HL Deb 05 July 1971 vol 321 cc645-7

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of toys currently on sale in the United Kingdom are imported, what steps are being taken to ensure proper safety standards and whether they are satisfied that these standards are adequate.]


My Lords, in 1970 about 25 per cent. of the toys on sale in this country were imported. Importers and manufacturers are encouraged to comply with the relevant British Standard Code, and certain of the safety requirements of the code have been given statutory backing in the Toys (Safety) Regulations 1967. Further regulations are in prospect. The code is kept under review by the British Standards Institution, and there is no reason to doubt its adequacy.


My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that reasonably satisfying Answer, may I first ask him whether he is aware that the Home Office, under both Governments, has gone a long way towards resolving this matter? May I also ask him whether it would be possible to put pressure on the Governments of the countries largely responsible for the importation of these dangerous toys, particularly Hong Kong, to make quite sure that when they enter this country they are in a reasonably safe condition? At the moment there is evidence that they are not safe.


My Lords, the Hong Kong Government have been very active in ensuring that so far as possible toys manufactured in the Colony are safe. The code of safety requirements for children's toys has been translated into Chinese and distributed to all manufacturers of toys in the Colony. The Hong Kong Government are determined to see that the requirements of the code are complied with. As regards other countries of origin, many importers in this country when placing orders overseas now make it their practice to include a provision in the contract to the effect that the toys supplied must comply with the British Standard requirements. This is a useful practice.


My Lords, is not the responsibility upon the buyer in this country? Is he not the one who sees the samples and makes the decision whether to buy and whether the toys conform to the standard? It is up to those in Hong Kong to see that they carry out their contract.


My Lords, would it not be practicable to prohibit the importation of toys which do not satisfy our safety standards?


My Lords, anyone who imports toys which do not meet the standards laid down in the Toys (Safety) Regulations—and certain items such as the toxicity of the paint are covered by these Regulations—lays himself open to prosecution. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that it is very much a matter for the importers concerned to satisfy themselves. My Department has received a good deal of co-operation from importers; in one particular case the importer acted swiftly and took off the market at once all supplies of a particular toy.


My Lords, will the noble Lord ensure that every effort is made to put the utmost pressure on these foreign manufacturers, even up to and including legal methods if necessary? Will he please remember that Ruskin said that there is nothing on earth which cannot be made a little cheaper and a little nastier?


My Lords, I think that those close to this subject who have taken an interest in it, such as my noble friend Lord Auckland and the noble Lord, Lord Crook, on the Benches opposite, feel that the situation has been improving over the years as a result of the methods I have described.