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Standardisation (Committee)

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 23 June 1949

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered what contribution standardisation can make to economy of production and to the well-being of the country; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

Yes, Sir. We are fully alive to the economic contribution which standardisation can make, both by savings in production costs and by guarantees to the consumer. We have given much consideration to the question and are convinced that our policy should be to encourage the progress of standardisation by every means in our power and to look to industry, working with and through the British Standards Institution, to do the work. We are fully conscious of the great progress industry and the B.S.I. are making, but we have felt that we should do everything within our power to help and stimulate it. It was for this reason that, for example, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, as announced by him in the House on 22nd November last, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend, set up a committee of representatives of industry under Sir Ernest Lemon to investigate how reduction in the variety of engineering products and components could be carried further and faster.

It is clear, however, that further advances in standardisation, whether in the engineering field or elsewhere, will not be obtained without a good deal of hard work and careful technical examination, and without the fullest co-operation of industry in the drafting and adoption of Standards. This will mean that the B.S.I. will have more work to do and will assume an even more important place in the economy of the country than it does at present, and it will create problems of organisation and finance. The question of an increased grant from the Government will have to be considered, but it seems necessary first that the constitution and functions of the Institution should be reviewed in the light of the policy I have announced, and I have, therefore, appointed a Committee, the terms of reference and the membership of which I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a campaign was run on these lines at least 40 years ago, and can he say why no further progress has been made since then?

I am not responsible for 36 of those years, but I think more progress has been made with standardisation, particularly in the field of those goods and building materials controlled by my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Minister of Works, in the last four years than during the whole of the previous 36 years.

Will the President of the Board of Trade bear in mind that standardisation has some disadvantages, that we should be cautious before becoming too enthusiastic about it, and that one of the disadvantages is that when a standard becomes firmly set, it sometimes becomes an obstacle to changes?

I am fully aware of that and for the need of having some degree of consumer choice, but far too many of the existing types are very much set in their ways, allowing an unreasonable degree of consumer choice in matters of size and specification which no one now considers necessary.

Following are the terms of reference:

"To consider the organisation and constitution of the British Standards Institution, including its finance, in the light of the increasing importance of standardisation and the extended size and volume of work likely to fall on the B.S.I. in future and to make recommendations."

Mr. Geoffrey Cunliffe has agreed to act as Chairman of this Committee, and the B.S.I. have promised their warm co-operation in its work. The other members of the Committee are:

Sir William Palmer, K. B.E., C.B., British Rayon Federation.

A. V. Nicolle, Esq., The Automotive Engineering Co., Ltd.

Roger Duncalfe, Esq., British Glues & Chemicals, Ltd.

E. P. Harries, Esq., Trades Union Congress.

O. W. Humphreys, Esq., General Electric Co., Ltd.

Sir Ernest Lemon, Chairman of the Ministry of Supply Committee on Engineering Standardisation.