Conservatives. It may be that we were wrong to follow that precedent. Schedule 4 of the Soft Drinks Order, 1964, which was also introduced by the Conservatives, contains almost exactly the same wording. It may well be that we were a little wrong about it, but we thought that it was on the whole fairly explicit.

The Regulations are the culmination, not of a short study, but of a study which was initiated six years ago. These consultations have been going on for six years. They represent a substantial and necessary revision of the Labelling of Food Order, 1953 and of the subsequent amending Regulations. The 1953 Order was in many ways an excellent piece of legislation, but over the years it has shown itself to be defective in a number of respects.

In the new Regulations we have taken three important steps. First, we have laid down that all foods without exception must bear a common or usual name or appropriate designation. Secondly, we have greatly reduced the number of foods which are exempt from the requirement to give a full list of ingredients on the label. Thirdly, we have strengthened the provisions that the statutory information mist be clear and legible by introducing specific provisions about the size of the type in which such information should appear. I will deal with this a little more fully later on.

There are a large number of other detailed provisions, most of which implement recommendations in the Food Standard Committee's Report on Food Labelling published as long ago as 1964. We have looked critically at all the provisions in the light of the developments in the sale of food over the last 15 years. These have been considerable. In particular, the great increase in self-service stores has made the consumer more dependent, as I think everyone will agree, on the label than ever before. It is often his only source of information about the food, and so it is even more important that he gets the information in a form that he can readily understand—and readily find as well. Thus the need for protection has increased.

The general and detailed provisions of the Regulations are directed to providing this protection and, taken in their entirety, they represent a significant step forward.

I think that it is necessary to look at the Regulations as a whole. It would be too much to hope that everyone who received one of the 7,000 copies of the proposals we sent out would be equally satisfied by all our decisions, but in general it seems to me that the conclusions we have come to in the light of their views are right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) spoke about consulting specific bodies. It may well be that the Society he mentioned should have been specifically consulted, but I give him an assurance about that for the future. What I want to say to him is that every time we issued a statement we invited comments from any organisation or individual wishing to do so, and the very fact that 7,000 copies were sent out proves how widely we extended our invitations to make sure people were not missed out.

Reference has been made to the coming into force of the Regulations. In deciding that we have to strike a balance between what is desirable and what is practicable. It is clearly impossible to make labelling Regulations of this kind without involving changes in existing labels. I do not dissent from what the right hon. Gentleman said about that, although I think the amount of label changing these Regulations will involve has been severely exaggerated—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—certainly in certain quarters. But there will have to be, as I said, a good deal of changing. Apart from labels with a declaration of ingredients in type that is not large enough, many foods will have to bear a name or a declaration of ingredients or both for the first time.

The work on this should clearly be spread over a period, both to reduce the cost and to allow it to be carried out in a smooth and orderly fashion. It is because of this that this long period has been provided. Exactly what is the right period may be largely a matter of opinion, but we considered that three years was a pretty reasonable time for the necessary changes to be made without unduly delaying this work on behalf of consumers.

I turn very quickly to the question of type, because it has been raised by every hon. Member who has spoken, by my hon. Friends as well as hon. Gentlemen opposite. I must say to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks that it adds nothing to his argument just to abuse civil servants. He accused them of mumbo-jumbo. The hon. Member for Shipley did not add to his arguments either merely by abusing some civil servants. On the whole these men are good servants of this country.

I shall pass on to two points on which the Regulations have been criticised, although from very opposed points of view. I will deal first with the size of type provisions contained in Schedule 4. I should explain that the generalised provisions in the present Regulations, which require that the statutory information should be clearly legible and appear conspicuously and in a prominent position on the label, have not been easy to enforce and have not always been able to ensure the desired result.

The Food Standards Committee concluded that something more was required to achieve what the Committee described as the inherent right of the prospective consumer, with reasonable scrutiny of a pre-packed food, readily to see and read the information which the law requires to be put on the label. In addition, precise provisions on size of type make the Regulations much less vague and very much easier to comply with as well as to enforce.

The question is, how to achieve this in a practical way that is not too complicated or too restrictive of label design —and I take the point made by my hon. Friend. It is no secret that we have spent a great deal of time on this problem, ably assisted by the food manufacturers, advertising interests, consumer organisations and enforcing authorities. We did not think it would be right to impose the very detailed plan proposed by the Food Standards Committee; we did not think it right to go to that length, and we have substantially modified our own original plan after long consultations with the interests concerned and the measuring and study of many labels. We have ended up with what seems to us to be the most reasonable answer to the problem.

