§ INDICATION OF ORIGIN ON CERTAIN IMPORTED GOODS
Lords Amendment No. 1: In page 1, line 11, leave out from "Kingdom" to end of line 16 and insert
subsection (1A) of this section shall apply except as otherwise provided by or under this section.
(1A) If any person, in the course of a trade or business, supplies or offers to supply the goods, then, unless—
§ Read a Second time.
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest that for the convenience of the House we consider with it Lords Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 20, leave out "(1)" and insert "(1A)" and No. 6, in page 2, line 10, leave out "(1)" and insert "(1A)".
§ 11.8 a.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 1, after 'indication', insert:'of origin, consisting either of the word "foreign" or the word "imported" or an indication'.It is with some trepidation that I enter this controversy, which has gone on for some time, particularly in the other place. I have read the various arguments of different Members and noble Lords about the desirability of having alternatives to what is in Lords Amendment No. 1. I shall not weary those hon. Members who know the arguments. But those of us who have close associations with the retail and wholesale trades have received a number of representations. Being a Co-operative Member. I was very im- 2000 pressed by one letter I received through the secretary of our parliamentary committee from the Chief Chemist of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. He is concerned about canning of certain fruits and points out the very difficult situation that faces canners of fruits in complying with Lords Amendment No. 1, which restores the original position in the Bill, and he asks for some effective and practical discretion to be allowed to the Minister.
Accordingly, I am proposing an alternative which would allow certain flexibility by the trade in conforming with the law but at the same time would meet the intention of the sponsors of the Bill. In another place, resisting an Amendment in these terms, the Government said life would be made more difficult for some traders. Perhaps one or two hon. Members present might be willing to give examples of where, in certain trades, such as textiles, it might be more difficult to conform to the Lords Amendment than with mine.
We have a lot of business to get through—indeed, 53 Bills, one of which is mine, which I am anxious to see carried through. Therefore, I do not want to delay the House, but I hope it will accept that there is a genuine problem. In another place, one of my noble Friends, Lord Shackle-ton, said that this was an important Amendment and suggested that it should be accepted and the Bill retained so that the Government could have time to think out a compromise which might meet the varying interests. My Amendment at least gives the Minister a platform to explain how the Government have reconsidered and to indicate whether, even if they are not accepting my Amendment, they will seek administratively to meet the legitimate complaints of those in industry who see a problem here.
I do not quite accept the explanation that all these things can be handled managerially, that better management and organisation in canning factories, better techniques in other trades and so on, will get through any difficulty. I want to quote from the letter I mentioned earlier from Mr. Dewhurst, Chief Chemist of the CWS. He writes:However, it would seem reasonable to amend the Bill to include 'foreign' as an alternative to 'imported' and we would be grateful if you would take steps to ensure 2001 this. If it is not done we shall have a stock of canned pears, apricots, etc., on our hands in twelve months time which are not labelled in accordance with the Bill—or Act.I can assure you that there are Public Analysts in the land who would certainly draw our attention to this breach of the law. The said pears and apricots will have just been canned and the supply will have to last till the next harvest. This, of course, means that a period of six months from the date on which the Act is passed (Section 4(2)) is too short to make any required changes. The appropriate time is something like two years (The Labelling of Food Regulations 1970, made 12th March, 1970, come into operation 1st of January, 1973). Labels have to be printed before the start of the canning season. Before printing, if any amendments are involved, the new art work has to be vetted, if necessary amended, and finally approved. When the new block is made a proof has to be supplied and checked before the Libel is released. This all takes time.I shall not go on, but there is here a genuine difficulty and various people have problems to face. Their intention is not to circumvent the Bill. I sympathise strongly with those who say that the consumers are entitled to know, and know as much as possible about what they are buying. But one has also to take the interests of the manufacturers and distributors alongside those of the consumers, and my Amendment is aimed only at achieving a fair and harmonious equilibrium between them. It provides a plat form for a short debate to see whether the Government have reached conclusions on how the matter within the Bill should be handled.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Tom Normanton (Cheadle)
This morning I am standing in for and giving my full support to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), who unfortunately is unable to deal in person with this critical stage of the Bill owing to commitments in Europe. I therefore note with some considerable concern the Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 1, moved by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). I was delighted to hear his views, particularly that he does not wish to introduce any provision which might result in the purpose of the Bill being circumvented. I am sure that this will commend itself as an attitude of mind towards the Bill and I am grateful to him for his comment.
2002 I recognise, as I am sure hon. Members on both sides recognise, just as the other place did, the potential problems which might arise in implementing the Bill. I would only comment on this by quoting the words used by Lord Sainsbury when the question of difficulty of labelling in the circumstances which the hon. Gentleman has explained was discussed in the other place. Lord Sainsbury expressed the view that this should not be a problem for an efficient manufacturer or processor of canned products. I would have thought that there must be very few Members of this House or the other place who have better and greater experience of this than Lord Sainsbury.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East, whose Bill this is, along with the other sponsors, has felt strongly that there should be no fundamental weakening of the Bill by permitting the marking of goods other than with the actual country of origin. At the time, however, there will be situations where, with the best will in the world, without any wish on the part of a manufacturer or processor to deceive the publice, the manufacturer may find himself in a dilemma as to how he should truthfully and accurately disclose in any circumstances laid down by the Bill exactly that is the country of origin of his products. It was with this in mind that the point was covered in Clause 4. In the amended form of Clause 4 there is power to the Secretary of State to give special waivers in circumstances of this kind—for example, concerning fertilisers.
No doubt there are many fertiliser manufacturers who sell under branded names, and their products in the form they are offered would clearly come within the scope of the Bill. Therefore they will be required under the terms of Clause 1 to disclose the country of origin with the contents of their containers. But the sources of these raw materials may vary considerably, literally from day to day. It is this kind of situation which really should be covered by Clause 4. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance.
The hon. Gentleman referred to textiles as if there might be a particular difficulty in that case. I draw his attention to the many representations made to hon. Members on both sides of the House by the textile industry showing deep distress, 2003 almost anger, among many people in the textile industry because of the departure from the original terms of Clause 1 which provided for specifying the country of origin rather than only a disclosure that the products were "foreign", or "imported". I assure the hon. Member for Greenock that the textile industry will look most unhappily on his Amendment for it accepted unreservedly the original. Clause 1. Perhaps later there will be an opportunity to discuss the substantive Amendment, whatever form that may take.
I earnestly hope that the hon. Member for Greenock will accept that there is ample protection for the interests he justifiably drew to the attention of the House. There is ample protection in Clause 4 for genuine cases.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr.Normanton), has gone a considerable way to meet the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). Part of our difficulty arises because the Bill covers such a multiplicity of products of so many different kinds that one has to weigh many varied considerations. The waiver that the hon. Member for Cheadle suggested would go some way to meet the difficulty, but I am inclined to accept the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock.
Like him I am a Co-operative Member of the House. I have no pecuniary interest but I am naturally interested in that sense. I also have a constituency interest in that the 57 varieties of Messrs. Heinz include many cans that will be affected by the Lords Amendment and the Amendment to it.
I will listen with great interest to what the Minister says, but as the debate stands, I take the view that my hon. Friend's Amendment will meet the practical considerations of manufacturers more effectively than the Lords Amendment.
My hon. Friend's Amendment provides three categories. That will mean that one of the disgraces that occurs when buying goods, particularly in London, will cease. Some goods are marked clearly "Empire Made". In my youth, there was an empire. There used also to be Moss's Empire which included 2004 the London Palladium, which offered many vaudeville talents. However, the fact that goods are marked "Empire Made" is now absolutely irrelevant. It tells me nothing. I have no idea of the country of origin.
If we were to proceed on that basis, I would go the whole way and accept the Lords Amendment. However, in the light of the evidence, particularly that relating to food products which need to be maintained and passed through quickly, I agree with my hon. Friend's view. When reprinting of labels is entailed when there is a different country of supply—fruit coming from different parts of the world may entail regearing the whole labelling machinery—there is the possibility of genuine trading losses, and loss to the consumer because of excessive costs. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister will say, but in the interests of consumer protection and on practical grounds, the House would be well advised to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
The hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), has highlighted an important problem. On my way to the House this morning, I happened to call into a fishing tackle shop. I noticed the most charming pairs of portable scissors with excellent little leather cases into which they would fit. The leather cases were firmly stamped "Made in Great Britain". They were obviously made from leather in this country. However, into those leather cases with "Made in Great Britain" clearly displayed on them were being put adequate pairs of Hong Kong scissors with "Empire Made" stamped on them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton), has highlighted the difficulty in which the House finds itself today. Nobody would deny that the hon. Member for Cheadle is a great expert on the Bill—his knowledge of the textile industry is appropriate to the Bill. However, the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), is engaged in his important commitments with the European Parliament, or whatever it is called, that sits in Strasbourg, and we are deprived of his attendance. That shows how difficult is the whole problem of attending at Strasbourg. 2005 From anywhere else in Europe there would be an aeroplane in which one could return, probably at the Fees Office's expense, to be present at this debate.
