HL Deb 28 June 1976 vol 372 cc599-634

4 p.m.

House again in Committee.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Debate resumed.


May I have a little go? May I raise the point that I wanted to mention before we started to discuss the Statement? There have been many points of view put forward about going metric, and I want to know whether it is possible for the Government to tell us what representations have been made in favour of them. After all, everybody has put forward very important points of view on this matter, but the Minister has never said how many representations he has had from the various people who are worried about going metric. It would help if the Government sometimes told us about the problems that have been raised, and whether any of the Government's suggestions are acceptable to those people who put the problems forward. I always like to have both sides presented.

Of course, I know very well that Governments—whether Labour Governments or Conservative Governments always put forward their own point of view. That is natural. But these points have been put forward by very knowledgeable and interested people, and I do not have the slightest idea how many there are and whether the Government have done anything about meeting their points. We hear only the Government's side, and I should like to know about the people who have made representations, and how much substance there is in their points of view. I should like a general expression of views, not just answering everybody by saying, We cannot do anything about that", or, "That is not decided." I should like to know how many representations have been made by people interested in the problems caused by entering the metric system, compared with our old system.


Are we not making rather heavy weather of this? Can we not recognise the inevitability of the approach of metrication, and steel ourselves and prepare ourselves to be ready for it? We seem to have forgotten the fact that millions of our people travel to the Continent every year, read the distances in metric notations by the roadside, buy their half-kilogrammes of strawberries and their half-litres of wine, and have accustomed themselves to the use of this new form of measurement.

My noble friend Lord Slater expressed some doubts as to whether the inspectors of weights and measures would be capable of accustoming themselves to this new procedure. In the course of a long local government life, I have known many weights and measures inspectors. I have formed the very highest opinion of their intelligence and capability, and I am quite sure that it will not take the average weights and measures inspector very long to accustom himself to the new state of affairs. Of course he may feel sad, as I feel sad, that the rod, pole and perch will disappear, but we are very well acquainted with so many of the other forms of measurement. Some of us who were at school 70 years ago learned about metrication in those days, and the children who are in schools these days are almost having their lessons monopolised by metrication.

My noble friend Lord Shinwell—a youngster, like I am—expressed some doubts as to whether he would have time to learn all about the metric system. My noble friend and I are deeply interested in the matter of defence. We have, I think, taken the same view about the desirability of standardising the weapons, not necessarily of all countries in the world, but of those countries which are associated in NATO. My mind goes back to 1915 down on the Somme, when we had the 0.303 inch rifle while our French comrades had something different, and in moments of emergency we could not interchange our weapons. Everybody who is interested in defence is interested in the standardisation of weapons. A week or two ago, it was announced that Britain had discovered the ultimate in the perfection of rifles. This new rifle of ours is one that we are expecting to be able to supply to many countries in the world. Its bore is calculated not as 0.303 inch, but as 4.7 millimetres, and quite rightly if we are expecting to sell it to the rest of the world. As I said originally, we are raising too many bogys about this whole affair. It has got to come. Let us get on with it and prepare ourselves as best we can.


Seldom have I heard so many fallacies in one speech delivered from these Benches as in that of my noble friend Lord Leatherland. He produced the old-fashioned, hoary-headed argument that this is inevitable. Of course nothing is inevitable, not even my noble friend.


Death is!


All kinds of prognostications have been made from time to time, during my long and extensive experience, of what would happen in the future. It never happened. All that we can prognosticate about is that there will always be another trouble and it is wise to take the pessimistic, negative view. Indeed, by supporting this measure we are taking the negative view. As an example of the kind of fallacies that are produced in the course of a speech, my noble friend Lord Leatherland said that people go abroad and learn about metrication. But what about the vast number of people who are coming to this country, and have been doing so for years? They have learned to know what an imperial pint is and what yards and feet are, and how far it is to Lord's—the cricket ground, not this Assembly; they would not want to come to this Assembly. We have learned a great deal from abroad, and they have learned a great deal from us and go on doing so. Why impose this piece of metrication rubbish on a general public who have never asked for it, and have never been properly consulted?

I ask my noble friend Lord Oram, who has a long association with the Cooperative movement, whether his members, who formerly assisted in electing him to the House of Commons—and rightly so—have been consulted about metrication? Of course not.




I wonder whether my noble friend will allow me to interrupt. I was in the Co-operative stores the other day buying sugar, and I bought it in a packet marked, 1 kilogramme ".


Does that mean that every member of the Co-operative Society was consulted? Of course not. You go into a Co-operative store and you take what you can get, but sometimes you cannot get what you want. I also have long experience of the Co-operative movement. I happen to have once worked for the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, and I came to the conclusion that it was an antidote to believing in the Co-operative movement. This inevitability stuff will not do—not in a responsible and intelligent Assembly. We are not bound to accept anything as inevitable. and we are not going to do so. We will go on opposing it as long as we can. Whether or not our views are accepted in your Lordships' House, either by the Opposition or by Her Majesty's Government, you can depend upon it that, just as in the case of decimalisation, in future there will he a great deal of trouble.

Let me take the example of decimalisation. The public were never consulted about decimalisation; it was imposed upon them. And has there been no trouble about it? One feature of decimalisation that could not be avoided was rising prices. I am not going to accuse the retailers unnecessarily, but some of them have been inclined to take advantage of decimalisation in order to raise prices somewhat sharply. We have been taken in by decimalisation, just as we are going to be taken in by metrication.

How did metrication come about? Was there any great demand at the General Election for metrication? By the way, may I ask my noble friend Lord Leather-land, who goes on about the Labour Party, whether metrication was contained in any of the Manifestoes issued before General Elections? I do not remember that anything was said about metrication at the last General Election—not a single word. I took part in the General Election and was never asked by my local Party to talk about metrication. They wanted to know what I thought about our position and I told them. Some of them wanted to know what I thought about the Government, but I did not say much about that, of course.

Let us have no more of this kind of stuff. The Government will try to shove through metrication. Have they not enough on their plate without that? Of course they have. I would advise the Government to throw metrication on the dust heap, which is where it ought to be. Metrication is not inevitable, and so long as I get an opportunity to do so I shall oppose it and make things difficult for the Government who are trying to foist it on the British public.


