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Deregulation (Weights And Measures) Order 1999

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 24 February 1999

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10.53 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th December 1998 be approved [4th Report from the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order removes some of the burdens currently imposed by the law upon businesses when they seek to supply weighing and measuring equipment for use for trade purposes within Great Britain. The law in question is contained within Section 11 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

The provisions of that section require any weighing and measuring equipment, before it is placed into use for trade, to be verified by an inspector of weights and measures. That is to say, an inspector must test the equipment to satisfy himself that the equipment complies with all applicable statutory requirements, as well as with an approved design, and that it measures with sufficient accuracy. If satisfied, he will then pass the equipment and apply the prescribed mark, known as "the stamp" to indicate that the equipment is fit for use for trade. Some of your Lordships will be familiar with the stamp on the sides of beer glasses—clearly not the noble Lord, Lord Burnham! But. of course, it is also to be found on many other types of measuring equipment, including weighing machines and petrol pumps, which are used for trade measurement purposes where it has been considered necessary to ensure that the equipment is verified in this way.

The requirement for the verification to be conducted by an inspector of weights and measures is considered to be an unnecessary burden by many of the businesses associated with the manufacture, installation and repair of weighing and measuring equipment because of its intrusion into the planning of their normal business activities. Businesses have to depend upon the availability of inspectors to conduct verification activities and consequently have little control over the incorporation of these activities into their working schedule. The proposed amendments will give increased flexibility to business, providing them the opportunity to exert greater control over the planning of necessary testing and stamping of equipment as fit for use for trade.

In addition, businesses have to bear the costs associated with the verification activities being conducted by weights and measures authorities. These proposals will provide business with the opportunity to make savings both in respect of the fees paid out and the costs borne which normally arise with the present requirements.

The order eases the burden in three ways. First, through the issue of an approval by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry it will allow manufacturers, installers and repairers of weighing and measuring equipment to conduct their own verification. Secondly, it will allow those persons who are manufacturers and are so approved to apply the stamp before testing and passing the equipment. This, we consider, will carry great benefits to manufacturers of capacity measures such as beer and wine glasses, as they will be able to integrate the stamping of the glasses into the production processes. Thirdly, where businesses seek verification by an inspector of weights and measures they will be able to provide the inspector with test results pertaining to the equipment from a suitably qualified test laboratory within the European economic area which the inspector would use as part of his determination as to whether the equipment complied with the relevant requirements.

The Government are satisfied that the legislative changes contained within the order maintain the necessary protection to both seller and buyer in circumstances where weighing and measuring equipment is used for trade, as presently provided by the regime under the Weights and Measures Act 1985. Applicants seeking to use these provisions will need to satisfy the Secretary of State that they have the necessary competence and systems in place to be able to conduct verification correctly and that they are fit and proper persons to be so approved. Also, weighing and measuring equipment will still he subject to the same accuracy and other requirements as those applied when verification is carried out by inspectors and to the same requirements covering construction and conformity with the approved design.

The proposal has completed the preliminary scrutiny procedures for deregulation orders under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee of your Lordships' House and the Deregulation Committee of the other place have separately assessed and reported on the proposal. Both committees have indicated that they are content with the draft order as it stands. Therefore I commend the order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th December 1998 be approved [ 4th Report from the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee].—( Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the order. The last time I spoke to a weights and measures order I spoke about yards and metres. I used the wrong word and my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham interrupted immediately to correct me. Perhaps it would be best if I left all debate and said that I was entirely content with the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at two minutes before eleven o'clock.