§ 3.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Elliot of Harwood.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD HENLEY in the Chair.]1306
§ Clause 1 [Indication of origin on certain imported goods]:
BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 11, after ("Kingdom") insert ("the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man,").
§ The noble Baroness said: In rising to move this Amendment I should declare an interest of which I think the Committee is well aware, that I am a consultant on consumer affairs to Courtauld's.
§ This is a simple and short Amendment and I hope that it may prove acceptable. There are cases where goods made in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and imported for sale in this country could bear trade marks or names registered here or owned by companies or persons carrying on trade or business in this country. I feel that such goods certainly might complement production from factories here, and they could be made under contract to major retail trading outlets by whom they are sold as "own name" products. I think there is clearly no sense in a customer's knowing that goods in one packet on a shop shelf are made in this country and that identical goods in the next packet on the shelf are, for example, made in the Isle of Man. This is quite apart from the inconvenience to the manufacturer, the wholesaler or the retailer in this country of having to arrange to preserve what I think is a totally artificial distinction between what is made for him in, say, the Isle of Man, and what is made for or by him here. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
The noble Baroness has spoken most eloquently about this Amendment, the purpose of which is to enable goods manufactured or produced in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and bearing a United Kingdom name or mark to be sold in the United Kingdom without the name of origin. I have great sympathy with the argument and I readily admit that most people in this country would hardly think of citizens of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as being foreigners. But it is a fact that the Amendment before us recognises that the United Kingdom does not include the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and for the purposes of the 1968 Act, which is the main Act, it is therefore not permissible to give an indication of 1307 United Kingdom origin in respect of goods manufactured or produced in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
The whole basis of this Bill is a presumption that a United Kingdom name or mark, unqualified, is likely to be taken as an indication of United Kingdom origin. In any case where the unqualified United Kingdom name or mark on Channel Islands or Manx goods is likely to be so taken, such use would be contrary to the main Act, irrespective of the provisions of this Bill. So this Amendment would not mean, as an ordinary trader might wrongly suppose in reading the Bill with this Amendment incorporated in it, that there was no need to qualify the United Kingdom name or mark on Channel Islands or Manx goods. It would merely mean that whether or not qualification was required would turn, as under the existing law, on the facts of the particular case, instead of being determinable, as this Bill proposes, by straightforward general rule. Therefore the Amendment would be inconsistent. confusing and an unwarranted exception to the aim of the Bill, which is to establish a clear, general rule in this field. I fear therefore that I must resist this Amendment.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY (THE EARL OF LIMERICK)
I must strongly, if a little reluctantly (because until one looks into the complicated legal background the change proposed seems to be simple enough), support my noble friend Lady Elliot in her argument for the rejection of this Amendment. The crucial points which she has made are, first, that, for all their geographical proximity, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not, as a matter of legal fact, part of the United Kingdom. Again as a matter of legal fact—and it would be beyond the scope of this Bill to alter this, even if we so wished—if anything likely to be taken as an indication of United Kingdom origin is applied to Channel Islands or Manx goods this would be contrary to the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. In short, the Amendment would not support the main Act requirement that people should avoid using United Kingdom names or marks relating to Channel Islands or Manx 1308 goods in such a way as might be thought to imply United Kingdom origin, and it would be quite wrong to put words into this Bill which might create the contrary impression. I might add that we have had no representations on this matter from the authorities of the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I am grateful for the sympathy expressed by the noble Baroness and by the Minister. I can quite understand the position. I was under the impression—and I know now that I was wrong—that the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were classified (if that is the right term) as part of the United Kingdom. Before withdrawing the Amendment, with the permission of the Committee. I should like to ask either the noble Baroness or the Minister whether, as this Amendment has not succeeded, if any additional information comes to light which would have a bearing upon Clause 1(4) the Minister and the Department would be willing to receive such information. to see whether in any particular case this situation might cause difficulties either for the customer or for the wholesalers or manufacturers.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I am sure that what the noble Baroness has just said is quite right. I should be most anxious to hear if there were any exception. The real difficulty that we have now discovered is that the main Act does not include the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as part of the United Kingdom. Therefore one is in the difficult position that it cannot be altered.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I am much obliged to the noble Baroness. I ask permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.7 p.m.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 11, leave out from ("Kingdom") to end of line 16 and insert ("subsection (1A) of this section shall apply except as otherwise provided by or under this section.
(1A) If any person, in the course of a trade or business, supplies or offers to supply the goods, then, unless—
§ The noble Earl said: There are two basic objects which this Amendment seeks to achieve. The first is to allow the use of the word "imported" as an alternative to the actual country of origin; the second is to exclude the need for the indication of origin to accompany United Kingdom names or marks which the consumer cannot be expected to see before he decides to buy the goods.
§ As regards the first of these changes—allowing the use of the word "imported" as an alternative to naming the country of origin—this arises from the important question of ensuring that the Bill is workable in practice. I have received convincing representations about the great difficulties which some classes of suppliers would face in labelling with the actual country of origin. Their problem is that their packaging has to be printed in advance, but they may be forced to vary the source of supply at a later stage. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, who gave me notice that he would be unable to be present this afternoon, gave us two excellent examples of this problem during the Second Reading debate, when he referred to the unpredictability of the Pacific salmon catch, and the variations in the citrus fruit crop between the various areas of the Caribbean as a result of hurricanes or other special factors. This is obviously a problem which can arise wherever the output of one's product is at the mercy of natural forces; and indeed not only natural forces, for political or labour circumstances could similarly dictate a sudden change of source. So, too, may significant changes in price and other actions beyond the importer's control, such as the impositions of quotas. In such circumstances the trader cannot possibly judge, when he orders his packaging many months ahead of the crop, how many cans or boxes he should have printed with the name of each of the 1310 countries to which he may eventually-have to turn for supplies. If we drove him down that road, the bountiful crop from country X might remain unsold for lack of containers to pack it in, while thousands of containers bearing the name of Y, where the crop failed would go to waste. So far as the consumer is concerned, all of this would merely mean scarcity and higher prices. This is a problem which is by no means confined to foodstuffs; it can equally well arise with other commodities. It is a problem which can be removed—and can only be removed—by giving the supplier a choice between declaring the actual country of origin and merely stating that his goods are "imported".
§ I know that there are some among your Lordships who will be disappointed that it has been found necessary to relax the proposed requirement that a United Kingdom name or mark on imported goods should be accompanied by an indication of the actual country of origin. It is a disappointment which, I confess. the Government also feel no less keenly. But we must be practical. The fact remains that the real purpose of this Bill is to prevent misrepresentation by ensuring that any name or mark which might wrongly be taken as an indication of United Kingdom origin is countered by an indication that the goods are from elsewhere, and it would be hard to contend that the word "Imported" will achieve this any less effectively than naming the actual country of origin. And we must simply face the fact that difficulties in implementing the present provisions of this Bill have been explained to us and are thought serious enough to make it impracticable over a considerable area. Insistence on this requirement of origin marking could bring about an interruption of supplies or increases in prices in certain trades, unwarranted by the additional benefits of naming the actual country of origin. I am sure that those imported goods which at present bear a precise indication of origin will continue to do so, and I have no reason to believe that this practice will not continue to grow. I hope it will. Traders having a legitimate pride in the source of their goods will doubtless make use of it in preference to designating the goods merely as "Imported".1311
§ A supplementary advantage of the change is that it would remove most of the problems which arise in relation to the marking of imported blends and mixtures which consist of materials of different countries of origin. My noble friend Lady Elliot has not found it possible to devise a suitable exemption for such blends and mixtures, and she will be moving a later Amendment to leave out the existing subsection (2) of Clause 1 which has been found wanting.
I turn now to the second part of the Amendment, which is somewhat technical in nature. The purpose of this Bill, let us remember, is to prevent any possibility that people are positively induced to buy goods by an erroneous supposition—based on the presence of a United Kingdom name or mark unqualified by notice of foreign origin—that they are in fact British made. This is the central purpose of the Bill and it must be achieved by ensuring that foreign goods to which this Bill applies are recognised as such at the time of decision to purchase. The Bill as at present drafted, however, goes beyond this and raises the likelihood that many suppliers may technically be breaking the law in future in an area where strict compliance would be very hard to achieve and would add nothing to the protection of the consumer. This arises from the very wide range of cases in which, by virtue of Clause 3, a United Kingdom name or mark will be deemed to have been "applied" to goods. The effect of that is that a United Kingdom name or mark is "applied" if it is
affixed or annexed to or in any manner marked on or incorporated with
the goods themselves, or anything in, on, or with which the goods are supplied, or anything in, on, or with which the goods are placed.
