§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Crook.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Prohibition on sale, etc., of goods not complying with regulations under s.1]
LORD DERWENT moved, in subsection (3) (a), after "possession" to insert:
of any goods or component part the subject of regulations in force under the foregoing section".
The noble Lord said: In moving this first Amendment may I say a general word about the other Amendments? Amendments 1 and 2, which deal with the same matter, make a considerable change in the Bill. The remaining Amendments, in my submission, are designed to improve the administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act. May I deal with the first two Amendments together as they are part of the same subject? In this clause agents, who are described as such, are exempt from certain of the parts of the clause; and in this connection "agents" means secondhand dealers and auctioneers. I think that probably covers the lot.
§ The point behind these two Amendments is that under the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act which, as I said last week, comes to an end if this Bill becomes an Act, there has been considerable concern about secondhand heating appliances which do not conform to the regulations. There has certainly been one fatal accident, and there have been many other accidents. This state of affairs is likely to go on, to increase, so long as exemption is granted to agents and the number of goods subject to regulation is extended. Clearly, it would not be right to prevent private people from selling their property privately. But there is an outlet for this type of thing in subsection (3) (d) and (e), which would enable private people to sell these things to scrap merchants or people who are dealers and so on. But it seems to me to be not really arguable that anyone who is in business should not know that what he is selling is dangerous or not subject to the regulations, and by taking the agents out of this exemption they would have to comply with the regulations when they sell the goods. The object of these two Amendments is to prevent secondhand heating appliances from being sold when they are not in accordance with the regulations. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 28, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD CROOK
I am obliged to the noble Lord for the way in which he has moved this Amendment, and for the opportunity we had of exchanging a few words, both on the afternoon of the Second Reading debate and to-day. I think the truth is that the noble Lord has put his finger on one small loophole in this Bill and, indeed, in the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act, 1952 which your Lordships sped on its way from this place. Having said that, may I say that I hope to persuade the noble Lord to withdraw the Amendment, for two or three, as I think, rather good reasons. First of all the reason why this clause is phrased in this way is deliberately to avoid placing an undue burden upon the agents of auctioneers who, in certain circumstances—if, for instance they were selling the whole of the contents of a house—would in fact have to satisfy themselves that the whole of the contents 841 of the house were such that they did not contravene either this Act (as I hope it will be) or the other two Acts which already exist.
That leads me to the second and, to my mind, much more important point, which I think is one the noble Lord himself accepted as important the other day. That is, the desire of people on all sides to get this Bill through and on to the Statute Book by the end of this Session. If we raise any major issues on this as a Private Member's Bill we run the very grave risk that we may lose the Bill when it gets back to the other place.
As the noble Lord himself indicated, what is involved in this clause is what is involved in the Heating Appliances (Fireguards) Act, 1952, and that clause was reproduced in the same phraseology in the Oil Burners (Standards) Act of last year, which was one of the things which caused the setting up of the Molony Committee and which might be said to be the genesis of this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will bear in mind that he will probably get an opportunity of saying something like this in very much better circumstances, I hope, in a couple of years' time. I know that that seems a long way 'off, but it h not when we look at this kind of problem. Whatever we may be doing with a Private Member's Bill here to try to get this Interim Report of the Molony Committee put in some way on to the Statute Book., we are hoping that by about this time next year we shall have the Final Report of the Committee, and I am quite sure that the Home Office., after sight of that Report, by 1963, will be coming forward with their own suggestions for major legislation. Then this kind of thing can be taken care of in a Government measure rather than in a Private Member's measure, producing as it does a considerable number of difficulties. I hope that the noble Lord may find it possible to withdraw his Amendment. I would obviously give way to the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, from the Home Office if he would desire to add anything to that.
I want only to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has said in 'asking your Lordships not to accept this Amendment or, better still, in asking my noble friend to withdraw the Amendment. It is true that there is a small loophole which the 842 Amendment would stop. But the debit side of doing this would be to put an almost intolerable burden upon bona-fide auctioneers and agents who were selling property on behalf of a seller to another person who will be paying them a commission. It is true, I suppose, that in such transactions a number of out-of-date and unsafe fires will come on the market. But I think that the number of people who are in that sort of market to buy such fires is very small, and in any case few of the fires will work. Also, if a person buys such a fire with the aim and object to sell it to someone else he would, of course, be caught under the provisions of the noble Lord's Bill.
