§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill which, in its main provisions, is exactly the same as the Bill I had the honour of proposing to your Lordships' House during last 895 Session That Bill was passed through all its stages here and went to another place very late in the Session, with the consequence that it was not proceeded with. Although this Bill in principle is exactly the same as the last one, one or two rather important additions have been made. Instead of going through the provisions of the Bill, with which your Lordships are doubtless very familiar, I will merely say a word or two about the proposed additions.
The first one of importance arises from this fact. The Board of Trade were anxious to have an opportunity of revising the provisions in the Schedule to the Petroleum Act of 1879, which laid down the manner in which petroleum is to be tested for its flash point, as the provisions have been found to be defective in certain respects. The matter has been considered by a Departmental Committee of experts, which included representatives of the Institution of Petroleum Technologists, the London County Council, the oil companies and the instrument makers. The Committee unanimously recommended the new specification which has been included as the First Schedule to the Bill and it is to be substituted for the existing Schedule in the Act of 1879. The alterations made are of a purely technical character and mainly in the direction of greater elasticity. It was found that the old Regulations were so rigid that it was impossible to comply with them. There was no margin. It was almost impossible for any instrument to conform exactly with the Schedule of the Act of 1879 and even the model instrument deposited with the Board of Trade, which has been used as the standard of reference, did not agree with the specification. The new description provides for a certain tolerance. A saving in respect of existing instruments will be found in the provisos to Clause 3 of the new Bill.
It very often happens in other matters with which I am more intimately connected than with petroleum, that the tests cannot be complied with. For instance, in connection with lawn tennis, there were certain very severe tests in the old days concerning the size and balance of lawn tennis balls, with which it was impossible for any maker of lawn tennis balls to comply. Therefore a 896 certain margin of tolerance was given in this manner—that no lawn tennis ball was to be made more than a certain weight, that the bounce was to be between certain bounces and the size between certain sizes. It is suggested that something of this sort should be allowed in the present instance.
Under the old Act of 1879 the Board of Trade are charged with the duty of examining and stamping all these various test instruments for the purpose of testing the flash of petroleum and verifying them. Once these instruments were verified the verification lasted for ever, even though the instruments were worn out and even though parts were replaced. One of the new clauses of this Bill, in conformity with the recommendations of this technical Committee to which I have referred, is that the stamp on an instrument should remain valid only for a period of ten years, and if alterations are made and the instrument has to be re-stamped, the stamp would not be good for more than ten years. Effect is given to this recommendation in Clause 2 of the Bill. I think that on the last occasion my noble friend Viscount Haldane referred to the description of the petroleum flash which comes under Section 1 of the old Bill. I should like to assure him that no alteration is made in that. The flash-point remains 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two other alterations have been made as the result of representations which were made from Scotland. The Scottish local authorities, who are in favour of the Bill, suggested amendments on two points. One was the scale of fees. They represented that the scale, of fees as suggested in the old Bill would not cover the expenses to which local authorities would be put and they suggested a revised scale. Under last year's Bill a fee of 5s. only was payable for a licence where the amount of petroleum spirit kept did not exceed 600 gallons, 10s. if it did not exceed 3,000 gallons,£1 if it did not exceed 30,000 gallons, and so on. The number of large stores, of course, is very small compared with the whole, and the local authorities would receive only a very small fee in respect of the great majority of cases. Therefore they suggested that the scale should be differently graduated and it so appears in the Schedule which is attached to the Bill. The maximum of 897 £5 is, however, preserved. The matter was discussed with the representatives of the oil companies, who expressed their willingness to agree to the revised scale which has been inserted in Schedule 2 of the Bill.
The other matter to which the Scottish authorities called the attention of the Home Office was a certain defect in Sections 11 and 12 of the Petroleum Act, 1871. These sections gave power to the local authority's officer to take samples and test petroleum kept by petroleum dealers, but the authority did nut extend to those people who keep petroleum spirit for other purposes than merely dealing in it—those persons, for instance, who keep petroleum spirit for industrial purposes. They proposed that Sections 11 and 12 should be extended to persons who keep petroleum for the purpose of any trade or industry, and effect has been given to this suggestion in Clause 4 of the new Bill. It may be mentioned that the Departmental Committee which sat before the War had their attention drawn to this matter. They were fully in accord with this proposal and suggested that the existing position was anomalous. I do not know that it is necessary for me to say anything more about the principle of this Bill, to which your Lordships have already given assent. I have drawn attention to a few alterations and, I hope, improvements in the Bill as now submitted to your Lordships, and I trust you will give it your favourable consideration by reading it a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a (Lord Desborough.)
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord. The terms of this Bill are founded largely on the recommendations of the Committee over which Lord Younger presided and of which I was a member, and I think most of the provisions are very reasonable. There are certain points in the Schedule in regard to the powers of inspection given to Government inspectors which may raise a question for the Committee stage, but I should like to give general support to the Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.