§ Note that there is nothing in this definition which limits it to externally visible names or marks. If the name of a United Kingdom firm is stamped at intervals along the edge of an unexposed role of photographic film where it may never be seen by the average photographer who bought it, it is at each of these points "applied", according to the definition, to the film. Again, if such a name is moulded into each chocolate in a box, 1312 every one of them individually foil-wrapped and the box offered for sale sealed in a clear plastic wrapper, the name is "applied" to each chocolate. If it is stamped somewhere within the hidden depths of a domestic appliance which, once it leaves the factory, will never be probed except by a repair man in the event of a breakdown, the name is none the less "applied" to the machine. And wherever there is such an application the Bill as it stands requires an accompanying indication of origin and makes it an offence to omit it, even though its addition would add nothing.
§ There is clearly no risk of deception if the United Kingdom name or mark is so placed that there is no question of the customer seeing it before he has acquired the goods. So in the first place it serves no useful purpose for the Bill's origin-marking requirements to extend it to United Kingdom names or marks which the customer will not see before he buys. But there is more to it than that. If the requirement does extend to these invisible names and marks, suppliers will be at peril under the Bill as regards names and marks which they do not even know to be present on the goods; and even where they know of the existence of the name or mark they may well be unable to add the required indication of origin without in the process rendering the goods quite unsaleable, as in the case of my examples of the photographic film and the foil-wrapped chocolates within the cellophane wrapped box.
§ If a United Kingdom name or mark is visible to an intending purchaser, or likely to be visible in the course of the pre-purchase inspection he may reasonably be expected to make, it is right, and indeed essential for the purpose of the Bill, that it should be accompanied on imported goods by an indication of their origin. But the purchaser cannot possibly be deceived by United Kingdom names or marks which—even though technically "applied" to the imported goods—will not be seen by him before he decides to buy; and, as I have explained, serious and wholly unwarranted practical difficulties can be expected to arise for honest suppliers unless, as the second part of this Amendment proposes, these invisible United Kingdom names and marks are exempted 1313 from the requirement that they be accompanied by an indication of origin.
§ The three further Amendments standing in my name are consequential on the division of the present Clause 1(1) into two separate subsections, and therefore perhaps, with leave, they might be taken together. It has also been drawn to my attention that the Amendment which I have just moved is likely to be contradictory to Amendment No. 9 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and it might therefore be for the convenience of the House if the arguments were to be taken together.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
With permission, I would prefer to discuss them separately. I think there must be some overlapping, but it is a completely different point.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
I do not know whether I should declare an interest or not, but it is an interest more in the past and rather remote at present, as I spend much more time in your Lordships' House than on other business. I was unable to be here at the Second Reading, but I am aware of Lord Macpherson's fears which represent certain fears of the trade, and I am going to say quite frankly that I think those fears are grossly exaggerated. As I understand the Bill, it affects goods that are so packeted that they are likely to be taken to be manufactured, processed or canned in the United Kingdom. But the Minister, briefed by Lord Macpherson, quoted the foodstuffs, salmon, and citrus from the Caribbean, as providing difficulties for the trader because he might draw his salmon from the U.S.S.R. or Japan or Canada and he would need to have many different printed labels. If he cannot so organise his business, in spite of seasonal variations in the catch in those different countries, then he is not a very efficient operator.
I am afraid that one of the real reasons behind trade opposition is that certain countries are more popular in the eyes of the general public than others. There may be people, for example, who do not like the Japanese; there may be people 1314 who do not like the citizens of the U.S.S.R.; and it may be easier to sell canned salmon coming from Canada than from another country. I do not know. It is an inconvenience for the trade, I grant, but I do not think that that is a valid reason for bringing in "Imported". I believe that the consumers of this country are entitled to know the real country of origin.
Secondly, if I heard aright, chocolates were mentioned. Nobody is going to be so impractical and silly as to suggest that every separately silver-wrapped chocolate, nougat, or what-have-you, must have upon it the country of origin. If the chocolates are packed in a box and are not British but Swiss chocolates then the box will have the country of origin upon it. The same will apply to sweets because they are mostly in a plastic bag of some sort and the bag will be marked and not the individually wrapped sweet. I am not at all surprised that the trade has opposed the idea of naming the country of origin and prefers the word "Imported". But if we are really concerned with the consumers' interest, I believe that we should have the real country of origin, and I cannot support this Amendment.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I also strongly oppose this Amendment, and particularly the first part. I very much hope that if necessary those who feel the same as I do will take this to a Division. I regard this as the first step on a slippery slope; that is, the slope of avoiding giving the country of origin. I think that in this case the arguments we have heard against it are wholly unconvincing. They are the kind of arguments that could equally well be applied in almost any trade. The consumer wants to know, and has a right to know, where his salmon and lemons are coming from. In a recent survey I gather that 90 per cent. of consumers thought that a statement as to the country of origin was important. In many cases consumers get a minimal amount of information about goods, and the country of origin can give them a certain amount of information in various ways. In any case, even if the argument were based purely on the fact that some consumers want to know, and some consumers want to purchase British, 1315 or Japanese, or any other goods, they have a right to have that information.
There are some other much more practical arguments of why in certain cases it is useful to know the country of origin. It gives some indication, in default of anything better, of the quality and the performance of the goods. One knows that certain countries have a reputation for a certain type of goods. We all know that in the main Japanese cameras are manufactured under a Government scheme and that they are of exceedingly good quality—even the cheaper ones. One could mention a number of other goods where the country of origin gives that sort of information. Secondly, of course, there is the spares and service availability and the method of dealing with complaints. If a consumer knows that the goods are of foreign origin and the country they come from but does not recognise the firm, it is wise to find out what sort of after sales back-up service is available before choosing those goods.
With perishable goods, which are, in the main, not branded, country of origin is almost the only thing which can give us any idea of how they are going to taste—and as consumers we want to know this. To take an example of another perishable such as sherry, the country of origin is all important, and this goes for a number of other goods. I feel that this is an opportunity to show that we believe that as much marking of country of origin as is practical should take place. To give in on this by accepting this Amendment would be a fatal tactical error. I do not say that I think that it is practical in all cases of all goods to mark the country of origin, so I would support the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, in so far as this could be a general rule with exceptions, instead of the other way round where it is the exception to mark the country of origin.
§ LORD SLATER
I listened to the noble Earl presenting the case on behalf of the Government. After listening to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. I am more than ever convinced that we have not heard the whole story to-day as to why the Government are introducing this Amendment. I may have a suspicious 1316 mind, but I really think that what is behind this Amendment is an attempt to cover up the country of origin, such as in the case of South Africa. The customer has a right to know the place of origin of goods coming to this country and finding their way into our households. I have had arguments even with my wife with regard to tins of produce that she has purchased at various places. She has said that she has bought certain goods from one particular shop or from another shop, which have come from one particular country or another. I have said, "For God's sake don't get them from that shop again! Keep to the other one because they are of better quality."
After listening to the observations of the noble Earl in presenting his case, and thinking of the time when the Trade Descriptions Bill was being introduced in another place, I really believe that on this occasion we are not being told the whole truth as to why the Government are coming along at this particular juncture and introducing this Amendment and asking for the support of the House. I sincerely hope that we can gather the support that the previous speaker asked for in opposing the Amendment introduced by the noble Earl.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
I hope that we shall not range too widely over the points relating more specifically to the later Amendment on country of origin, but I should like to come in on a slightly different point. We were told yesterday that it was very unusual for an amended Private Member's Bill to be accepted by the Government. Here we have a situation where the Government are in fact introducing what is in the nature of a major Amendment. The Bill has gone through the other place and been accepted in a certain form. The Amendment proposed by the Government on this occasion will not only weaken the Bill but, in my judgment, will make a major alteration, and I am amazed that the Minister can stand before us still perpetuating this farce that this is a Private Member's Bill. I think we all know that this is a Bill that the Government want in order to prevent them subsequently having to take more advanced measures.
Those of your Lordships who have spoken on the country of origin have 1317 shown that there is a great feeling in the country for the naming of the country of origin. But the Minister said that it was an alternative to marking country of origin to have the word "imported", and this was in the very narrow sense of the Preamble to the Bill. In other words they are saying, "We are not saying all goods; we are simply saying the goods referred to here".
The noble Earl said that he had had some representations from various industries. I am puzzled to know from which industries he has had representations, apart from the one which we heard about on Second Reading. I have received representations from brushware manufacturers, ceramic manufacturers, textile manufacturers, steel manufacturers and wool manufacturers, and none of them wants anything other than the country of origin. So I shall be interested to know why the representations of food manufacturers, which cover a very narrow front, should be accepted in preference to these others who have an equal claim.
I was very intrigued that the Department gave the Minister such a ridiculous example as the box of chocolates. I should have thought that an exotic box of chocolates with every chocolate marked with its country of origin, possibly with the wrapping coming from somewhere else, might have a selling point. One could say that it was a United Nations box of chocolates. The box would obviously be marked as coming from Switzerland or America, but nobody would expect that each chocolate would be separately marked, however the Bill was framed. It is surely possible for special cases such as salmon and fruit to be treated separately, if the Minister feels that there is a reason for that to be done, though I think it is very debatable.