There is, I agree, another small loophole whereby a secondhand dealer might try ito get round these provisions by becoming an agent in order to sell an out-of-date fire on behalf of a seller. I think that the prices involved are so small that the numbers of such dealers will be infinitesimal compared to the amount of extra trouble which my noble friend's Amendment will make for bona-fide auctioneers. I assure the noble Lord, as he well knows, that if any of these proscribed articles should come on the market as a result of one of these deals through an auctioneer—that is, if they are going to be sold to another person—whether they be new or secondhand, then the noble Lord's Bill will catch them. So I think we have a very small loophole and a very small problem, and the hammer which my noble friend is taking in the shape of this Amendment to crack this nut is really much too heavy and will bear very hard upon the auctioneers. I hope, in the light of what has been said by the noble Lord who is guiding this Bill through your Lordships' House, that my noble friend will withdraw his Amendment.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
I must say that I was rather surprised to hear the reply from the noble Earl. He said there was a loophole, and then he went on to tell us of another, and then he told us that the loopholes are only small and the price of this Amendment is too high for stopping these loopholes. But, as I listened to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and the noble Earl, it seemed to me that there were great possibilities; that the price need not be so very high, and that these loopholes 843 should be regarded seriously. It has been said that an auctioneer has a large number of goods to be auctioned. But surely if there were fire appliances, the things about which we have heard the dangers, it is possible to put them aside when arranging or cataloguing what the auction is dealing with. I think it is a pity that we should agree to pass a Bill when it is said by the noble Lord who is in charge of it and by the noble Earl who is speaking for the Home Office that it is agreed that there are loopholes but that we can wait for another Bill. I must say that I am very disappointed in the reply which the noble Earl has given us.
It was the noble Lord himself who, on the Second Reading, said that there were loopholes. I am being quite frank with the Committee in admitting that there are these two very small loopholes. The main loophole will be the case of the sale of a house with its contents, because it might have two or three old and out-of-date and unsafe fires. If the owner of those fires so wished he could go to the noble Lady herself and offer them to her, and the noble Lord's Bill would not "bite" in such a case. Therefore, it seems that where an agent is in charge of and is selling these appliances in the midst of many other articles in a house there is no need to take such drastic action as the noble Lord has suggested with his Amendment. After all, I think the action is really up to the buyer. There is no need for a buyer to buy one of these articles.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
May I interrupt? I agree that in many cases we are trying to protect the public too much, and I have often stated here and in another place that I think we do. But, after all, this Bill is called the "Consumer Protection Bill" and if you are not going to protect the person who is being offered a fire of this sort I consider that you have a very wide loophole in the Bill.
There are very few consumers in this particular small class. But the measure which my noble friend would like to see taken would put an almost impossible burden upon the auctioneers. I do not know how many people would buy such fires, but let us 844 remember that in the future not only fires will be included; there will be all sorts of articles that may be proscribed. I do not know whether the noble Lady has considered how such a measure as my noble friend would like could be drafted or drawn so as to enable auctioneers to find out what is proscribed, what is not, and what are the regulations regarding these particular items. I do beg the noble Lady to consider that point, although I am much in sympathy with what she says. Of course, we agree it is a consumers' protection Bill—that is quite true. But the size of this particular problem and loophole is so very small that it does not warrant the great inconvenience that such an Amendment as has been moved by my noble friend would cause to the agents and auctioneers, and to their staff, too. I do ask the noble Lady to consider that.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I cannot understand the argument of my noble friend Lord Bathurst: why on earth he wishes to stand out so much for the auctioneers, and why, in effect, auctioneers and their staff cannot take the trouble to see that electric heaters, and so forth, which may be unsafe should not be put on the market. My noble friend also mentioned that it may not be only heaters, but that there may be other forms of equipment which may be dangerous. If that is the case, I should have thought that that was an even stronger reason to plug this loophole. I cannot understand his argument in any way whatsoever.
I feel that some of my noble friends are being rather unreasonable on this. The business of an auctioneer is going to become utterly impossible, I think, if the Amendments are passed as they have been argued by noble Lords on this side of the House. We are talking at the moment, apparently, on the assumption that the goods specified are going to be those paraffin heaters about which I helped to pass a small Bill. But, of course, there are a great many other very dangerous things about in the world. Before we know where we are we shall find that cooking and electrical equipment, of all sorts and of all kinds of descriptions, used in the house will be subject to this clause, and no auctioneer will dare to touch them. He would not have the time, the staff or anything else to inspect these things to 845 see whether they complied with the regulations that had been issued about them. It is very difficult when you start to try to protect consumers, I agree, but I believe that in this case we are trying to go altogether beyond the realms of practicability.
