HL Deb 20 June 1961 vol 232 cc505-23

3.21 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in the fourteen years it has been my privilege to be a Member of your Lordships' House I have sought on a number of occasions to direct attention to dangers and accidents in the home, but I am afraid it has been merely a question of words, trying to arouse interest. To-day I am more fortunate in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, because I have the opportunity of doing something that is positive. It is the Bill to which I referred in the Accidents in the Home debate on April 12 last. It was introduced in another place by a Private Member. Having obtained an early place for his Bill in November last, the honourable gentleman secured a Second Reading on January 22 and its reference to Standing Committee C of the other place. There it was submitted to a long and careful scrutiny in four sittings throughout February and March; finally it was brought up on Report on May 5 and on Third Reading on June 9; and last week your Lordships gave it a First Reading. I give your Lordships these details to show that the Bill has been subjected to very careful scrutiny and to all the tests which Members of the other House desired to apply to it.

The Bill is based on the Interim Report of the Committee on Consumer Protection, which was referred to as the Molony Committee by a number of noble Lords in the debate on Accidents in the Home. Its main purpose is to protect the consumer against the known hazards from faulty and dangerous appliances, which I think is really a broad statement of the main clause, Clause 1, and I particularly direct your Lordships' attention to the main principle in Clause 1 (1) (a) and would emphasise the last line of that paragraph: that the action of the Minister is to deal with goods with a view to preventing or reducing the risk of death or personal injury.

Perhaps, rather than try to take your Lordships through each clause of the Bill, it would be better if I endeavoured to give the background of the Molony Committee Report and quoted certain relevant paragraphs from it. The Committee was appointed by the President of the Board of Trade on June 30, 1959, with terms of reference: To review the working of the existing legislation relating to merchandise marks and certification trade marks, and to consider and report what changes if any in the law and what other measures, if any, are desirable for the further protection of the consuming public. The Committee's Final Report is not yet available, but the valuable Interim Report on which the Bill is based was issued on March 24, 1960, and in issuing the Interim Report the Committee explained the reason. They point out that on March 18 last year it had been indicated to them that in considering the action to be taken in the light of the recent report of the Joint Fire Research Organisation on the effects of draughts on the burning of oil heaters, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs had indicated that he would welcome the assistance of an Interim Report of the Committee on the general issue of the safety of consumer goods. In their Report, in paragraph 3, the Committee point out that they had in fact at an early stage of their deliberations decided to give immediate attention to the hazards to life and limb which consumer goods might create, and had caused Press announcements to be made in October, 1959, with a view to securing evidence from all persons concerned.

One of the first considerations which the Committee had to enter into—one which your Lordships will want explained to you in connection with the applicability of the Bill—was what was their definition of the "consuming public". They decided for the purpose of their Report, and that goes for the purpose of this Bill, that they would regard a consumer as one who purchases or hire purchases goods for private use or consumption". Their next stage was to determine what products were dangerous, or dangerous enough at any rate to justify remedial measures. The folly of the consumer after the purchase, or his own neglect to take the necessary steps in respect of dangers inherent in the product, were obviously not things for a Committee of this kind. They confined their inquiry to the articles which appeared to them to involve undue risk of personal injury, either because they contained a concealed danger or could develop such a danger or because they might expose persons to danger in the event of ignorant or inadvertent mishandling which could reasonably be anticipated on the part of the purchaser. Within that definition, they had to pay regard to the special cases of children under five and of the aged, whose hazards might be greater and who might deal with things which presented a hazard to them while not presenting one to the rest of the community.

