Local authority trading standards departments have a statutory duty to enforce the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the toy safety regulations made thereunder. The Act provides the necessary powers for the discharge of this responsibility.
The new Toys (Safety) Regulations 1989, which implement the EC directive on the safety of toys with effect from 1 January next year, will provide more comprehensive safety measures to ensure that only safe toys are placed on the market. They will also require enforcement authorities to notify my Department of enforcement action taken under those regulations.
It is fine that the provisions exist, but we are about 20 per cent. short of trading standards officers. That is the real problem. We are entering a period in which there is a constant television propaganda campaign for parents to buy toys. There was a disastrous case involving Kinder eggs, which are chocolate eggs with tiny inedible and poisonous toys inside them. Will the Minister ensure that there is urgent action by the Department in the form of a television campaign to warn parents?
The hon. Gentleman has raised a number of points. The number of trading standards officers is a matter for local authorities. I am sure that they will discharge their responsibility fully in that regard. My Department is organising a campaign to reach out to parents to remind them at this time of the year of what is principally their responsibility—to ensure that they purchase only safe toys for their children or relatives.
The Kinder chocolate eggs case was a tragedy. A young girl died as a result of the contents of a Kinder egg. We considered the matter carefully and agonised about what we should do. In the end, my view was that as millions were sold every year it would be wrong to seek to ban the product but that we should instead seek to reinforce precisely the hon. Gentleman's point—that parents must always satisfy themselves that anything that their young children have, use or play with is used safely and responsibly.