If I bought a can of salmon which I assumed came from Canada, I should be a little irritated if I found that it came from another country, whatever the people who canned the salmon had to say about it. As another noble Lord has said, it seems a very curious reflection on a business that it cannot be operated a little better than that. But, as I understand it, Section 42 of the original Trade Descriptions Act empowers the Minister to make the necessary marking order in special cases. This 1318 Amendment is not acceptable. It not only changes the Bill in a major respect. but considerably weakens it. I hope that the noble Baroness who is sponsoring the Bill will not accept it.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I have listened with great interest to the discussion. and I am afraid that on this occasion I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Hanworth, who worked with me for some time on the Consumer Council. The Amendment does not weaken the Bill; it simply gives an alternative which makes it very much more workable. It does not greatly matter whether you are importing apples from the United States at a certain time of the year. That is done in order to make it possible for the consumer to have a continuous supply. Everybody would know that the fruit was imported, especially citrus fruits which cannot be grown in this country. A number of people will put the country of origin on their goods. but it will make matters very difficult indeed if everyone must do that in the case of seasonal goods such as fruit and vegetables, which do not always come from the same place.
This Amendment does not state that goods shall not be marked with the country of origin. All it states is that if it becomes extremely difficult and complicated to do so, the word "imported" can be used. The object of this Bill is to stop goods being sold in this country as United Kingdom goods when they are not. If they are marked "imported" they are clearly not United Kingdom goods, and in many cases whether they come from Australia, the U.S.S.R. or South Africa is quite immaterial. South African wine is nearly always marked "South African" and people buy it because they think it is good. If they do not like it they will not buy it. I do not agree that this is a matter of political intention. It is important to keep trade away from politics. The real criterion is that goods should be of good quality and what the consumer wants.
I was brought up in my early youth to be a very strong free trader. That is not so fashionable nowadays, because there is no such thing as free trade. But we are still a very important trading nation, and one wants to do everything one can to encourage that state of affairs and not 1319 make it more difficult. If everything coming into this country had to be stamped with the country of origin, that would be very detrimental to our trade and I should not like to see it happen. I also do not want to see goods being sold as United Kingdom goods when they are not, and that will be stopped by this Bill. I cannot believe that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, who is a great expert in this field, wishes to see a diminution of our world trade, because that would be a mistake.
Nothing in this Bill prevents people putting "Australia", "Japan" or "U.S.S.R." on goods coming into this country, and all we are saying is that it is not necessary, especially when one is importing a great deal of salmon or tomatoes and has to switch suddenly from Italy to Spain for supplies, to change over all the labels when the ingredients are identical. That is not necessary from the point of view of the consumer. What I want for the consumer is good produce at a reasonable price. I do not think your Lordships need worry about this. The Amendment will make it a little simpler for some goods, particularly perishable goods—which is what we are really concerned about—to come into this country as imported goods, and I support it.
§ LORD JACQUES
May I point out that the question before the Committee is not whether all goods should have the country of origin marked upon them, but whether imported goods which have applied to them a United Kingdom name or mark should show the country of origin. That is a quite different question. Furthermore, before the Minister replies, may I suggest that if there were a few genuine cases where it would be difficult to apply the country of origin, they could be dealt with under subsection (4) of Clause 1.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
In supporting this Amendment, I should like to divert the attention of the Committee away from perishable goods, such as salmon, chocolates and so on, and say that there is very great concern felt by the large international manufacturers, such as I.B.M., Ford, General Motors, Philips, and so on, many of whose names are household words, who are assembling 1320 manufactured goods in this country with certain components which have come from overseas. It would be immensely expensive to stamp every part, which may not even be seen by the public. After all, we now have the Concorde, and is it really expected that every little bit which comes in from France will be stamped "Made in France"? Surely, the main object is not to mislead the public, and I believe that these great household names, these international names such as those I have mentioned, are just as good guarantees of quality—they have a very high quality control—as anything that could be stuck on the goods. It is a serious and expensive business to tool up these big industries, and they would need a long period of warning in order to get their matters straight. Perhaps the Aemndment which is proposed covers this, and I think that what the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, said is going to relieve their minds somewhat, but I should like him to say whether these large international manufacturers who are assembling within the Common Market region are covered.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, mentioned the problems involved where goods are made up of various components produced in different countries. I think he would find, if he looked at it, that that is covered by Section 36 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, which deals with the country of origin, where it is clearly laid down:For the purposes of this Act goods shall be deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a substantial change.We listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. I must say I am very surprised that she should support an Amendment of this kind, because it seems to me entirely to change the purpose of her Bill. I must say, though I speak subject to correction, that I can never remember, during my many years in this House, the Government attempting to change completely a Private Member's Bill that has been passed by the other place. It introduces a completely new principle; and, having done that, I should have thought that the Government would have put up a rather stronger case than, if I may say so, the noble Earl has done. He has given very 1321 few examples of what he has in mind. There are, of course, cases concerning imported fruits, salmon and canned goods, but surely they could all be dealt with by special order under subsection (4) of Clause 1 of this Bill. As to other problems, as my noble friend Lord Slater said, quite rightly, are there things which we are not being told about? If there are ether problems, I think the noble Earl has a duty to tell us, and the Committee has a right to hear what they are. Unless the noble Earl can give a better defence of why, in this Committee, the Government are proposing to change a Bill which they supported and promoted in the other place, then I hope my noble friends will divide.
§ LORD STRATHCARRON
I should like to say a few words on the problems which large international manufacturing companies would face concerning the transfer of spares and other parts. In many cases these are interchangeable, and are sourced in one country for worldwide distribution. Each part may be embossed with the name of the particular company concerned. To have the tools altered to include the word "imported" would be a most costly business. Furthermore, to have parts separated and individually marked would add further to the cost. In my view, the trade mark of an internationally known company should be sufficient protection for the consumer, who may not wish to pay more for the goods due to the increased costs which I have mentioned. I trust that this will prove acceptable, but as a last resort it would be preferable to mark the crate or case with the information required, rather than each individual item.
§ LORD BARNBY
First of all, I should like to get one thing clear. Is it to be understood that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has suggested that her Amendment shall be associated with this Amendment, and the two talked about together?
§ LORD BARNBY
That makes it easier. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, did not object at all to the submission made just now by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that the character of the 1322 Bill—a Private Member's Bill—was changed a good deal by reason of this Government Amendment. I would assume, subject to correction, that that is a correct statement in the light of our conventional procedure. I am getting myself more confused the more I hear about the different matters put forward. On Second Reading I emphasised that it was very difficult to generalise when specialised subjects were so different in their requirements as regards treatment. On reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Second Reading debate it is confusing, because the statements made vary so much. In column 860 my noble friend Lady Elliot said:It is not the object of the Bill to insist that all imported goods should have the mark of origin, …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4/5/72.]She confirmed that to-day. At a later point, at column 869, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter said that the Bill didmake it mandatory to state on the label the country of origin of the goods".To refer to my own remarks, in column 867 I am reported to have said:This Bill requires all garments to be marked".I am sure I said "does not require all garments to be marked", so Hansard was very confusing in those three columns. It makes it very difficult to understand what exactly it is we are talking about.
I really find it difficult to understand why my noble friend Lady Elliot has just assured us that we must not insist on the mark of the country of origin. If the word "Imported" is to be used, why not make it simpler and indicate the country of origin? Anybody would have thought that was the simpler way; and I must say that I feel the Bill falls short of reality.
I said before—and I repeat it now—that I speak with a particular interest in the textile industry. I have been in the textile industry all my life, though I have retired now, in the main. I took the trouble to read all the debates at all stages of this Bill in the other place; and, of course, I read carefully in Hansard everything that was said on Second Reading here. I really fail to be convinced why it is not possible to insist on the country of origin being marked on the goods. But if it be proved that that is not possible—and 1323 Lady Elliot has given us her strong feelings as to why that is not possible—why should the Committee not be assured that with regard to particular products (and I have in mind textile products) the Minister would exercise the power given in Section 8 of the Act, which empowers the Board of Trade to make new marking orders in respect of any matter, not just origin,Where it appears … necessary or expedient in the interest of persons to whom any goods are supplied …We are all getting mixed up about this Bill. Are we approaching it from the point of view only of the consumer, only of the manufacturer, or of both; and, if so, which in priority? I look at it, of course, as I did in my remarks on Second Reading, from the point of view of industry, and I emphasised the need to help employment in this country. For the benefit of those of your Lordships who were not in the House at the time, I would repeat that in the industry in which I am particularly interested, the wool textile industry, in the last 12 years, I think I am right in saying—it may be 14—the number of people employed has fallen by 80,000 in that one industry.
The volume of imported consumer goods in textiles is disquieting in every direction. The other day the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, raised a very important issue from the point of view of a company in which he was particularly interested. I am always interested in the quality of wool textiles, and looking at this matter as a consumer, I may say that I went into a big multiple store the other day and saw on the counter a pullover. The quality of the wool was very good. I can say this with emphasis; I can judge the quality. The price was astonishingly low, ridiculously so; and I decided to buy it. I put it on; but I could not understand why one sleeve was different from the other until I discovered that one was three inches longer than the other. The pullover happened to come from Korea. Many of us would say after such an experience that we would never again buy such an article manufactured in Korea. That is why I recommend to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, that goods should be marked with their country of origin. Having in these remarks expressed my own apparent 1324 stupidity in being unable to understand the object of this Amendment and having stated quite clearly my own feelings about what should be done (which would inevitably support Amendment No. 9), I will from my own point of view have satisfied my own feelings.