Perhaps it would be as well if I quoted to you the general conclusions they reached, which then lead to the basis of the drafting of the Bill. In their paragraphs 9 and 10 they say: We have found no evidence to suggest the marketing on any widespread scale of consumer goods from which recognised hazards have not been eliminated as far as is reasonably practicable. On the contrary, it is apparent that manufacturers in general have a high sense of responsibility and safety-consciousness in seeking out and eliminating potential dangers; and we think that the few exceptions to this rule can generally be attributed more to ignorance or oversight than to any cynical or culpably negligent disregard of safety considerations. But even though such ignorance or oversight is to be found only on a small scale, its consequences in terms of human suffering can be considerable. And hence when a serious and hitherto unsuspected hazard is brought to light, remedial action should clearly be prompt, effective and universal in its application. It is with those principles in mind that we have arrived at our conclusions and framed our recommendations. The Report then goes on in paragraphs 11 to 40, to deal with the respects in which legislative intervention might be desirable in the interests of safety. Then they point out that these are of diverse character and individually might not be found deserving of the Parliamentary time which separate legislation for each item would inevitably consume. But their proposals, they state—and I quote here from paragraph 41 are of diverse character. and individually might not be found to be deserving of the Parliamentary time…but represent the imposition of requirements no more onerous than would readily be acceptable by the large majority of manufacturers; the effect of their imposition would be to curb the irresponsibility of the few. We think that, with personal safety at stake, legislative intervention is called for. They go on to say that they had very much in mind the fresh hazards that might appear in established goods or the new consumer goods that may come on the market at a time after the passage of legislation, and they say It is our view that statutory power to deal with such situations should exist in advance of the demonstrable need, so as to permit of prompt and firm action as soon as the need is manifest. They go on to say that there would be many practicable difficulties in devising the main means of removing the risks, all of which would take time. But they offer the view that the existence of a power to prohibit the sale of unsafe goods and to enforce remedial measures would,…markedly accelerate these processes and in some cases would probably mean that statutory intervention in the final event was no longer necessary.

Then they say that in recommending legislation their main idea is to safeguard the consumer against what appears to be the undue risk of personal injury; and they think that there should be early legislation to empower some designated Minister to prohibit by means of regulation either the sale, or the sale on shire purchase, of these forms of dangerous goods.

My Lords, those are the main recommendations of general principles of a valuable Report which covers nearly 6,000 words. This Report was presented in March last year and the Government did not include any proposal with regard to it in the gracious Speech, as many of us had hoped they would do. Some months ago I offered some criticism that the Government had not done so. It is criticism which I would not offer this afternoon. Indeed, I am now glad to think that the Government did no such thing. After looking at the delay and the tangle in legislation which has taken place, I now realise that by leaving the matter in the way that the Government did, we have got quicker results, because, as it happens, the work of the sponsors and of members of all Parties in another place, and the happy cooperation of the Home Office and in particular of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, present me with the opportunity this afternoon of offering to your Lordships a Bill in the confident hope and belief that you will support it and speed it to a Royal Assent during the present Session.

Your Lordships well may ask whether legislation is justified. I could not do better than quote, in a short summarised form, to save time, the arguments in favour of the Bill which were advanced by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. He said that safety in general involved four things: first, that one should take care of oneself; secondly, that one should help others to take care; thirdly, that care should be taken in design on the part of manufacturers and sales organisations; and fourthly and finally, that suppliers could be made to take care by means of legislation.

The first two—taking care of ourselves and trying to help others to take care of themselves—we in this House and honourable gentlemen and right honourable gentlemen in another place, have dealt with in various debates. The third—care in design—depends upon the manufacturers. I should like to say straight away in respect of industry in this country that we can rely upon most manufacturers here, although not all of them. For instance, a large range of articles is dealt with under definitions of the British Standards Institution. That is becoming more and more so, and reputable organisations are more and more consulting and joining with the B.S.I., are devoting themselves to their standards, and are selling their products with certification that the standard of B.S.I. has been lived up to.

Similarly, the electricity supply industry of this country and the electrical manufacturing organisations have always set a very high standard. As your Lordships know, they have their national scheme for approvals for domestic electric appliances. The co-operation of the oil producers and the manufacturers of oil heaters was readily forthcoming when faced with the outcry last year, very much related to the Report of this Committee and the presence of this Bill, which led to the Oil Burners (Standards) Act, 1960, which will be incorporated into this Act if your Lordships give it a Third Reading and it finally secures the Royal Assent.

To take the fourth example, the British toy industry, as soon as it read the criticisms about toys in the detail of the Molony Committee Report, proposed to secure, with the co-operation of the British Standards Institution and of the Home Office, some defined standards. This has to do with such things as the buttons which serve for eyes in teddy bears and are pulled off in the mouths of children, and the cutting pieces of metal on toys, and the like; and I believe that the manufacturers are getting on with the job. But these are voluntary standards laid down by reputable manufacturing organisations for the guidance of their own people and for the benefit of the public. It does not deal with the danger of the lower quality imported goods sold by suppliers who are not so careful; nor does it deal with the efforts of the less reputable manufacturers.

