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Mr. Buchan : I shall do my best and I shall be as gentle as I can, but the Minister is here representing the full majesty of the Government-- he is sitting on the Treasury Bench.

10.15 am

Mr. Wiggin : Will the hon. Gentleman accept my absolute word that it was my intention to legislate on this matter, which is highly technical? When the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill and remotely understands what it is all about--he certainly does not at the moment--he will discover how technical it is. Because of its technical nature, I asked the Minister whether the Government would assist me in drafting the Bill and I am extremely grateful for their help. In view of the hon. Gentleman's known family interests in the European Community, he should realise that one of the objects of the Bill is to try to get a step ahead of the Community, not to follow behind. Because of the hon. Gentleman's unintelligent opposition to the Bill, Britain will be disadvantaged and that is wrong.

Mr. Buchan : The hon. Gentleman has revealed a new depth to the Bill, which is certainly labyrinthine. Apparently the Bill is a cunning device to subvert the Common Market and the Government have put an anti- Marketeer on the Treasury Bench to carry it through. This is a remarkable experience--all things unfold on a Friday morning. Who would have thought that the Bill could have concealed such duplicity--an anti-Marketeer Minister pretending to be a pro-Marketeer. It has been cunningly disguised as a private Member's Bill so that we think that it is not important. It is, however, fraught with importance as it is an attempt to beat 1992 by two years. This Bill should be called the Weights and Measures (Ditch the Common Market) (Amendment) Bill. That is what it is about. I understand that the Minister is now ready to give me the answers that I sought. We have all morning to explore the rest of the clause and certainly clause 2(4) will require a great deal of discussion and explanation.

Will the clause apply to "an inspector" and not just "the inspector"? In that way we could appoint people who understand some of the problems and are not merely bureaucrats. How will Scotland be affected? Will island councils be treated differently from a regional or district council in Scotland, given that the Bill applies to Scotland? Will inspectors be appointed from laymen serving on the councils?

Above all, I wait to hear the Minister's response to the points raised about the Common Market. I had not realised that there was such depth to the Bill. Is this an

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attempt to subvert 1992? Is this a protective mechanism? Will our inspectors be trained so that they can look at a tonne and say that it is equivalent to 0.9 of another weight? Will they be able to distinguish a yard from an ell or a metre?

The Minister better have some notes about clause 2(4) as a lot of questions will be asked about the need for inspection. I am sure that my hon. Friends will have something to say about whether it should be "an inspector" or "the inspector". I shall conclude now, as I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover will substantiate my remarks.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : I have listened carefully to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan)--

Mr. Forth : Is this a speech or an intervention?

Mr. Skinner : I was invited to speak by the Chair.

The Chairman : Order. I did not offer the hon. Gentleman any such invitation. He was simply seeking to catch my eye and therefore I called him.

Mr. Skinner : Yes, but, after I was called, the Minister--he has been referred to as an anti-marketeer, but he is a

pro-marketeer--intervened from a sedentary position. That is uncalled for in this place. I am surprised that the Chair did not rebuke him for intervening in that fashion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South made an interesting and important speech, and he has every right to know whether the Bill applies to Scotland. The Bill has not been properly explained, and we are not sure what it is all about.

Mr. Wiggin : Absolutely right. The hon. Gentleman does not have a clue.

Mr. Skinner : But why is that? On the first occasion that the Bill was tabled, it was taken off for the day. That was a very interesting day. Other business was conducted while the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) sat in his place for about one and a half hours but then disappeared. That happened about four Fridays ago.

Mr. Buchan : Is my hon. Friend saying that the Bill has been introduced for some other purpose today? I might have known that, but I am an innocent in these matters.

Mr. Skinner : There has been a lot of jiggery-pokery over the past few Fridays. When the Bill was originally due to be considered in Committee, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare sat in his place for about two hours while the House debated the Control of Pollution Bill. That was an important Bill in the sense that it was debated at length one Friday. It was devised by the Government but handed to a Back Bencher who knew less about that Bill than perhaps the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare knows about the Bill now before the House, and who had to apologise to the House.

On that occasion, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare walked out of the Chamber and left the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Bill high and dry. When we challenged him and asked what was to happen to the Bill, he took it off the day's business. Last week, he had another crack at it, and for a few moments--no more than that--tried to explain some of its provisions. This morning, the hon. Gentleman is trying to wheedle the Bill through in next to no time. I understand that a number of

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amendments were passed without any proper explanation, and clause 1 was passed. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South was busy elsewhere--probably in Scotland, trying to find out whether the Bill applies there.