Italy is one of the EEC countries and it is one of the countries that has no scheme for origin marking. It is outside this scheme. The hon. Member for Leicester, South-East may have been bashing the Italians' heads last night on this problem, but it would have been interesting if he had been able to attend today to help us with our deliberations. I am not criticising the skill or ability of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle, but the situation highlights the problem with an important Bill affecting all our trading competitors in Europe. I hope that this is a matter to which serious consideration will be given.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)
I have listened to the argument and I am disturbed about the way in which the Bill has progressed in another place and here. I am persuaded that there is a wide section of opinion that is concerned about origin marking. I say that not because I support any restrictions on trade—I would rather go the other way—but we have to dissociate the requirement of industrialists from consumer protection. The public are to be protected, and for one reason or another they may say that origin marking is particularly important in certain circumstances.
Before Second Reading, I was sent a letter from Pasolds Limited of Slough, which is a member of the Ladybird Group. It had a Gallup survey made for it when 1,000 consumers were interviewed:56 per cent. considered that it was absolutely vital that the country where a garment was made should be shown.
Another aspect is significant. When they were asked which clothing they considered to be of the highest quality and where it came from, 25 per cent. indicated West Germany, 22 per cent. France, 19 per cent. the United States of America, 16 per cent. Canada and 13 per cent. Australia.
It is significant that there is a connection in the consumer's mind between the quality of garments and from where they are derived. The 1,000 people interviewed were asked similar questions about low quality clothing. It is signifi- 2006 cant that 55 per cent. indicated Hong Kong, 28 per cent. Japan, and 19 per cent. China.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ If anyone says that the origin of products is of no importance to the consumer they will have to learn from such sample surveys that it is important. There is another line that can be taken. These same people were asked whether there were any countries from which they would prefer not to buy. In that survey 35 per cent. said that they would rather not buy products from Hong Kong, 23 per cent. was the figure for Japan, 17 per cent. for China and 14 per cent. for Russia. This may reflect political prejudices, and it would be quite wrong to have non-tariff barriers. Origin markings are significant for the public and should not be overlooked.
§ I have been concerned about the unwarranted disappearance in this Private Member's legislation of the hon. Member—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that this is getting very wide of the Amendment. I allowed the point to be referred to, but I do not think that the hon. Member can develop that further.
§ Mr. Skeet
I will bend to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and return to the Amendment. If we are to have simply the word "imported" we would be back to the original impasse which was reached in the House some time ago when the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) introduced a similar Amendment. That was rejected by the Under-secretary. We are seeking to avoid the situation whereby goods can be brought from abroad and sold as if they were British goods.
One of the difficulties is to ensure that the representations of all trades are taken into account. The garment manufacturers have made their views known and the canned fruit people have been concerned about this. They have said that there are problems. As I understand it, the Bill will cover most of the people in difficulties, because there is provision later to get an exception order. The difficulties can be catered for, but we must not overlook the responsibilities of the consumer. While an industrialist 2007 may be served indirectly by having protection, primarily we are considering whether the consumer is receiving protection. I will confine myself to those remarks at present, and hope that I will catch your eye later Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
It may be said that it is desirable that the country of origin of imported goods should be clearly shown. In the textile wholesale and manufacturing trade there will be all sorts of problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) has highlighted one of the difficulties in passing on imported goods to overseas countries. When one is in Nigeria or Sierra Leone and one goes to Government stores, the store man will be particularly interested to show recently imported goods from the United Kingdom. If it is to be seen clearly on the bolts and the bales and the pieces that these are imported goods, there is a problem. I am sure it is desirable to have the country of origin marked on them.
Another argument is that in the textile world a great number of items are imported and processed in this country, through bleaching or dyeing or printing, with the result that the country of origin would be somewhat smudged. Is it to be said that because the United Kingdom imports from Hong Kong cloth which has to be processed in this country, it has to be marked with the country of origin, or we are to say that it was partly processed in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Normanton
This point is covered comprehensively by the Bill and the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, with which it should be and, I hope, will be read. Where goods or materials undergo a substantial and material change in this country, they automatically, under criteria which are not related to the Bill but are already established in legislation and recognised internationally, acquire status as British made. There will therefore be no requirement to indicate the country of origin, meaning Britain, because they would be genuinely and technically British. This point is fully and adequately covered if the Bill is passed in the form in which it left this House to go to another place.
2008 I earnestly hope that my hon. Friend will not press the complexity of this point. I know that it will not be his intention to confuse and it is perhaps I who may have confused him earlier. There is no confusion in the mind of the textile industry on this point of processing imported fabric and converting it into garments. Garments made in this country, regardless of where the material was made, will legitimately be described as "Made in Britain". I hope my hon. Friend will not press this point and cause the Amendment to become a substantive part of the Bill.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I support the Amendment because it removes ambiguity and makes it very much more difficult for the overseas manufacturer to evade our legislation. I want to relate this to the pottery industry. During discussion of the problems facing the pottery manufacturers it was put to me that it would be possible, even with origin-marking, for overseas manufacturers to be able to mark their goods in such a way that they could deceive people into believing they were made in this country. For example, villages or areas overseas could be named in such a way that when their name was stamped on the pottery it would give the impression that it was from a British firm of international repute. This Amendment would clear up that situation and make it clear that the material was of foreign origin.
§ Mr. Skeet
Before the hon. Gentleman finishes his speech, may I put a further point to him? If we take the example of imported wine, I would be no wiser because it might come from Algeria or it might come from France. Those of us who have a taste for these sort of things would probably say that there must be a certificate of origin and that if it was French wine it would be so much better. Surely "imported" alone will not do?
§ Mr. Golding
The Amendment gives a choice and therefore strengthens the position of consumers and manufacturers in this country.
§ Mr. John Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
We have lived with this issue in Sheffield 2009 for some time. A Sheffield defence fund has been set up to make sure that the name "Sheffield" is not used overseas in respect of something made in a factory or place elsewhere with the implication that it has come from Sheffield, England. We have heard this morning a very interesting example. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) referred to a leather case stamped "Made in England" containing scissors which were stamped "Made in Hong Kong".
The Lords Amendment proposes to insertthe name or mark is accompanied by a conspicuous indication of the country in which the goods were manufactured or produced.The proposal of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) to insert'of origin, consisting either of the word 'foreign' or of the word 'imported' or an indicationdoes not help. It is vital that the country should be indicated. Therefore, I believe that the hon. Member's Amendment is not adequate and I would much sooner leave the wording as proposed by another place.
§ Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)
I wish to express my opposition to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) and my support for the Bill and the Lords Amendment. It would perhaps be unfortunate if the hon. Member's Amendment were pressed to a Division, as, if accepted, it might endanger the whole Bill. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House support the Bill. The Minister responsible in another place dealt adequately with this point in Committee. He emphasised that Clause 4 covered the genuine anxieties expressed by the hon. Member for Greenock and those who have supported him.
There is not only support on both sides of the House for the principles embodied in the Bill but a great deal of anxiety in the country. It is important that we do not have any more ambiguity about the question of origin than already exists. There will still be a great deal of scope for abuse even if the Bill is approved. People will attempt to get round the legislation by concealing the origin and deceiving the public or not giving them 2010 a choice. One respect which is not covered by the Bill but which may be a source of abuse and therefore a loop hole which should be closed is advertising. Sales direct to the public, particularly through mail order advertising, are increasing, and no indication of the mark of origin is given on advertisements which appear in newspapers or catalogues. This is a serious threat to consumer choice and could lead to considerable deception.
An advertisement of that nature, aimed not directly at consumers but at industry, concerned products which were clearly Japanese products—because an expert could tell that they were—which were surrounded by a picture of a Union Jack. This is an example of the sort of abuse which the Bill attempts to stop, namely, a foreign country using a traditionally British symbol as an indication of British origin to sell its products.
We must do our best to eradicate that type of abuse in the interests of the consumer and to protect the public. I therefore strongly support the Lords Amendment and hope that hon. Members opposite will not press the Amendment of the hon. Member for Greenock, which obviously is sincerely meant to assist in clarifying the situation but which, if accepted, would cause greater ambiguity, give greater scope for abuse and encourage contravention of the principles of marks of origin.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)
I should like to have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on one point. We are discussing a specific and most interesting Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). Should I deal with his Amendment first and then with the Lords Amendment linked with it, or should they be dealt with simultaneously?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the right hon. Gentleman should deal with the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) and then, after the hon. Member in charge of the Bill has moved the other Amendment, perhaps he will intervene again if he wishes to do so.
§ Mr. Noble
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The hon. Member for Greenock moved the Amendment in a very quiet and 2011 sensible way. However, it raises a fundamental problem about which the House and the other place have had some difficulties, and a change of view has been noticeable on the Front Bench and the back benches.
The Bill was designed to meet a single problem, namely, that certain goods were being brought into this country and were being given a mark which indicated to the ordinary, not very sophisticated purchaser that they had been made in Britain when they had not. It was an attempt, in a fairly narrow but important respect, to limit this sort of passing off or misrepresentation and to protect the consumer.
However, since the Bill began its progress, a considerable number of extra ideas have been imported into the purpose of the Bill. This is perhaps not uncommon or unnatural. But there are people who hope that the Bill gives the go-ahead to origin marking in every shape and form. That is not a policy which the Government can accept in principle. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) rightly said, there has been dismay and apprehension, not basically about the narrow point of the Bill, but about the much wider effects of imported cloth on the textile industry. Those of us who know the position have the greatest sympathy with those concerned and understand their nervousness. However, as my noble Friend said in the House of Lords, if the word "imported" instead of "the country of origin" is put in the Bill, this meets the purpose for which the Bill was designed. To that extent I have a natural sympathy with the hon. Member for Greenock, because that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to make sure for the consumer that something which is marked in a way that is intended to mislead does not mislead because of the requirement to have "imported" or "foreign" marked on it.