Under this heading comes imported electrical equipment which does not conform to the British code of practice which is so carefully relied on by the United Kingdom electricity authorities. I remind your Lordships that I have referred in this House in the past to the fact that Continental imports have their three wires differently coloured. I believe that we are about to face an international agreement which may cure that difficulty. But that has been one of the great dangers of cheap stuff bought in some of the stores. There is an increasing number of children's toys and playthings which come into this country from Hong Kong and which are dangerous. One oil lamp which I have had brought to my attention actually carries a beautifully coloured printed label stating that it is safe, but it is not worth the ink which is used to print the piece of card which hangs round the neck of the lamp. The evidence from the Home Safety Committees which has come before the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents makes it clear that some of the recent fires were caused by oil-burning heaters imported from Greece, Germany and Holland.

So to deal with these hazards the fourth item of legislation is necessary. Parliament has never hesitated from time to time to intervene to provide for the imposition of statutory standards and prohibitions where the safety or the health of the individual was at stake. As long ago as 1913 the Fabrics (Mis-description) Act was passed, and in succession your Lordships, with right honourable and honourable gentlemen in another place, have dealt over the years with lead paint poisoning in 1926, the control of petroleum in 1928; your Lordships passed the Pharmacy and Poisons Act in 1933; and in more recent years many of us can remember the passage through this House of the Rag Flock and Other Filling Materials Act, 1951, and the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act, 1952, as to which some Members of this House played a leading part, and so on. In addition, the Road Transport Act, 1956, gave the Minister power to make regulations dealing with such things as crash helmets, the use of rear lights, and so on. In the earlier cases I referred to special Acts of Parliament; in the latter, I referred to generality Acts which gave the Minister powers to make regulations, powers which he has seized and used.

The proposals now before your Lordships provide for endowing the Minister of State with powers to enable him to deal with hazards as they arise, or, alternatively, to amend regulations which have already been made. As the Molony Committee say, the well-established precedent of legislative action is with regard to goods on which the life and limb of the ordinary individual may depend; and they say in paragraph 40: The case for such intervention on a broader scale than hitherto is supported in principle in the submissions made to us by a large number of responsible organisations, representative of trade as well as non-trade interests, and it is a view from which we have found very little dissent. I invite your Lordships to note those words. They refer to the considerable volume of support they have had from organisations representative of manufacturing industries and the very small amount of dissent. Indeed, my friends in another place tell me that one thing which makes this Bill outstanding is that from the publication of the Bill on November 23 of last year, up to its Third Reading on June 9 of this year, they were subjected to no barrage of propaganda to cause them to ease up on this measure; and the large number of your Lordships who spent some time in the other place will know how completely strange such a state of affairs is. It is indicative of the very general support that this measure finds.

The truth is that the good organisations have reason to believe that this is in their interests as well as in the interests of the public. They will see set down, if necessary by regulations, standards which at the moment are merely voluntary standards which they accept and of which their less reputable competitors take no notice at all. Incidentally, they also know that they may rely upon the proper operation of the Act (if, as I hope, this becomes an Act) by the Home Office, accustomed as they are to using powers of Acts of this kind. Indeed, the honourable Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, speaking in another place on the Second Reading of this Bill and in support of it, on January 27, 1961, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 633, col. 508]: …the Government accept the Bill and that, if the House sees fit to enact it, we shall be prepared to make wise use of it when the need arises. We do not expect that that need will arise very often—and I am sure that the House hopes that it will not arise very often—but, when it does arise, we shall make wise use of this measure. Finally, may I refer to a few points which were raised by honourable Members in another place during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill? The first was about consultation, not unrelated to what I have had to say. The sponsors of the Bill were quite happy to rely upon what they regarded as normal consultation which the Minister and his Department in their own good sense would take. But there were some who were concerned that that was leaving it to the Minister's good will, and they wanted to make it very clear in the Act (if there was to be an Act) that the Minister has to do these things. So one difference which your Lordships will find between the Bill as the sponsors first presented it last November to the other place and the Bill before your Lordships to-day lies in Clause 1 (5), which says: It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State before making any regulations under this section, to consult with such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him requisite. That met with the unanimous approval of the other place, and I commend its inclusion in the Bill to your Lordships at this stage.