It is with great temerity that, sitting immediately in front of my noble friend Lord Shinwell, I rise to make the comment that I hope all our friends in the EEC will appreciate that this afternoon the Committee is in a lighthearted mood. I have always thought that this is a most progressive place. If one did not realise that it is a progressive place and that we are being lighthearted this afternoon, I think we should be thought to he in a most retrograde position, because the way this question has gone backwards and forwards has been, I almost say, a complete waste of time. I am quite sure that none of us wishes to join the one or two countries in the world who are opposed to the metric system. We know that it has to come. From the viewpoint of one of the many consumers who has not been consulted individually, I should have thought that our great job is to try to bridge the gap or space between the present nomenclature and that of the metric system so that people have the chance to use both systems for a short while. One of the great drawbacks in industry is that so long has been spent upon moving forward with metrication.

While I do not wish to turn to decimalisation and what my noble friend Lord Shinwell has just said, I share the view, taken by many consumers at the time, that the great fault about decimalisation was that the pound, not the ten shilling piece, was taken as the unit. We should have had much less inflation had that been the case.

If I may leave that topic and return to what was said by my noble friend Lord Shinwell, nobody can tell me that my noble friend cannot learn anything new in a short space of time—never mind as much time as he has left. Furthermore, on the matter of Defence, about which I should have thought that my noble friend Lord Shinwell knows more than anybody in this House, I have understood over the past year or so that one of the great drawbacks to the Western Alliance has been the lack of standardisation in our Defence equipment. I should have thought that that must have led to a similar lack of standardisation in measurements.

If my noble friend Lord Shinwell does not mind, in the name of this Committee may I ask that we get on with metrication. We know metrication is coming, so let us bring it about in the best way possible and as soon as possible.

4.16 p.m.


The debate on this clause has ranged even more widely and vigorously than the debate at Second Reading. As a comparative newcomer here, I merely express my surprise at the difference in procedure compared with the place with which I am more familiar. However, I did have an earlier opportunity to reply in fairly general terms when I indicated why the Government believe that perhaps this is not inevitable—if I may say so to my noble friend Lord Shinwell—but that it is highly probable.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, my noble friend Lord Leatherland and my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry, for their vigorous defence of the proposals in this Bill. Since my noble friend Lord Leatherland repeated, in reply to my noble friend Lord Slater, the point I made about our confidence that weights and measures inspectors are fully capable of taking on this task, I would remind my noble friend Lord Slater that weights and measures inspectors have been familiar with the metric system since 1897, for it was in that year that the metric system was made lawful in this country. All that this Bill is proposing to do is to bring about, by an ordered timetable, the end of a situation in which we have two systems side by side. The Bill does not render legal the metric system; that was done long ago.

I should also have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for his general support, which was welcome. The noble Lord then went on to ask more detailed questions upon which I now wish to comment. The noble Lord raised the question of information being displayed, giving conversion tables. If I understood the noble Lord aright, he was wondering why conversion had to take place in both directions. The noble Lord will recall that this proposition was brought into the Bill in response to those who were particularly anxious about the welfare of the consumer: the need to give the fullest possible information. I do not think that we have gone too far in this respect. We are using, if you like, both belt and braces, but there are circumstances in which that degree of caution is wise. The noble Lord said that people would start from the system with which they are familiar and would want to convert to the system which is less familiar. However, one can conceive of other circumstances. They are confronted with a shop, for instance, which is entirely metricated; they are unfamiliar with it that way round and would find it helpful to have conversion tables in both directions.

The noble Lord went on to ask about the use of the word "persons". My understanding is the noble Lord's understanding: that this would include "classes of persons". I will examine that point more fully, and if it is necessary to do anything to make it clear I will see what can be done. The noble Lord then raised the question of consultation with consumers and the difficulty, of which we are all aware, of defining who are representatives of consumers—such a broad based sector of society. It is true that if we were to go back 10 or 15 years this would be an extremely difficult problem, but I would suggest that over the last decade or so there has been a considerable change. There has grown up what may perhaps be called a consumer movement and consumer consciousness.

There are now effective organisations which look at public affairs through the eyes of the housewife and the consumer. They are effectively organised and are able to represent the interests of the consumer, however general those interests may be. Indeed, as the noble Lord will be aware, we have the National Consumer Council, which was set up specifically for the purpose of representing the point of view of the consumer. That is an official body. There are other official bodies, like the various consultative committees concerned with nationalised industries. Then there are many voluntary bodies which have developed a surprising and welcome degree of professionalism. One hesitates to mention any one because others might feel that they ought also to have been mentioned, but I think one can rightly refer to the Consumers' Association, the publishers of Which?, who have a considerable expertise which has been developed over a number of years, and there are consumer groups in localities which are organised in the National Federation. Then a whole range of women's organisations are similarly aware of themselves as the effective representatives of consumers.

So it is this whole range of organisations which it is possible to call into consultation under the various references in the Bill which require the Minister to consult with consumers. It was on this that my noble friend Lord Shinwell asked me, as a Co-operator of some years' standing, whether I was satisfied that my movement had been consulted in this matter. I can assure him that they have been consulted. They were consulted as long ago as 1950 in connection with the Hodson Report on these matters. Indeed, our Co-operative Movement are fully consulted, not only on these consumer matters but on a great range of matters within the field of trade and industry through, particularly, their well staffed Parliamentary Committee, and therefore I can assure my noble friend that as a Co-operator I have no anxieties such as he expressed.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, then raised the question of the gas industry, in connection with cubic feet being one of the units which, under the EEC regulations will be phased out in 1979. I can assure him that the gas industry has been consulted at all stages on the timetable—I see the noble Lord is shaking his head, but my information is that they have been consulted.


As I understand it, the gas industry is not going to take any further action until the Secretary of State gives it some further directive. Therefore at the moment it is just waiting to hear.


Perhaps our information is somewhat at variance; but I can assure the noble Lord that there is no desire to leave the gas industry in ignorance, and I will ensure that if there is any gap in consultation that gap is filled. It will be the responsibility of the Department of Energy to bring forward any legislation in this connection, and I take the general point about the need for information as and when it can be given.

In conclusion, I think I need only refer to the very valid point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of Tyneside, about the need for Governments of all kinds to let it be known what representations they have received and what responses they have been able to make. I assure her that there is a perfectly clean bill of health in respect of this Bill. She may recall that this is Weights and Measures (No. 2) Bill [H.L.], and that there was a Weights and Measures Bill going through the House of Commons. When that Bill was printed, because representations were made at that stage, before it was even read a second time in the other place, indications were made that certain sectors of the public, particularly those claiming to speak on behalf of consumers, were dissatisfied with the Bill.

