HL Deb 04 June 1996 vol 572 cc1160-1

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 29th April be approved [22nd Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the draft order is concerned with removing the burden imposed by the price control mechanism procedures, maximum charges and time limits currently imposed by gun barrel proving legislation. The proposal has completed the preliminary scrutiny procedures for deregulation orders under the 1994 Act. The Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers of your Lordships' House and the Deregulation Committee of the other place have separately assessed and reported on the proposal. Both committees have indicated that they are content with the draft order as it stands.

The purpose of this order is to amend the Gun Barrel Proof Acts 1868 to 1978 in order to relieve the two proof houses in London and Birmingham of the obligation to seek the agreement of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the alteration of the maximum prices they can charge for proofing or testing of gun barrels. Save in exceptional circumstances, at present such alterations can be made only every five years.

The main effect of the measure will therefore be to give the proof houses the freedom to set their own level of charges. In doing so it will relieve them of the procedural costs associated with applying every five years for a change in the maximum prices they can charge for proofing and the financial exposure they would face if market circumstances changed significantly before they could obtain the necessary approval.

The Government are satisfied that the measure will not reduce the necessary protection for consumers. There is no question of safety standards being affected because those provisions of the Act remain unaltered. As to the possibility of overcharging for gun proving, we consider that the competition which exists between the two proof houses in the United Kingdom, and the further competition represented by proof houses overseas, is sufficient to safeguard against any risk of overcharging. In the light of those factors, it is no surprise that when the department consulted more than 90 bodies about the draft order, all respondents either welcomed the proposal or offered no comments or objections.

This is a modest and sensible measure which reduces a burden without removing necessary protection. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, that the draft order laid before the House on 29th April be approved [22nd Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].—(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.