§ 11. Mr. Hooley
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the EEC draft directive on precious metals which could alter the well-established system of hallmarking now operating in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Alan Williams
While the draft directive is intended to reduce barriers to trade in articles of precious metals within the Community, I am considering representations that its implementation in its present form might adversely affect our trade, weaken the protection afforded to consumers by our present hallmarking system, and be technically unsatisfactory. In further Community discussions we shall be making it clear that, to gain United Kingdom support, the directive must take account of the interests of all the member States of the Community and the desirability of including effective technical provisions on quality control and marking.
§ Mr. Hooley
Is my hon. Friend aware that this proposal has been condemned by the Assay Master of the Sheffield Assay Office and by the Cutlery and Silverware Manufacturers Association? Is he aware that Germany, Italy and Denmark have no assay system and have no intention of setting one up? Will he resist this neurotic obsession of Brussels with harmonisation?
Mr. Alan Williams
I have no objection to harmonisation where it furthers the interests of the people concerned, but I shall resist as far as possible harmonisation which detracts from the interests of the consumer. As for the type of case to which my hon. Friend is referring, we have only recently ratified the international convention in this respect. There will be great benefit for the industry in this country if we can secure greater agreement at an international level. Clearly, however, there must be unequivocal standards which are accepted by all the countries concerned if the consumer's interest is to be protected.