HL Deb 05 July 1978 vol 394 cc1090-100

7.43 p.m.

Report received.


Amendment No. 1. Lord Airedale?


My Lords, before we proceed, I have been informed by the Table of the House that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has put down a manuscript Amendment at very short notice.


My Lords, I am afraid that the fault is mine. I had not noticed the manuscript Amendment among the myriad of papers upon my desk. There is a manuscript Amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth.


My Lords, before the manuscript Amendment is moved, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, with all due respect, this is a rather inconvenient move. I quote from the Companion to the Standing Orders of this House on Public Business: Manuscript Amendments are not out of order on Report, but the disadvantages and inconvenience attaching to the moving of manuscript Amendments are even greater on Report than at the Committee stage. The rule requiring the text of such Amendments to he read out to the House applies on Report as in Committee. An Amendment to leave out a clause or Schedule is not desirable on Report if the purpose underlying the Amendment is to initiate a general debate, rather than a genuine desire to leave out the clause or Schedule. Such an Amendment is not, however, out of order; it may, indeed, he appropriate when, for instance, a Lord wishes to learn the outcome of art undertaking given in Committee". Having said that, we have a Third Reading and it is conceivable for the Amendment to be moved then. This, I am sure, would be helpful to my noble colleague on this Bill, Lord Mottistone. This would give everybody a reasonable opportunity to study the matter. As it is, I have had to dash out to consult officials with but a few minutes' notice just before this stage is to take place. With all due respect, it is highly inconvenient to everybody.


My Lords, may I intervene to say that there were no under- takings given in Committee on Clause 1, so that does not apply. There was ample opportunity on Second Reading to discuss that clause. I hope that the noble Viscount will have another think and come back at Third Reading.


My Lords, I am prepared to withdraw my manuscript Amendment and I apologise to the House. The point of my Amendment was to raise a matter which I hoped the Government might be able to consider before Third Reading. I felt it was not suitable to make an Amendment. The simple answer to this problem is to have a word with the Minister afterwards and to tell him what I had in mind. I apologise to the House and to the Government.


My Lords, perhaps I may draw attention to the fact that this is a Private Member's Bill and it is my Bill and not the Government's Bill.


My Lords, in view of my earlier remarks, I greatly appreciate the noble Viscount's gesture, and no doubt we can come to some arrangement.

Clause 9 [Interpretation]:

Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 1: Page 10, line 36, leave out ("if any").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to begin with an apology for a misprint which is probably my fault. The words which appear on page 10 at line 36 are not "if any" but "if and". It is those words, "if and", that I seek to leave out. I moved a similar Amendment in Committee last week. I confessed that I thought I could find a precedent for it if only I had the time to make the necessary search. The weather of the past week has been conducive to prolonged research in the Library, and I have found my precedent. It appears in the proceedings of Standing Committee B of another place on the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

At column 83 of the report of Standing Committee B for 27th June 1974 we find the Minister in charge of the Bill moving an Amendment identical to this one and speaking in support of it. I shall burden your Lordships with only a single paragraph, because that was all he said. The Minister said: This again is a drafting Amendment. It makes no difference to the impact of the legislation. I should add that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, drew the Government's attention to the matter in another place. At that time the proposal was resisted, but we have considered the matter raised by the noble Lord, and it is absolutely correct. The words that we now propose should be deleted are purely words of emphasis, with no legal significance. In terms of legal purity they add nothing to the Bill".

My Lords, the Amendment was agreed to nemine dissentiente. I hope that is the end of this matter. It is obviously desirable that there shall be consistency in the language used throughout legislation. I hope that the House will accept this Amendment and that whoever holds sway over the office of the Parliamentary draftsman will let it be known that henceforward the expression "if and only if" is to be eschewed. I beg to move.