The Bill we are dealing with today is largely that Bill, the Second Reading of which was postponed; but there are important additions to it, directly as a result of representations which were made. The very thing that we have been discussing in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, about the putting up of conversion tables, was one thing, responding to the representations made on behalf of consumers. The requirement that consumer organisations should be consulted was another. The requirements for dual marking during the transitional period from one system to the other was a third. So, apart from any Amendments which may be accepted, there are already embodied within this Bill the results of representations to which he referred.


There are one or two points which I should still like to revert to at the Committee stage. In passing, I should like to ask the noble Lord exactly how he proposes to introduce the provisions in the new Section 9B. I presume there will be a standard range of conversion, because of late there has been a good deal of anomaly in this field, with packages of the same weight imperial being labelled with different weights in metric, and vice versa. I presume it will be the noble Lord's prime object to remove that anomaly. On the other hand, the noble Lord might turn his attention to the subject of breakfast foods. I have recently learned that there is one breakfast food on the market which advertises itself as being in a metric pack: it is metric to the extent that it contains ten oz., which of course is very far from being a metric amount. The word may be abused in some cases.

More technically, and possibly more important than this, is the question of the regulations for the delivery of coal as they at present stand. I apologise for not giving the noble Lord notice of this, but I had none myself until very recently. I should like the noble Lord to confirm that there is power within the Act of 1963 as it stands, or as it will he amended, for alterations to the requirements in Schedule 6, because they concern—and I think he is probably aware of it—the fuel industry. There is at present a requirement for the labelling or " tallying ", as they call it, of individual bags when coal is delivered on a lorry. The tags are not normally seen by the consumer. It would be much easier for the merchant, and much more useful for the consumer, if a notice could be prominently displayed on the vehicle saying what was in each bag, rather than there being a label on each bag. It is paragraph 3(1)(b), as I recall it, of Schedule 6 which requires this to he done. It may be that a Statutory Instrument will suffice; but if, at slightly greater length of notice, I find that a Statutory Instrument will not suffice, then I think perhaps after conversations with the noble Lord it may be in order to table an Amendment for the Report stage. I thought I should not let that point go without a warning to the noble Lord, although he may in fact have an answer to it.


Can the noble Lord tell me whether milk farmers and retailers have been consulted, and, if so, what is their view?


I can give the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, the assurance that on the question of milk considerable discussions took place and there was no opposition to the proposals from those quarters. The pint—if that is what is in the noble Lord's mind, on milk rather than other forms—will be able to continue in this country.

Lord CLITHEROE: I thank the noble Lord.


Two points were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Yes, we shall need to give careful consideration to the conversion tables, and to ensure that there will be a standard of conversion. I can assure the noble Lord that that will be looked at carefully.

The second point concerns fuel and the marking on lorries of the weight of the sacks on the lorries. As the noble Lord anticipated, we are aware of this; we have had consultations, and we intend to legislate. I thank the noble Lord for giving me notice about it. As to whether it will be necessary to do it by introducing an Amendment at a later stage or, as I am a little inclined to think, there is already power to do it under Statutory Instrument, perhaps the noble Lord will give me a little time to ponder that. But the point has been well taken, and we propose taking the necessary action.


I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but before he leaves that point I would ask him a simple question. When he so pleasantly says that the pint will remain, is it going to remain for all time? Secondly, if it is not going to remain for all time, will it not mean—and may I say that my noble friend's own Co-operative movement delivers two-thirds of the milk in this country—that the dairymen of England will have considerable expense in altering the size of the bottles? I hope that when my noble friend says that the pint will remain the same it will remain the same permanently.


I hesitate to say what will remain for all time, but I can assure my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek that the pint will remain for a very long time, certainly long enough to satisfy my noble friend, to satisfy me, and, I think, my children.


If I may further press my noble friend on that, I am thinking of the expense, of the millions of pounds involved in changing machinery and the bottling. The Cooperative movement does a magnificent job on this. This is an appropriate time to pay a tribute to the milkmen who do a wonderful job, the best in the world.


Yes, but in this case the cost of conversion would be considerable. This is one of the factors taken into account in our discussions.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Containers for goods]:

4.32 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 5, line 18, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. The point of the Amendment is to get a further explanation of what is intended by this Amendment. I am, of course, aware that difficulties have arisen in the past. Indeed, there have been legal proceedings on the question of what is meant by "prepacked" on a container. But on a container of a description so specified, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Oram, would indicate exactly what the Government have in mind about this particular provision. Once he has done that perhaps we can discuss it further.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for giving me an opportunity of explaining what is intended by this subsection. I hope I can take it, from the way the noble Lord presented his Amendment, that it is a probing Amendment, seeking information, and one not likely to be pressed, because it would take away important powers which the Bill as at present drafted would provide, powers which we are seeking for the Secretary of State to prescribe the description of containers, including their size and capacity.

There are certain products—soap powders are a good example and some breakfast cereals are another—which are not suitably dealt with by the legislation which prescribes quantity. We have been having a number of metrication orders in this House in which there has been a prescription that certain goods can be sold only by weight. The kind of products of which I have mentioned examples are not suitably dealt with in terms of weight.

The reason for this is that the densities of these products vary from one make to another. If their sale were standardised by weight the varying densities of the products would lead to a great number of package sizes. This would add confusion to the consumer faced with too great a variety of package sizes. But if standardisation of the container sizes and capacities is the method by which we proceed, it can make possible savings in packaging costs, as well as making it easier for the consumer to make comparisons when he or she is seeking to compare one with another in getting value for money. That is the main purpose of seeking powers to standardise sizes and capacities of the containers involved in the wording which the noble Lord is seeking, temporarily at any rate, to remove.

Perhaps I should add that there are EEC implications, in that a currently proposed EEC Directive on prescribed quantities for certain commodities proposes to set out ranges of standard container capacities for certain foodstuffs. The provisions in this Bill would enable us to conform with that Directive as it comes forward. But I would stress that that is only a subsidiary reason for the inclusion of these words in the Bill. Our main purpose in seeking these powers is to add a greater measure of consumer protection.


I wonder whether the noble Lord would look again at this wording because, of course, the word "description" does not relate only to size and capacity. The description could go much further than the question of size and capacity. I am wondering whether the noble Lord has the right word here. This conveyed a different meaning to me altogether. If all the noble Lord is wanting is to be able to prescribe the size and capacity of a container, then I think he should say so and not say the " description" of a container, because that goes very much wider. Could the noble Lord consider that point?