In the course of our short but interesting debate a number of points have been raised, and if I may I shall spend a few moments commenting on them.
There is a real problem about the canning industry, whether fruit or vegetables, and I noticed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle did, what Lord Sainsbury said in the other place. I am 2012 sorry to say that I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord. Perhaps it is rash for somebody to take on Lord Sainsbury on a technical point, but it so happens that not long ago I was concerned in an industry which did quite a lot of canning, even though we were a small operator. We sold certain goods to Lord Sainsbury's firm, and other firms as well, on a fairly big scale, but we had certain lines in order to keep our business going throughout the year and maintain employment. We were cannning fruit and mixed vegetables.
It is all right for Lord Sainsbury to say that if an industry is efficient it cap be so organised that its runs are sufficiently big to have no labelling and purchasing problems, and so on, but that is not true of the smaller industries which have to fill in a month or so. They have to import fruit, or perhaps salads, and we bought the ingredients wherever we could find them at the right price in order to keep our operations going.
§ Mr. Normanton
It is a problem, and I am sure that we all recognise it as such, but would not my right hon. Friend agree that the noble Lord expressed the view that the Bill contained adequate machinery to deal with this kind of situation? I welcome the provision for this kind of safeguard in the kind of case which my right hon. Frnend has mentioned. Canning is one example, fertiliser manufacturing is another, and the manufacturing of certain Pharmaceuticals may be yet another, but would not my right hon. Friend agree that Clause 1(4) covers the matter fully and comprehensively?
§ Mr. Noble
I shall come to the point that my hon. Friend has made, but it is important from the point of view of hon. Members who have expressed their anxieties that I should try to set out as fully as I can the position as I see it, particularly because it was the point very fairly and rightly made by the noble Lord.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle about the way in which the hon. Member for Greenock moved his Amendment. The hon. Gentleman is not trying to circumvent the purposes of the Bill, but is merely seeking clarification about whether the purposes of the Bill can be achieved without doing 2013 damage to people in the retail and wholesale business.
Coming to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle about Clause 1(4), there are a number of matters that will come up for debate, and it is true that if all the Lords' Amendments are accepted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be given considerable discretionary powers—improved since the Bill left this House some time ago—in order to try to deal with the many difficult problems that arise. But it is also fair to say that we shall probably be making exemptions almost night and day as the process goes along, because many people—small traders, small manufacturers, and so on—will not be able easily to comply with the exact wording of the Bill. It was largely for that reason that my noble Friend suggested that if the other place would accept "imported" it would save a great deal of work in the Department and would meet the original point.
If I may put this end of the argument to the House as fairly as I can, I think it is true to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle that if the remaining Lords Amendments appeal to the House and are accepted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have the necessary power to grant the waivers. Though there will be a tremendous number of them, my right hon. Friend is prepared to take on this burden if that is what the House desires him to do, but the purpose of the Bill would be met adequately by the use of the word "imported" or "foreign".
§ Mr. Skeet
No. The United States has compulsory origin marking. There are large and small firms there. Apparently they have no difficulty with crops from abroad which have to be switched. They can change the labelling without any great expense. Surely the consumer must be protected here and we must not allow administrative arrangements all the time to stand in the way of protecting the consumer who is most important?
§ Dr. Mabon
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene before he replies to his hon. Friend. This is getting rather interesting. May I take it that the lukewarm response of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends to what he is saying means that they will not make 2014 sure that the administrative arrangements which have been referred to are adequate? Is the right hon. Gentleman getting that impression? If he is, our attitude will harden.
§ Mr. Noble
I know the weight of feeling on this issue on both sides of the House. All that I am trying to do is to be as fair as I can to the House by giving hon. Members the position as I see it. I shall come in a moment to the problem of the consumer, because he is important. What we are dealing with in the Bill is not whether we should have "country of origin" rules as the Americans do and which are often a considerable non-tariff barrier to trade. What we are trying to do is to see that in the narrow respects covered by the Bill the consumer is given the best indication—that he is not misled. We are dealing only with items which are trying to be passed off as British. In that narrow respect, if the word "imported" were put on it would meet the point.
§ 12 noon
§ But there are other things which the consumer would like to know in general—and this is what my hon. Friend is trying to suggest—though that is not part of the purposes of the Bill, and for a whole range of reasons. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) who gave the result of a survey in which people had specific views about whether they wanted to buy clothes from Hong Kong, Japan, China, America or other places. I do not say that that is not something which many people want to know about. There are many people who do, and I respect that if that is what is wanted.
§ That is not basically what the Bill is about, and even if we accepted—as the Government are prepared to do—that we should go back to "country of origin", with the difficulties which that necessarily imports administratively, that would not cover what the consumer is said to be asking for, which is that goods of all sorts should be marked with their country of origin. We are dealing with two different things. But I am delighted that this opportunity exists for people to express a perfectly right argument, because the consumers are very important. If consumers feel strongly about things, their opinions should be listened to in the House, however irrelevant they may 2015 be to the particular Bill we happen to be discussing at present.
§ I have probably spoken for long enough on this Amendment. The pottery point was raised by the hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) raised the Sheffield point, with which we have lived for a great many years. I know how strongly they have defended the quality of their goods. These things are all points which ought to be brought out.
§ On this Amendment, my position is to some extent neutral. My right hon. Friend is prepared to cope with the waivers that will be possible by the time that these Lords Amendments have gone through the House, and is prepared to face the considerable amount of work that will inevitably be involved and to try to see that where no waiver is given, the country of origin, if it is reasonable, should be put on in this narrow area.
§ But if the House feels strongly that "imported" covers the needs of industry and the consumer, in the end I could accept that equally well, for the obvious reason that it was what my noble Friend was arguing strongly in another place.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
It is a great pity that in this debate we are denied the presence of the Undersecretary of State for Trade and Industry, who dealt with the matter when it was last in this House. It would have been of great assistance to us had we had a degree of continuity. I am delighted to see the Under-Secretary now appear in the Chamber, because I was about to seek assurances on his continued good health.
We have here today yet again the firm squelch of Tory Government. I should like to quote the Under-Secretary's remarks when this matter was last debated. Speaking on behalf of the Government, he said:The public are generally suspicious of wider terms or connotations such as 'foreign' or 'Empire', which terms were permitted under the old Merchandise Marks Act. Many people felt that these were cloaks under which a variety of origins could be hidden. For example, there may well be a lot of difference, in the public's mind, between a radio made, say, in Germany and one made in Hong Kong.2016In such circumstances, the mark 'foreign' does not give that clear indication which the consumer has a right"—"a right"—to expect if we go forward with the Bill. Much the same applies to textiles, for example, French silk as opposed to silk from Thailand or, again, from Hong Kong. Our firm impression and information"—this was a Government spokesman speaking—is that there is a desire that we should hold to the requirements that indicate the precise origin.Lest there be any confusion, and because I do not want to do the hon. Gentleman any injustice, I shall continue with two other brief quotations from the same speech:I have myself been a manufacturer"—we have just heard that the right hon. Gentleman was a manufacturer. We have had the benefit of his manufacturing experience. Here we have the benefit of the Under-Secretary's manufacturing experience—businessmen's government at its best. The hon. Gentleman said:I have myself been a manufacturer, when I was able to wear other hats, and I know that it is not an uncommon practice to have to change the labelling or marking on articles which one is manufacturing or packaging. I feel, therefore, that that argument can be somewhat inflated in this general context.Then, summing up the Government's view of the virtually identical Amendment which had been proposed, the Undersecretary said:but it is my judgment that the Amendment would weaken rather than strengthen the Bill."—[Official Report, 14th April, 1972; Vol. 834, c. 1596.]Now we know why the Under-secretary was not invited to take part in the debate, although at least we know that he does not have other commitments which would prevent him from being present. He was able to pop in to see that we were all enjoying ourselves and that the debate was progressing well.
§ Mr. Noble
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to be unfair to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend took that particular stage of the Bill because at the time I was out of the country. It is within my departmental responsibility to decide these things. It is not within that of my hon. Friend. As the hon. 2017 Gentleman will know or, perhaps, will learn one day if he comes into government, what so often happens in these matters is that industry does not wake up to some of the smaller problems until a good deal too late in the consideration of our affairs. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we put forward in the other place many reprsentations from different industries which were simply not available when this matter was discussed here.
§ Mr. Williams
I am interested in the right hon. Gentleman's hopes for my future education at the Dispatch Box. However, I should point out to him that I had several years' experience at the Dispatch Box and, indeed, in the precursor of the present Ministry. I understand the difficulties which can arise when a Minister responsible is wafted out of the country. I do not dispute that that was the real reason for the Under-Secretary's presence on the earlier occasion. It is still a great pity, however, that the Under-Secretary was not present to give us the benefit of the new official advice which he has received within the Department.
