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Consumer Protection (Regulations)

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 1 February 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he now has for making regulations under the Consumer Protection Act, 1961, other than safety regulations concerning oil heaters and electrical appliances.

It is a long time since we passed the last Consumer Protection Act and had the Interim Report of the Molony Committee. Is it not time that we had action from the Minister's Department, as was promised during the Committee stage of the Bill, to make regulations safeguarding against hazards of the kind to which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) has just referred?

I made clear during the passage of the Bill that it would not be followed by a large number of regulations. That view was confirmed in the Interim Report of the Committee on Consumer Protection, which said that the Committee did not envisage that the power to make regulations would need to be exercised with great frequency.

The real point here is that, when a danger comes to our notice, we get in touch with the manufacturers, and the manufacturers have so far always been willing to co-operate in trying to establish the cause and overcome the danger when it is due to faulty design or in warning the public when it is due to misuse.

Is it not time that the Minister did something more positive instead of pouring out a torrent of Civil Service verbiage designed to stifle the natural exuberance of children? Why does not he try to be more positive and introduce regulations compelling manufacturers of dangerous articles used in the home to make their products safe rather than try to stifle the natural activities of children?

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that, if it is possible to rectify a fault without regulation, it is better not to have the regulation.

This is a very important subject. Will the Minister read again what is said on page 11, of the Interim Report, where it is definitely suggested that some regulations should be introduced to provide safeguards against the hazards which are presented by all kinds of modern inventions, materials and appliances? Will he look at the matter again and see not so much how narrow he can make the regulations but how effective they might be?

The Report makes certain recommendations for somewhat limited action, and we have that in mind.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he now has for making regulations under the Consumer Protection Act, 1961, which would make electrical appliances safe for the public.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 21st December to a Question by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling).

That reply given to my hon. Friend said, in effect, that the Government were not prepared to do anything. Is the Minister aware that both Which? and Shopper's Guide have recently reported on such articles as electric fire lighters and electric blankets and the dangers involved in their use? Does he know also that there are on the market even sewing machines which are not always safe for use and that the consumer is confronted by the hazard of other unsafe electrical appliances?

The information at our disposal shows quite clearly that scarcely any accidents are due to the faulty design of domestic electric appliances but that those accidents which occur are due to bad fitting or to misuse.