Then there was a small question about administrative costs. They are dealt with, as your Lordships will see, in Clause 4. So far as administration is concerned, it will involve no new officers; it will be possible to take care of it within the local government machinery. The draftsmanship of the paragraphs about the local government machinery in the Bill as now presented to your Lordships again differs from that of the Bill as presented to the other place last November. The phraseology has been changed so as to provide a system to be adopted within local government which marries into the system proposed in the Weights and Measures Bill, which was before your Lordships' House. This is being done in the interests of good administration and economy of administration in local authorities. To the extent that there is expense to be met, the Government have indicated that if this Bill goes through all its stages to Royal Assent they will move the necessary financial Resolution in the other place, which will provide that the sums payable in respect of rate deficiency grant or Exchequer equalisation grant will be dealt with by the necessary payments. That is the explanation of the way in which Clause 4 is presented to your Lordships.

One other query which was raised was about the opportunity of defence offered to the small shopkeeper, or the manufacturer, for that matter, who finds himself faced with the threat of prosecution. There I would point out that the very extreme opportunity of defence is offered in Clause 3 (2), at the end, where the words regarding defence are: if he proves that he had reasonable cause to believe that all such requirements were satisfied. That is a very broadly worded defence providing great opportunities to any person reasonably believing himself to be innocent. I am told by my friends learned in the law that there is no broader opportunity of defence to be found in British law and, in fact, this is a better defence in law than is generally given in criminal prosecutions.

My Lords, I have sought not to detain your Lordships unduly by submitting any of the detail about the Molony Report or that behind the general drive on this matter in respect of home accidents and the like, both because I have had a good deal to say on that in the past and, in addition, because I know there are to follow me one or two noble Lords who have displayed a particular interest in this subject. I have no doubt they will be able to say in their own way, very much better than I would, some of the points in favour of the Bill. This Bill was introduced in another place by an Opposition Member. That Opposition Member had the good sense to go to his Whip, and his Whip had the good sense to go to the Government Whip with one objective in mind: to consult with the Government so that the premier place that had been won in the ballot by a Member of the Opposition might be used for a Bill of paramount importance to the community as a whole.

It was in the belief that that description applied to this Bill that the Member of the other House who had won the top place in the ballot moved this Bill, which I now confidently commend to your Lordships. The sponsors, in getting the Bill thus far, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has said, owe it to the fact that not only the Opposition as a whole but vast numbers of Members on the Government side, and also the Government themselves, were in favour of action on this Bill. I would go on to add what the Under-Secretary obviously could not himself add: that the sponsors owe a great deal to him for the excellent job which he did on behalf of his Department. So I commend this Bill to your Lordships as one which gives the Government a useful reserve of power to provide a valuable protection to the public, and I move its Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Crook.)

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by saying that I entirely welcome this Bill? In fact, I am on my hind legs only to give the noble Lord, Lord Crook, the earliest possible notice that I intend, on the Committee stage, to move certain Amendments which I hope will improve the administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act. I am not going to argue the Amendments—in fact, they are not drafted yet—but I should like him to know as early as possible the gist of the Amendments that I propose to move, so that he can think about them and, if necessary, discuss them with me. As this affects two of the Amendments I shall be moving, may I point out to your Lordships that when this Bill becomes an Act there are two Acts of Parliament that will be repealed by it: the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act, 1952, and the Oil Burners (Standards) Act, 1960; but—and this is the point—the Regulations now in force under those Acts will continue unless amended at some later date under this Bill.

Now may I say a word about the Amendments, or the points of the Amendments, that I shall move? The first one is to Clause 2, subsection (1). I have a feeling that the words in that subsection, "or have in his possession for the purpose of selling", are not quite adequate, and I think there will have to be some words dealing with evidence of possession. The second Amendment that I shall be moving deals with subsection (3) (a). That is the subsection which takes agents out of the operation of the clause. I take it that "agents" includes second-hand dealers and auctioneers. I should like to see that paragraph (a) taken right out, but certainly restricted to auctioneers. There have been many cases where secondhand fire appliances, which did not conform to the terms of the Act, have caused serious accidents, some of them fatal. I think we should look at it to see whether, in fact, the exemption of these agents in this present Bill is not too wide, particularly as regards second-hand dealers.