This seems to be yet another example of Conservative revolutionary government. I do not mean Red Ted at No. 10. I mean revolutionary in the revolving door sense rather than the political sense. If one waits long enough, one meets the Government coming back again.
§ Mr. Williams
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. It is a rather narrow Amendment but it has gained in several aspects since it was last in this House. What I am trying to say is that we are being asked to accept a certain point of view on the basis of firm convictions on the part of the Government, when the Government have had other firm convictions, which were somewhat different, on exactly the same subject during the same time. The Government's capacity to carry out intellectual pirouettes is improving. One does not now have to wait so long to see them coming back on themselves in their statements.
The Under-Secretary once said to me from the Dispatch Box that the then Government's left hand did not know 2018 what their right hand was doing. But the present Government's left face does not know what their right face is doing. Do Ministers actually talk to each other about policy? Do Ministers even within the same Department speak to each other about a policy?
It is remarkable that on 14th April we heard the Under-Secretary making the statements that I have just quoted, and within a month and a couple of days later, in the other place, we had a complete reversal of the Government's position. We are entitled to ask the Government what consultation they had before they took up their original pose and what has happened in the meantime to alter their opinion. It was interesting that an expert in the other place, Lord Sainsbury, echoed the views of the Under-Secretary, not the present views of the Minister for Trade.
We still believe, as do the sponsors of the Bill, that Clause 1(4) provides every safeguard for where exceptions are needed. The public had a right, according to the Government in April. The public should have the same right now. It cannot be a right in April and cease to be a right simply because it happens that a particular vested interest has exerted a rather strong lobby upon the Government.
Therefore, the Government should give us more information about the reason for their change of position. They should tell us why they did not have the information previously and why they did not establish correct information. They had the economic development councils. They had plenty of consultative bodies available to them. They had their industrial contacts and their advisers. The Department is large enough: it has sufficient officials and Ministers.
Why is this short period must we be faced with this complete volte-face? As with the Consumer Council, as with the Crowther Report, as with prices and as with the refusal to implement definition orders and marking orders, if ever there is a conflict between the consumer interest and the commercial interest the present Government will back the commercial interest.
Hon. Members can rightly feel offended that a Private Member's Bill which was approved in this House was then altered 2019 substantially in a way which the Undersecretary of State—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It seems that the hon. Gentleman's arguments are now directed to the Lords Amendment and not to the Amendment to the proposed Lords Amendment. The hon. Gentleman is going very wide. He intimated to me earlier that he wished to speak on the Lords Amendment. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is now making that speech.
§ Mr. Williams
Perhaps I did not clarify why I feel entitled to do this, Mr. Speaker. The Lords amended their own Amendment. They had an Amendment imposed by the Government which coincides with the Amendment which you are now asking me to discuss. This is why I feel that it is in order to refer to both debates. They cover exactly the same ground and exactly the same Amendment.
Lords Amendment No. 1, as it comes to us, is yet another variation on the theme and puts us back more as the sponsors would, I presume, wish us to be. I believe that my remarks are more apposite to the Amendment to the proposed Lords Amendment than they would be if I were to make them on the Lords Amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
So be it, as long as the hon. Gentleman does not seek to make the same speech again on the Lords Amendment.
§ Mr. Williams
I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have absolutely no intention of doing so. Indeed, unless utterly provoked, I have no intention of speaking on the Lords Amendment.
It is up to the Government now to explain what happened, what circumstances changed and why the machine failed to give the information in April that it gave in May and apparently is still giving.
How does the right hon. Gentleman, as the Government Minister responsible, envisage Clause 1(4) operating? It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman's remarks in that regard would reassure some of my colleagues who have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of this provision. I do not share my colleagues' doubts, but it would be useful if guidance could be given. I myself support the original Bill and, therefore, I 2020 oppose the Amendment which the Government have tried to write into the Bill.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I shall certainly endeavour to keep exactly within the scope of the Amendment to the proposed Lords Amendment. I feel that I must comment, having spoken on Second Reading. I never thought that I should have to speak again. As the Bill got such a clear passage through this House from the Front Bench and such a warm welcome from both sides, it is strange that it should have been so emasculated and shattered in the House of Lords.
As a back bencher speaking in support of a Private Members' Bill I express my very serious concern. From a seated position I even used the word to my right hon. Friend that I was "hostile" to his approach today. No one can ever feel hostile to my right hon. Friend. He is far too nice a person, and he has been far too nice this morning in trying to beguile us into accepting this complete emasculation of a Bill which the consumers want and which the trade are prepared to accept.
have received many representations from the trade to stand up this morning and to ensure that the Bill goes through in its original form. I have had representations from traders and from manufacturers. The House knows that on previous occasions in the House—during the passage of the Trade Descriptions Bill, 1968, and on Second Reading of this Bill—I have said that I have had 20 years' experience of trade marks and have always been an exponent of letting the consumer know as much as possible about what he or she is buying.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Whether those consumers who want to know the country of origin are in the majority or in the minority, the fact is that many people want to know the country of origin. They want to know whether the product comes from Hong Kong—not because they dislike Hong Kong products or have any feeling of discrimination about buying from a country that can compete with Britain effectively on price, for instance, but because they feel sometimes that imported products from places such as Hong Kong do not observe the rules of safety in 2021 production and health—for example, with toys—that this country accepts as normal standards.
§ To say that it is good enough to say that such a product is imported is not to accept the real meaning of the Bill as it was originally presented to this House.
§ I cannot accept from my right hon. Friend that the meaning and purpose of the Bill is merely to indicate that a product is not from the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Noble
I very carefully did not say that. What I said was the purpose of the Bill was to deal with a very narrow section of goods only—namely, those which were being passed off, with the intention of misleading the consumer, by pretending that they were British. Much of the rest of the argument, though I agree with it in some degree, is irrelevant to the Bill. In the case of the small number of items—or, perhaps, the large number of items—which are being passed off deliberately to mislead the consumer, into thinking that they are British, "imported" kills that problem. That is all that I said.
§ Mr. Crouch
I withdraw the first criticism that I made. I appreciate the point that my right hon. Friend has made. In my speech on Second Reading, which I do not now have in front of me, I believe I said that the whole attitude of the old Board of Trade and the present Department of Trade and Industry on the question of marking, going back about 50 years, has always been directed towards preventing merchandise from being passed off as appearing to come from the United Kingdom. Obviously this is still the thinking.
My right hon. Friend asks—will we accept his attitude to the Bill and not accept the Lords Amendment? [Interruption.] He says—will we allow the Bill to go forward as amended in the Lords, namely, so that it refers to goods as being imported without a definition of country of origin? My right hon. Friend asks us to accept a Bill which is not in the spirit in which we understood it when we debated it on Second Reading.
My right hon. Friend used an argument which he must know cannot impress us: he said that it would save work in his Department. In the Bill we are trying to do something to protect the 2022 consumer. A large number of hon. Members are present on a Friday to ensure that the consumers are protected. I know that my right hon. Friend has this as the basic purpose in his mind even if he does not see it as the basic purpose written into the Bill.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will show that the House of Commons, even on a Friday afternoon when considering a Private Members' Bill, will remember that real purpose and not allow it to be changed for some wordy explanations that might satisfy him but which will not satisfy us.
§ Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)
I begin by declaring an interest. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) I have a close connection with the Co-operative movement, which has both textile and canning interests and, therefore, has a considerable interest in this matter. I also have constituency interests with the textile industry. I therefore welcome any measure which ensures further protection for the consumer.
The Minister for Trade has made it quite clear that there is a problem in certain industries which could be dealt with in one of two ways. It could be dealt with, as is apparent in Clause 1(4), either by the use of discretionary waivers by the Department for industries such as the canning industry, which involves mixed vegetables some of which come from one country and others from another country, or alternatively by incorporating the subordinate Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon).
In many ways I think that my hon. Friend's Amendment would lead to considerable administrative simplicity, and perhaps to a reduction of work involved in the detailed study by the Department of Trade and Industry, which it seems to me would be meeting the objective of the sponsors of the Bill in ensuring that the consumer is not led to believe that something is made in this country when it is not. If that is the purpose of the Bill, my hon. Friend's Amendment would meet the point.
I am rather concerned particularly about some of the suggestions that there may be opposition to the further Lords Amendments. If there may be such 2023 opposition to the further Lords Amendments, in order to reduce—
§ Mr. Normanton
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. May I clear his mind? It is not my intention to oppose the further Lords' Amendments. It is my intention, with the approval of the House, to move with the greatest possible brevity the Amendments which have been submitted by their Lordships.
§ Mr. Roper
I am glad that the hon. Member forCheadle (Mr. Normanton) does not intend to oppose those Amendments.