I apologise for not having been able to get here for the beginning of this debate, but I should like to endorse what was said by my noble friend, Lord Barnby. I, too, was brought up in the textile industry and suffered very much from what were called "passing off" operations—the Japanese precisely copying British goods and there being no means of telling the two apart without very careful examination. I cannot see why the regulations have been relaxed now, at a time when there are so many countries whose manufacturers are prepared to copy British goods as faithfully as they possibly can and then to send them to this market. There is no practical means of finding out where they come from or what they are until you try them on and, perhaps, find one sleeve longer than the other. I think the Japanese are more sophisticated than the Koreans and I doubt whether that would happen; but it is possible that when the garments came back from the wash, you would notice the difference between properly-prepared British goods and others. I am somewhat shocked that by this Bill apparently it is possible for the Minister to allow people to escape the provisions of Clause 1, but that there is no provision "the other way on". If goods are not subject to marking at the moment—and it seems that there is no method by which a Minister can cause them to be marked—I think the Board of Trade are being remiss in not listening to trade representations on this particular subject.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
I wonder whether I may clear my mind on this point. I missed the Second Reading debate and I came late to this one due to circumstances beyond my control; but, taking Lord Barnby's example of the pullover, unless it has a United Kingdom name or mark or something which is likely to be taken for a United Kingdom name or mark, none of this applies at all. Am I right in that? As Lord Jacques pointed out, we are really talking about something quite alien to the Bill. We should declare 1325 what we are talking about. If a garment is described as "Shetland wool" and it is from Korea, I think you would need the words, "from Korea" on it. What my noble friends on this side of the Committee are saying is that if a thing is described with a United Kingdom mark (or with something that can be taken for such a mark) it is not enough to say it is imported; you might as well say where it comes from; it is no more difficult. I do not think that Lord Montagu's case applies here. I think this is covered as something "assembled in the Trade Descriptions Act. So I feel that the debate on this part of the Bill has been very largely off the point. Perhaps the noble Baroness or the Minister could tell us if that is so.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
The noble Lord is right. We are talking about goods that have a United Kingdom trade mark and are not United Kingdom goods. What the Amendment says is that if we insist on goods coming into this country being marked—and the noble Lord opposite said this was not a fact—and if they have to be marked in every case with the country of origin, then we are going to make life almost impossible for ordinary trade. I do not think this is necessary. We should follow Lord Donaldson's suggestion: that if the goods carry a United Kingdom name or mark and are not United Kingdom-manufactured, they must bear the word "imported".
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
May I take up the noble Baroness on that? I feel that she has again missed the point, which is exactly as my noble friend Lord Donaldson stated. This is why I wanted my Amendment discussed separately; for it dealt with all goods marked with the country of origin. This Amendment deals with goods carrying a United Kingdom mark or what could be taken as a United Kingdom name or mark. We are not on the second point but on the first, which is the narrow point of what the Bill asks for. Lord Donaldson has stated precisely what we are talking about at the moment. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the position.
§ LORD BARNBY
Would the noble Baroness find it difficult to give some help as to whether it is possible to devise a means whereby the Minister is empowered 1326 to do what he likes with regard to this industry and not with that industry in the event of there being no application from that industry? It seems to me that it is the generalisation which is producing many of the difficulties. What may be appropriate, for example, in the case of drinks or cigars may not be so in the case of canned foods or textiles: canned salmon is obviously a different case from that of a textile garment. Therein lies the real difficulty. Under the original Act it seems that the Minister is empowered to make orders for goods of such character as he sees fit.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
I have listened with great attention to the many points made, particularly as they were raised by noble Lords who have wide experience in the fields in which they speak and who feel strongly on the subject. I think, however, that this discussion, by straying outside the terms of this Amendment, has revealed the misunderstandings in this complicated area. We are concerned with the working of Clause 1 as at present drafted. I should like to say, with respect to Lord Sainsbury and others on the question of markings on chocolates, that of course this is ridiculous. It is precisely because it is ridiculous that the second part of the Amendment has been brought in. If we do not intend these classes of display goods to be caught by Clause 1, then let us say so—which is all the second part of the Amendment achieves. I do not think that there should be any disagreement on that point.
The first part of the Amendment is more wide—ranging but, having listened to the discussion with great care, I cannot accept that it is as fundamental as a number of noble Lords have suggested. I have no information about precedents for this, but I do not think that we need a precedent because this is not really a fundamental Amendment. This is not a Bill about origin markings except as a means to consumer protection. Many members of the Committee, including the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. made clear that they were speaking from the point of view of the consumer interest, and that is what this Bill is all about.
Perhaps I may remind the Committee of the words I used earlier: that the real purpose of this Bill is to prevent misrepresentation by ensuring that any 1327 name or mark which might wrongly be taken to indicate a United Kingdom origin is countered by an indication that the goods are from elsewhere; and I went on to say that it would be hard to contend that the word "Imported" will achieve this any less effectively than naming the actual country of origin. This is what we are talking about. It is a question of whether we should impose by law a requirement affecting certain defined interests. Here we are not talking only about the food trade—it is much wider than the question of a tin of salmon or other canned food—we are talking extensively also about the chemical trade. The question is whether we impose by law a requirement which at best is inconvenient and at worst may be very expensive, probably unworkable and possibly unenforceable. Of course we could make orders under Clause 1; we could go on making orders all day and all night—and probably that is what we should have to do if we allowed the clause to stand in its present very wide form. That is what we wish to avoid.
May I now take up shortly one or two of the specific points that have been made? The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was worried, as was another of my noble friends, about imported pieces. I can say that that is covered by the answer which has already been given by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. It is a matter of where the last process or treatment resulting in a substantial change took place. To deal with one other point, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Slater, about the intention behind the introduction of this Amendment, I can give an unequivocal assurance that I have received no representation whatsoever concerned with any political arguments on origin markings—from South Africa or from anywhere else. The arguments to which I have listened
§ have been concerned purely with the administration of this clause as it concerns the trade of the country. Having listened with great attention to all these arguments I urge the Committee to support the Amendment.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
What I am not clear about, and the question that I should like to put to the noble Earl, is why this cannot be done under Clause 1(4). There may be difficulties with regard to certain goods, but this is a fairly small area and the Bill gives the Government power to make orders. Would it not be better to do it by order, rather than by a wrecking Amendment of this kind?
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
I cannot accept that this is a wrecking Amendment. This is a small change. It is a question of the size of the net with which you go fishing. Having listened to many representations, we think that the mesh of the net is so fine that we should catch many fish that we had no intention of catching—and should then have to spend our time throwing them back again.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
Can the noble Earl give us any instances? Why is it easier to say, "Imported" than "Imported from Korea"? I have no doubt that the noble Earl has good cases which may be quoted, but not being experienced in this sort of thing, I cannot myself think of a single one.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said that he missed the first part of the debate, and I think he will find that this point was covered in my introductory remarks.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided. Contents, 84; Not-Contents, 63.1329
|Aberdare, L.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Conesford, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Belstead, L.||Courtown, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Berkeley, Bs.||Craigmyle, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Birdwood. L.||Denham, L.|
|Alport, L.||Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Drumalbyn, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Byers, L.||Ebbisham, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Caccia, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Avebury, L.||Carnock, L.||Elles, Bs.|
|Barrington, V.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Colville of Culross, V.||Falkland. V.|
|Ferrers, E. [Teller.||Mancroft, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Margadale, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Gage, V.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Selkirk, E.|
|Gainford, L.||Merrivale, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Gowrie, E.||Meston, L.||Simon, V.|
|Grenfell, L.||Milverton, L.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Henley, L.||Monson, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Hurcomb, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Ilford, L.||Mottistone, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Inglewood, L.||Mountevans, L.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Oakshott, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Ogmore, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Limerick, E.||Rankeillour, L.||Wade, L.|
|Long, V.||Redesdale, L.||Willingdon, M.|
|Lothian, M.||Reigate, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Young, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Ardwick, L.||Hayter, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Helsby, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Beswick, L.||Henderson, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Birk, Bs.||Hood, V.||Segal, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hoy, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||Hughes, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Jacques, L.||Slater, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Janner, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Champion, L.||Kennet, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Chorley, L.||Lee of Ashridge, Bs.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Collison, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Strang, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Loudoun, C.||Strange, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Morris of Grasmere, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Nunburnholme, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Peddie, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Garner, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||White, B.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Platt, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Granville-West, L.||Popplewell, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Hale, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
On Question, privilege Amendments agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.13 p.m.
BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 17, leave out subsection (2).
