HL Deb 22 May 1973 vol 342 cc1172-81

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received. Before commencing on the Marshalled List of Amendments, I feel that I owe your Lordships an apology for bringing forward no fewer than 17 Amendments at Report stage of the Bill after a very substantial number of Amendments in Committee. Perhaps it is one of the penalties of a Private Member's Bill of this abstruse and considerable technicality being presented before your Lordships in this way that we have to suffer at this stage a number of Amendments which might not be otherwise necessary were it a Government Bill.

My Lords, there are unfortunately a number of incorrect references of a purely technical character in this Bill, and in the ordinary way these would be put right when the Bill is reprinted on Report. I do not know whether your Lordships wish me to go through about a dozen of these incorrect references. It would perhaps be a little tedious, but I would be only too happy to do so should your Lordships feel it either necessary or desirable. However, unless any of your Lordships wishes to press me to do that, I will, with the permission of the House, continue without these references. My Lords, Amendment No. 1 is a drafting Amendment—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord to say that I think I should put the Question, That this Report be now received.


My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Sandys.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [Prohibited descriptions of unhallmarked articles]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, leave out from beginning of line 13 to end of line 15 and insert— ("(b) section 4 of the Act of 1968 (which defines "applies a trade description") shall apply to paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1), for the interpretation of references to a description being applied to any article, as it applies for the interpretation of references in that Act to applying a trade description,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for that brief omission, which I assure your Lordships was not intended as a discourtesy. This is a drafting Amendment. The present terms of subsection (7)(b) relate quite happily to the words, applies to an unhallmarked article a description in subsection (1)(a). But doubt has been expressed as to whether the wording of this subsection is satisfactory and, therefore, Parliamentary Counsel has advised this somewhat abstruse extension set out in the Amendment. I feel that as this is a drafting Amendment, and as it is of a technical nature, it will be sufficiently clear to your Lordships without further addition at this stage, and I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Alterations to hallmarked articles]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 2: Page 7, line 29, leave out from beginning to ("and") and insert ("the standard of fineness of the article").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment concerns Clause 5, which, as your Lordships will be aware, relates to offences and commences, …it shall be an offence for any person to make an addition, … Subsection (1) prohibits any alteration to be made to a hallmarked article without the consent of an assay office, but subsection (4) makes an exception for what may be described as small additions—as, for example, the repair of an article. Subsection (4)(b) at present requires that such an addition must be of a precious metal of not less than the fineness of the article itself, and the Amendment substitutes the reference, the standard of fineness of the article". This is again a technical point, and it would be very much better demonstrated if I gave an example. Let us suppose a gold brooch has a fineness of 17 carat. It is not quite good enough for 18 carat, and it would therefore, in the normal course of events, be marked down as "14 carat". Suppose a small addition or a small alteration is to be made to this gold brooch. With the Bill as drafted, it would have to be of 17 carat standard and no less. The Amendment permits an addition of the standard of fineness of the article as inscribed on the article—that is 14 carat—to be made to this gold brooch. So it is in fact a concession to the trade as a whole. It is perfectly satisfactory from the consumer's point of view, because it says on the article it is a 14 carat gold brooch and it has a 14 carat gold repair or addition to the said article. To set in line what the millesimal standard would be, 17 carat is just under 750 standard, so it would be marked 14 carat, which is 585 standard. I think here we compare the two existing practices of carat and the standard marking. The table of carats is set out on page 23 as amended; and a hope this will be a satisfactory explanation to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Treatment by assay offices of unauthorised marks]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 3: Page 9, line 21, leave out ("obliterate or deface") and insert ("or obliterate").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, by this Amendment we remove the word "deface", and again this is a technical Amendment. The group of Amendments which follow can be taken as a lead-in to a simplification of subsection (4). Subsection (1) of this clause enables an assay office to cancel or obliterate any mark of the character of a hallmark which appears to have been incorrectly struck upon an article which comes into their possession. Subsection (2) prohibits an assay office from obliterating an "ancient mark", a definition of which we have in the Bill. It is an expression defined in subsection (7) as meaning a mark of the character of a hallmark appearing to have been struck on an article before December 22, 1854; but under subsection (2) such a mark may be cancelled, an expression which clearly would not permit obliteration but would allow a type of cancellation. The question of how the cancellation should take place is a matter of discretion for the Hallmarking Council, and I do not think we can speculate on how this should take place. The prohibition against obliteration of ancient marks is, of course, because of their antique value, even though they may be forgeries. Reference was made to these earlier in our discussions in Committee, and I think this is a satisfactory explanation. The Amendments as a whole are directed mainly to the present terms of subsection (2). The assay office also wish to be able to place a cancelling line right through an ancient mark so that the possibility of transposition of any other mark on the article is avoided. It would be satisfactory if the Bill were to be amended in this way. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