There is the further point that there will be considerable administrative complications in the exercise of waivers, and this would be covered much more simply if we made the Statute clear by accepting my hon. Friend's Amendment. I hope
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. Kimball
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will be able to help the House. Many of us have been studying the substantial list of Orders of the Day, and at this stage, I believe, many hon. Members would wish to make an assessment of likely progress with the business. Any balanced
§ that the Bill will be allowed to go forward in order to protect the consumer against any possible misrepresentation, but in the form as suggested in my hon. Friend's Amendment.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I was not certain whether I should persist with my Amendment. I was surprised by the speech of the Minister for Trade, which went much further than I expected, in explaining the problems. He was so profoundly sympathetic, despite his description of his attitude as neutral, that I cannot believe that I would be right in withdrawing my Amendment solely on the assurances of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton), although, of course, I accept those assurances absolutely. In the circumstances, I think it would be wise to press my Amendment.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 27, Noes 44.2023
|Division No. 223.]||AYES||[12.25 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Booth, Albert||Kaufman, Gerald||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kerr, Russell||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Lipton, Marcus||Urwin, T. W.|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Pavitt, Laurie||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Golding, John||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Richard, Ivor||Dr. J. Dickson Mabon and Mr. John Roper.|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Grieve, Percy||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gurden, Harold||Rost, Peter|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buck, Antony||Hawkins, Paul||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hooson, Emlyn||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Coombs, Derek||Hunt, John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cordle, John||Kimball, Marcus||Spence, John|
|Crouch, David||Knox, David||Stainton, Keith|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Farr, John||Le Marchant, Spencer||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fell, Anthony||Mawby, Ray||Younger, Hn. George|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Osborn, John|
|Fortescue, Tim||Parkinson, Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fowler, Norman||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg and Mr. Tom Normanton.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
§ assessment of that matter must, however, take at least some account of the content of the Bills.
§ The difficulty we find in making such an assessment is that inquiry at the Vote Office discloses that some of the Bills on the Order Paper today are not published. I appreciate that this is a serious allegation to make, but it is a fact that one 2025 cannot obtain from the Vote Office a copy of at least one of the Bills set down. If one refers to the list of Public Bills for the Session 1971–72—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman and allay his anxiety straight away. If a Bill which has not been printed is put and objected to, it stands over; but if it is not opposed the Chair never allows the Question to be put. The hon. Gentleman need have no fear that any Bill not printed will go through on the nod. It does not happen.
§ Mr. Normanton
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that it is your intention that we consider at the same time Lords Amendments Nos. 4 and 6?
§ Mr. Normanton
The change proposed in paragraph (a) of Amendment No. 1 makes no change in the intention enshrined in the original text remitted to another place on 18th April. Paragraph (b), however, introduces a new element which was not in mind of the sponsor of the Bill, in the mind of hon. Members present in the Chamber on 18th April, and certainly not in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. South-East (Mr. Peel).
The aim of the Bill is to protect consumers from deception. If, however, a name which would be covered by the terms of Clause 1 were to be affixed to a product—textile, pottery or other form of manufacture—and that name were put in some part of the product which, in effect, meant that it was concealed, it would be logical to take the view that the concealment of the name could not be construed as an attempt on the part of the vendor to deceive a would-be purchaser.
Although, as I say, this point was not in mind at the earlier stage, we think it right that, where there is no possibility of deception arising, the Clause should not apply. It would be illogical to require a mark of country of origin, as would otherwise be required, to be coupled with such concealed or undisclosed name.
The question of non-disclosure in this context turns on the way in which the 2026 product is offered. An article may be in a cardboard carton or cellophane pack age, for example, and the name might appear there. On the other hand, it might still be concealed from the would-be purchaser. If he wished to examine the product and took it out of its box or container and was still unable to discover a name which would qualify and require the product to be conspicuously labelled—
§ Mr. Normanton
Let us assume that on the box or package is clearly indicated what the contents are. I take, for example, a shirt and the name "Marlborough". It would then be required that there should appear "Made in England" or "Made in Hong Kong"; and that would be a conspicuous disclosure.
§ Mr. Normanton
If the box had no mark or name which might possibly lead a would-be purchaser to believe that the goods were manufactured in Britain although they were not, there would be no requirement as regards the box. If the shirt inside the box had "Marlborough" literally tucked away somewhere, say, in the armpit, so that one would almost have to examine the shirt with a microscope to identify the name, it would not be reasonable to require that shirt to have "Made in Hong Kong" or "Made in Britain" on it, because it would not be reasonable for the would-be purchaser to have to search so intensively. Therefore, no buyer could be regarded as having been placed in the position of being exposed to deception or misrepresentation.
§ Mr. Normanton
At the time of purchasing a film one is unable to examine it for strictly technical reasons, never mind about physical reasons, and it would 2027 be stretching the imagination too far to require that unexposed film should have "Kodak" or any British name on it and automatically have to have on it "Made in you know where".
The Amendment introduces another dimension into the Clause. I do not feel that it is necessary, because it would be reasonable under the original drafting for the question of deception to be covered. But I am satisfied that the Amendment does not conflict with the spirit of the Bill and I earnestly hope that the House will accept it.
§ Mr. Skeet
I am quite prepared to accept the Amendment, but I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade a question about what happens when a trade name appears several times on a packet. Would it be appropriate under one of the trade names to put the country of origin and to leave the other trade names without the country of origin?
As I understand it, United Kingdom firms will be able to continue to use their trade names as they wish, as hitherto. The Bill relates only to imported goods which are held out in the United Kingdom as being manufactured here when they have in fact been manufactured abroad. The Bill relates only to a limited range of goods and I therefore find it difficult to understand my right hon Friend's anxiety about administrative problems. Had we been dealing with vast quantities of imports coming into the United Kingdom I could have understood his point. As he said, applications would be coming into his Department at a great rate. As things are, however, he will be dealing only with those cases where there is an attempt to pass off foreign goods as though they were United Kingdom goods produced by a United Kingdom manufacturer.
If goods come into the United Kingdom from a company like Renault or Fiat bearing a foreign name or mark there is no possibility of deception, and those goods would therefore fall outside the Bill. If goods come into the United Kingdom with no mark and no country of origin the public will not be deceived and will naturally assume that they come from abroad.
I emphasised a moment ago, and 1 repeat, that the Amendment is not inten- 2028 ded to give manufacturers protection although they may be assisted indirectly. The prime purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that the consumer is protected. In other words, the primary purpose of the Bill is to ensure that in the limited number of cases where there is passing-off the consumer gets the first consideration and is protected, and the fact that the manufacturer may be indirectly benefited constitutes no valid objection.
Under the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, origin-marking is a rare exception unless cause can be shown. Under the Bill where there is likely to be misrepresentation affecting imported goods origin-marking is required unless cause be shown why an exemption order should be made for administrative or other reasons. I beseech my right hon. Friend, when he receives representations from industry, to consider whether the administrative reasons are sustainable and to weigh them carefully against the requirements of consumers who may be put in great jeopardy through not having the freedom of choice.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ The Bill, which is a Private Member's Bill, has had a tortuous course not only in the House of Commons but also in another place. I do not think I am out of order in mentioning here that there seems to have been a certain amount of interference by the legislature. The Bill was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) on 25th February. It went into Committee on 14th April when my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery), who is now a Minister, resisted an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) which sought to insert the word "imported", and stated, as reported at column 1560, that the position was not tolerable.
§ The Bill moved into the other place and on 4th May the Earl of Limerick suggested no drastic change, but when it went into Committee on 16th May the noble lord introduced an Amendment which was directly the reverse of what had been advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton. The noble lord had every justification for doing what he did. He said that there was no time in which to carry out thorough investigations and mentioned that he had just 2029 been appointed. Governments should take Private Members' Bills more seriously when they are prepared to take them up.
§ On 6th June, when Viscount Hanworth, who is an old colleague of hon. Members here, sought to delate the word "imported" which had been inserted by a majority for the Government of 89 to 63, he was defeated by 49 votes to 45. On 12th June Baroness Phillips on Third Reading moved an Amendment as a result of which the position was reversed. There should be an end to this method of dealing with Private Members' Bills. There are good reasons for what occurred here, but great complications have been caused in the House of Commons.
§ The misunderstanding may have arisen from the lack of time in which to consult. My right hon. Friend has said that the people affected in industry are slow to come forward to express their grievances. Departments are known to approach the trade associations to find out exactly what are their grievances and, since the Government were interested in ensuring that the Bill had their support, the Department should have been working on it from an early stage. There is no fault here of the Minister and I hope that the Department tried to find out about the grievances of the food industry, the shirt manufacturers and the small traders involved.
§ My right hon. Friend says that he fears he will be flooded with representations and applications for exemption orders under the succeeding Clause but how does he reconcile that with the fact that the Bill applies only to a small part of our total imports—only those which are being passed off as British goods? My right hon. Friend is not likely to be saddled with a number of applications which cannot be dealt with fairly quickly.
§ There may have been some misunderstanding about the adequacy of Section 8 of the Trade Descriptions Act. It has now been operating for about four years and no orders have been made under it, although it has been indicated that its provisions are available and can be used. If my right hon. Friend would be prepared to say what he has in mind, I should be most grateful.
§ As I understand it, under the limited classification that we are considering the 2030 onus is on the company concerned to put origin markings on. If it feels aggrieved, or difficulties supervene, it can tell the Department that there are practical reasons why that burden should not be put on its shoulders and that it should have a simpler way of dealing with the matter. The Department can grant a dispensation under a succeeding Clause.
§ Dealing with canned salmon from the United States, Alaska and Japan, Lord Macpherson said that there were difficulties. He also said that labels for grape fruit must be printed six months ahead of the crop and that it was quite possible that the crop might fail, with the result that the growers had to switch their resources and all the labels were useless. Crops have been tilled and secured for many years—for centuries, in fact—and the large companies concerned are experienced in dealing with that sort of matter.