There has been much misunderstanding about these provisions. What we say is that if a label complied with Schedule 4 it is most unlikely indeed that it will fail to be clear and legible. This in itself is a worthwhile objective.

I will explain as briefly as I can what the provisions are and what they are de- signed to achieve. The basic requirement is a minimum size of lettering related to the largest dimension of the container. For the declaration of ingredients, this is the sole requirement.

As for the common or usual name or the appropriate designation, that is, the name which tells the customer what the food really is as against the brand or fancy name, there is a similar provision.

So far, the provisions are agreed, with a greater or lesser degree of enthusiasm, by all the interests concerned. It is the two further provisions which have been sharply criticised. These, as I have said, apply only to the common or usual name or the appropriate designation.

They lay down two requirements which have been clearly outlined tonight. First, the height of the smallest letter of the main words in the name should be not less than a quarter of the height of the largest letter on the label. Second, the largest letter in the name should not be more than twice the size of the smallest letter.

It is easy to say that provisions of this kind which lay down precise requirements will inhibit design. But a designer is never a totally free agent, and design is always produced in the context of a series of limitations, imposed by the product, the container, and the demands of the client, as well as the requirements of the law. Labels can be misleading if the brand name or other lettering is grossly bigger than the true name, even though the true name is legible.

A very large number of products are being asked to carry a name for the first time, and without this requirement there would be a strong temptation to put the name in the smallest type permitted, even though the other words on the label would totally overshadow it. A similar method has already been included in six Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act, all made when the party opposite was in power, and it seems to have worked satisfactorily in those.

The purpose of the second requirement, concerning the relationship between the letters of the name, is to prevent major but cheap or unpopular ingredients being put in very small type.

I recognise that considerable feeling has been expressed in the debate, and that, in particular, there is genuine concern about the likely effects on design. I accept, too, that the degree to which these provisions are required for the protection of the consumer must, in the last resort, be a matter of opinion.

I will give the House this undertaking. I agree to consider the matter further to see if there are grounds for making changes in the provisions relating to the size of type. I am willing to look at that to see if it can be done.

Mr. John Hall

Then, why not with draw them?

Mr. Hoy

I do not require to withdraw the Regulations, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is asking.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) expressed concern about the use of cyclamates, and I take her point. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), on the other hand, was resuming the old battle of sugar versus cyclamates, which was fought On a previous occasion.

We felt that it was better that we should use a generic word in this case, rather than spell out on every occasion what everything meant. My hon. Friend was complaining, as were right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that we were putting far too much on the label. I do not think—

Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I beg to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

I will put the Question automatically at half-past eleven.

Mr. Hoy

All I want to say is that by what we have done tonight in these Regulations, irrespective of the point dealing with print, we have got for the consumers of this country a better deal than they had before.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

On a point of order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. No point of order can arise. I am required by the Standing Orders of the House to put the Question at 11.30.

Mrs. Joyce Butler rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am required by the Standing Orders of the House to put the Question at 11.30.

It being half-past Eleven o'clock,Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 100 (Statutory Instruments, & c. (procedure)):

The House divided:Ayes 130, Noes 170.