Certainly I will consider it. I can assure the noble Lord that that is the intention, that it is a description of the size and the capacity. It may well be that the addition of a few words can make that crystal clear if there is any difficulty. I have no hesitation in saying that I will look at what has been said by the noble Lord, and if necessary bring forward amending words.


Can the noble Lord, Lord Oram, assure me that in such cases as, say, breakfast cereals and detergents weight will be given as well, because in the case of breakfast cereals one has to take into account the probable calories you are getting, which has some equation at least with the weight and not only with the volume.


This would depend on the discussions before a particular order is introduced. Before any order under this provision is brought in there would be, of course, thorough discussion with the trade concerned and with consumers. I take the noble Viscount's point, that it would be desirable—unless there are technical difficulties, which there may be—from the point of view of the consumer that as much information as possible should be given.


When my noble friend Lord Oram says there will be conversations with the consumers and with the trade, we all understand what the conversation with the trade will be, but what does he mean by "conversations with the consumers"?


I think my noble friend Lord Wigg has joined us about ten minutes too late. If he does me the courtesy of reading what I was saying in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, he will find that I dealt with this at perhaps too great a length, and I hope he will—


I am sorry. but this is the first time that apparently I am guilty of discourtesy simply because I have failed to solve the mystery of being in two places at once. I am interested in this Bill, and utterly opposed to the principles on which Government are working; it is a denial to everything that the Labour movement has ever stood for. It is not just a form of highway robbery but far more insidious. Although I have not been here, the Minister conies along and says, " I propose to consult the consumers ". If he is referring to something he has already said, I should have thought that precision demanded that he should say, " As I said previously, I will do this, that and something else ". But the term " consumer " is nebulous, a non-event. Consumer is not a person; consumers have no organisation; and, in plain English, never mind what the Minister said before, that they are going to have a talk with the trade interests, who know what they want, the consumers are going to be ordered to stand and deliver, and they will just deliver.


As I said before, and at the risk of wearying those who heard me say it before, perhaps I will be a little more specific in reply to my noble friend. I ventured the opinion that what he is now saying was true 10 or 15 years ago, but that during those 10 or 15 years there has been a remarkable growth of a consumer movement and a remarkable growth of consumer organisations. There are statutory organisations; there is the National Consumer Council: there are the consultative bodies under the nationalised industries. There is the important expertise gathered together by the Consumers Association, the publishers of Which? There are local consumer groups which have their National Federation, and there are many organisations of women who regard it as their prime function to represent the interests of the consumer. I assure my noble friend that all this adds up to a really important representative group of organisations which the Department constantly consults, and they are capable of effectively representing the point of view of the consumers.


I am much obliged for that, but I am not satisfied. When the Minister says that in the last 10 or 15 years there has grown up an important group of consumer movements, I take the opposite view. Up till about 10 or 15 years ago in this country there was a consumers co-operative movement which had real grass roots and found effective political expression, and in truth did represent consumers because they traded on that basis. Since that time, the cooperative movement has fallen into—I will not say evil hands—the hands of those who no longer make any claim whatever to be heirs to the Rochdale principle; they have abandoned that. This is a purely materialistic capitalist organisation, out to make the fastest buck and the largest buck they can in the least possible time. The only representatives of the consumers organisations now are the House of Commons, and in so far as one has expression, this House.


That is rubbish!

Lord WIGG: Does the noble Baroness want to interrupt?


I am very grateful, but really what the noble Lord is saying is absolute rubbish. The Minister is quite correct.


I am fortified by the fact that the noble Baroness has characterised it as rubbish, because that is the only interruption she has been capable of over about 50 years. The fact that she says it is rubbish confirms me in the view that everything I have said is absolutely right. But when I interrupt I always pay the speaker the compliment of standing on my feet and not muttering under my breath.


I did not mutter. I have a much bigger voice than muttering.


It was a somewhat hurried and articulate form of mutter, but let us pass on. It is now the Government who are responsible for keeping the trade organisations in check. The buck cannot be passed. If the Government are to take any action, they have no alibi by saying that they are going to consult the consumer organisations, because in truth, at least to the same extent as the trade organisations, they do not exist.


I venture to offer a further contribution, but I do so with great reluctance. Ordinarily one is bound to accept a statement made by a Minister, but when a Minister says there has been effective consultation and then—excuse the expression I am going to use—trots out this old argument about consumer councils, I am bound to say I reject it totally. What usually happens—I have noticed this over and over again, even in another place, and also in your Lordships' House—when the question of consumer consultation is raised is that reference is made to consumer councils. Who appoints the consumer councils? The Minister asks his principal civil servants who are the right people to ask to join a particular consumer council; the civil servant has a list, and he goes round and invites them to join on behalf of the Minister, and a consumer council is formed. They are usually hand-picked.

But are the actual consumers consulted? I venture to say this to my noble friend Lord Oram, meaning no offence at all but speaking quite objectively: if I went into a cooperative store tomorrow morning and asked some of the women there who were about to purchase goods whether they are satisfied about metrication, they would want to know what I was talking about. In the Co-operative movement, they have consultation; they have political organisations where they meet from time to time, and very often the members are brought together when there is a question raised about the dividend and so on and so forth. They know all about these things. But consultation with consumers on an important issue like metrication is just a fantasy; it does not exist. Therefore, I beg of my noble friend not to use that argument. It is just a facade. Anyhow, this is all I want to say: we have listened this afternoon to my noble friend Lord Leatherland, my noble friend Lord Oram, my noble friend Lady Burton who have told us that metrication is inevitable; it has got to come. How do they know? It is just what they say, it is their opinion that it has got to come.


Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene. I am very grateful. Are we not getting a little away from this particular Amendment, which has nothing to do with metrication at all. This Bill is not concerned solely with metrication. It makes certain alterations in the 1963 Act in regard to containers, prepackaging and all the rest of it. This is what we are talking about here, not about metrication.


I probably deserve that rebuke from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who speaks, of course, with great experience of the procedure in your Lordship's House. I am well aware of what is happening. I have been dealing very largely with what one might call Second Reading arguments; I do not deny that. But it was raised even by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, when he asked for information on a particular item earlier associated with metrication; it raises the question of principle. Anyhow, all I was about to say was this, and I w ill perhaps repeat it in another form: if this is what Members of your Lordships' Committee think, that this is inevitable, that it is bound to come, we will just wait and see. It is an expression used by a Member who was in this House for some time many years ago, the late Lord Asquith who said: " Wait and see ". What did we see in the end? We saw only a lot of trouble, and I think that is likely to result from this legislation, which some day the consumers of this country will find is very difficult to bear. Anyway, we will wait and see.