§ The noble Baroness said: Clause 1(2) follows closely a similar provision for blends and mixtures which appeared in the Merchandise Marks Act 1926. In the debate in another place the question of blends and marks was raised. Although no difficulties came to notice under the earlier legislation, reconsideration in the light of criticism made during the Bill's passage through the other place has caused me to think again about this and discuss it further with the people concerned. Justification for some such exclusion was not that the goods which bore the United Kingdom name or mark were a blend or mixture, but that there was something which made it unreasonably 1330 difficult to comply with the Bill's provisions regarding a particular blend or mixture. For example, a mixture of materials might have originated in several different countries and materials fed into the automatic blending and packaging plant might have been varied according to what was available at the time.
§ There might be a real problem of compliance if several countries of origin had to be shown on goods, and an even greater one where the supplier could not readily establish which were the countries of origin, or the constituents or blends, or the mixtures which were being used. However, because your Lordships have already agreed that the word "imported" in the last Amendment should be allowed as an alternative indication of the country of origin many of these problems have to a great extent been solved. Anybody supplying a blend or mixture of material from different countries should now be able to comply with the provisions 1331 of the Bill by marking the goods "imported", and to such limited extent as there may remain any problems over the origin marking of blends or mixtures we shall be able to consider them under the provisions of this clause. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, has moved this Amendment and I should like to support her in what she has said. Noble Lords who have read the proceedings in another place, both on Second Reading and on Committee, will remember that there was much confused argument about the meaning of blends and mixtures when applied to textiles within the phrasing of a particular clause in the Bill. Indeed, this was so obvious that during the Committee stage on April 14, the Minister in another place undertook (col. 1611) to clarify the clause or arrange for its deletion in your Lordships' House. Of course we remember that during our own Second Reading on May 4 (col. 878) the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, made the suggestion which we are now discussing. Without going into wearisome details, I think the Committee will agree that blends or mixtures of textile fabrics can be produced only by a process of manufacture. Furthermore, this will apply to any woven fabrics where the weft is of one fibre and the warp is of another. Obviously, twisting and weaving are both processes of manufacture.
The Committee will recall that Section 36 of the 1968 Trade Descriptions Act sets out clearly and adequately the definition of origin; that is that,goods shall be deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the country in which they last underwent a process or processes resulting in a substantial change.Section 36, as the Committee will know, goes on to provide means of settling or deciding any contentious question of origin. It seems to me that so far as textiles are concerned, if Section 36 of the 1968 Act is kept in view there would be no need for any confusion or for any separate definition, exemption, or whatever, under the Trade Descriptions Bill. I am very glad to support the noble Baroness and I hope that the Committee will agree to support her Amendment.
BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 19, at end insert—
("() Subsection (1A) of this section does not apply to second-hand goods.").
§ The noble Baroness said: The aim of this Amendment is to take second-hand goods outside the scope of the provisions of the Bill. There will, I think, be practical difficulty requiring United Kingdom names or marks on certain second-hand goods to be accompanied by an indication of origin. The first problem will be to establish whether or not the goods have originally been imported. There can be no assurance that even if some indication of origin had appeared when the goods were new it would still be there when they were second-hand. It might have disappeared because of ordinary wear or tear, or the private purchaser might himself have cleaned off the mark. He is not, of course, when he re-sells bound by the Bill's provisions that they are not applicable to supply by a person not carrying on a trade or business, so that by the time goods get into the hands of a second-hand dealer the problem of establishing whether they were originally imported could he almost impossible. I can see that there will be a limited range of second-hand goods in which the prospective purchaser might he influenced by a United Kingdom name or mark. In such cases he is protected by the provisions of the main Act from the full array of false trade descriptions, including a false or misleading indication of origin. I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 1, line 20, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(1A)").—(The Earl of Limerick.)
BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 1, line 22, at end insert—
() Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to books, periodicals and other printed matter.")
§ The noble Baroness said: I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. While declaring an interest as President of the 1333 Association of Mail Order Publishers, this Amendment covers problems relating to books, periodicals and other printed matter. I am hoping that the obvious defects on this aspect will be apparent to all sides of the Committee and that this Amendment will be found to be acceptable. Your Lordships will remember that on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, asked for the exemption or safeguarding of magazines and books. I should feel happier with outright exemption: hence this Amendment.
As the Committee knows, Clause 1(1) of the Bill states that where a United Kingdom name or mark or one likely to be taken as such,
is applied to goods manufactured or produced outside the United Kingdom, … a conspicuous indication of the country in which the goods were manufactured or produced
must accompany the name or mark. The words "country in which the goods were manufactured or produced" mean that country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a substantial change. Here, in conjunction with this Bill, as we mentioned in connection with something else a minute or two ago, we have to read Section 36 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. If I may return to the word "conspicuous", which I mentioned a moment ago, any name or mark satisfying the conditions indicated in this Bill must be accompanied by a conspicuous indication of the country of origin. The words "accompanied by", according to the legal experts of the Department of Trade and Industry, mean "right next to that name or mark". This explanation was given in another place during the Committee stage on April 14 last, and the relevant column numbers are 1595, 1598 and 1599.
§ To take an example, the Bill as at present drafted will require a mail order publisher to put "Made in Italy" et cetera alongside every imprint of his own trade name wherever that occurs. So, if his trade name appears on the spine of a book, the statement" Made in Italy would have to appear there, too. Equally, it would have to appear on any of the pages inside, or again, on every piece of promotional literature printed abroad. I want to emphasise this. It is certainly not concerned only with mail order. As the Bill does not limit the 1334 origin indication in the main, or to any other appearance of the mark, the origin indication will have to appear wherever and as often as the name or mark appears. This could, for example, be on every page of a magazine and several times in and on a book. I believe that this point of view is confirmed by the Department. How ridiculous can you get?
§ I am sure that I have said enough for it to be evident that there is a need to make a special case for books, periodicals and other printed matter. Equally, I am sure that all sides of the Committee will agree that to apply this new law in this way would be absurd. I should have thought that essentially what a purchaser needs to know is where the book is edited and who takes responsibility for its content. Where it is printed, I should have thought, was less important. As the Committee will know, the law already requires a printer to state his name and usual abode of business on every book that he publishes. The Newspapers, Printers and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869 applies to printers in this country, and it has been satisfactory for many years. Surely, if it is tactically necessary to have a statement indicating where a book is manufactured, this can be achieved by requiring all books, wherever manufactured, to carry an origin marking. The existing law in Section 8 of the 1968 Act is adequate. It would be enough, I think, to extend the existing—and Victorian—law to all books by having the printers' name and address on the first page.
I should like to support this Amendment moved by the noble Baroness. I, too, would declare an interest in the mail order business. The only point that I wish to raise is that in a particular case with which I am concerned the name of the country in which the book was printed appeared, and it appeared because it was thought to be an advantage for it to appear: but it appears just once. I think the acid test here is that, if it is thought to be an advantage when it appears once, surely that would be enough to satisfy the spirit of this particular Bill.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I do not go quite so far as this Amendment—although I should not strongly object to it—because I think that books, periodicals and other printed matter should not be entirely 1335 exempt from indications of origin. I have been enlightened by the speech of my noble friend Lady Burton, because from what she says they are already by law obliged to indicate at least where they are printed; but not where they are bound, or the countries from which the illustrations might have come. It seems to me that to have a single indication, usually on the back of the title page—not on the first page, if I may suggest it to my noble friend—is sufficient. Where periodicals are concerned, the normal place to indicate the place of printing is at the foot of the table of contents. I am not very familiar with mail order catalogues, but I have no doubt that there is some convention with them also as to where the imprint is normally to be found. I should have thought that that was quite sufficient, because if one carries it any further, then, as my noble friend has pointed out, one reaches the completely ridiculous situation when one would have to disfigure a book by indicating on the jacket or the spine of the book the fact that you have the coat of arms of one of the older universities, or the ship by which Messrs. Longman are known, or the mermaid by which Michael Joseph's publications are recognised and so on.
I hope that we may have an indication from the noble Earl the Minister that it is certainly the intention of the Government not to apply the Bill to books, periodicals and other printed matter beyond the obligations to which I understand they are already subject. That, I think, is essential. I am interested in where a book is printed. I am also interested in where Lord Thomson of Fleet's periodicals are printed. Lord Thomson's name is on the Marshalled List in support of this Amendment, but he does not appear to wish to speak to it. I hope that we may have some explanation from the noble Earl as to the attitude of the Government to this matter and on whether this Amendment is necessary to achieve the kind of safeguards that my noble friend Lady Burton has in mind.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
I was indeed aware that the Newspapers, Printers and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1336 1869 already requires printed matter consisting of a single sheet to bear the name and address of the printer on the front; and pamphlets, books, et cetera, have to be marked similarly on the first or last leaf. Equally, I appreciate that what amounts to a "United Kingdom name or mark" may appear at many different places in a book or periodical and it is hardly necessary to insist that every one of them needs to be qualified by an indication of the place of production. And I am by no means sure that the buyer of a book or periodical is much concerned with its place of physical production. I am conscious, therefore. that there is a strong prima facie case for the special treatment of books and periodicals, and if my right honourable friend is given appropriate powers of exemption or relaxation by Clause 1(4) he will certainly be prepared to consider very sympathetically a proposal for their exercise in this instance. But I am bound to say that I very much dislike the idea of writing express exemption for this, or any other class of goods, into the Bill.