I agree very much with what my noble friend Lord Hawke has said; and I would assure my noble friend Lord Merrivale that I am not standing at this Box here to protect auctioneers or agents. What I am saying is that it will be very difficult to use this measure, which my noble friend Lord Derwent would like to see used, to stop such sales, and it would place an almost intolerable burden on the auctioneers if such a measure were effectively brought into operation. The noble Lord, Lord Crook—he is my noble friend, too—has said that in a few years' time there may be new measures which will probably go a very long way towards securing what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, wishes to see achieved.
I think that there is also another point that we should consider. Very quickly, as the years go by, there will be fewer and fewer of these appliances put upon the market, although the numbers of categories of proscribed goods may very well increase. That is, of course, quite true: but I do want to assure the noble Lady that it is a very small and narrow problem. I think we should pay attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has said. If this Amendment is approved by your Lordships, I think it will be a great hardship upon those who may be selling such goods, for the reasons that the noble Lord has put forward.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
Before the noble Earl sits down, could I ask him one question?—though I do not want to weary the House. What is the proportion of these dangerous appliances involved in sales by auctioneers or agents? It must be very small indeed. Therefore, I should have thought they could have been put aside for consideration by the auctioneers or their agents.
§ LORD CROOK
I did not want to intervene again, to hold up the business of the House—it has a very long Order Paper in front of it—but the plain truth is that there will be very few of these. 846 But that is not an argument for putting this Amendment in the Bill: it is an argument for keeping it out, if I may say so with every respect. Because what you are trying to do here—and I do agree with my noble friend Lord Bathurst when he says that you are taking a big hammer to smash a small nut—is to bring in as a sidewind a complete control of every auctioneer and of their profession, which I do not think your Lordships could very well do in this Bill. I do not want to keep your Lordships a long time by developing that point; I want only to remind your Lordships that this afternoon, at long last, some of us have seen the Mock Auctions Bill come in from the Commons. In that, great difficulties are involved by way of defining what is a mock auction, and so on.
This Consumer Protection Bill, the object of which is declared, is related to the Molony Committee Report, which deals with new goods by manufacturers, and with their being sold in the ordinary shops. If we now say in this Bill that auctioneers must go round and look at everything before they take part in an auction, we shall get into a completely new field of legislation, outside anything which ought to be in this Bill and outside anything which ought to be dealt with by a Private Member's Bill. This is a Bill to deal with consumer goods which are sold new. As the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has said—and he has helped me very much—the majority of the goods in this country are going to be covered if this Bill goes through in its present form, though a few odd things will be left out. How you can ask an auctioneer who is selling a 12-roomed house and the whole of its contents to go through them all and look at the pots and pans, the blankets on the beds to see whether the electrical contacts are effective, and so on, I do not know. I do urge that noble Lords should not hold up the Bill for the sake of that.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am not an expert in loopholes. They may be small in this case, but I know at least one child who has been killed through a loophole, and a good many have been hurt. However, I am sorry to say that I found my noble friend on the Front Bench rather less inclined to influence me than the noble Lord opposite. I think he has, in fact, made out a case for not 847 bringing auctioneers into this particular argument, at least under this Bill. I myself believe that we shall have to have something, either at a later stage in this Bill or in future legislation, dealing with secondhand dealers. In the case I am talking about, where a child was killed, the electric fire was in fact sold by a secondhand dealer, and it was wrongly wired. A secondhand dealer should be able quite easily to find out whether what he is selling is the correct thing. However, I appreciate that this Amendment, in its present form, is not quite correct. I do not think we can bring auctioneers into it. I will have another look at it, to see whether we can do anything at a later stage. But I do not want to lose this Bill—this auctioneers business is frightfully controversial—so at the moment I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.28 p.m.
LORD DERWENT moved to add to subsection (6):
Provided, further, that where any goods to which this section applies are found in the possession of any person carrying on business or on the premises of any person which. whether a building or in the open air, whether open or enclosed, are used for business, such person shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act, until the contrary is proved, to have such goods in his possession for the purpose of selling.