§ Not all produce which comes to the United Kingdom is passed off as being British. Most comes in properly marked and would not have to have origin markings on it. I agree that we do not want origin markings on everything, because that would be an obstruction to trade.
§ I would put against the arguments of Lord Macpherson that the fact that Lord Sainsbury did not acknowledge the difficulties is partly explained by his company's being a large store group capable of dealing with all the problems. The United States, which has gone far beyond what I should like to see, has the practice of universal origin marking. There are substantial firms which, like those in the United Kingdom, obviously have no difficulties, but there are also many small undertakings importing from the Caribbean which apparently can also deal with the necessary labelling. I believe that administrative difficulties for a company are a small price to pay to give the consumer protection.
§ Mr. Rost
Does not my hon. Friend agree that there could be difficulties in certain sectors of the food trade if there were not some flexibility? I am thinking, for example, of tinned fruit salad, the components of which might come from six different countries—the tangerines from Israel, the grapes from Spain, the peaches from South Africa, the cherries from Italy and so on. The combination 2031 might change at any time because of seasonal crop failures and different seasons of the year. There might be fruit from any number of combinations of different countries of origin in the same tin from month to month. Would not it be ridiculous if we had to have a combination of 100 or 200 different labels to stick on the tins according to the variation of the fruit from production batch to production batch?
§ Mr. Skeet
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point, and that was a very good intervention. But the manufacturer can secure a dispensation under Clause 4. Moreover Section 36, "Country of origin", of the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, says that for the purposes of the Act goods shall be deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a substantial change. It continues:The Board of Trade may by order specify—(a) in relation to any description of goods, what treatment or process is to be regarded for the purposes of this section as resulting in a substantial change".If I import cloth from India it will have to be marked, if passed off in the United Kingdom as British goods as being of Indian origin. But when it is made up into a suit here a substantial part of the work has been done in the United Kingdom, and then it becomes British and can be dealt with accordingly.
The small firms in the United States probably have to obtain much of their canned fruit, canned salmon and so on from outside the country. Much more stringent regulations apply there than here but they seem to cope with the situation. I cannot think that they are any more efficient. In fact, they are probably less efficient.
The other point, apart from the dispensation under an exemption order, is that because representations were made at a rather late date some of them may have been over-exaggerated. Firms are inclined to say from time to time that they are faced with great difficulties and that it will be impossible for them to do this and that. But when they are told by legislation that certain things must be done they seem to find 2032 a very efficient way of dealing with the matters in question.
Marking orders are dealt with in Section 8 of the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968. It was argued in another place that there is provision whereby consumers can be protected, but this has limited availability. If they want guidance on the quality of goods or their characteristics, such as how clothes should be washed, they can make an application if they want an origin marking under Section 8 of the Act. We are also concerned about servicing and spares and this problem is also dealt with by Section 8.
I was heartened by the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) in Committee that the Government were contemplating making origin marking orders for electric and other machinery for which spares and services were important from the consumer's aspect, that orders were imminent in respect of certain foodstuffs—apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, meat, poultry, ham, eggs, honey and butter—and that the Government were also considering the construction and performance of certain items such assynthetics in footwear. That is all very good, but there are limitations and that is where the reference to class of goods and not to single lots and individual consignments comes in.
The arguments of Lord Limerick seem to me to confer greater authority on Section 8 than it actually possesses. They seem difficult to reconcile with all the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury on 25th February, as reported in columns 1729–1732 of the Official Report. For example, one has to consider in Section 8 of the 1968 Act the words:necessary or expedient in the interest of persons to whom any goods are supplied.That means that one must rule out any items put forward by the manufacturers because this is a consumer protection Bill. I can understand that there may be an important point there.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Also, of course, if this is being done in the interest of the consumer, we are concerned about quality and value, which must be the criteria. But it seems to me 2033 that people may have considerable objection if goods are to be passed off in the United Kingdom without the source being stated. Some people may object to South African goods. I do not. I think that South Africa produces some of the finest peaches in the world and I would not hesitate to buy them. Many people say they would not think of buying honey from Canada. But I think that Canadian honey has a very good flavour. Therefore, there are distinct limitations on Section 8 of the 1968 Act. That is why it became essential to have this Bill to deal with a loophole, although it covers only a small number of cases.
§ Let us not forget that many people exporting to us are very respectable traders and are unlikely to attempt to pass off their products as anyone else's. They will comply with the law. The Japanese, for example, stamp on their cameras that they come from Japan, and if they do not they are only too glad to advertise that a camera is Japanese, because we know that Japanese cameras are good. The Swiss will adopt the same line because their watches have a good reputation. Wines from France are reputable and are clearly marked. Tobler-Meltis produces chocolate not in my constituency but in Switzerland and is only too glad to mention the source of origin.
§ I recognise that these provisions are applicable to a small margin of imports and that they will affect only some scallywags from other countries who want the advantage of using an English name to pass off their goods. They will be caught by the Bill and the other exporters to the United Kingdom will be unaffected. If manufacturers or consumers are affected unfairly in some way, they will have to go back to Section 8 of the 1968 Act. There is, however, a reason why this Clause, as amended, looks as good to me as the original Clause when it left this House. But I deplore the way it left this House and then, having gone to another place, had to go through all these convolutions. This would not happen with a public Bill but it has happened with a Private Member's Bill. Fortunately, their Lordships in their wisdom decided to put the matter right and it becomes simpler for us.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
My hon. Friend is very well versed in the 2034 Bill, so perhaps he can answer a small question. What effect is the Bill likely to have on our entry into Europe?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) will have read the Lords Amendment under discussion.
§ Mr. Skeet
Perhaps I can mention a point about Europe which constitutes another reason why I support the Clause, and it is pertinent. The Bill brings us into line with France and West Germany. They have this type of legislation. I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) for raising the point, which I had not considered a moment ago although I had the information available.
I stress that I am against general origin markings because I am a supporter of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as many people are. I want to see all obstructions to trade dismantled. I deplore the fact that 10 countries, including the United States, have origin markings which are compulsory. I think this Bill puts us exactly into the European position, although I appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I could possibly be infringing the rules of order, so I will come off that point quickly.
§ Mr. Skeet
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. But perhaps I can now conclude and enable other hon. Members to have an opportunity to make their contributions on this very important Clause. I accept the Clause. I think that it is right as amended. As I have said, this piece of legislation will remain intact as we go into Europe. It is in line with two of the major countries in the Common Market. It gives limited protection in a very limited sector. It does not break our international obligations. It is not a non-tariff barrier. It is simply designed to help the consumer to make a free choice in buying those goods he wants in circumstances in which he can say that he has not been deceived, that he has 2035 looked at the goods on the counter and that he knows all about them.
§ Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) that this is a limited Bill. There is, however, a certain overlap here with what we were discussing earlier. I support the Lords Amendments on a number of grounds. As Member for Nottingham, South, I have been impressed by the strength of feeling of firms and trading associations in the area about the Amendment. I have received representations from many quarters, including the Nottingham Chamber of Commerce and the Nottingham and District Hosiery Manufacturers' Association. Basically, they welcome the Bill although there is strong feeling that it does not go far enough. They are united in saying that they do not want to see the Bill further diluted by the Amendment moved earlier by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). So the decision of the House on that Amendment will be welcomed by them.
Like Lord George-Brown in another place, I hope that the Bill will have the effect of helping British industry. I support it essentially as a consumer Measure, but I do not think that there is anything which conflicts with that in also hoping that it does something to help the unemployment situation, and the provisions we are considering are relevant to it.
There is no doubt that unemployment in the textile industry has been brought about partly by an increase in low labour cost imports. Clothing and knitted goods imports are running at over £200 million a year. This increase must account for some of our unemployment. I do not pretend that by these provisions we shall transform the situation, but the Bill will help. It may not cut the sales of imported goods radically, but it could deter some purchasers who take the view as a matter of personal choice that they would prefer articles made in Britain to imported articles. Above all, it would give some encouragement to the firms and workers who are and have been facing a flood of cheap imports. It would not do that by restrictions or out-and-out protectionism, but by placing one rele- 2036 vant fact before the consumer, so that the choice still lies with him.
Secondly, the consumer should be given maximum information. If a man goes into a shop to buy a washing machine on hire purchase, he should know the true rate of interest. I hope that the Government will tackle that matter.
The consumer should have also the right to know the country of origin of the product which he is buying. I do not claim that that is an automatic sign of quality. It is simply that all the evidence suggests that that information is wanted by the consumer, and there is no reason for it to be refused or not given in as obvious a manner as possible.
This matter cannot be shrugged off as some kind of irrelevant nationalism. It may be that the consumer prefers to buy British products. Surely no hon. Member will criticise that approach. Furthermore the consumer may have definite views, often based on personal experience of buying imported goods. He may have had difficulty with a guarantee; he may feel that he will be unable to get quick replacements for the product he has bought if he finds it defective.
Not all the evidence is one-way. A consumer may positively want a camera, for example, which has been made in Japan because he has good experience of that country's products. So on both counts it is right to distinguish British-made goods in the confines of the Bill, limited as it is, and imported goods. It is also important that in these Amendments we achieve the object of distinguishing the exact country of origin.