My Lords, sadly, I cannot accept this Amendment, however persuasively the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has put it—certainly not this particular Amendment and at this stage. Clause 9(1) makes two propositions. First, it provides that for the purpose of the Bill a person supplies goods if one of a number of specified conditions is fulfilled. Secondly, it provides that in no other case is a person to be regarded as having supplied the goods. If the words "if and" were deleted, the first proposition would not be made.

With regard to the establishing of a precedent on persuading parliamentary draftsmen not to use this phrase in the future, there would be difficulty if that were to be accepted and passed through the system. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, quoted an example of where a Minister in another place agreed to an Amendment originally proposed by himself, but there are precedents also for the use of this phrase. For instance, Section 57(4) of the Fair Trading Act 1973, provides, somewhat similarly, "if but only if". Similarly, in Section 17(3) of the Films Act 1960 it provides "if and only if"—identical to this phrase. Rule No. 5 of the Rules of the Supreme Court and paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Scotland Bill, which has recently been through your Lordships' House, also contain the phrase.

So it would seem to me that there is room for argument, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, might be prepared to accept that the situation which he described to us of having raised an Amendment of this sort in this House and of its being accepted on reflection in another place might appeal to him as being a similar way through the problem on this occasion. I should be very happy to bring to the notice of my honourable friend Mr. Neville Trotter, whose Bill it is, what has happened and what the precedent was, and see whether he, no doubt with the support of the Government, would be prepared to take exactly the same course as the Minister did in 1974. I wonder whether that would appeal to the noble Lord.


My Lords, that, of course, would be possible; but this is not a House of Lords Bill. This Bill has come to us from another place in as good a state as they were able to make it. This is the revising Chamber, and our job is to revise the Bill as best we may. It would be more appropriate that we should tackle this matter.

May I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, for apparently having done as much research on this as I have, which is a considerable amount. I have a private agreement with myself that I will never divide the House on a matter of pure drafting; but I think we shall perhaps be discussing this matter again on Third Reading. Also, we know that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, will be giving us an opportunity to have a Third Reading debate. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount HANWORTH moved Amendment No. 2: Page 12, line 7, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, as things stand, food and medicines are excluded from the Bill, but there seems to be a great deal to be said for having them in the Bill because, as far as I can gather, the Bill provides powers which are not available at the present time, and maybe provides an opportunity for taking action more quickly than night otherwise be done.

I do not believe there is really any argument against including food, except possibly that it is dealt with by a different Ministry. However, I gather that in another place there was a fairly strong lobby, presumably from the drug, companies, to exclude medicines. When one comes to consider the matter, I do not think that drug companies have a very good record in what they have done abroad. Certainly drugs like chloramphenicol, which are known to be dangerous, have been shipped to developing countries without any warnings of their side-effects.

Really we should not pay too much attention to their views on this subject, particularly when one remembers that they are churning out an enormous number of drugs, 75 per cent. of which are considered to be of little therapeutic value, because they are substitutes for what is already on the market. In view of that, I do not think we should take this lobby too seriously; and I beg to move.


My Lords, before responding to the noble Lord's Amendment, and really taking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on the previous Amendment, perhaps it would be possible to convey to the House with great humility the fact that with a Private Member's Bill from another place the rules are somewhat different from those in connection with Government Bills. The reason is that with a Private Member's Bill, they do go through the Bill in great detail and they do all the revising. I had an opportunity to take such a Bill through some years ago, and so I am not talking absolutely ab initio. We are not here as a revising Chamber for Private Members' Bills in quite the same way as for Government Bills, because they have done all the dirty work, if you like, in a way that they do not do for "big" bills—and they have, of course, their own political reasons for not doing that. That is an important point to take account of.

The other point is that, because of the procedures in another place, they will think that they have done all the work that is necessary, and if your Lordships look at the relevant copies of Hansard you see that their work was considerable. Therefore they assume that the Bill is going to go back to them from here as what might be called more or less "clean", and they do not allocate very much time to it. The fact of the matter is that if we have contentious Amendments in this Bill which are likely to cause trouble when it goes back, the Bill will fail.