The noble Lord said: The High Court has given many rulings on this question of being in possession of goods. I am advised that the words, "or being in his possession for the purpose of selling", are not adequate, and that they leave unprotected offering or exposing for sale. We have had this trouble before in your Lordships' House and in the courts. There was, of course, the case of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959. That Act said:
any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire,… shall be guilty of an offence.…
That was in relation to things like flick-knives. It came up in the courts, and it was found at once that exposure for sale was not covered. Immediately, we had a Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959, (Amendment) Act to deal with that point. Recently in your Lordships' House we had the Weights and Measures Bill, and at a very late stage
in that Bill my noble friend Lord St. Oswald, on behalf of the Government, introduced an Amendment dealing with exactly this same point. I have put down an Amendment so that the matter would be fully covered in the courts, and the wording of the Amendment is taken from Section 59 of the Weights and Measures Act, 1878. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 33, at end insert the said proviso. —(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD CROOK
I follow very clearly the desire of the noble Lord to be helpful and to strengthen the Bill where it can be strengthened; but on the wording which is used in this Amendment I would suggest that the Bill would be very much weakened. As things stand at the moment, we thought it was a rather strong Bill. All that is required under the Bill as it stands is to prove that the goods were in the possession, and were in the possession for the purpose of sale. Whereas if the noble Lord's Amendment were carried, they would only have to be found in the possession, and the question of found in possession for the purpose of sale would not be able to be dealt with in the way the noble Lord thinks it would at all. We should, in fact, be reversing the normal proof taken in criminal cases; and I am sure that what the noble Lord said in his speech was the exact opposite of that principle. So far as I can see, what the noble Lord is trying to do is to get away from the accepted principles and to require a person, other than in very exceptional cases, to prove his innocence. I do not think we have the case which the noble Lord thinks we have to make the Amendment he has suggested, but I should be glad to hear what the noble Lord who leads for the Home Office has to say.
My information is contrary to what any noble friend Lord Derwent believes and is that, if a trader who normally deals in the sale of goods has goods of his trade in his possession, that is prima facie evidence that they are in his possession for the purpose of sale, and therefore no problem should arise. As the noble Lord opposite knows, the teeth of his Bill will bite when a sale is actually made. An inspector, or any other person, whoever it may be, will make a purchase, and the goods or the particular article will be tested. If 849 it does not conform to the prescribed regulations which will have been made for the particular article, then an offence will have been committed. Of course, any number of additional offences will be committed if goods of exactly the same sort continue to be sold.
It is my advice that the noble Lord's fears are not founded in this case. It is also my understanding that the words, "or have in his possession for the purpose of selling", are a well-known formula, and that there are many precedents for using such a formula in this particular case. I am quite certain that my noble friend will realise that if his Amendment were carried it would then be for the person concerned to prove himself not guilty. That will be a very wide departure from the usual rules of British justice. As the Bill stands now, it is up to the prosecution, the inspector (or whoever it may be), to prove that the goods were in the possession of the person charged, and that they were in his possession for the purpose of sale. I think that sounds fair under British law as it so stands.
§ LORD DERWENT
May I interrupt my noble friend for a minute? The Weights and Measures Act, 1878, carries this wording. Is that considered unfair?
I am afraid I have not information about that same wording; but I am advised—and I can assure the noble Lord of this—that this wording is well known to the courts, and I understand that very little difficulty is envisaged when it is applied to the Bill of the noble Lord opposite. I want to assure the noble Lord that the words used in the Offensive Weapons Act did not include the expression "possession for the purpose of sale" at all. That Act, before it was amended, used a number of expressions which were not so comprehensive as the words used here. I assure the noble Lord that in fact there will not be the same difficulty here under the noble Lord's Bill as there were under the Offensive Weapons Act.
To go back to the point I was making with regard to the onus of proof being put upon the person who is alleged to have committed the offence, I think the noble Lord must agree that the Amendment would cause a very large departure from the principles of British justice. I think, too, that the noble Lord 850 must admit that the point which his Amendment deals with is a relatively minor point, and that such a very wide departure from the principles of British justice would barely be necessitated in this case. Therefore, I do ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing his Amendment.
§ LORD DERWENT
I do not think it is very much against justice, but my noble friend has the advantage of Home Office legal advisers and as long as he is completely satisfied that this is going to stand up in court, and that we shall not require an Amending Act next month or next Session—and I take it he will ask for it to be looked at again—I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Enforcement of Section 2]:
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
This Amendment concerns a matter that I mentioned on Second Reading. It is designed to give the courts power in suitable cases, on conviction, to order the forfeiture of the goods concerning which the regulations have been broken. There have been cases where the conviction has been obtained for selling goods not in accordance with the regulations; a fine has been imposed, and the appliance, the subject of the charge, has been offered for sale again unrepaired, in exactly the same condition as it had been before. Again this is a question of heating appliances. If a conviction is obtained and the court thinks that the fellow is perhaps (shall we say?) likely to be a little "crooked", then in those circumstances the court will have power under this Amendment to order the forfeiture of the goods, and to make certain that they were not put up for sale in the same condition. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 46, at end insert ("and the goods or component part shall be liable to be forfeited").—(Lord Dement.)