Before the Minister replies, I was going to say a word or two about consumer representation, which I think I am well entitled to do, having been in the field for some 15 years. However, I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said. It seems to me the Committee has been shown at its worst today in having a complete Second Reading debate. I will, therefore, forbear to say anything.


Perhaps I should forbear from replying, except that I am really tempted to suggest to my noble friends Lord Wigg and Lord Shinwell that they are out of touch with the developments in the Co-operative movement, of which I always have been and still am a most active member. IF they had been with me down at our Plymouth conference over Easter or our Margate conference at Whitsuntide they would have seen a flourishing Co-operative movement of organised consumers still fully capable of representing the consumers.


In view of what the noble Lord said to me about 20 minutes ago, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.51 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 5, line 26, leave out (" (3) ") and insert (" (2) ").

The noble Lord said: This is a rather small point, and I do not know that I need spend much time on it. The subsection after which it is proposed to insert this new subsection has to do with the new clause. It seemed to me that it would be much better to insert this new subsection after the subsection than before it. I do not think I need go into the intricacies of this, but it is rather an intricate one. I wonder whether the noble Lord would look at it and perhaps we could have a talk about it. It is of no substance really, except that it could be interpreted as limiting the range of matters on which the Government might have to consult those organisations concerned. But this could be avoided altogether by putting in this new subsection after subsection (2) instead of after subsection (3). I beg to move.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining briefly the point that he had in mind. I must confess that I was puzzled by his Amendment (as indeed were those who have advised me in this matter), as to exactly what it was that the noble Lord was intending. Now that he has given his explanation I assure him that I shall look at it to see whether we can meet his point and, if necessary, do so at a later stage.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I should have mentioned that it also has to do with the way in which the order will be carried out. It would make it quite clear that this is to be done by order which is subject to Affirmative Resolution procedure, and has nothing to do with the regulations that follow in, I think, subsection (4) which are not subject to Affirmative Resolution procedure but to Negative Resolution procedure. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.53 p.m.

Lord ORAM moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 5, line 32, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Lord said: I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took the two Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 together. These Amendments cover the point raised at Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I told him then that I was already aware of the point he was raising, and that discussions were taking place between officials of our Department and the trade associations who were worried on the point. I told him that I hoped to produce an Amendment satisfactory to him, and since I have produced one which is identical with his own, I hope that I have succeeded in doing that.

We have been able to agree in the discussions that the powers sought under (a) and (c) are not so necessary as was thought at an earlier stage. At one stage it was thought desirable to insert (a) and (c) in anticipation of certain EEC requirements which were then envisaged. In fact, in relation to (c), the method of closing a container, representations were made in Brussels by the United Kingdom and the EEC is not now pursuing that point. Therefore, for that reason we do not now need the power in (c).


Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? As I understand it, (c) is not to be left out. The noble Lord has left out paragraph (a) but not (c). This is one of the things I was wondering whether he was going to explain.


I think I am right that the second Amendment we are considering deletes the word " and " in (b) and then goes on to delete the whole of (c). If the noble Lord looks at it again, I think he will find that that is so, and that we are proposing to delete (c) for reasons I have already explained.

May I now revert to (a). Our objective in relation to material for a container was for us to be able to prescribe different sizes or capacities for different materials; for example, to prescribe a different size for a can as compared with goods contained in a glass jar. We wanted simply that power. We understand that such power will still be necessary to meet our forthcoming EEC requirement, but we do not need the wider power which is implied in (a) as it stands, and we can fully understand why there were fears raised in the minds of the trade that perhaps the Government were intending to use wider powers in an unfortunate way from the point of view of the trade. We have had discussions, notably with the Food Manufacturers' Federation, and we understand that they are content with the proposals contained in the Amendment which I move.


I wanted to say that, while we are genuinely glad to see that the Minister has seen fit to reduce the powers he would need to take under this Bill, it is slightly alarming to hear that none the less powers will be needed to have separate regulations for metal cans and glass jars at a later date. I do not think the feeling ought to go by default that there is an enormous amount of regulation around at the moment anyway, and that people engaged in business as well as people engaged in shopping should be allowed some width of choice.

Might I remind the noble Lord of the words of President Giscard d'Estaing last week which extracted audible approval from those who heard them, that if we were not careful we should have more and more regulations and administration, with which our Continent is already sufficiently endowed. I think that that should be written upon his heart, but it is very agreeable to see that these powers have been withdrawn—one of them permanently, and the other temporarily.


The Minister would presumably agree that one of the dangers here is deceptive packaging, and you have to balance an absolutely free choice against some firms who will deliberately produce deceptive packaging. As a consumer representative, one has felt for a long time that it is a mistake to have too many different sizes of a similar product.


Do I understand the noble Lord correctly to say that he is going to introduce a further Amendment into this Bill? If so, will he be introducing it during the passage of the Bill through this House or will he do it in another place? I understood him to say that some regulations would have to be made. Do I understand that a power will have to be inserted into this Bill in order to enable those regulations to be made?


I am sorry if my remarks led to a misunderstanding. I meant to say that the powers which will remain after the Amendment is accepted, if the Committee agrees to it, will be sufficient for us to comply with a Directive on this matter which we anticipate coming from the EEC. It will not be necessary, as I am at present advised, for any further Amendment to be introduced to the Bill and I was not intending to imply that it would be. The reduction of powers by this Amendment is not so drastic as to prevent us from complying with the EEC Directive. I take the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, about deceptive packaging and I think that that would be better discussed on an Amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. As a general comment to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about the proliferation of regulations, I can assure him that I heard the words he quoted and noted them; but of course this Amendment was tabled before the visit of the President of France.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord ORAM moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 5, line 33, leave out from (" container ") to end of line 34.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.3 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 5, line 38, leave out from beginning to end of line 45.

