HC Deb 11 March 1992 vol 205 cc838-9
6. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what response he has made to the complaints he has received about measurements relating to the head of a pint of beer in the current year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Edward Leigh)

After careful consideration of the complaints, I have decided that section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 should be implemented and that the trade should be allowed two years to make the necessary changes.

Mr. Canavan

Is the Minister aware that there would be widespread opposition, particularly in Scotland, to any Government imposing legislation that led to the disappearance of the traditional head on a pint of beer or to increased costs being passed on to the consumer in price increases? We all agree about the need to protect the general public against short measures, but does not the Minister realise that flat beer is just as bad, if not worse, than small beer?

Mr. Leigh

There is no question of having to serve flat beer in Scotland. I am only implementing the weights and measures legislation that the previous Labour Government introduced. I should be interested to see whether an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman will intervene on this point. Surely we all agree that no one should be served a short measure. If one pays for a pint of beer, one should get a pint of beer. If the hon. Gentleman and some brewers say that prices will increase, I can only quote a leading national newspaper which said: Why should a pint be a pint everywhere but in a pub? Just imagine how the brewers would react if their customers decided to hand over only 99p out of every £1 they were charged.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will my hon. Friend give greater and more sympathetic consideration to the question that has just been asked, because those of us who understand cask-conditioned ale—real beer—know that it is extremely damaging for it to be dispensed under pressure? The head is an important part of a pint of beer and if beer is dispensed in the way that he is advocating through the implementation of section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985, the taste, texture and colour of cask-conditioned beer could be altered to the detriment of the discerning beer-drinking public.

Mr. Leigh

My hon. Friend is quite rightly a great traditionalist, and so am I. Nothing that I am proposing will result in hand pumps being phased out. I am giving the industry two full years to bring in lined glasses. The entire stock of the nation's glasses turns over in two years so there is no reason why this measure should result in any implementation costs or why the price of a pint should go up. It is right that when one pays for a pint of beer, one should get a pint of beer.