HC Deb 07 February 1977 vol 925 cc1037-8
12. Sir John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what representations have been made to him by the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers' Association Limited about the unsatisfactory nature of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1975; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Fraser

I am aware that the association is critical of the regulations because they do not provide that compliance with standards shall be accepted as satisfying the prescribed requirements. The Consumer Protection Act 1961, under which the regulations were made, does not enable this to be done. But I am considering, in the light of the many comments received in response to the consultative document on consumer safety issued by my Department last February, whether to seek powers to include such provisions in regulations.

Sir John Hall

Is the Minister aware that one of the major complaints of the industry is that the regulations are obscure and very difficult to interpret? Furthermore, the industry believes that they place it in a very difficult position in international trading. Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman have further consultations with the industry to see whether the regulations need amending in any way?

Mr. Fraser

I am aware of the representations made by the association, although they have not included me. I do not agree that the regulations are obscure. What my Department did was to issue administrative guidance listing standards which in its view offered the degree of safety required by the regulations. In this way we have conferred a kind of non-statutory, deemed-to-satisfy status on the listed standards. I would be willing to listen to the association's representations.

Mr. Rooker

Will my hon. Friend confirm that citizens will not be required shortly to change all their plugs and sockets in line with international proposals? It has been estimated that it would cost Birmingham City Council £18 million if it had to change all the plugs and sockets in all its council houses and flats. That is just one example.

Mr. Fraser

I can confirm that that will not happen shortly. I am not sure that it will happen at all.

Mr. Hal Miller

Will the Minister ensure that in future a greater attempt is made to base any new regulations on already accepted standards or to revise those standards with the agreement of all concerned in the industry before imposing regulations, to allow time for manufacturers to adjust their production?

Mr. Fraser

I am fully aware of the difficulty of manufacturers. The lead times given by the regulations took account of their difficulties. But I do not have statutory authority now to make regulations by reference directly to standards. We are consulting about the possibility of this happening in the future.