§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to signify to the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Weights and Measures Bill, has consented to place Her Majesty's interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, BOARD OF TRADE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 61 [Transitional provisions for milk and bread]:
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment to clarify an earlier Government Amendment. There is no alteration of any substance. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 59, line 25, leave out from ("sale") to ("otherwise") and insert ("at the price aforesaid by means of such vending machine, or
(ii) for sale").—(Lord Derwent.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Foods]:
LORD DERWENT moved, in paragraph 2 of Part V, to omit the proviso and to insert instead:
3A. If in the case of any pre-packed milk its container is clearly and conspicuously marked with a statement in writing that it is not for sale otherwise than by means of a vending machine, then, notwithstanding that the milk is made up in a quantity other than one of those specified in paragraph 3(a) of this Part of this Schedule, a person shall not by reason only of that fact be guilty of an offence under section 22(2) of this Act—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may remember, as I do, that the House accepted an Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, last week on milk-vending machines. I am advised by Parliamentary Counsel that the Amendment which the House carried on Report is, as it stands, defective, for several reasons. The main defect is that it provides no adequate defence, as it stands, for pre-packers and wholesalers of cartons in odd sizes for vending machines. Under the Amendment they get no protection. The Amendment provides that sales by these people will not be a contravention of paragraph 3 which is not itself concerned with sales. Such sales would, as the Amendment is drafted, remain in breach of Clause 22(2). This is a question of drafting, but that is the effect it would have and would not carry out the wishes of your Lordships. The Amendment which I am now moving covers this point and is drafted to continue the same provisions which the House agreed should apply to milk sold from vending machines in the two-year period from the date of passing of the Bill.
§ Your Lordships will remember that a Government Amendment was passed in response to a request by noble Lords opposite and other Members of the House. This Amendment of mine will allow the continued sale beyond that two years, of pre-packed milk through vending machines at a price of 6d., in any quantity, provided that the quantity is shown on both the containers and the machines. I hope that the House will agree that this meets the case put forward by noble Lords and supported on all sides of the House when this matter was last discussed. I beg to move.
Page 73, leave out lines 26 to 37 and insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that in the drafting sense his present Amend 1294 ment is better than the one which your Lordships accepted last week. But it is only just as good as a similar Amendment which I moved on the Committee stage and which the Government did not then accept. So, fortunately, we are now back at the point that I had hoped to reach in the Committee stage after a great deal of effort. But I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord and to the Government for this redrafting, which meets the essential point we were after: that sales of milk in vending machines will be continuous and will not end in two years' time, as would otherwise have been the case.
There is one other point which he did not mention—namely, the fact that the sale is now tied to the 6d. coin on which I largely based my case last week. I think that is quite satisfactory, because if the carton of milk became so small as to be derisory at 6d. the wholesale cost of milk would have to be increased by about one-third, which I hope is an unlikely contingency. Therefore, this should endure for a good time; it will be of great convenience to consumers and of very great help to the farming community. I am glad that in this matter the Government have at last trod the path of wisdom.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, in moving that this Bill do now pass, I should like to thank noble Lords on all sides of the House for the trouble they have taken over this Bill. During the course of its passage through this House it has been considerably improved. There is no doubt that much of the improvement has been due to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and his noble colleagues in explaining the points in detail and, in some cases, to their having been successful.
The Government have repeatedly been accused of being stubborn while this Bill has been going through this House and I have been accused of not listening to arguments. It may be of interest to your Lordships to note that in this House the Bill has been amended on seventeen points, and I am not including purely drafting Amendments. Three of these Amendments were Opposition Amendments accepted by the Government; 6 were Government Amendments devised to meet points raised by the 1295 Opposition; 2 were Government Amendments in accordance with undertakings in the other place. And there was one fairly large drafting point consequential on an Amendment in the other place. So the large majority of Amendments appear to have been made because I listened to the arguments made opposite. Five are Amendments initiated by the Government on matters which had not been previously raised in debate at all in either House. May I repeat, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, my thanks to all your Lordships for having improved this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, in supporting the Motion that the Bill do now pass, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, for his very kind words about my noble friends. We in turn thank him for his courtesy and consideration during the various stages of the Bill. He mentioned the stubbornness of the Government, and obviously that was rather more than equalled by the resourcefulness of the Opposition. It is good to think that in so many cases the stubbornness eventually yielded to reason. I recall, as will the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that we started on this Bill two years ago, and the alterations which were then made were very much more numerous than seventeen. I should think that over the whole Bill there were at least 100 Amendments accepted in both Houses, and we have spent even more time on it than has been spent on the London Government Bill.
I think this is a good Bill. It has been considerably improved since we first started. It will afford a considerable measure of consumer protection, and I think it will help the honest traders and discourage the shifty ones. Therefore, it will be of considerable value. A very great deal of the effectiveness of this Bill will, of course, depend on the efficiency with which the regulations are drafted and the speed with which they are put into effect. That will be the main operative factor and value of the Bill, and we shall watch it carefully. Furthermore, a very great deal will depend on the Consumer Council, and it is obvious that that Council will have to have a very different 1296 standard of staffing and financing if it is going to exercise the influence that I hope it eventually will exercise. My Lords, as I have said, this is a good Bill, which has repaid the effort that has been put into it on all sides of the House, and I wish it well.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.