The public are rightly concerned about their rights as consumers. We should do everything in the laws we pass to recognise that justifiable and sincere feeling. The choice is with the consumer, but we can ensure that in exercising that choice he is provided with the best possible information on which to make his decision.
One matter that follows, which is also mentioned in paragraph (a) of the Lords Amendment, is that the consumer has to have information upon which to base his decision, and the indication of the country of origin must be realistically conspicuous. It must be apparent to the 2037 ordinary man that the article he is buying has been produced in the country from which it is said to have come.
For example, it was reported recently in the Sunday Express that a man bought a cardigan which was clearly marked "Shetland Wool". It was only when he examined the cardigan more closely at home that he spotted a second, much smaller label which said "Made in Hong Kong". He took up the matter with the Kent weights and measures department, but without success, because, according to the Department, the term "Shetland Wool" now has a much wider significance than in the past. The words may be used to describe any woollen fabric having a soft bulky feel originally associated with the fine wool of Shetland sheep, provided that it is qualified with the place of manufacture, as in this case. Where clothes are actually manufactured in Shetland patterns, they may be described as "home spun".
It would seem that we cannot change the legal situation. If a consumer goes into his local shop and asks for a cardigan made of Shetland wool, he may be supplied with a cardigan which has been produced in Hong Kong. We must ensure that the notice is prominent which says that it is made in Hong Kong so that the consumer will know at the time of making his purchase where the article has been produced. It would then be for the consumer to decide whether a Hong Kong Shetland cardigan was really what he wanted.
That is another reason why I support the Lords Amendment. These Amendments have great merit; above all, they help to protect the interests of the consumer. They provide the consumer with information which he has a right to expect. On those grounds, I support the Amendments.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Pavitt
A good deal of the comments of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) were more appropriate to the Amendment which we previously discussed. I agree with what he has said about consumer protection. As a result of the conversion of many hon. Gentlemen opposite to supporting consumer protection, we shall seek further measures—in addition to the Amendments we are now discussing—to 2038 restore the Consumer Council and the Prices and Incomes Board and ensure that prices are kept down.
I rise only briefly because we have to consider 51 further Bills in the space of two and three quarter hours. It seems that the House is of one mind; there has been no voice in opposition. I support the Amendments as do hon. Members on both sides. It would be appropriate for hon. Members to discuss only proposals with which they disagree. As I agree with the Lords Amendment, I will not delay the House any longer. I urge that we come to a speedy conclusion because of the large measure of agreement among us.
§ Mr. Cordle
I appreciate what the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) has said. We should be moving on. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) made a valid point about maximum information. When one travels in the Commonwealth, it is a pleasing and pleasant fact to find that many Commonwealth friends will purchase only "British" in certain commodities.
It is not unusual to find certain commodities supplied to these countries which are marked clearly "British Made" which are not made in the United Kingdom but under franchise in, say, Spain or France. That is a point with which the Minister should deal. It should be stated conspicuously where the goods are made.
For example, one can drive a Land Rover into New Palace Yard and park by another Land Rover and not notice any difference, yet one would have been made in Spain and one made here. It is important that this should be clearly understood by the Commonwealth purchaser. Consumer protection in the Commonwealth is a small point but one worth making.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I do not think that the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) was very helpful. I know that he is interested in subsequent Bills. So am I. But I am also interested in this one.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was appealing to us to 2039 dry up so that we could get on with other business. If I am wrong then of course I withdraw at once.
I do not speak as an expert here, but I do speak as a consumer. We have heard a number of eloquent arguments on behalf of the consumer. The other place is a very wise place and I am glad that it has handed us this group of Amendments. The effect of them—and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) will not be angry if I say this—is to bring us into line with our prospective partners in the European Community, not to mention the United States. I am glad of that. This legislation is on sound lines.
The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) appealed to me very much. Pointing out that there were those of us who were concerned that there should be clear marking of the countries of origin on goods, my hon. Friend said it was not a question of irrelevant nationalism. There is real nationalism in the preference that some people have for British goods, other things being equal, and I must confess that I have that preference.
I also have a preference for goods from certain overseas countries with which we have a connection. I am concerned to know whether goods which I buy which come from abroad come from, say, New Zealand. That will appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth. I want to know whether they come from Japan or Guatemala. This is information which can be provided, and if people say that there are great administrative difficulties they are exaggerating. The difficulties are not great and it is important for the consumer that these markings should be made, to use the phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South "realistically conspicuous".
He also made the point that some people are concerned not only about buying British Commonwealth goods but about buying a particular line of goods from a certain country which is especially good at manufacturing that article. He mentioned Japan and cameras. There are other things, no doubt, such as Swiss watches. I am not an expert but certain people I know say that they would like 2040 to buy these from specific countries. It seems that these Amendments are entirely reasonable.
§ Mr. Fell
I want to intervene only because my hon. Friend the Member forChigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) said that he hoped that I would not be offended by his assurance that this might help to bring us into line with the rules and regulations of the Common Market concerning the marking of goods. I am delighted for the assurance that all is well in the Common Market countries. In parenthesis, what occurs to me as being important is that we should, if we are ever to enter the Community, have faith in the countries whom we shall be joining and in their trading practices. In so far as this Bill and the Amendments help us towards that end I am delighted, far from being angry with my hon. Friend.
I am not full of great ideas on this subject because they have to a certain extent been argued brilliantly this morning by a number of my hon. Friends. I do so want to help the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) who believes that we should reach his Bill No. 51—which seems to be very wishful thinking. I also want to help the rest of the House and the hon. Member for Derby, North(Mr. Whitehead) who also has expectation that you will be able to help him, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Noble
I have been asked a number of questions and I will be as brief as I can in dealing with them. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) said that this was a technical Amendment and that is so. It makes sensible changes in the need to mark goods. It is not just, as I think he suggested, a question of packaging. There can be real problems with things such as television sets and motor cars and in the other place they even thought that Concorde might create some problems. Within a single piece of equipment there may be other items which are not really significant from the point of view of the consumer and which do not involve any misleading of the consumer.
If I was wrong as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) suggested in even mentioning in our last discussion that to apply the particular type of solution which he favoured would require a vast increase in the number of 2041 hours worked and possibly even extra civil servants, then this Amendment seeks to correct that because it takes away a whole lot of difficult practical problems which would certainly arise for honest suppliers who might not even know that these invisible names or marks exist and even if they did could not add the required indication of origin without rendering the goods unsaleable. This is a practical and sensible step and I hope that the House will accept it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) asked about the name appearing on each side of cartons. I have to tell him that it may be necessary for each side to be accompanied by an indication of origin because the important thing is that the indication of origin can be seen at the same time as the United Kingdom name. If there was a stack of boxes of shirts or ladies' underwear or something and if the offending, misleading name was there, there would also have to be the name of the country of origin.
§ Mr. Noble
Yes. This is one of the problems which we did not go into in detail at our last debate. There are real problems not only in this context but with food too, when small shopkeepers may have stocks which, when the Bill comes into force, would be rendered out of date. This is a case where a lot of exemptions may have to be given so as to protect the honest, small businessman and shopkeeper.
§ Mr. Normanton
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to statements made by his hon. Friend on two occasions in this House? The first was when the Government announced their willingness to support this Bill. In doing so they gave notice to traders and manufacturers of the nature of the Bill and the general requirements which would exist, come six months after the Bill came into force. Therefore when it comes into force, if this House approves it today, there will have been at least 12 months and maybe 15 months or more since the 2042 initial warning was given to industry by his hon. Friends in a Departmental statement and by making an announcement twice on the Floor of the House.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Noble
I accept that, but I am a realist and I know that many people do not take action until they can see that the House will accept the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford asked me to explain why, in my intervention during the last debate, I said that the purpose of the Bill was to deal only with a small sector of imports which were being passed off as British and why much work might be involved in dealing with this question. In choosing the way we have chosen to protect the consumer from being misled, we have put the onus on the manufacturer in Britain, who presumably will want to sell goods which look like British goods because he is a British manufacturer. If then, in order to make his can of food, sack of fertilisers or packet of pharmaceuticals, he uses imports, he is caught by this Bill and must declare the origin of the contents.
It is fairly clear that a considerable number of bona fide British manufacturers will have to comply with this legislation because they will be selling goods which look like British goods. If they are not to fall foul of the law, they must state from where they came.
§ Mr. Skeet
My right hon. Friend has power, under subsection (4), to make an exemption order. Could he divide the orders into two classes: an exemption order made on a prima facie case which could be varied later if it could not be substantiated, and an order which required more detailed examination? Would not that overcome his problem?
§ Mr. Noble
It might overcome part of it. When the Bill begins to operate, we shall have to look at that sort of problem. We believe that the provision gives my right hon. Friend sufficient discretion.
I listened with sympathy and interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) said. He is a passionate supporter of the consumer, as we all are within the bounds of what is sensible and reasonable. He 2043 pointed out how terrible it was that a person could purchase what he thought was a Shetland jumper and then find that it said "Made in Hong Kong". I wonder how many times hon. Members have bought a perfectly genuine English shirt but all the material in it has come from Hong Kong, Korea, France or somewhere else? If the consumer says, "I want to know all about everything", he will have to spend about 25 minutes reading the list of the contents of the goods before he makes his purchase. We must be practical and sensible.