7.0 p.m.

LORD SANDYS moved Amendments Nos. 4A, 5, 6 and 7A.

Page 9, line 33, leave out ("or deface").

Page 9, line 39, leave out from ("have") to ("as") in line 40, and insert— ("(a) cancelled, or obliterated any mark."),

Page 9, line 42, leave out ("(a)").

Page 10, leave out line 1 and insert— ("(b) obliterated any ancient mark upon an article,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments 4A, 5, 6 and 7A are all consequential. I should relate the conjunction with Amendment 7A. It is a simplification of the clause. Subsection (4) will now read: If it be proved that an assay office have

  1. (a) cancelled or obliterated any mark, (as described in subsection (1) of the section) which has been struck by an assay office according to law on an article which has not been the subject of an improper alteration;
  2. (b) obliterated any ancient mark upon an article, the assay office (but not any other person) shall be liable in damages to any person interested in the article."
I beg to move Amendments Nos. 4A to 7A inclusive.


My Lords, unless any noble Lord objects I shall put these four Amendments to the House together. The Amendments moved are Amendments Nos. 4A to 7A.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 13 [The British Hallmarking Council]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 8: Page 12, line 14, leave out ("which") and insert ("who").

The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting Amendment. Elsewhere the Council are referred to by the use of a collective personal pronoun. In col. 736 of Vol. 342 of the OFFICIAL REPORT your Lordships will see that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, directed our attention to the grammatical aspect. Our discussions led us to believe it better to adopt a consistency throughout the Bill and relate for both the purposes of the Hallmarking Council and the assay office the grammatical pose adopted in other parts of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 9: Page 12, line 39, leave out ("precious")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a question of tautology. It is a subject which is dangerous for laymen. I am advised that at the end of subsection (2)(a) it is tautologous to talk of applying the Act "to any precious metal other than gold, silver or platinum". It may be remembered that an alteration was made in Committee to Clause 17 for the same reason. This is largely a matter of drafting, but it is in order to maintain consistency throughout the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 10: Page 12, line 44, after ("metal") insert ("manufactured in or")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we reach the point in the Bill which deals with fixing charges. Subsection (2)(b) reflects the powers of the Council under Clause 12 to fix the charges of assay offices for assaying and hallmarking articles manufactured in or intended for sale or supply in the United Kingdom. This Amendment ensures that the wording of Clause 13(2)(b) conforms with the wording of Clause 12(1). Maximum charges are fixed for everything made in this country, even though the article may subsequently be sold abroad. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this is the grammatical point raised earlier. It is a drafting point. I beg to move.

Moved— Page 13, line 41, leave out ("which is") and insert ("who are")—(Lord Sandys.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Unhallmarked articles]:

7.7 p.m.