§ LORD CROOK
No one who has listened to the noble Lord's moving of the Amendment would fail to have a great deal of sympathy with the kind of case he has put. Clearly, if there were no way out of this, then the kind of Amendment he is suggesting would probably need to be carried. But I suggest 851 to your Lordships that for this rare occurrence—and it is a rare kind of thing—there is already a perfectly good existing legal procedure, a procedure which would exist the more under this Bill, and one which ought to be used. That is the second prosecution. I have had no evidence myself of the kind of thing to which the noble Lord refers, but surely it is true that, if the appropriate action were taken about this kind of thing and a second sale of the article then proceeded, it would call for a second immediate prosecution. One would have thought that the magistrates, in those circumstances, would then not use just the weapon of the fine, but would have gone right on to send the person off to imprisonment.
As the Amendment is drawn I am informed that it also goes very much wider than merely looking at the ordinary individual case. It strives to impose a general sanction on the whole of the commodity in stock, whereas very often any non-compliance which would exist would be a simple thing to put right. What is visualised under some of the kinds of regulations that were discussed in the Committee stage in another place was the issuing of certificates and the proper use of certificates on things. Non-compliance could even be failure to put a certificate on an article sold, and it would be possible forthwith to put the appliance being sold back into order again from the point of view of the regulations to be made under the Act by properly labelling. Equally it would not be fair, I am sure the Noble Lord would agree, that, if there were one particular article in one particular piece of stock, the whole stock should be confiscated. That in fact is, I am advised, what would happen if the Amendment were carried.
To sum up, I think this would involve such a large change in the Bill that if you sent it back to the other place, with its present clogging of legislation that we have all been warned about, we might run the risk of losing the Bill which the noble Lord is supporting. May I suggest to him that having put his point on record, he might be content to leave it to the next lot of legislation, and I hope he will be satisfied to-day and withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I should in any case have to get further advice as to the legal implications of the Amendment. I see the point the noble Lord has raised that it might not have the effect we desire. I also appreciate, of course, the point about a second prosecution. At this stage, and particularly in view of the legal situation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD DERWENT moved, in subsection (2) to omit the proviso, and to substitute:
.—() A person against whom proceedings are brought under this Act shall, upon information duly laid by him and on giving to the prosecution not less than three clear days' notice of his intention, be entitled to have any person to whose act or default he alleges that the contravention of the provisions in question was due brought before the court in the proceedings; and if, after the contravention has been proved, the original defendant proves that the contravention was due to the act or default of that other person, that other person may be convicted of the offence, and, if the original defendant further proves that he has used all due diligence to secure that the provisions in question were complied with, he shall be acquitted of the offence.
() Where a defendant seeks to avail himself of the provisions of the foregoing subsection—
() Where it appears to the authority concerned that an offence has been committed in respect of which proceedings might be taken under this Act against some person and the authority are reasonably satisfied that the offence of which complaint is made was due to an act or default of some other person and that the first-mentioned person could establish a defence under subsection (1) of this section, they may cause proceedings to be taken against that other person without first causing proceedings to be taken against the first-mentioned person.
In any such proceedings the defendant may be charged with, and, on proof that the contravention was due to his act or default, be convicted of, the offence with which the first-mentioned person might have been charged.
§ The noble Lord said: This is another of these legal questions. Not being a lawyer I find it very difficult. I am told that the proviso to Clause 3 (2) does not adequately cover the problem of 853 contravention due to a fault by some other person, and that if a person charged with art offence is not convicted, because he has proved under the new Bill to the satisfaction of the court that he had reasonable cause to believe that such requirements were satisfied, it might be difficult to take any action against the person actually responsible. That is the legal point behind this Amendment. The procedure in my Amendment is laid down in Section 113 of the Foods and Drugs Act, 1955. It is similar to that employed in the Weights and Measures Act and well understood by the courts. I beg to move.
Page 4, leave out from beginning of line 1 to end of line 6 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD CROOK
I was very surprised to hear the suggestion that this is a stronger provision than the one already in the Bill. I went out of my way when moving the Second Reading to point out that I thought the defence opportunity which was being offered was one of the finest defence opportunities that there had ever been. I want to suggest to the noble Lord that he is mistaken in thinking that his provides a better defence for the retailer.