This is not a Second Reading and it is not the time to make an impassioned plea at any length, but this Bill is important for the safety of consumers. It really is a great pity to bother too much with any points of detail which may endanger the Bill, unless they are of absolutely vital significance or — and this would be an equally good reason—it would be assumed that another place would accept the Amendments without any problems. Those, I think, are considerations to be borne in mind

To take this particular Amendment, certain products are excluded from the definition of goods, for the purpose of the Bill, by virtue of paragraph (b) because adequate controls exist in other legislation. While it might seem preferable to simplify the Bill by deleting paragraph (b), and to rely on administrative arrangements between Government Departments to ensure that no action is taken under the Bill in relation to these products, manufacturers and suppliers prefer to know for certain that the legislation controlling their product is, say, the Agriculture Act 1970 or the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and that there is no power under this Bill to impose further regulations. It will avoid duplication, which makes it simpler and probably easier for people to carry out the various instructions under the relevant Acts.

I turn now to food, and before the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, put down his Amendment I was able to tell the House that I did not have to declare an interest. But I must at this point do so, and remind your Lordships that I am a director of a food trade association which looks after the cake and biscuit manufacturers. There are adequate powers to secure the safety of food and to protect consumers in the Food and Drugs Act 1955, and perhaps I may add that currently that Act is very much under review, with a view to bringing it up to date. Though it has the necessary powers within it now, there is reason to suppose, regardless of who is in Government, that within the next year or so that Act will be updated.

Turning to safety of fertiliser and feedingstuff, this is provided for in the Agriculture Act 1970, as amended by the European Communities Act 1972. There is power in Section 74A of the Agriculture Act to make regulations relating to the composition, content, labelling and packaging of fertiliser and animal feeding. stuff. The Medicines Act provides for control over medicinal products. How ever, as this control is not entirely adequate in relation to products which are not licensed, Amendment No. 3, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is proposed to ensure that the powers in the Bill, and in particular those in Clauses 3 and 4, can be exercised in relation to unlicensed medicinal products. But as cosmetic products fall within the responsibility of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, an Amendment was moved in Committee last Friday to enable the powers in the Bill to be exercised in relation to those cosmetics which are also medicinal products. Finally, Section 4(1)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1970 already prohibits the supply of controlled drugs, so an Amendment was moved in Committee to exempt controlled drugs from the definition of "goods" for the purposes of the Bill.

I hope the noble Viscount will take the point that there is a great deal of merit in not duplicating the sources from which regulations can emanate to cover different types of product, if there are already satisfactory powers laid down by Statute to cover those products. It is a fact that food, as such, is really a very different kind of product from the main run of those for which this Bill is intended, and it makes a lot of sense that it should be dealt with separately by a different group of experts, who have devoted, in some cases, a working lifetime to studying the problems of making sure that the food in this country is always wholesome and healthy for consumers to eat.


My Lords, I shall be interested to study in detail whether the Acts mentioned do, in all cases, provide the same benefits as this Bill. Nevertheless, to save time, I take the point which the noble Lord has made that this Amendment would be contentious, and the last thing I wish is to delay the passage of this Bill. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, before the Amendment is withdrawn, may I just refer to the earlier part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I am always willing to be told that I am wrong, particularly on matters of procedure, but it really comes as a great surprise to me to be told, when a Bill, even a Private Member's Bill, has been introduced into another place, amended in the other place, sent to this House and amended in this House, that when it goes back to the other place with the Amendments of this House, it is open to the other House to introduce new Amendments unrelated to any Amendments introduced in this House. That was the proposition to which the noble Lord invited me to agree when I moved my first Amendment, and I seriously doubt whether the procedures of Parliament would permit that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.6 p.m.

