HC Deb 29 November 1973 vol 865 cc579-80
Q1. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider transferring departmental responsibility with regard to the safety of consumer products from the Home Office to the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

The allocation of departmental responsibilities is constantly under review and I shall keep this suggestion in mind.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Does my right hon. Friend agree, without implying any disparagement of Ministers in the Home Office, that it would be more practicable if the Department of Trade and Industry were to assume this responsibility since the Director General of Fair Trading, who has certain obligations in this respect, has a much more direct link with the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs? Furthermore, will not the Department of Trade and Industry be implementing secondary legislation which will ensue as a result of some welcome EEC directives on consumer products and their safety?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right that the Director General of Fair Trading will be able to help in dealing with the safety of consumer products. But the question we have to bear in mind is whether we should try to put responsibility for all this on one Minister or go on using the specialised knowledge in individual Departments in relation to particular dangers. At the moment my general judgment is that we should use the specialised knowledge of Departments as far as we possibly can.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Prime Minister look at the problem that arises from the fact that, although medicines have to be approved by a committee which has to be satisfied about their safety, other consumer products—whether they come under the Home Office or the Department of Trade and Industry—are not the subject of safety precautions? Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the Food and Drugs Act in the United States which covers medicines for thera peutic purposes and also goods consumed for other purposes?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I am prepared to examine that point, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has specific responsibility for medicines. I shall see whether there is a gap in terms of the products that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

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