The third Amendment I shall move is to Clause 3, sub-section (2). It seems to me that the Bill in its present form does not adequately cover the problem of a contravention due to the fault of some other person, and I would suggest that one might put in an Amendment on the lines of Section 113 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, subsections (1), (2) and (3). That is what I have in mind at the moment.

I should also like on the Committee stage to move an entirely new clause, giving power to the courts to order the forfeiture of goods which do not comply with the requirements of the Regulations made under the Act. There have been quite a few cases where proceedings have been instituted under the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act, a conviction has been obtained and then the appliance which has been the subject of the court proceedings has been put up for sale again without any altera- tion to it. I shall suggest that the courts might have power to confiscate the goods. I am mentioning these things to-day only to give my noble friend a full warning of what I shall be doing. I do not, I may say, expect an answer from him to-day on the points I have raised. Apart from those small points, I very much hope that the Bill will become law.


My Lords, may I say that I welcome very much the general support that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has given to the Bill. But if the Bill is to become law this Session, as all friends of the consumer very much desire, I hope that we shall not have such a long, drawn-out discussion upon these technical questions as will delay the passage of the Bill. That is why I welcome very much his general support, but if, as soon as possible, he can negotiate with those of us who are interested in the Bill, we might let him know what can be taken and what cannot. Certainly some of them are not uncontroversial, looking at the trade outside as a whole, although in many cases I think that what he has said will appeal to the general consumer. I think we ought to have quite early discussions on that.


I am in entire agreement with the noble Viscount.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crook, upon his admirable exposition of this Bill. He has moved it with sincerity and with conviction, as indeed it was moved in another place by the honourable gentleman the Member for Bilston. As the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has said, it received almost unanimous support in another place. I should like to echo the words of the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition, who expressed the hope that the passage of this Bill would not he unduly delayed, although I agree that at first sight the Amendments which my noble friend Lord Derwent proposes to move seem to have some substance in them. But, my Lords, this is a Private Member's Bill; it is a Bill of the utmost importance, and its passage should be facilitated this Session.

As your Lordships know, both the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and I myself have recently spoken in this House on the subject of safety in the home, and on this particular subject the Consumer Protection Bill does a great deal towards suggesting what can be done about this terrible menace. Both in the home and on the roads, as has been said before in your Lordships' House, the accident toll is lamentably high, and anything which can be done to offset this, either by Government legislation or by Private Member's legislation, will be welcome. This Bill seeks to give some reasonable impartiality towards both the consumer and the manufacturer. The recommendations of the Molony Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has said, have been closely followed.

I should like to point out one very important point, which was mentioned in another place on Second Reading by the sponsor of the Bill; that is, that in Sweden and Norway, and also in America, there are Ministries which are entirely connected with consumer welfare. I am not suggesting that we in this country should necessarily have a "Minister for Consumer Welfare"—I do not go the whole way with the honourable gentleman who moved this Bill on that matter. But I do think that the Home Office, in connection with the Board of Trade, could establish a great deal more liaison in this field. We are moving into a scientific age. Electricity is becoming more and more in use in the home, in the garden, and elsewhere. As science progresses, electricity is made a good deal safer But accidents can occur and do occur. Of course, neither this Bill nor any other Bill will legislate against the person who is obstinate, and who will take no notice of good advice which is given to him.

Electric blankets, for instance, are dealt with at some length in the excellent publication, the Shopper's Guide, issued by the Consumer Advisory Council. One blanket manufacturer sold some of these electric blankets made of a cotton material; and although he was advisd that they were dangerous, he said, referring to the Shopper's Guide: "I don't give a damn for these people". Nobody wants to harry the manufacturers—indeed, I am quite certain that the vast majority of manufacturers in this country will welcome this Bill. We are at present trying to increase our export trade, and a Bill of this kind will give more and more incentive to manufacturers to produce really high-quality goods, and thus increase our export trade. Of course, this Bill was not introduced to increase exports, but I think that is a valid point.