As regards this particular Amendment, there is another consideration: I am not sure that we are justified here and now in deciding that everything falling within the meaning of "all other printed matter" deserves exemption. Not all such matter is subject to the provisions of the 1869 Act to which I have referred, and I would not at this stage be prepared to accept that greetings cards should enjoy the same claim to exemption as do books and periodicals. Moreover, there is an irrevocability about an express exemption, in the sense that it can be remedied only by further legislation. No one can forecast the development of an industry, or of its marketing methods, with sufficient confidence to be certain that we would never at some point in the future want the provisions of the Bill to affect particular products. Who would have forecast a few years ago the development of printed paper dresses, for example? The more flexible procedure of directions by Statutory Instrument, which can reflect the current circumstances of any particular trade yet may be varied if and when that situation changes, is a far more desirable approach.
I shall certainly ensure before Report stage that if any changes appear necessary in Clause 1(4) to enable us to make 1337 appropriate relaxations in respect of books and periodicals and any other such deserving cases, these will be placed before your Lordships. Having been chided on an earlier Amendment for lack of enthusiasm in contemplating the wholesale use of exempting powers, I hope that this may be welcome, and I trust that with this assurance the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the Amendment. Otherwise I should feel bound, for the reasons I have just mentioned, to ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I thank the noble Earl for his remarks. Obviously I have no intention of pressing this Amendment because I shall gain much more by not doing so; but I should like, if I am in order, to ask him to clarify one point. I understood from Clause 1(4)—which of course we are not discussing at the moment but it has been mentioned by the noble Earl—that the Secretary of State was empowered to confer exemption or alleviation on those who experienced special difficulties under the measure. I think the noble Earl said that he did not feel himself able to say at this moment—nor indeed perhaps in the future—that specific exemption would be offered to the industries that I have mentioned. He told me (if I have it right) that he hoped an Order would be laid which would exempt books, magazines and other printed matter from this Bill and that he would hope to have something drafted in time for us to consider on Report stage. I wonder whether I have got this right? May I just ask the noble Earl to tell me?
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
If I may clarify this point, the noble Baroness is not quite right. I said that there may be some doubt about the powers which are at present conferred under Clause 1(4) as to whether these are sufficiently wide to deal with all the cases that we might wish to see exempted. This is a separate question. What I said was that if there is any doubt about it we would take steps to ask the House to give us these extra powers and we would expect then to be able to give the exemption for which the noble Baroness is asking in this particular case. I believe this also answers the point made by my noble friend Lord Redesdale, because it would 1338 leave the law exactly as it now stands with regard to books and periodicals.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
Before the noble Baroness withdraws the Amendment, as I think she is going to, may I say that I hope that on Report stage the noble Earl will feel able to come to this House and give a quite definite assurance that there will be an exemption made. I do not see any reason why this should not be done. He has gone a long way: he has said that it will be considered sympathetically and that if necessary the Bill will be amended to allow such an exemption. But what I should like to see before the Bill becomes law is an undertaking that the spirit of the noble Baroness's Amendment will be preserved and that there will be some exemption along these lines.
§ BARONESS BURTON OF COVENTRY
I am much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I agree entirely with what he has said, and I would therefore ask the permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 2, line 1, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(1A)").—(The Earl of Limerick.)
Page 2, line 10, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(1A)").—(The Earl of Limerick.)
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 9:
§ After Clause 1 insert the following new clause:
§ Misleading absence of marks of origin
§ ". Any person who supplies or offers to supply in the course of any trade or business any goods on which the country of manufacture of production is not conspicuously indicated shall be guilty of an offence."
§ The noble Baroness said: I am quite sure that the noble Earl the Minister will 1339 assure me that this is a defective Amendment, but I should be rather betraying those who have approached me if I did not take this opportunity to put once again the point about the country of origin. We now move into a different group altogether. This Amendment is not in any way related to a United Kingdom mark: it is asking that any imported goods shall be marked with the country of origin. Until December last, goods which were not marked were assumed to be British because imported goods were marked, and so the idea has grown up in people's minds, whether your Lordships accept it or not, that those goods which are not marked are British.
§ There has been a great deal of discussion this afternoon about cans of pineapple and salmon. I was at a consumers' meeting the other evening, attended by a large number of young married women. One of them cited the example (and I did not stir this up in any way, though I was tempted to do so, knowing that we were to have this discussion) of having bought some apples which she thought were Cox's. Now we all know that the Cox's apple has a unique flavour: there is no apple quite like it. She went entirely by the colour and the look of the apple, and when she got the fruit home she found that, to use her words, "it was some rotten old foreign apple which had no taste at all." This is a very simple illustration of the need to know the country of origin. What we make and grow in this country is unique. I stand here quite unrepentant and say that our workmanship is the best in the world, and certainly the fruit and vegetables that we grow here have a flavour which no other country has been able to touch. If any noble Lord could produce a tomato from any other part of the world that equals a British tomato I should be willing to give it a consumer test.
§ During the Second Reading debate I referred to the wishes of the consumers in this field and to a Sunday Times survey. I have since been sent another survey. It was a simple question put to only a thousand people; nevertheless it was a very good sample. The question was to this effect: "Up to now imported goods have had to be marked with the country in which they were made. From the end of this month (December) there 1340 is no longer any need to do this. In general, do you think it is in your interests that the country of origin should be shown on the goods in the shops?" The replies were: "Very definitely", 47 per cent.; "Definitely", 36 per cent.; "I am not sure", 5 per cent.; "Not particularly", 11 per cent.: "Not at all", 2 per cent. In other words, the overwhelming number of the customers (I am not now talking about anyone but the customers) want the goods marked with the country of origin.
§ I outlined in an earlier discussion the number of manufacturers who want the goods marked with the country of origin. I know that my friends on the Liberal Benches are going to accuse me of being protectionist. I make no apology for this. We need work for our own people, and in every market in the world British goods are up against one type of barrier or another, and a common one is the marking of the particular goods with the country of origin. If I may quote the British ceramics manufacturers, they say that in tableware and cooking-ware there are worldwide regulations for control of toxic emission from glazes and decorations. As a considerable amount of imported table and cooking ware is sold in the United Kingdom they believe that the Government will be forced to consider the means by which they will be able to trace the offending manufacturers of imported goods if they do not require the goods to be marked with the country of origin.
§ There is an overwhelming case for goods to be marked with the country of origin. I do not accept that this will make the goods more expensive. We heard this argument advanced over the years when we asked for simple things like information regarding the size of some goods; for information whether something should be dry cleaned or washed. We now have this information. Let us have simple marking as well in order to guide us, to provide more work for our people and assist our own manufacturers. I beg to move.
§ LORD BARNBY
In speaking to this Amendment I must remark that it suggests what I took the liberty of trying to emphasise on Amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 2 was successfully pressed in spite of the charge that it digressed from conventional procedure. 1341 I readily accept that. The remarks that the noble Baroness has made emphasise the difficulty in this field of categorising different articles. It is on those grounds that I readily accept and support the Amendment. I cannot avoid taking the opportunity of repeating that I hope that the noble Earl will emphasise to the D.T.I. that certain sections of industry, such as textiles, call for specialised treatment which under the original Act the Minister had power to deal with. Having asked him to make sure that he will bear that in mind, I am satisfied to say no more on this clause.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
I rise to support the Amendment moved by the noble Baroness. I believe the Amendment strengthens the Bill. I am completely unconvinced by the arguments of interested parties. There are, rightly or wrongly, many people in this country who do not want to support South Africa economically because of their hatred or dislike of apartheid. In this matter I should have thought that the Liberals would know which way to go if this Amendment were pressed to a Division. Traders at the moment, because they know that a lot of people dislike purchasing South African products, whether manufactured products or processed food—this is not an argument applying to food alone—mark the goods, "Imported". Firms—and I will not mention any names—who do not want in any way to disguise the origin of the goods they sell, and mark on the goods "South African", are at a distinct disadvantage, because certain firms get accused of selling South African produce and other firms escape as they do not put the true origin of the goods on the articles. Therefore this is a Bill that, as has been said previously, is not only in the interests of manufacturers, producers and merchants, but is also in the interests of the consumers and people in this country. They are entitled to know the name of the country where the goods and products originated. I hope that my friends on the Opposition Front Bench will press this Amendment, whatever the result, to a Division.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I do not want to deploy all over again any arguments which I made on Amendment No. 1342 2. There is no doubt that the consumers want this information. I am afraid that when it comes to marking orders the Government do not say, "Is a marking order practicable? If it is, we will bring it in". They will bring it in only if there are the strongest reasons for doing so. I should like to do what I can to persuade the Government to take this situation rather more seriously. If this Amendment is not accepted, undoubtedly something else would be brought forward at Report stage. On the other hand, that might show that a lot of people are determined to get more country-of-origin markings.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. She was perfectly right, I misunderstood some words that she said with regard to an earlier Amendment. On the matter of marks of origin I am not in favour of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and others. We are a great trading, international nation; we are at the present moment leading international power in Europe and elsewhere. We are members of trading agreements, of GATT and EFTA. We are encouraging people to exchange goods and trade with each other. We are hoping that when we go into the Common Market the fact that there are 350 million people in Europe will mean that we shall be able to increase our trade with them.
