§ 9. Mr. Teddy Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent consultations he has had concerning the operation of the Scented Erasers (Safety) Order; and if he will make statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alex Fletcher)
Informal consultation is already under way and a meeting between trade associations and officials of my Department will be taking place on 10 May.
I am considering the need to make regulations covering this sort of product on a permanent basis. Meantime, the order remains in force until 30 January 1985. There will be full consultation with all interested organisations representing suppliers, consumers, enforcement authorities, medical experts and others, before any draft regulations are laid before the House.
§ Mr. Taylor
As this rather ridiculous order was introduced with no credible evidence of danger, was wholly opposed by every Conservative Member who spoke to it in Committee, and has caused grave damage to many small firms, including some set up with Government assistance, would it not be wiser to withdraw the order while consultations proceed?
§ Mr. Fletcher
The advice that we are receiving is not one-sided. We are receiving advice, not least from local authorities, that the present order is not strong enough. We must take those views into account as well.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
Will my hon. Friend take note in the consultations of the position of one of my constituents who placed an irrevocable contract for goods and genuinely imported and now stands to lose a great deal of money? Will he accept from me that this is not the sort of behaviour that I would expect a Conservative Government to condone?
§ Mr. Fletcher
There are no provisions in the Act for compensation. The House should know that other countries such as Denmark, France, Germany and Ireland have similar types of regulations to protect their consumers against such products.
§ Mr. Williams
Does the Minister recollect that while there was unanimity in Committee in wanting safety, there was virtual unanimity in agreeing that the order was an absurdity? We are glad that he has accepted the advice of the Committee to go to consultation, but will he bear in mind that all the time this defective order is in force firms whose products represent no hazard whatsoever are suffering an unnecessary financial loss? Will he assure us that the consultations will be completed urgently and that action will be introduced before the end of the year?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I know that he has an interest in this matter. We shall bring 339 proposals before the House as soon as possible. Consultations must take place because we wish to ensure that the order, as amended, will be understood by hon. Members on both sides of the House.