I will not weary your Lordships by repeating the points which I made during the debate on accidents in the home, but I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Crook, said about toys. The standard of toys to-day is very much better than it was some ten years ago. Having young children of my own, and occasionally buying toys myself, I have had some experience both of seeing the quality of toys arid of talking to shopkeepers about them. One of the previous Bills, the Mock Auctions Bill, I think, has done a great deal of good towards stamping out shoddy goods. There are, of course, a number of goods which could be covered in this Bill and which were not mentioned in another place—for example, floor Polishes, and certain foodstuffs under the Food and Drugs Act. Indeed, the Motion last Thursday of the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, on the contamination of food could conceivably be discussed under this Bill.

One or two suggestions were made by the Consumers' Protection Committee which I might mention to the noble Lord, Lord Crook. In Clause 1 (b) of the Bill, it is suggested that reference by name to some of the ingredients should be given, in addition to warnings and instructions. This could conceivably relate to goods such as toys and crayons—because a number of these contain harmful ingredients. Children have a habit of putting crayons in their mouths, and toys as well; and if they are coated with lead paint, this can sometimes lead to very unpleasant results. I am not going to detain your Lordships any longer on this Bill. There is a lot of legislation to be discussed to-day, and many relevant matters have already been discussed in the Home Safety Bill and in others. I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill an enthusiastic Second Reading.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, would add my words of congratulation and thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Crook, for moving this Bill in your Lordships' House, and also to congratulate his friend, the honourable gentleman in another place, Mr. Edwards, who introduced this Bill to Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, has explained the purpose of this difficult and complicated measure, with the lucidity which we always attach to any speech or comments which the noble Lord makes.

Before I go further, I should like to acknowledge what my noble friend Lord Derwent has said, but at the same time I must say, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that we must take careful note of what the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has also said. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and my noble friend that I will look most carefully into what my noble friend has said. If it is possible to work with the co-operation and help of the noble Lord and his friends in another place, something may be done, but I do hope that my noble friend will in no way prejudice the chances of this Bill becoming law in this Session.

My noble friend Lord Auckland asked that certain mention should be made in Clause 1 of ingredients of certain materials. I am sure that your Lordships will appreciate how difficult this would be. I should like to assure you that if there are any particular ingredients or materials—the noble Lord mentioned two, crayons and toys—I imagine that the Consumer Council would say that they did not like those particular ingredients. They would then go to the British Standards Institution, and in time a standard might be worked out for such materials. If there were still manufacturers who insisted on putting either shoddy materials, or poisonous or any harmful ingredients, upon the market, then the noble Lord's Bill would start to take operation. I wanted to make it clear that, in spite of the lack of any mention of ingredients, I think my noble friend's points are met by the noble Lord's Bill.

The House has devoted much thought and time to accidents in the home and to the safety standards of goods and services which the public buy in ever-increasing quantities as the standard of living rises. My noble friend Lord Auckland paid particular attention to that problem. There is no doubt that, as science advances, and as wealth increases, more and more potentially dangerous machines, materials, and so forth are coming upon the market, and are being bought.

I will go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Crook, that there are four fields of action. Personally, I should like to rearrange the order of his first and second points. I would put first education, and training in the prevention of accidents; education in the schools, in the Press, on the television and radio, and by all the means of propaganda that are available in these modern times. But it is just my personal opinion that point one should come first. Second, comes our own personal help to old people and to children, to prevent them from becoming victims of accidents the risks of which they are not able to appreciate. Then thirdly, as the noble Lord said, there is the point about careful design of household goods and machinery. The British Standards Institution and the manufacturers themselves have won our confidence in the high standards of the materials which are put upon the market. In fact, British manufacturers are household names with regard to the goods which they put on the markets of the world.

Then, finally, comes legislation. As the noble Lord said, his Bill comes into this No. 4 category. The noble Lord has explained how his Bill will work and in what circumstances. It is, of course, the result of the Interim Report of the Molony Committee. The noble Lord has said that his Bill is a positive measure; and that is quite true. On the other hand—and I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me—I doubt that it will, in fact, have a great effect upon reducing this tragic number of some 7,000 deaths caused by accidents in the home. We have to remember that so many of these accidents happen to old people—something like 70 per cent. of the deaths by accident in the home relate to people over the age of 65. And so, my Lords, it would be unfair to expect that this measure will have a great effect upon this tragic toll.