The noble Lord said: This refers to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, was just making. I quite appreciate that it may be desirable from time to time to make provision to prevent the size and capacity of containers giving a false impression as to contents, but one is here up against a question of degree. There are abuses and no doubt it will be necessary to prevent them but I hope that the regulations will not be too tight because it can serve a useful purpose from the point of view of keeping down the cost of packaging if firms are able to use a wide range of packages for goods with marginally different densities of content. It would be a mistake to exercise the power that is being sought in such a way as to limit the discretion of the manufacturer on the amount of headroom he needs in a particular packet, provided that the headroom is reasonably necessary for the conservation of the product and to enable him to have a series of products all packed in the same dimensions even though their densities are slightly different.

This equally applies in regard to products which are volatile in price—where the world market is volatile—and one is con- stantly having to change the value for money that one is giving in a package. It can happen that the easiest and cheapest way of passing on an increase in world price is to modify slightly the contents of the package. This would have to be marked on the package, but since costs are largely often dependent on the number of packages that are ordered by the packer, it can save a lot of money to have a standard run of package. I thought that it was worth while making this point in connection with this Amendment—or perhaps I should say in connection with this Amendment to the original measure —because it is a matter which in this House and elsewhere we have discussed from time to time. I am simply making the plea that while it may be necessary to exercise this power to avoid abuses, it is not something which should be used too severely or frequently in regard to packaging.


I accept the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, moved the Amendment and I listened to what he called his plea that this should not be too vigorously used. I can assure him that it is not the intention that orders under these powers should regulate the design of containers but merely the quantity that is prescribed as being in those containers. Thus, some of the fears that have been expressed will he overcome by that assurance. I think that Lord Drumalbyn will recognise the need for these provisions on two grounds. We have been discussing the desirability of taking powers to prescribe sizes and capacities of containers. The Government would be subject to criticism if we took those powers but did not at the same time take powers to prescribe what the containers should contain in terms of quantity, and so the one goes with the other. I am sure that the noble Lord will realise, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, earlier said, that this is a matter of considerable concern to consumers. They want regulations which ensure that containers are not misleading or deceptive. There is the familiar example of the ice-cream carton which looks the same but which contains less ice-cream because the bottom has been pushed up. Powers to regulate that sort of thing are necessary and that is all that is involved in the wording of the Bill as at present drafted.


I realise the necessity for the drafting of the Bill, but I wish to support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, because it is possible that from time to time this House and the Government listen to the economic pleas for the longer runs of the same goods in the same packages but do not always appreciate how immensely important this is to industry; the length of run has an absolutely vital determining effect on manufacturing costs. If one has to break down the supply of different kinds of material because by law the packages have to be different, one may increase the cost by between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. because the cost of setting up to introduce the material into a package with different numbering or of a different weight results in a breakdown in the whole manufacturing process while that changeover is made. I make this observation from long experience in industry and I wish simply to back up what Lord Drumalbyn said because this is capable of being rather overlooked, although I realise from what my noble friend said that these regulations are necessary.

I am aware of a number of the draft Directives which are at present coming from the EEC, one of which is concerned with the marking of packages of particular types of goods. I cannot help feeling that many parts of the Bill are concerned to put us in a position to implement forthcoming EEC regulations and that we shall eventually have, with others—I hope, the French—to bring pressure to stop the bureaucracy in the EEC going into so much detail and burdening the Member States with so much detailed legislation because, in my view, which results from recent experience on Committee B of this House, it is becoming a bit farcical. I cannot blame the Government for producing legislation which will put them in a position to implement those regulations, but I believe that we must go to the root of the matter and bring pressure to bear to stop so much detail coming from the EEC.


When my noble friend Lord Brown intervenes to inform the Committee that we may in the future have to intervene to prevent the bureaucrats in Brussels doing something which is obnoxious to the consumers of this country, is not that a Second Reading point? Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who sought to rebuke me for raising Second Reading points, might intervene now and explain that away. It seemed to me to be a Second Reading point. I did not object to it. Far from it. I thought it a very appropriate point and it is indeed part of the objection that I have been raising about the future effects of this legislation. Now, it is all coming out in the wash.

The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who also sought to rebuke me for raising Second Reading points, has been raising many points which lead to a Second Reading debate. He wants to know about the regulations. We heard nothing about the regulations in the Second Reading debate. I cannot recall a single word being said about the regulations on that occasion. Now, it transpires that there is to be a whole series of regulations in order to prevent any mistakes occurring. This is to be done in the interests of the consumer. I agree that there ought to be regulations, but what these regulations are and what they pretend to do nobody seems to know. Questions have been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and the answers from my noble friend Lord Oram indicate that points will be taken into consideration and so on, but he has said nothing specific in reply. This is the situation in which we find ourselves, and it vindicates everything I have said about this piece of legislation.


I should like to mention that I spoke at some considerable length on Second Reading on the question of European regulations. The noble Lord apparently did not take note of my words. I raised a point of important principle. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord for arranging for his helpers in the Department to explain some of the procedures which are associated with the regulations before they reach us. I referred to the draft regulations. I wished to point out the danger that it was open to a Minister to invoke a procedure of regulation-making in Europe and then, the when regulation arrived, to cry in mock horror, " I don't want to do this but I've got to because we've been told to." But that process is only open to him to initiate, and afterwards it comes out of the ground like a mole before it goes into another hole as a draft Instrument to be submitted to the Council. It is a function of this House which is being discharged by a number of noble Lords and by the other House which joins them in it to scrutinise these draft Instruments, so, provided the job is properly done, the bureaucrats will be kept under control.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord that we should keep the bureaucrats under control. I believe that it is a vital principle not only in European but also in British life. I do not cavil at that, but I should like to say that the ground was covered at Second Reading. We have the greatest respect for all the noble Lords' contributions, which are elegantly, amusingly and humanely put, but the fact is that the ground had been covered and that we are now dealing with a different Amendment.


I believe we are in danger of having the sixth or seventh Second Reading and perhaps it would be most helpful if I were to select the one point which arose specifically out of the Amendment which we are now considering—namely, the point raised by my noble friend Lord Brown. We listened with interest to him speaking with his experience of industry. He is of course right to draw attention to the problems that arise under this kind of legislation in practical matters of manufacturing. I assure him that we are aware of this and that that is the very reason why we have carefully written into the Bill at a number of points the requirement that before any orders are made full consultations are to take place with all the interests concerned. Clearly, that includes the manufacturing interests to which the noble Lord referred.