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 12: Page 23, line 8, leave out ("mounts and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Schedule 1 deals with exemptions. This is a technical point and raises a question of consistency. At present on page 23, line 8 appear the words "mounts and ornaments". The Amendment seeks to delete the words "mounts and". This is so that the exemption should apply in the earlier part of the Bill. In order to maintain consistency in the Bill I commend this Amendment to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Approved hallmarks]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 13: Page 25, line 40, leave out from ("article") to ("an") in line 41 and insert ("form part of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, again we are dealing with the use of English. Three times in this paragraph the word "comprised" occurs. "Comprised" has three meanings in this particular context. It was thought desirable to adopt this revision so that the paragraph would refer to the three separate points described in three separate ways. In the next Amendment (No. 14) the word "made" is used instead of "comprised". This is considered to be more satisfactory. It is purely a matter of clarification. I should like to link Amendment No. 13 with No. 14 so that the matter of the word "comprised" is fully dealt with. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this Amendment is consequential. I beg to move Amendment No. 14.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 2, leave out ("comprised") and insert ("made").—(Lord Sandys.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [The British Hallmarking Council]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 15: Page 30, line 34, leave out ("by retirement") and insert ("upon the expiration of his period of office")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, here we come to the question of appointments, and a very necessary minor amendment has been suggested by Parliamentary Counsel. It is related to the question of when the chairman is appointed from among those representing the various interests on the Hallmarking Council and whether the right to reappoint a person in his place is given by the Bill. It is a drafting Amendment. Paragraph 9(3) is related to paragraph 8(2) in the Schedule. The present wording of paragraph 9(3) is "by retirement". That does not marry with the wording of paragraph 8(2) which uses the words: otherwise than upon the expiration of his period of office. The Amendment brings the wording of the two paragraphs into line and I think your Lordships will agree that it is more satisfactory.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Procedures for orders]:

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 16: Page 35, line 32, leave out ("by the Council and those other persons") and insert ("as he thinks reasonable")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to wording, and I should like to point out one matter in respect of paragraph 6 which starts on line 24 with the words, the Secretary of State may make an order … Here we have a sentence which runs into no fewer than 104 words between the commencement and the end. It seems to me a quite unnecessarily long recitation and it is hardly surprising that those concerned with the drafting may have fallen asleep by the time, at the 99th word, they reach the "by Council". This Amendment might well apply to other Bills because of their excessively long sentences and I would draw your Lordships' attention to paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 where an even longer sentence runs to no fewer than 128 words with one semi-colon. That seems to me a little excessive. If it were possible to follow a slightly different practice under which Ministers lay Orders, it would be desirable in the interests of those who have to read the drafting and interpret it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD SANDYS moved Amendment No. 17: Page 37, line 5, leave out ("by those persons") and insert ("as he thinks reasonable").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this, again, is a drafting Amendment directed solely to correcting an inaccuracy in the chapter number of the Birmingham Assay Office Act of 1824, one of the Local Acts, the provisions of which are to be repealed under Clause 22 and Part II of this Schedule. I beg to move.


My Lords, perhaps I may observe that this Amendment in fact is practically the same as the previous one. I think that my noble friend has anticipated one Amendment.


I beg your Lordships' pardon; in fact I have turned a page too soon.


But the same argument applies to each?


Yes my Lords, the same argument.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I think that concludes that particular Amendment. My remarks were directed to Schedule 7, page 39, line 10, but the Amendment which I referred to is not on the Marshalled List. I therefore beg to withdraw what I said earlier.

Then, Standing Order No. 42 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of May 17):


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. (Lord Sandys.)

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. In doing so I should like to express the warm thanks and appreciation of the proposers of this measure to the Government and to those legal experts who have advised us. It is, I think, a measure of their success that we have adopted in your Lordships' House 74 Amendments on Committee and 17 on Report. It appears that this Bill is in a satisfactory state and I should particularly like to thank your Lordships for bearing with a Bill of this complexity and without an excessive amount of description or explanation from me.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Lord Sandys.)


My Lords, before we part with the Bill, I think that your Lordships would all wish me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, on having got this Bill through with so little trouble and in bringing forward a measure which represents a big advance. It makes the first attempt for centuries to codify the hallmarking law and so eliminate the contradictory elements which have crept into it over the years. It places the law on a simple and enforceable basis and provides for its proper enforcement. It not merely brings the law up to date, but also creates a framework within which the basic law may be further modernised on points of detail when it becomes apparent that such changes are necessary. It is a Bill based on very ancient traditions yet one which is entirely modern in its preparation and outlook, and I think that we should congratulate the noble Lord on his success in carrying it through.


My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Phillips, particularly as the noble Lord has adopted many of the things that she suggested, and I am sure that she is grateful to him for that. I would join with other noble Lords who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, on behalf of this House and of Parliament in general for his work in piloting the Bill through your Lordships' House.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.