Division No. 40.] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Heseltine, Michael
Astor, John Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hiley, Joseph
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Doughty, Charles Hirst, Geoffrey
Awdry, Daniel Eden, Sir John Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Baker, W. H. K. Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Holland, Philip
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hordern, Peter
Bessell, Peter Emery, Peter Hornby, Richard
Black, Sir Cyril Eyre, Reginald Hutchison, Michael Clark
Blaker, Peter Farr, John Iremonger, T. L.
Boardman, Tom Fortescue, Tim Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brewis, John Foster, Sir John Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gilmour, tan (Norfolk, C.) Jopling, Michael
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Kershaw, Anthony
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Glover, Sir Douglas King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N & M) Glyn, Sir Richard Kirk, Peter
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Kitson, Timothy
Campbell, Gordon Gower, Raymond Lane, David
Carlisle, Mark Grant, Anthony Langford-Holt, Sir John
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grant-Ferris, R. McAdden, Sir Stephen
Chichester-Clark, R. Gresham Cooke, R. MacArthur, Ian
Clark, Henry Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Clegg, Walter Gurden, Harold McMaster, Stanley
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hall, John (Wycombe) Maddan, Martin
Crowder, F. P. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maginnis, John E.
Currie, G. B. H. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Marten, Neil
Dalkeith, Earl of Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Maude, Angus
Dance, James Hawkins, Paul Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tilney, John
Montgomery, Fergus Royle, Anthony Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Russell, Sir Ronald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott, Nicholas Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Murton, Oscar Scott-Hopkins, James Ward, Dame Irene
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Sharples, Richard Webster, David
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Osborn, John (Hallam) Silvester, Frederick Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Page, Graham (Crosby) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon) Woodnutt, Mark
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Summers, Sir Spencer Wright, Esmond
Peel, John Tapsell, Peter Wylie, N. R.
Percival, Ian Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Pink, R. Bonner Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pounder, Rafton Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Mr. Jasper More and
Price, David (Eastleigh) Teeling, Sir William Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Temple, John M.
Abse, Leo Ford, Ben Mendelson, J. J.
Albu, Austen Forrester, John Millan, Bruce
Alldritt, Walter Galpern, Sir Myer Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Anderson, Donald Garrett, W. E. Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Archer, Peter Gourlay, Harry Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gregory, Arnold Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Baxter, William Grey, Charles (Durham) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Beaney, Alan Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan
Bence, Cyril Hamling, William O'Malley, Brian
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Hannan, William Orbach, Maurice
Bishop, E. S. Harper, Joseph Orme, Stanley
Blackburn, F. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oswald, Thomas
Blenkinsop, Arthur Haseldine, Norman Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Booth, Albert Hazell, Bert Palmer, Arthur
Boyden, James Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Park, Trevor
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hooley, Frank Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Horner, John Pavitt, Laurence
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pentland, Norman
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W) Hoy, James Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Huckfield, Leslie Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, William (Rugby)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hunter, Adam Rees, Merlyn
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Reynolds, G. W.
Cant, R. B. Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Coe, Dennis Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robinson, W.O. J. (Walth'stow, E)
Coleman, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rose, Paul
Concannon, J. D. Judd, Frank Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Dalyell, Tarn Lawson, George Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lestor, Miss Joan Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Small, William
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lomas, Kenneth Spriggs, Leslie
de Frietas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Loughlin, Charles Swain, Thomas
Delargy, Hugh Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Swindler, Stephen
Dewar, Donald Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Thornton, Ernest
Dickens, James McBride, Neil Tinn, James
Dobson, Ray McCann, John Tuck, Raphael
Doig, Peter MacColl, James Urwin, T. W.
Dunn, James A. Macdonald, A. H. Varley, Eric G.
Dunnett, Jack Mackenxie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Cwyneth (Exeter) Mackie, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Mackintosh, John P. Watkins, David (Consett)
Eadie, Alex Maclennan, Robert Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Weitzman, David
Ellis, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Wellbeloved, James
English, Michael McNamara, J. Kevin Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Ennals, David MacPherson, Malcolm Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Faulds, Andrew Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Woof, Robert
Fernyhough, E. Manuel, Archie Yates, Victor
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mapp, Charles
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marks, Kenneth TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Foley, Maurice Marquand, David Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Maxwell, Robert Mr. Ernest Perry.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Varley.]

11 40 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

On a point of order. Under Standing Order No. 100, if a Motion of a kind which I understand we have had before us tonight, on a Statutory Instrument, is under consideration at half-past eleven o'clock, Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put any question which may be requisite to bring to a decision any question already proposed from the Chair, provided that, if he shall be of opinion that—

  1. (a)owing to the lateness of the hour at which consideration of the motion was entered upon, or
  2. (b) because of the importance of the subject matter of the motion,
the time for debate has not been adequate, he shall interrupt the business and the debate shall stand adjourned till the next sitting. When you rose to close the debate at half-past eleven, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rose to a point of order with the intention of calling your attention to Standing Order No. 100 and asking whether, having regard to the importance of the subject and the number of speakers who had risen previously, you would consider adjourning the debate.

You ruled me out of order in putting that point of order at that stage. If an hon. Member is not permitted to call your attention to the Standing Order and ask you to exercise your discretion at that stage it leaves the House in some difficulty in calling the attention of Mr. Deputy Speaker or Mr. Speaker to the fact that he can exercise a discretion to extend the debate, and asked him to do so.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is under a misapprehension. I am required, at half-past eleven, under the Standing Order which the hon. Member quoted, to put the Question unless I am of the opinion that for either of the reasons mentioned in the Standing Order the time for debate has not been adequate. I had considered that point and was of the opinion that the time for debate had been adequate.

It would have been open to the hon. Member, prior to half-past eleven, to rise on a point of order and ask me to consider the application of Standing Order No. 100, but it is not open to any hon. Member to raise that point of order once the hour of half-past eleven has arrived, because I am then required by the Standing Order of the House thereupon to put the Question.