§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, this is a small amending Bill designed to remove certain defects in the Weights and Measures Acts. The principal change is to extend the definition and operation of these Acts a little further. Under the definition as it exists there are certain measures which are not included. Any instrument for measuring superficial areas or for measurement by counting are not included in the present law and, besides that, there is a distinction, which I think must have occurred by inadvertence, as between the operation of the law in the case of weights and measures and in the case of measuring instruments. A certain control is provided under the existing law for both categories of measures, but in the case of measuring instruments there is no power to compel them to be stamped or inspected. It is in order to correct this omission that the present Bill is introduced, and the method by which we seek to do that is to extend the power which the Board of Trade has under the principal Acts. The provisions under which that extension is provided will be found in Clauses 1 and 2 of the present Bill.
There are a certain number of measures, not covered fully by the present law, which will now be provided for, and perhaps the one class which is the most important comprises the petrol pumps, with which your Lordships are no doubt familiar as you motor along the high roads. These petrol pumps are not under the present law and are not compulsorily inspected and stamped. It is thought that this omission in the law should be remedied. Then the superficial 232 measurements of drapery is not covered by the existing law. This is also set right by the Bill. The instruments will all be liable to inspection and will have to be stamped. The Bill is supported by a large number of influential bodies. Many local authorities are in favour of it, including the London County Council, the County Councils' Association, and the Incorporated Society of Inspectors of Weights and Measures. The chief motoring associations and the makers and users of these very instruments also support the Bill.
There are also in the Bill certain provisions for enlarging the power to charge fees. Under the existing law fees are charged by the Board of Trade by their standards department and they are also charged by inspectors of weights and measures locally, but there has been ambiguity in the law up till now. The Board of Trade have been in the habit of charging fees not merely when the instruments are found correct and stamped, but when they have been found to be incorrect and unstamped, and it seems to be reasonable, if the Board of Trade are put to the trouble of verifying these instruments, that they should be paid for their trouble, whether the instruments turn out to be correct or incorrect. Indeed, I should have thought that fees should be exacted all the more if they were incorrect. But by some faulty drafting in the original Act this was not carried out and the Law Officers of the Crown have decided that fees are only chargeable when the instruments are found to be correct. That is being put right by this Bill, whether the inspection and stamping takes place under the Board of Trade, or is done by local inspectors, and whether the instruments are found to be correct or incorrect fees will be chargeable. That is contained in Clause 3 of this measure. The only other clause to which I need call attention is that which repeals the Weights and Measures (Leather Measurement) Act. That is no longer necessary as leather is included in this general Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved. That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.