I share the views of my noble friend Lord Shinwell, whose apprentice I am. For years, I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary. I feel that he has this afternoon taken a perfectly legitimate point. I reject utterly the rebuke of the noble Viscount, Lord Han-worth, from his superior knowledge of the procedures of this House. It seems to me right for any Member of this place to use the Rules of the House in order to draw attention to a matter which he thinks is of public concern. I am not arrogant enough to believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, suggested, that we can control the bureaucrats. Of course we cannot. We have passed long beyond that stage. The mandarins in Whitehall are now in control. Their progeny are also in Brussels. They run the show.

What we can do, and what I have joined my voice with my noble friend Lord Shinwell this afternoon to say, is that we can draw attention (even though we may offend the noble Viscount, Lord Han-worth, in appearing to make a Second Reading point) to the consequences of the legislation before the House. That is perfectly proper. I do not want to give offence to anyone, but I wish to venture the opinion that the discussion which I heard this afternoon and which was conducted in courteous tones, is an illustration of the decline of the authority of Parliament as a whole. The discussion is really in corporate State terms. A decision has been taken to go into the EEC and, on Second Reading of what is essentially subsidiary legislation, it was said that safeguards must be enjoined in order to take fully into account what the EEC may do which Ministers and both Houses of Parliament are powerless to control. All we can do is to use every opportunity—and this is one—to draw attention to the fact that, away over in Brussels there are well-organised international cartels, international companies and even national companies which will make their voices heard—perfectly legitimately as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Brown—and that, if this is done, although it may be in the interests of the consumer, one may be adding 40, 30, or 25 per cent. to the manufacturing costs. So beware. Be absolutely sure that at all levels, be it Brussels or London, the legitimate—and I emphasise that—manufacturing interests will find expression, but that the milch cow, the individual housewife, the public as a whole, has no effective voice. That seems to me to strike at the very root of all those things that I believe and that—and I say this with respect to Lord Oram—the Rochdale Pioneers believed in as well. That is the truth of the situation, and if I have offended against any principle in saying what I have done because it is a Second Reading point, I am completely unrepentant. I shall go on doing so because I believe that this country—which is not an abstraction to me, but means my fellow countrymen—has been sold down the river and, though I cannot stop it, I can use every opportunity, of which this is one, of drawing attention to that fact.


I wonder whether I can bring some comfort to the noble Lord who has just spoken. I also am a member of the Select Committee on the scrutinising of EEC Instruments. This is based on the principle that, since I did not believe in going into the EEC, it was wiser for me to be there and have at any rate some small participation in these Instruments which affect us all.

The Directive, which I also referred to in my Second Reading speech and on which I had no reply from the Government—and that is why I am raising it now—specifically says that the use of imperial units listed (and this is of course a very long list and a longer list than we have in the Bill) will be prohibited after 31st December 1977. Subsequently, however, we learned that the Weights and Measures Bill now before your Lordships' House seeks to provide the Government with the necessary powers. It seems to me that there is quite a lot of power there if the Bill we are now discussing is necessary before the Directive can become effective.

Lord DRUMALBYN: I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

5.20 p.m.

Clause 5 [Containers for goods: supplemental].

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 6, line 46, leave out (" the three last foregoing paragraphs,") and insert (" either sub-paragraph (i) or sub-paragraph (ii) above ").

The noble Lord said: We are concerned here with a very small point which deals with breaking open containers. It has nothing to do with the EEC, nothing to do with metrication, and so I hope that we can deal with it fairly quickly. It seems to be very odd that whereas subparagraph (iii) prevents containers being broken open and damage being done, sub-paragraph (iv) is then made to apply to sub-paragraph (iii) so that one can go ahead and break open the container even though under sub-paragraph (iii) it is stated that this must not be done. I can appreciate that this is due to the different use of the word " container ". The word " container " has been used in the Bill mainly to deal with the article which immediately contains the goods. Now for one reason or another, the Government want to change that and change the " container " to refer to " any container of goods ", which presumably means the container of the containers. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us what is the real purpose of this and say whether it is worthwhile introducing this kind of confusion.


There is never any justification, I hope, for introducing confusion. I shall try to introduce a little clarity on this point. First, I should like to take up the point which the noble Lord made about an apparent inconsistency. I suggest that there is nothing inconsistent in giving an inspector powers to break open a container whilst, in certain circumstances, requiring him not to take any action which might damage or depreciate the goods or the container. There are many cases where this would be possible—for instance, if, in the course of his duties, he opened a screw-top bottle of vinegar. Opening and reclosing a bottle would not damage the bottle and a brief exposure to the air would not damage the contents in such a case. So I think that there are cases where what is an apparent contradiction is not in fact contradictory.

The Amendment which the noble Lord moved would go much wider than dealing with that particular point. It would prevent a weights and measures inspector from breaking open a container of goods in order to check whether or not the container complied with requirements of orders made under Section 21(2) (bb) of the Act referred to. Sub-paragraph (iii) gives the inspector power to do anything which is reasonably necessary to ascertain whether a container of goods meets the requirements imposed on it, provided that his actions do not damage or depreciate the goods or container. Sub-paragraph (iv) provides that if necessary for the purposes of checking the container's characteristics, an inspector may break open any container of goods. " Breaking open " does not necessarily mean damaging or depreciating the goods or the container. If the goods or the container were to be damaged or depreciated to such an extent that the container could not be resealed, or if there were damage to the contents, the trader can require the inspector to buy the goods on behalf of the local weights and measures authority. In other words, the powers of the inspectors are extended by this clause. What is proposed in the words which the noble Lord seeks to leave out is to give the trader an extended power to require the inspector to buy any goods or containers that are damaged. So I think that it is a necessary provision from the point of view of the trader, who is the victim of any accident during the course of the duties of the weights and measures inspector.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

5.26 p.m.

Clause 6 [Fees for performance of Community obligations]:

Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 7, line 17, leave out (" services or facilities provided by them ") and insert (" testing and stamping weighing and measuring equipment ")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to Clause 6 which inserts a new section at the end of Part V of the 1963 Act and gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations prescribing the fees to be charged by local weights and measures authorities and by inspectors for services or facilities provided by them … That is the part of the section which concerns us. The present practice is that only the marking or stamping of machines for purposes of certification for use in trade had been the subject of specific fees, and the expenses of the inspectorate in testing to see whether such a stamp is necessary or appropriate had been charged out of the funds to the weights and measures inspectorate which are got from the rates to which the trade already subscribes.