What the Amendment does is to replace by a new definition the proviso which is in Clause 3 (2), and which states merely that the person "has reasonable cause to believe". That, as I thought I suggested in the Second Reading, was one of the strongest defences ever offered in any court of law, and better, I believe, than any opportunity offered in many criminal proceedings at the moment.
How the laying of the blame would proceed under this sort of provision I fail to see. I do not quite know where it is that the person selling an article will have the ability to examine the structure and to know where to pin down the detail and so on. What the Amendment is really trying to do is to suggest a much more difficult procedure than any we have visualised in any way during the discussion of this Bill in the other place or on Second Reading here. I do not know whether from the point of view of considering the legal complication, Earl Bathurst has anything else he can 854 offer from the Home Office. So far as I am concerned I should not like to see the Amendment accepted.
I must agree with my noble friend Lord Crook that Lord Derwent's Amendment makes a very drastic and radical change to the defence mechanism which is built into this Bill. Both I myself, and the noble Lord, referred to this defence in the course of Second Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, wishes to substitute his method for the defence of the retailer. His method of defence cannot be anything like as reasonable—the word that is used in the Bill—or as safe for him or as effective in the case for the inspector.
The obvious defence which a retailer will use, if he is alleged Io have committed an offence, is that the article which he is selling has a mark or a stamp of some sort or another which is recognised to be a seal which means that a certain number of possibly very technical and specialised provisions have been included in what may very well be a complicated article. I did make reference to the increasing complication of domestic articles which are coming on the market—for instance, washing machines. Some of these articles may be tins of paint, which Lord Auckland referred to, or some other substance which is kept in a tin or bottle or some other container, which neither the retailer nor the customer is able to see at the point of purchase. So it may be necessary to prescribe in regulations under the noble Lord's Bill some sort of stamp or mark. If the stamp is upon an article we believe that it is a fair and reasonable defence for the retailer to use that fact as his defence.
If in fact, the retailer has not put that stamp there he could surely have committed no offence. That is laid down in the Bill. Therefore the proceedings will go further back in the chain which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent mentioned in Second Reading, through possibly the wholesaler, and so forth, to the person who put the stamp or seal or mark upon the article and who has in fact committed the offence. The noble Lord's Amendment means that it will be up to the accused retailer himself to bring in some person, who may be completely unknown to him, who may or may not be in business at the time of the offence, 855 and endeavour to prove that it is in fact that person's fault. I do not believe that your Lordships will agree that that will be a more reasonable method of defence than Clause 3(2) which provides as a defence that a person has reasonable cause to believe that any requirements imposed by the regulations in respect of goods for sale are satisfied. By the time these regulations are actually in effect for a particular brand of goods, the regulations will have become well known throughout the trade. So I would ask my noble friend to withdraw his Amendment, which, as he himself says, brings a completely new conception into the Bill and which, I feel, would place considerable hardship upon retailers and possibly upon manufacturers, too.
§ LORD DERWENT
I think that this time my noble friend has a case. This is a highly technical matter, which could well wait until further legislation. I have aired the point, as was my intention on all these points, in the hope that, when there is further legislation, somebody will turn them up. If they do not, I shall. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Crook.)
Before the Lord Chairman puts the Motion to your Lordships, I wonder if I might say two or three sentences. We have been most obstructive to my noble friend Lord Derwent in refusing Amendments which, when he mentioned them on Second Reading, seemed to cover serious points in law. I suspect that that was due to the persuasive oratory of my noble friend. I should like to assure him that, in spite of the short time that was available, every one of these points has been looked at by the legal experts in the Home Office to whom he referred and my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State has given them his personal attention.
I should also like to say a word of appreciation of what the noble Lord, 856 Lord Crook, said on Second Reading about the help which my honourable friend has given to the noble Lord's honourable friend in the House of Commons, Mr. Edwards, in bringing forward this Bill. I want to assure noble Lords that all these Amendments have had careful consideration, but we came to the general conclusion that the safeguards in the Bill were sufficient without my noble friend's Amendments.
§ LORD CROOK
I had no idea whether or not I was entitled to say anything by way of observation at the end, but the opportunity provided so courteously by the noble Earl allows me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who moved the Amendments, which we have opposed one after the other, and to say how much I appreciate the way in which he has co-operated with us between the Second Reading and now. I would thank, too, the Home Office and its representative, the noble Earl, for the way in which, on every stage of the Bill, they have co-operated with us to try to make certain that this Bill finds its way to the Statute Book.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.