HC Deb 08 May 1968 vol 764 cc524-5
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 16, line 34, leave out from 'shall' to 'be' in line 35.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 27.

Mrs. Dunwoody

These Amendments would, in one respect only, relax the restriction in Clause 27(5) on the disclosure of information obtained by virtue of the powers conferred by the Clause. This restriction is, of course, of great importance. When enforcement officers obtain information about a trader's affairs under powers of compulsion, that information must be properly safeguarded. But we find that the wording of the present provision would hinder an important aspect of the enforcement of the Bill and a slight widening to meet this point is really necessary. I am sure that when I have explained the reason the House will agree.

As it stands the provision would prevent anyone from disclosing information which he has obtained in pursuance of the Bill unless the disclosure was made "in the performance of his duty". Since the duty of local weights and measures authorities, under Clause 25, is limited to enforcement in their own area, this would in effect bar the communication of information by one authority to another. The ability of enforcing authorities freely to consult with each other and exchange information seems to us essential to the sensible co-ordination of enforcement policies and the avoidance of unnecessary prosecutions.

To take perhaps the most obvious example: An authority discovers that goods to which a false trade description has been applied are on sale in its area, but that the description has apparently been applied by the manufacturer whose works are situated in the area of another authority. The obvious course is for the first authority to communicate its discoveries to the second, so that the latter can pursue the matter in full knowledge of the facts and without having to duplicate the enquiries that have already been made. We therefore propose that this obstacle should be removed by a rewording which would permit officers to pass on information in or for the performance by him or any other person of functions under this Act". I can assure the House that the only respect in which this goes further than the present provision is in permitting disclosure to other enforcing authorities under the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 27, in line 35, at end insert: 'unless the disclosure was made in or for the purpose of the performance by him or any other person of functions under this Act'.—[Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody.]

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