Orders of the Day — Food (Weights and Measures)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1949.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Draft Sale of Food (Weights and Measures: Variation of First Schedule) Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st December, be approved."—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

10.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Niall Macpherson Mr Niall Macpherson , Dumfriesshire

I know that the House has other business and I will not detain it long. The purpose of these regulations is simply to include under Schedule I of the Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926, additional products. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary one question and to make one or two comments. I should like to ask which bodies he has consulted? Section 9 of the Act lays him under an obligation to consult with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and such interests as appear to him to be concerned. Perhaps he might be good enough to divide his answer to deal separately with farinaceous products and dried fruit.

My second point is that among the articles which are included in Part III of the Schedule are farinaceous products. It so happens that some of those products are manufactured and packed by the same manufacturers or packers who pack products already included in Part III. The "bulk" of those products happens to be different from the "bulk" of the products already included in Part III in that the former articles take up either more or less space than the latter. In fact what happens is that the manufacturers order one type of package for both types of product and, because one of the products has to be packed with a certain net weight, the other product must, of course, because the bulk is different, have a different net weight. The Act as it exists at present imposes the necessity of products included in Schedule I, being packed in multiples of two or four or six or eight ounces, and if packers are to comply with the Act that means that an entirely fresh set of packaging material, and fresh machinery for filling and labelling will have to be ordered.

I wonder whether the Minister is aware of that, and whether that has been taken into account by the Board of Trade and what representations have been made about it. It seems wrong that at this time we should call upon manufacturers or packers to divert their capital into the purchase of new forms of machinery merely to comply with this Act. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to say what representations have been made.

10.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Edwards Mr John Edwards , Blackburn

This is the first time since the Act of 1926 was passed that the Board of Trade have sought to use their powers under the Act to vary the list of products set out in the First Schedule. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) raised two points—the first, that about consultations. As far as I am aware we consulted the following bodies—the Ministry of Food, the National Federation of Grocers and Provision Merchants' Associations, the Food Manufacturers' Federation and the Local Authority Association. Although certain contentious items were contained in our original proposals those have not been proceeded with and the proposals which I now make to the House in these draft regulations are completely agreed, I think, by all the parties with whom we consulted. I am not aware of any contention on the point at all.

I recognise the point which the hon. Member made as important and one which, no doubt, a departmental committee will be looking into again, but I do not think it has arisen at all acutely in this case. I would not expect it to do so, since in the case of Part II of the Schedule we have merely included compound cooking fat, which is, for practical purposes, very much like lard; and in the second place, in Part III of the First Schedule we have included such things as semolina—we had sago in already—and we have included a number of dried fruits besides currants, raisins, and so on. I think the hon. Gentleman may rest quite assured that there is no disagreement about this at all, and that all parties are satisfied that this is the kind of step we ought to take.

Question put, and agreed to.