HC Deb 13 April 1981 vol 3 cc1-3
1. Mr. Archie Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, in view of the number of accidents involving children, he will take further steps to ensure adequate warning labelling of hazardous domestic products.

The Minister for Consumer Affairs (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim)

I am only too aware of the many tragic accidents from poisoning to children reported every year that arise from such ordinary household products as cleaning and polishing agents, disinfectants, solvents and paints. I agree that the best way to prevent such accidents is by suitable warning labels. I intend shortly to circulate safety regulations on the matter.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that her reply is encouraging because of the dangers faced by children from the increasingly hazardous substances used in the house?

Mrs. Oppenheim

My hon. Friend will be aware that this matter has concerned me since I introduced a Ten-Minute Bill in 1972. I have given instructions for the EEC legislation and the Health and Safety Executive draft regulations to be examined swiftly to see that they adequately cover potentially dangerous household products bought for use in the home. If they do not do so to my satisfaction, I shall introduce legislation urgently under the Consumer Safety Act.

Mr. Crowther

Has the Minister received any complaints that furniture containing the highly toxic material polyurethane foam on display at a recent large exhibition was not properly ticketed with warning labels? What arrangements are made for inspection on such occasions?

Mrs. Oppenheim

If the hon. Gentleman would like to table a question about furniture regulations I should be pleased to answer it.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not given to many of us to introduce a Ten-Minute Bill and a few years later as a Minister to be able to implement it? Will she there fore get on with it? Can she assure me that the regulations will apply to imports because many imports of household goods and other items are inadequately identified and that on that basis many imports could be kept out of the country?

Mrs. Oppenheim

My hon. Friend was extremely prescient to have noted my satisfaction about that matter. He will have noted that I have had to wait since 1972 for that satisfaction but I reassure him that any regulations will apply to all goods sold in shops for use in the home.

Mr. Greville Janner

As children, who are most affected, cannot read warning labels, would it not be better to proceed with legislation to require the provision of child-resistant containers for those hazardous products?

Mrs. Oppenheim

The hon. and learned Gentleman raises an important point to which we have given consideration, but as he will recall—I know his memory is good—the proposals in the EEC directive are that symbols should be used which can be learned by children and which will adequately warn parents. One of the main problems with household products is that most people think that they are safe and keep them under the kitchen sink. The main objective is to warn parents. It is not thought necessary or practicable to use child-proof containers, although that applies to medicinal products.

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