I do not want to do anything in this Bill, or any other, that is going to hamper the trade between ourselves and Europe, or, indeed, any other country that wants to trade with us. I do not care about the political implications which the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, has put into his speech. I dislike South Africa and apartheid as much as anybody else. I do not care about the politics or Governments of the countries of other parts of the world. But when we want to do as much trading as we can to help our own country as well as the rest of the world, I think we should not bring in political implications all the time. That is the wrong approach. We wish to get for the consumer—and nobody is more in favour of helping the consumer than I am—the best goods at the most reasonable price and of a quality that consumers want. If the goods are marked with the country of origin there is no reason why that should not be so; there is nothing 1343 in this Bill that stops anybody from marking goods with their country of origin. But what this Amendment says is that every single article that comes into this country must be marked with its country of origin. That is simply complicating matters enormously, and this is in a sense, although it may not have this effect, rather a protectionist Amendment.
Although Free Trade is no longer an issue in these matters, I am in favour of trying to increase our trade with the rest of the world and I should not like us to do anything which makes other countries retaliate against us. That, in my opinion, would not be advantageous to manufacturers, producers or consumers here. To put this provision into the Bill is restrictive, rather than something which is going to help our consumers and make our trade wider. This issue has been raised many times. When I was on the Consumer Council we were continually being asked to sponsor the marking of goods that came from abroad, and we never thought it was in the interests of the consumer. It is in the interests of the consumer only in so far as some goods are, as I said in my speech on Second Reading, masquerading as British when they are not. That is something which can be caught—
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness but I think I should say that after she gave up the chairmanship of the Consumer Council this matter was discussed and the Council were at that time virtually, or very nearly, unanimously in favour of marking the country of origin on all goods.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. Certainly when I was there that was not the case and we resisted any suggestion that we should do this. However, that is apart from the point. We are discussing this Bill to-day, not what happened five or six years ago.
§ LORD BARNBY
If I might interrupt the noble Baroness, she is rightly saying that she is riot interested now in what happened six years ago. But the noble Baroness opposite quoted a consumer poll taken recently which established that 94 per cent. of those answering the poll insisted on the marking of the country of origin.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I listened to the noble Baroness with interest and I am quite sure that the information she gave us was entirely correct. But on this point I myself am not in favour of what I believe to be an action which would be restrictive of trade. In the interests of everyone in this country, more trade and not less trade is wanted. Therefore, I am not in favour of supporting this Amendment.
§ LORD SLATER
At this particular juncture we are not debating the Common Market, but the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, referred to the Common Market and the number of people who will be in it. It must be understood that we are still doing business with the people of Europe, and not only of Western Europe but of Eastern Europe also. In speaking about the marking of place of origin we are apt to leave the people of this country—and I think it is about time this was said—under a cloud. It is a cloud of suspicion that we are afraid of letting them know where products are coming from. Some of us who have made trips abroad have gone to various parts of the world and been able to see pumping machinery and suchlike with the trade mark "Made in the United Kingdom", and with the mark of the particular firm, and so on. Why should we be afraid of marking the place of origin? I cannot understand the mentality of people who object to the appeal that was made on this particular issue by my noble friend in moving the Amendment. If the people of this country read this debate, if it is publicised in the Press to-morrow morning, they will begin to wonder why this non-elected Chamber should take a stand on behalf of the Government in being afraid of informing them where products originate from. People have a right to know where products come from, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, will have second thoughts on this matter.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
May I correct something the noble Lord has said? I am not the least afraid of any marking at all. Under this Bill or any other, anybody who wants to mark a product may mark it. Ali I am saying is that it is restrictive to say that every single commodity that comes into this country must be marked. I am delighted 1345 that a "United Kingdom" mark should be seen all over the world in regard to ships or pumping stations or anything else. Nothing could be better. All I am saying is that I do not want every single commodity that comes into the country to be marked. But I am not afraid.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
May I take up one point with the noble Baroness before the Minister replies? The noble Baroness made the laudable point that if goods are coming in we do not in any way wish to restrict trade. Would she not agree that the Danes, particularly, and the Scandinavians are very proud to name their furniture as coming from their own country? I had a case brought to my notice in which very inferior furniture was described as "Danish style". I do not know where it was made; I should not like to suggest. Naturally, that kind of manufacturer does not want to declare his country of origin. But good manufacturers have nothing to hide, and these are the people we want to support. I feel that the noble Baroness is wrong in thinking that this Amendment would operate against manufacturers. We all know that French wine is marked "A product of France" and so are certain woollies. Such marks give information to the customer. I do not think it will restrict trade in any way if more information of this kind is given.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
I hope we shall not run away from this issue. Let me be frank and say that I am always a little unhappy if I have to oppose the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, because I always like to refer to her as "my noble friend" since most of the time she shows a great deal of balance. But I should like to put forward a point of view which is possibly my own although I am sure it is shared by a number of noble Lords of this side of the Committee. It is that many of us feel that we must know where the goods we buy from week to week come from. It may be that we are misguided in wanting to refuse goods coming from a certain country in favour of goods which come from another. It may be restrictive on our part; it may be quite short-sighted. But for some of us it is a matter of principle. I do not think we can argue against this Amendment simply because it may restrict trade in the sense that it may 1346 restrict sales. For some of us—I think, many of us in the country—a matter of principle is involved. This is why I feel that this particular Amendment should be accepted by your Lordships' Committee.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
The name of the Liberals has been invoked twice in this short discussion. If there is any likelihood that this Amendment will be taken to a Division I should like to say why one Liberal will be going into the Not-Content Lobby. I emphasise it is one Liberal, because I do not know that I speak for any of my noble friends; nor do I think that this is in any way a Party matter. But I do think that this is a protectionist Amendment. It is a Chauvinist Amendment, as an awful lot of thinking behind this marking of goods is. While I may be a male pig, I am not a male Chauvinist pig. It is an unnecessary Amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, will know, because we have worked together, that I feel as strongly as he does about the nature of various régimes in the world. But I have never in fact regarded a boycott of goods as effective or really as a valuable weapon of any kind in this sort of situation. I may be wrong; I do not want to open up the whole of this subject but I should like to say to the noble Lord. Lord Wells-Pestell, that I do not think it is necessarily a justification for passing a law and putting in a new clause which puts in a new obligation to enable people who wish to conduct a boycott to be able to do so the more easily. One must have a better reason than that for making laws, and the Liberal principle that I myself will call in aid if this matter comes to a vote is that I do not think that rules and regulations and laws should be multiplied unnecessarily. This is a major new provision. I think that on balance it is unnecessary and therefore I cannot support it.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
The question which we have to ask ourselves on this Amendment is, surely: will it benefit the consumer if we accept it? Much as I sympathise with the implications behind it, I do not think it will. We import into this country jam from Rumania, Bulgaria and Poland, and we import matches from Communist China—countries with whose regimes we do not always agree. What worries me is this. If anything is found 1347 to be defective with these products, does the consumer have a legal right vis-à-vis the retailer? I believe this is a question which may bother a number of people. If the consumer has a legal right—as I believe he does—it seems to me that the Amendment, taken to its absolutely literal conclusion, is protectionist. The fact of the matter is that nowadays, whether we like it or not, we have a number of international treaties to honour, and if we insist on an Amendment quite so rigorous as this I believe we run the risk of losing out on trade, albeit with countries with whose régimes we do not agree, but whose trading potential nevertheless benefits our economy.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
The effect of this Amendment would be to require origin marking of all goods, whether of domestic origin or imported, and whether or not a United Kingdom firm's name or mark had been applied to them. This is indeed a far-reaching Amendment, which has the effect of duplicating the requirement as regards goods already affected under Clause 1(1) and, further, of contradicting the exemptions contained in Clause 1(2) and (3) and would therefore produce an intolerable confusion.
I know how strongly the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and many others feel about origin marking, but that is not the purpose of this Bill, as I have said before. There are really two separate questions: the general proposition of universal origin marking, and the effect that it would have on this Bill. I believe, with respect, that the noble Baroness was mistaken in one thing which she said, if I heard her aright. It was not the case that up to November 30 last all imported goods had the origin mark. Only those specified in Orders in Council had such a mark. This was an erratic selection—even among consumer goods—and even in these cases there was an obligation to mark "Empire" or "Foreign" on the one hand or with the actual country of origin.