I understand that there has been correspondence between the trade and the Department about the fact that what is proposed now gives to the Minister power to make charges not only for the inspection of the weights and measures machinery prior to stamping, but also for any other acts which the inspectors may in the future be required to carry out. I do not think that we wish to see blanket legislation being made by the Government for future provision of charges, particularly in the light of the tone and temperature of this afternoon's debate. We should like not merely an assurance that the intentions of the Government are, as they have been stated outside the Chamber, to be limited in this respect, but beyond that we should like to see, whether in this form or in a form suggested by Her Majesty's Government, that assurance written into the Bill, because it is not wise to give powers which it is not intended to use; the user changes and so do the intentions.


As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, indicated there has been correspondence on this subject with the Department and I want to give him the assurance for which he asked; namely, that it is the Government's intention to use the powers in this narrower sense. But since he has raised the point—and he will concede that there has not been much time on this particular Amendment to consider the point—I hope he will be content if I say that I should like to look at it further, and it may be that in order to meet the points he has just made, an Amendment will be necessary at the Report stage. But I should not like to give any commitment about that at this stage. I can give him from this Box the assurance for which he asks, but I shall look further at the wording to see whether any change is necessary.


Is my noble friend aware that there are two nationalised industries which will be examining very carefully the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and made even by my noble friend the Minister; namely, the Post Office and British Rail? I do not know whether the Minister is aware of it, but during the course of my service I entered into agreements with British Rail on behalf of the Post Office that, as a common carrier, the Post Office would carry parcels of a certain weight for a certain fee, and so on. We also entered into a formal agreement with British Rail, which is another common carrier, for them to carry parcels which were over and above the standard weight that we had fixed with them, so that those parcels could go by rail. How is this going to affect these two industries? I claim them as industries. The Post Office is a service on the postal side, whereas British Rail is a common carrier and is able to carry different types of objects in the course of its business. I have a fear that everything will be examined meticulously by these two organisations during the course of the discussions on this Bill, particularly as it affects this parcel-rating business.


My noble friend is quite light in saying that the Post Office and British Rail are of course important organisations in respect of measuring instruments, and he has drawn on his own personal experience in this respect. In answer to him, I would say that they are like any other user, and if they require the services of a weights and measures inspector they will have to pay for those services, as any other user. It is the Government's policy that where a service is requested the person concerned should meet the full costs incurred, and that will apply to the two organisations to which my noble friend has referred.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his statement of intent. He has said that he will also look at the question of the necessity or the possibility of an Amendment to enact that intent. I hope he will be kind enough to give me a little warning of his decision in that respect, so that if I feel it goes by default and I do not agree with his decision I can substitute my own. On those terms, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Units of measurement lawful for use for trade]:

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 13, leave out line 34.

The noble Lord said: This a very simple Amendment. It is to leave out from the list in Schedule 1 the words " Metric tonne ", because they come immediately after the word " Tonne ", and as I understand both are of exactly the same value it seems redundant to have them both. I beg to move.


Perhaps I could make the preliminary point that if this Amendment were to be accepted there would need to be certain consequential Amendments. I am not putting that forward as an insuperable difficulty; I am just pointing to a consequence. But perhaps I may give a little of the reasoning as to why these words are included in the list on page 13. " Metric tonne " is included as well as " Tonne " because there is the possibility of some confusion during the transition period between " ton " and " tonne ". However, since " metric tonne " is normally used only in speech to discriminate between " tonne " and " ton ", there is no great point in its inclusion in the Bill. As " tonne " is the more correct form for the SI unit, we can consider accepting this Amendment for the deletion of the term " metric tonne " provided it is still acceptable in speech to distinguish between the two forms " tonne and " ton ". There could be, I think, a consequential difficulty if at this stage I advised the Committee to accept this Amendment, and I hope it will not, but I think it is a point that we can examine. Perhaps I can have further talks with the noble Lord, and we will see what can be done at a later stage.


I would be very sorry to see this Amendment agreed to because I think that during the transition period many people will not have the faintest idea that tonne " is any different from " ton ". Whether it is written or not, in this transition period I think it would in certain circumstances be very useful to say " metric tonne ", so I hope the question will be left over.


Perhaps I may just say that if it is considered necessary to include " Metric tonne " it should also be necessary to include " Imperial ton ".


Surely, we said earlier in relation to the word " gramme " that there would be some area of confusion if one assumed that the present gram is the same as the metric gramme, which of course it is not. So should we not have a metric gramme or gram, whichever you like, as compared with an imperial gram? If we are really going to have fun with this, the possibilities are infinite.


It seems to me that there is some need for discrimination between " ton " and " tonne ". I have noticed during this debate that the pronunciation of those two words by various noble Lords has been quite distinctive. They have said " ton " and they have said " tonne ". That is all right in an educated and civilised community like your Lordships' Committee; but if you went up to Birmingham, where I was born, I am afraid you would find " ton " and " tonne " pronounced as " tun ", and there would be confusion all round. So I think there is something to he said for keeping to the phraseology which is at present incorporated in the Bill.


While I was listening to what my noble friend Lord Leatherland was saying I had a great deal of sympathy for those who do such an excellent job in recording our proceedings. Just how this speech will come out in the Record I shall look forward to reading with interest.

In reply to my noble friend Lady Phillips, when we were dealing with " gramme " earlier we were dealing with the question of spelling. We were dealing with the legalisation of " gram " and "gramme". Here it is a question of whether we are going to continue to have the term " Metric tonne ", and it very much comes down to the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, made about clarity in speech and, in particular, during the transition period. I personally find it helpful to be able to refer to " the metric tonne ". On the other hand, I see the argument that, if we are going to change, the sooner we get used to recognising " tonne " as the standard, the better. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, asked that the question should be kept open. I hope I implied, if I did not say so specifically, that it would be kept open. I am prepared to look at it in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said, and that is as far as I would wish to go at this stage.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think the point about this is that the word " tonne " used not to be very much used. It was always 1,000 kilogrammes, and it will go on being 1,000 kilogrammes in most countries, I imagine; so we do not really need to distinguish it in that way. But this started off as " metric ton " in Schedule 1 to the Weights and Measures Act 1963; I believe that it got altered by regulation or something to " metric tonne ". Now we are proposing to have both " tonne " and " metric tonne ". As they are both the same, I still think that this is illogical; but if people want to be able to say " metric tonne " and mean the same thing as " tonne ", I suppose that is fine. I will not press this Amendment, but I am certain that sooner or later we shall be having one of these orders made to remove " metric tonne " from the list. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule I agreed to.

Remaining Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.