HL Deb 14 May 1987 vol 487 cc794-6

13 Clause 50, page 39, line 14, at end insert— (2A) The Secretary of State shall not make an order under subsection (2) above bringing into force the repeal of the Trade Descriptions Act 1972, a repeal of any provision of that Act or a repeal of that Act or of any provision of it for any purposes, unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.".

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 13.

It may help the House if I outline very briefly the background to this amendment. The Trade Descriptions Act 1972 requires imported goods bearing a UK name or mark to be accompanied by an indication of the country of origin. It does not impose general origin marking requirements. It is intended to protect consumers against being misled by goods which are presented in certain potentially misleading ways. The Commission has indicated that it considers the Act to be incompatible with the Treaty of Rome and has taken the first step in infraction proceedings which would lead to a case in the European Court of Justice if we were not to repeal the Act.

On the basis of the court's case law—and in particular its adverse decision against the UK's 1981 origin marking order—the Government considered that there was little prospect of winning such a case and decided, reluctantly to repeal it but at the same time to seek a successor regime which would provide broadly equivalent protection to consumers while being compatible with Community law.

The Government were conscious that Members on all sides of both Houses feel strongly about the issue of origin marking and that many may feel that it would be wrong to settle important changes to the law in this area without an opportunity for fuller debate than the present situation allows. With this in mind, my honourable and learned friend tabled this amendment which provides that the commencement order giving effect to the repeal of the 1972 Act will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

This is somewhat unusual for a commencement order but I think that it meets the situtation in which we find ourselves today. It will relieve the forthcoming Parliament from the burden of repeating the primary legislative process while at the same time ensuring that the implications of repeal can be properly debated before it takes effect and by reference to proposals for successor arrangements.

I think I ought also to inform your Lordships that our latest exchanges with the Commission lead us to believe that it is likely to be possible to introduce a successor regime acceptable in Community law. This would provide a valuable degree of continuing protection to consumers in the form of an obligation to provide an indication of origin in any case where goods are presented in such a way that they can reasonably be expected to create the impression in the mind of the consumer that they were manufactured or produced in a different place from that in which they were in fact manufactured or produced. It would then be the Government's intention to introduce such a regime by order under Section 8 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 after the due process of consultation required by that Act. It would also be the Government's intention that the entry into force of such an order would be synchronised with that of the commencement order providing for the repeal of the 1972 Act.

That is a somewhat lengthy explanation but I think it is a point that aroused some concern and I hope that what I have said will satisfy noble Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in the said amendment.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for reviewing the situation and bringing us up to date this evening. This was an issue which created considerable feeling, as he rightly pointed out, in your Lordships' House and in another place. We are glad that the Government have been able to concede the point that we would have a further debate on the matter before anything happens. I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord had to say subsequent to that and I hope the Government will be able to find a formula which preserves the spirit of what he said. We are glad to support this amendment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I, too, would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that this is a highly desirable and acceptable amendment. As the noble Lord has already said, it is something which we debated at some length in your Lordships' House and I thank the Government for having brought this forward.

On Question, Motion agreed to.