HC Deb 01 December 1986 vol 106 cc435-6W
Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) why he has decided to seek to repeal the Trade Descriptions Act 1972; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what steps he will take to ensure that consumers are aware of the country of origin of products following the repeal of the Trade Descriptions Act 1972; and if he will make a statement;

Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from the European Economic Community seeking the repeal of the Trades Descriptions Act 1972; whether he has any plans to introduce legislation to comply with those representations; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

Earlier this year, the European Commission served formal notice, under article 169 of the EEC treaty, of its intention to open infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom in connection with the Trade Descriptions Act 1972. The Commission regard the Act as incompatible with article 30 of the treaty.

After careful consideration of the legal position, in particular the earlier judgment of the European Court of Justice against the Trade Descriptions (Origin Marking) (Miscellaneous Goods) Order 1981, the Government reluctantly concluded that the United Kingdom could not reasonably expect successfully to defend a case against the 1972 Act in the court. The Government accordingly informed the Committee of their intention to repeal the Act, and provision for this is made in the Consumer Protection Bill which is now before another place.

The Government remain of the view that consumers are entitled to protection against being misled about the origin of the goods they purchase and has already informed consumer and trade associations of its intention to explore with them the possibility of an order under section 8 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, to supplement the basic prohibition against false or misleading indications of origin in that Act, which itself is not in question. The Government will welcome any suggestions for such an order consistent with the requirements of Community law.

It is also the Government's intention that the entry into force of the repeal of the 1972 Act should coincide with that of any order providing for successor arrangements. Nothing in these developments affects in any way the right of British manufacturers to mark their goods "Made in Britain", nor the existing penalties for false statements of origin.