As my noble friend Lady Elliot said when introducing this Bill:It is not the object of the Bill to insist that all imported goods should have the mark of origin, but only those which might masquerade as British manufacture when they in fact are not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4/5/72; col. 860.]1348 Let us also remember that this is a Privvate Member's Bill whose sponsor in another place declared that his main object was to protect the consumer from deception. The proposition that even goods which bear no marks upon them should be labelled with their country of origin would go a little far, and would tend to under estimate the native intelligence of British housewives. It was on that basis that the Government supported the Bill.
We are a nation of traders, and one subject on which people of all political persuasions can agree is that it is in our interest as a nation to have international barriers to trade reduced. Origin marking requirements, which may vary from country to country in their specification of language, form, position and even determination of the country of origin, can be a very real barrier to trade, since they involve exporters in maintaining separate stocks for each market with consequent increases in their cost. So we have subscribed in GATT and in EFTA to recommendations that compulsory origin marking be reserved for the bare minimum of cases in which it is really necessary, a principle which we can impress, whenever the opportunity arises, on other countries maintaining or contemplating such requirements. To-day there are only ten countries which operate universal origin marking requirements and only one of these, the United States of America, is a major trading nation. For us to abandon the internationally recognised principle by introducing compulsory origin marking of all goods, including many on which it would serve no useful purpose for buyers here and would merely amount to an unnecessary nuisance for other countries, would at once invite retaliation and weaken our ability to resist such retaliation.
In rightly providing for the demise three years later of the limited origin marking requirements which existed under the old Merchandise Marks Act 1926, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968—introduced by the previous Administration and supported by my Party—established an essentially selective approach to marking requirements. This is certainly the proper approach, for to require all goods to be marked with their country of origin is superfluous. For those who are interested in the origin of any 1349 particular goods much information is already provided. British goods can be, and frequently are, marked with their origin to enable them to be identified as such; many foreign goods will continue to be identified voluntarily, particularly those which have a national reputation for high quality, such as Swiss watches and Japanese cameras.
If Clause 1(1) of the Bill is passed, all goods to which a United Kingdom firm's name or mark is applied will also have this mark qualified by an indication of origin. Further, if any cases emerge in which we are satisfied that knowledge of the origin of any goods would give the buyer reliable guidance in the selection of the goods best suited to his needs, we already have powers to make new origin marking orders under Section 8 of the main Act. For the remainder, those concerned about origin can make inquiries of the shopkeeper, and the provisions of the Trade Descriptions Act are designed to protect him against false or misleading statements of origin, including oral statements. Bearing all these factors in mind, I really must ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
I thank the Minister. I did not expect that either the sponsor of the Bill or the Minister would accept this Amendment, but since the Minister has pointed out to me that I made a mistake, I wonder whether I dare point out to him that I think he made a mistake in his brief. Towards the end of his remarks he said that goods had to have the mark of origin and he quoted the part of Clause 1 which surely he has now amended. Am I right?
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
I think the noble Baroness is quite right. I accept that I had overlooked the effect of my own Amendment.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
He also made a very cogent plea that we do not put muddle on muddle. I would be the last one to wish to do that, and I did not think that this Amendment would sit neatly in this Bill. I moved it quite deliberately because I wanted to raise this point. I can only say—and I give notice of this—that I do not intend to let the matter rest here. I represent a large number of consumers and I work 1350 for them. They want this change and I shall return to it in whichever form I can. But in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 [Defences]:
§ 6.10 p.m.
LORD JACQUES moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 37, after ("and") insert ("unless he had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the goods were manufactured or produced outside the United Kingdom, that he")
§ The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment to Clause 2(1)(a) which lays down the defences that a person charged can raise. He has to prove three things: first, that lie himself did not apply the United Kingdom name or mark; second, that he did not know the goods were imported; and third, that he could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained that the goods were imported. Since the conjunction used is "and" and not "or", it follows that the person who did not himself apply the United Kingdom name or mark and who did not know the goods were imported, could nevertheless be charged because he did not use "reasonable diligence". What is regarded as reasonable diligence may vary from one magistrates' court to another, even on the same facts. It is, I think, in the public interest that if Parliament has something in mind it should say what it means and give guidance to the court. The most obvious way of showing reasonable diligence is to inquire of the supplier whether the goods in question were imported. I venture to suggest that Parliament does not expect the trader to inquire of the supplier in respect of all goods which he receives. Parliament expects him to be on the alert and to inquire where he has reasonable grounds for suspicion that the goods may have been imported. If that is what Parliament means, it should say so; and that is the purpose of this Amendment.
§ This Amendment gives no protection whatever to anyone who applied the United Kingdom name or mark himself. It gives no protection whatever to the person who knew that the goods were imported. It gives no protection whatever to the person who had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the goods 1351 were imported. It protects one class only; the person who did not apply the United Kingdom mark himself, did not know the goods were imported and did not have reasonable grounds for suspecting the goods were imported. I suggest that as a matter of elementary justice that person is entitled to the protection given by this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
I would support my noble friend Lord Jacques; I think this is a very justified additional safeguard to the retailer. I will not detain your Lordships any longer, but I support the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, gave notice on Second Reading that he intended to move an Amendment of this kind. I have complete sympathy with his objective of achieving clarity, as I am sure all your Lordships have. But if we reflect a little we shall I think see that the solution he proposes is not really a satisfactory one, nor likely to achieve his object and desire of avoiding confusion in the courts. The basis of the trade descriptions legislation, of which we hope this Bill will become part, is that a person supplying goods must accept a high degree of responsibility for any trade description, since he expects to profit from that description applied to them. Thus if a false trade description is already applied to goods when he gets them, he cannot simply take refuge in the fact that it was somebody else's lie. The consumer must rely primarily on the man from whom he actually buys the goods.
Section 24(31 of the 1968 Act provides:In any proceedings for an offence under this Act of supplying or offering to supply goods to which a false trade description is applied it shall be a defence for the person charged to prove that he did not know, and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained, that the goods did not conform to the description or that the description had been applied to the goods".As I understand the noble Lord, he has two criticisms to make of the present formulation. The first is that "reasonable diligence" is an imprecise concept which magistrates may interpret in varying ways as respects a particular case. There are many matters which under the criminal law have to be left to the judgment of the magistrates in the light of 1352 the evidence before them, and the precise extent of what diligence would be reasonable in a particular case is clearly for them to determine. I must point out to the noble Lord that his Amendment, far from making the task of the courts easier in this respect, or bringing greater precision to the definition of "reasonable diligence", would have exactly the opposite effect. It would mean the the courts would first have to decide whether the supplier had "reasonable" grounds for suspecting the goods to be imported, and if they concluded that he had they would then have to go on, as at present, to consider what diligence in further inquiry was "reasonable". While sympathising with the noble Lord's laudable aim, I must point out that this would be a step backwards rather than forwards.
The noble Lord's second argument is that the supplier ignorant of the fact that the goods are imported should be under no obligation to make any further inquiries unless he has "reasonable grounds for suspecting" them to be imported. I regard that as unnecessary to deal with the case of the man on whose part special inquiries would not be warranted. If a retailer has been buying British-made pencils for years from a thoroughly reputable wholesaler, and otherwise identical imported pencils are substituted without warning, how could it possibly be contended that any inquiry on his part as to the origin would be reasonable"? I really cannot credit such a contention being acceptable.
On the other side of the medal, however, I do not accept that the duty to exercise reasonable diligence should not arise unless the supplier has "reasonable grounds for suspecting". That, to me, implies something far too positive in the way of suspicion to be tolerable. There are obviously stages short of positive suspicion which call for some reaction by the supplier—for instance, doubt or uncertainty; or even the fact that he is patronising a new wholesaler whose trustworthiness has not been established by experience. I am sure that the proper course is to leave this defence as it is, in perfect harmony with the comparable provision in the main Act, which has not, so far as I am aware, given rise to any unwarranted difficulties. I must therefore ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD JACQUES
May I point out that the main Act is dealing with something a little different, and circumstances which could arise under this Bill could make it a little more difficult for the trader. To keep the record straight, is the Minister suggesting that it is just that a person who did not apply the mark himself, did not know the goods were imported, had no reasonable grounds for suspecting the goods were imported, should in fact be charged? If he opposes this Amendment, in point of fact that is what it comes to.
§ THE EARL OF LIMERICK
I do not believe that that is the case. What I am saying is that if we have difficulties under the present law, I think they must be made worse if this Amendment is accepted. Would the courts be likely to be any more consistent in their conclusions on the noble Lord's criterion as to the "reasonable grounds" for suspecting? The effect of the Amendment would be that the courts would have to reach conclusions on two points, first whether there were reasonable grounds, and secondly whether the supplier exercised "reasonable diligence". This would increase the possibility of conflicting verdicts on the same facts.
§ LORD JACQUES
I should have thought it would give greater protection to the innocent trader, and that is the purpose of the Amendment. However, it is quite obvious that the Amendment is not going to be accepted, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.