This is a legal long-stop. I would also call it a Parliamentary umpire at square leg, whereby action can be taken if goods are marketed persistently which would cause harm or accident to the buyer. As the noble Lord has said, British manufacturers are second to none with regard to the attention they pay to safety factors. I want to pay a tribute to them. I also want to pay a tribute to the way in which so many of our best manufacturers rapidly remedy any defects that may come to light in the course of time in a new product or due to now processes. I would remind your Lordships that should any products fail to come up to the standards—woe betide them! Of course this includes all foreign produce and manufactures which would be coming on to our market.

The British standard, with the kite trade mark, is known and acknowledged throughout the world. The Institution will have a leading part to play in carrying out the provisions of this Bill. In fact, if the British Standards Institution's advice is followed it is not anticipated that we shall have to use the powers in this Bill except on rare occasions, as Lord Crook has pointed out. It is the unscrupulous manufacturers who must beware, as Lord Crook and the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, have told us.

The noble Lord has explained his Bill admirably and I want only to draw your Lordships' attention to the novel and serious point which is embodied in Clause 3. That, of course, is with regard to failure to comply. Clause 3 (1) says that failure to comply with safety requirements will be a breach of statutory duty for the purpose of civil proceedings by a person who suffers injury or loss in the consequence of the failure. That is, of course, a very serious measure for those who may be caught under the regulations of this Bill.

I would remind your Lordships that these serious measures are taken following the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord du Parcq, and the longstanding criticisms of his colleagues in the legal profession. They have wished for a long time that Parliament should make its intention clear when introducing legislation. In fact the noble and learned Lord went so far as to suggest—and I quote that those who are responsible for framing legislation might consider whether the traditional practice—which obscures, if it does not conceal, the intention which Parliament has, or must be presumed to have, might not safely be abandoned. My Lords, this is a legal mouthful. As a result of that comment, the noble Lord's friends in another place with the help of my right honourable friend have drafted this measure in this way. I would remind your Lordships of the defence which the noble Lord, Lord Crook has mentioned in Clause 3 (2), where the operative words are "reasonable cause to believe". I believe that is a reasonable and fair defence for this measure. All I can do now is to commend the Bill to your Lordships, thank the noble Lord for his lucidity and his clear explanation, and wish the Bill good luck and a smooth passage on to the Statute Book.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, may I rise to thank the noble Lords who have made their contributions and thank them also for the warm support which has been given and for the nice things that have been said. There have been a number of suggestions—I make it a total of five—upon Amendments that might be moved. I welcome the suggestion of my noble Leader, that we who are concerned in trying to get this Bill on to the Statute Book in this Session might take an opportunity of getting together with some of our honourable friends in another place to see what we can do before the Committee stage is taken in your Lordships' House on Monday next.

I am bound to say that, whatever the Amendments are, I shall not feel happy about any of them, for what I think to be a very good reason. I explained to your Lordships in opening that there was a long Second Reading in January and a protracted discussion in Committee C. There was, in fact, a seven-hour discussion in Committee C. The whole of one Private Members' day from eleven until four o'clock was occupied on the Report stage and the start of Third Reading. I think it would be true to say that the long consideration was due to the desire of a few people who, for their own reasons, were quite blatantly and without any hesitation trying to obstruct the Bill by making long speeches and holding up the proceedings. I should not like to take any steps next Monday, or at any later stage in this House, which when the Bill got back to the other place gave to the three or four gentlemen in question such an opportunity to exploit that a difficult Amendment might give them. It is for that reason that I welcome the advice of my noble Leader and the suggestion of co-operation that was given by colleagues on the other side of the House. I hope we may have an opportunity, perhaps to-morrow, to get together and know where we are going.

I will not keep your Lordships any longer—there is no need, when I have had such kind and friendly speeches in support of the Bill. I hope to have the same co-operation on Committee stage on Monday, and on Report stage and on Third Reading as soon thereafter as may be possible.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.