HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1257-60

Lords Amendment: No. 337, in page 149, line 7, leave out "this section" and insert "subsections (2) to (4) below".

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That this House cloth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

With this we are to take Lords Amendments Nos. 338 and 339.

Mr. Page

Amendment No. 337 is a purely drafting Amendment. Amendment No. 338 is also a drafting Amendment but it is necessary in this case for the sake of completeness to include in the "without prejudice" provisions in the Weights and Measures Act, 1963, a reference to Section 5 of the London Government Act, 1963, which provides for the delegation of functions of greater London.

Amendment No. 339 deals with the Trade Descriptions Act. 1972. That was an Act which extended the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, to require certain names and marks applying to imported goods to be accompanied by an indication of origin. The Trade Descriptions Act, 1972, is also enforced by local weights and measures authorities and it is therefore necessary to include a reference to it.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 340, in page 150, line 15, at end insert: (8) A local weights and measures authority may make, or assist in the making of, arrangements to provide advice to or for the benefit of consumers of goods and services within the area of the authority.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I appear again, as I have been accused of appearing during previous debates on Lords Amendments, in the rôle of St. Paul. I have been converted in this case. An identical Amendment was discussed in Committee in this House and on Government advice it was withdrawn. I argued then that the Amendment was unnecessary because local authorities could already use the free penny rate for this purpose of giving advice for the future to consumers of goods. I also suggested that the consumer advisory services could be provided by weights and measures authorities under Clause 109, which enables local authorities to do anything calculated to facilitate or to be conducive or incidental to the discharge of any of their functions.

I now think it right, however, to give a specific power to local authorities, and particularly to the weights and measures departments of local authorities, to make or assist in making arrangements for the provision of advice to consumers. At present local authorities wishing to do this must rely primarily on the old free penny or, as it is now, the free two new pence. However, I recognise that there is a growing need for consumer advice and a growing willingness for local authorities to help in this respect.

Although we have some 500 citizens advice bureaux and some local authorities are already active in this sphere in assisting citizens advice bureaux and in setting up their own consumer advice, nevertheless weights and measures authorities are well placed to assist consumers who need advice and to meet that need. A number of local authorities provide it. Sheffield finances its service from its free penny rate and in the future it will be a free two new pence rate.

In general, it is the citizens advice bureau which is used as the main agency for this purpose. I am left in no doubt, after looking at this matter again, following the debate on it on the earlier stages of the Bill, that I was wrong in not conceding at that time that there should be a statutory power in the Bill. I was wrong in saying that local authorities should be obliged to use their free penny or free two new pence. I think it is right to give a statutory power and to encourage them by this to help support the citizens advice bureaux or set up their own direct means of consumer advice.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

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