Lord WALLACE of COSLANY moved Amendment No. 3: Page 12, line 11, after ("1968") insert ("in respect of which there is in force a product licence within the meaning of that Act").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hinted in Committee that an Amendment of this nature might be moved, and therefore it will come as no surprise to at least some noble Lords. This Amendment will enable the powers in the Bill to be exercised in relation to medicinal products which are not licensed under the Medicines Act 1968, either because they are exempt from the requirement that a licence should be obtained or because of a contravention of that requirement in the Medicines Act. While the Medicines Act 1968 provides fairly comprehensive controls over medicinal products, it would be advantageous if the powers in the Consumer Safety Bill were available in relation to products which are not licensed under the Medicines Act.

An example of a case where the Medicines Act does not provide comprehensive control over medicinal products is that there is no power to require a supplier of a medicinal product which is not licensed to issue a warning about the product. Moreover, although there is power under Section 62 of the Medicines Act to prohibit the supply of medicinal products of any description, this procedure would be very considerable if only one person was supplying the goods, and a prohibition notice would be a more suitable procedure.

The Amendment will not enable the powers in the Bill to be exercised in relation to all medicinal products. The Bill will apply only to medicinal products in respect of which there is no product licence in force. I would add that the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which originally proposed that the Bill should not apply to medicinal products, has no objection to this proposal. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think that this might be a convenient moment to halt the Report stage. I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved, That further consideration on Report be now adjourned.—(Lord Strabolgi.)


My Lords, one hates to dispute again with the noble and learned Lord, and I had a similar problem on the Committee stage. I had one or two very short comments to make on Amendment No. 4, but I suppose that, once again, the usual channels—dare I say it?—overcome the individual Peer. I was not aware that there had been any agreement here. I just wondered how long the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, would be. But, once again, I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I shall be unable to be here later whenever the Bill is completed. However, I understood that we were taking the Report stage today.


My Lords, perhaps I may say that if we could get through these Amendments fairly expeditiously, I should be quite happy to finish the Report stage today. The agreement was that we should get back to the Wales Bill at about 8.30 p.m., and there are still some orders to take. But, of course, I am in the hands of the House. Possibly, we might be able to get through everything.


My Lords, these two Amendments raise quite substantial matters and I do not think it would be right for me to feel that I was in any hurry in moving these Amendments. I have very great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has just said and I would be wholeheartedly supporting what he has just said were it not for the fact that there is a chance that these Amendments can be considered by the House when it is not so thinly populated as it is at the moment. I think there is perhaps a good chance of that, and I look forward to that possibility. However, I have much sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has just said.


My Lords, I am in a great quandary because I think it is bad luck on us all.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


For the second time the Government have organised their business whereby they have had an item before us which has taken perhaps longer to dispose of than they expected and so has pushed us into a corner. If it had happened once that would be reasonable, but to happen twice seems to me to be rather insupportable. My noble friend Lord Lyell has been gravely inconvenienced. The difficulty for himself and for other Members who have had to take his place has been great. It is not proper business for taking a Bill, even a Private Member's Bill—I hope there is no scorn there—in such a way that important contributions from the Opposition Front Bench have to be switched about because of the way things have gone.

But having said all that, I have the very greatest sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. He does not want to move his Amendments with the pressure of Wales coming up behind him so that, yet again, all of us cannot give proper consideration. Proper consideration is what this Bill needs. Proper consideration is what it is not getting.

A noble Lord: Hear, hear!


On balance, with the greatest possible respect to my noble friend Lord Lyell, I accede to the view that this stage should be continued tomorrow; but I trust that, come what may, the Government give us all the time we want, and more, and will ensure that that is so. If it so be that we have it with the House full and everybody hearing the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and I battering our way on his Amendments, that would be jolly good fun.


My Lords, I am sure that what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has said will be carefully noted and discussed through the usual channels. We are very grateful to him for his co-operation, and also to Lord Airedale, Lord Lyell, and all noble Lords.