§ Mr. Fowler
I accept that there are difficulties about this matter, but surely there is no good reason for ignoring it when it is easy to make a distinction. All that I was requesting was that the label reading "Made in Hong Kong" should be prominently displayed so that the purchaser knows what he is buying. I do not deny that there are technical problems about other goods, but in this case I should have thought that it was not too difficult to deal with the point.
§ Mr. Kimball
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister did not deal with the problem of the spelling of the country of origin. I have done some research as a result of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn). My hon. Friend explained what had been done by the City of Sheffield to protect the "Made in Sheffield" designation. "Made in Sheffield" might mean quite a lot of things.
There are 14 Sheffields listed in The Times World Index Gazeteer. There are no fewer than nine in the United States. I am sure that the organisation which exists to protect the name "Sheffield" is organisedin the United States. I am sure that it is in touch with the chambers of commerce in Sheffield, Alabama; Sheffield, Illinois; Sheffield, Indiana; Sheffield, Iowa; Sheffield, Massachusetts; Sheffield, Ohio; Sheffield, Penn- 2044 sylvania; Sheffield, Texas; and Sheffield, Vermont. It is not necessary in the interests of those towns to poach on the name "Sheffield". However, I should like to hear the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam on the question of the competition from Sheffield in Pennsylvania, which is another steel town, like Sheffield in Yorkshire.
I wonder whether the name is protected against the village of Sheffield in Bedford? That could hardly be described as a steel-producing town. It may be in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford—
§ Mr. Kimball
It is listed as being in Bedfordshire in The Times list. It does not say which part of the county it is in. As a result of developments, Sheffield in Bedfordshire may compete with Sheffield in Yorkshire. The difficulty is that the Amendment does not deal with the problem which arises over the Sheffield which is in Russia. The interesting thing is that the Anglicised spelling—
§ Mr. Kimball
It is listed as being in the USSR. Although it is pronounced "Sheffield", it is spelled "Shefeld". When do you deal with the question of the origin of marking—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Since the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, may I point out that this is a rather diffuse geography lesson?
§ Mr. Kimball
I hope that you realise the genuine concern of hon. Members, Mr. Speaker. Sheffield spends much money in protecting its traders.
§ Mr. Normanton
I am sure that this question agitates my hon. Friend's mind and the minds of people outside, but it is fully covered by the Bill. If "Sheffield" is a place in Britain covered by the Bill 2045 and the goods in question are made else-were, the country of origin must be shown in a conspicuous position. If goods from any one of the Sheffields to which my hon. Friend has referred are brought to this country, they will have to have the country of origin attached to them.
§ Mr. Kimball
I am sorry, but my hon. Friend does not satisfy me. I shall wish to develop my arguments later and ask him to deal with them.
Suppose there were a duty-free customs-free airport at one Sheffield. To illustrate the magnitude of the problem I should perhaps explain to my hon. Friend that not only is there a Shefeld, pronounced Sheffield, in the USSR, but a Shefel'd, again pronounced Sheffield, in Israel. In fact, there are two such Shefel'ds in Israel—Shefel'd region and Shefel'd plain. That being so, I think
|Division No. 224.]||AYES||[1.45 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Jessel, Toby||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Atkinson, Norman||Kaufman, Gerald||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Kerr, Russell||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Booth, Albert||Knox, David||Spearing, Nigel|
|Buck, Antony||Lipton, Marcus||Spence, John|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stainton, Keith|
|Coombs, Derek||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cordie, John||McNamara, J. Kevin||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Mawby, Ray||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Moate, Roger||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|English, Michael||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Tinn, James|
|Eyre, Reginald||Osborn, John||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Parkinson, Cecil||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Pavitt, Laurie||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Weitzman, David|
|Foley, Maurice||Perry, Ernest G.||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Fortescue, Tim||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Whitlock, William|
|Golding, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Younger, Hn. George|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Richard, Ivor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Roper, John||Mr. Norman Fowler and|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Rose, Paul B.||Mr. Tom Normanton.|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Rost, Peter|
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Anthony Fell and|
|Mr. Marcus Kimball.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment No. 2: In page 1, line 17, leave out subsection (2).
§ Mr. Normanton
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I remind the House that this was one of the subsections which caused a con-
§ my hon. Friend will appreciate that this is a serious problem.
§ Sheffield is so well known that its name applies really to only one commodity—steel. If, however, one looks at The Times list of towns and countries in the world one finds that not only are there 14 Sheffields, but there are 12 Londons.
§ I am disappointed with the drafting of the Clause. We all sympathise with what the Lords Amendment intends to achieve, but my right hon. Friend has in no way convinced me that the Amendment will provide the safeguards which we should like to give to manufacturing industry in this country.
§ Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 73. Noes 0.
§ siderable amount of confusion in Committee. The Minister gave an undertaking that he would look further into the appropriate wording of the subsection and the unsuitability or otherwise of including it in the Bill. The same position occurred in another place. As a consequence, the Amendment was tabled and carried. I hope, therefore, that the House will accept it.2047
§ Question put and agreed to.
Lords Amendment No. 3: In page 1, line 19, at end insert:
() Subsection (1A) of this section does not apply to secondhand goods.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
The Amendment covers a section of trade in goods which might be deemed to come within the terms of the Bill to a very limited degree. It is felt, and was felt in another place, that excluding second-hand goods would make the Bill more workable and more equitable and would remove from coverage by the Bill a relatively insignificant section of retail and wholesale trade.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Mr. Fell I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but—
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that it is. The hon. Gentleman must keep up if he wants to ask questions.
§ Lords Amendment No. 4: In page 1, line 20, leave out "(1)" and insert "(1A)".
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Mr. Kimball rose—
Lords Amendment No. 5: In page 1, line 26, leave out from "that" to end of line 7 on page 2 and insert:
the interests of persons in the United Kingdom to whom goods of any description may be supplied or to whom goods may be sup-
plied under any designation would not be materially impaired by his doing so and that".
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment, it will be convenient to discuss Lords Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 13, after "may" insert:be given for a limited time or indefinitely and may".
§ Mr. Normanton
On studying these Amendments and seeing the way in which they replace the wording in its original form, I feel satisfied, as do my sponsors and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East(Mr. Peel), that they in no way vary the objects or aims of the Bill. They will make it more reasonable and effective and introduce into it an element of equity which we would all like to see.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I hope that the Minister accepts the Amendment, as he indicated during our first debate today. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton), on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, for moving the Amendments and seeking support from his side of the House. He will have the support of this side of the House also.
§ Mr. Noble
Although we are dashing along as quickly as possible, perhaps it would be right to explain to the House the purpose of the Amendments and how they will achieve it. I have given some undertaking to the House that even if the House rejected the Amendment about "imported", the Secretary of State would have power to deal with problems that will undoubtedly arise in considerable number.
The Amendment changes the subsection in three respects. First, it eliminates the reference to difficulties arising owing to the special circumstances of any trade. This enables the Secretary of State to act in cases where compliance would be of no particular benefit to persons to whom the goods are supplied. Secondly, it confines his consideration to the interests of persons in the United Kingdom to whom the goods may be supplied. This is especially appropriate, because the problem to which the Bill is directed is particularly domestic.
2049 Thirdly, the Amendment prescribes that the Secretary of State must not merely have regard to the interests of United Kingdom consumers but must be satisfied that their interests would not be materially impaired by his directions.
The extra power which the Amendment gives the Secretary of State is concentrated, as the House would want it to be, on the need of the consumer and on making certain that, if it was used for some purpose in the Act, he would have to consider whether this impaired—
§ Mr. Noble
—the rights of the consumer. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting the appropriate words into my mouth.
These suggested changes do not, however, mean that the Secretary of State would be bound to act whenever these conditions were satisfied. The power remains a discretionary one, exercised only when he is also satisfied that such action is desirable. Nor, on the other hand, would the changes prevent him from acting in cases where compliance gave rise to special difficulties. They would merely mean that, for instance, his attention would be focussed not on the difficulties of suppliers as such but on any adverse consequences which the necessity to overcome those difficulties might have for consumers, for example, by temporarily restricting supplies and thereby inflating prices. Therefore, Lords Amendment No. 5 will appeal to the House, I believe, and I hope that it will be accepted.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ As to Lords Amendment No. 7, the Bill already provides that a direction granting 2050 an exemption or relaxation may be withdrawn at a later date. I think that this was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) in an earlier debate. The effect of the Amendment is that it will enable a direction to be expressed at the outset as being of specific limited duration. If it is found necessary to make directions granting exemption or relaxation to meet short-term problems, it will obviously be desirable to subject them to an explicit time limit within which those concerned will achieve, or revert to, full compliance. In such circumstances, those concerned ought to be able to see from the direction concerned that there is a time limit and for how long it extends.
§ These are practical and sensible extensions to the power that the Secretary of State will have, and I hope that they will appeal to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to.
§ Mr. Normanton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before finally parting with the Bill, would you allow me an opportunity to express on behalf of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) his grateful thanks for the way in which hon. Members have co-operated with him in bringing the Bill forward?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is the second time today that this has happened on a point of order. I suggest that it would be better if hon. Members expressed such thanks in their speech dealing with the final Amendment rather than expressing those thanks on what they call a point of order, because it is not a point of order.