It is significant that the Minister has not yet tried to explain to my hon. Friend whether the Bill applies to Scotland. We know that it is a Common Market Bill, but we still do not know whether it applies in Scotland in particular.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) : It is hardly surprising that the Minister has not yet got to his feet. If the Bill is passed, it will relieve his Department of a lot of the work that is to be given to the quasi-private sector. It may be that the hon. Gentleman is a bit work-shy anyway and would sooner see the responsibilities involved placed elsewhere and not left within the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Skinner : There is no doubt about that. The whole reason for the Bill was summed up in my hon. Friend's remarks. During the course of the earlier short debate on the Bill, it became clear what the Government are about. The Government admit that they drew up the Bill. Even the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare admits that he received "help" from Government lawyers. It is a Government Bill handed to a Back Bencher, and the hon. Gentleman thinks that he will get his name into the history books for getting the Bill passed. It is a kind of semi-privatisation. If the Government had any guts, they would have introduced it as part of their legislative programme.

Mr. Wiggin : Does the hon. Gentleman recall that at the end of my speech last Friday, for which he was present, I told the House that because of the Bill's complexity, some right hon. and hon. Members, including the hon. Gentleman, may not understand it and that I would make myself available to answer any questions and to explain the Bill. As the hon. Gentleman was present to hear that invitation, and as he is clearly concerned about the Bill, why has he not done me the courtesy of approaching me for an explanation?

Mr. Skinner : I do not usually get involved in those usual channels- -if I start that game, I am finished. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look in Hansard, he will find that on the last occasion that the Bill was debated, I mentioned a letter that I received from the Consumers Association. It wrote to other right hon. and hon. Members also, with the information that the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare did not consult the Consumers Association when drawing up the Bill or devising appropriate amendments. The hon. Gentleman heard me read into Hansard that letter, in which the association said that it had been let down in consultation on the Bill. The hon. Gentleman should be careful with his loose talk about people who have followed the Bill closely. I was asked by the Consumers Association to speak on the Bill, and I do not normally pick up a letter and say to myself, "I'll write that into Hansard. " The hon. Gentleman gave the impression that he had consulted various bodies throughout Britain.

Mr. Wiggin : No, only those that approached me.

Mr. Skinner : The association of which I speak is headed by some "Lady quango", or used to be, and is connected with the magazine "Which?" .

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Mr. Soames : Does the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of these matters, acknowledge that it is possible that the Government lawyers who helped my hon. Friend draft his Bill may themselves have consulted the Consumers Association without my hon. Friend knowing? The Bill deals with such a technical area that the Government would obviously wish to assist my hon. Friend. It is likely that the Consumers Association was consulted on this, as on other matters, by the Government.

Mr. Skinner : Can the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) be sure what lawyers are up to any day of the week?

Mr. Soames : No.

Mr. Skinner : Right, so we are on decent ground there. It is clear that most right hon. and hon. Members agree on that--except those who are themselves lawyers, and there are plenty of them. We know that the lawyers are now very much at war. I notice that on the Tory Benches in particular, the solicitors no longer sit with the barristers as a result of the Lord Chancellor's proposals. They can be seen pulling faces at one another. The Prime Minister as well has stirred that up.

Mr. Wiggin : What does that have to do with clause 2?

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman said that clause 2 was drafted with the help of Government lawyers. What kind of lawyers? Were they lawyers who are on the side of the Lord Chancellor, or lawyers on the side of Lord Hailsham--who is making scathing comments about the Prime Minister and about the Grantham grocer-shop mentality? What kind of Government lawyers were they? Is there a split among Government lawyers? Can we trust what they are up to nowadays? Is one set of lawyers trying to put down another set of lawyers? What guarantee is there that lawyers who go into the Box are not on one side or the other? Once mistrust has been sown, we shall not know what the next move will be. Can we trust any Bill? Can we trust the way in which clause 2 has been drawn up?

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I have not been in the Chamber very long, but I refer to a point over which my hon. Friend passed rather quickly a few moments ago, as to whether the Bill fully applies to Scotland, and what will be the legal interpretation in the event of some parts of Scotland using old weights and measures. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, the Bill is a form of privatisation. Does my hon. Friend think that the Bill represents a return to the days before equal weight and measures applied thoughout the whole country, which were introduced so that poor people would know that a pound of potatoes meant a pound of potatoes anywhere in the country?

Mr. Barron : And a baker's dozen meant 13, as well.

Mr. Corbyn : Does the Bill represent a return to a local form of privatisation and regulation? I think that my hon. Friend would agree that that would be to the disadvantage of poor people who buy things in small quantities and very much to the advantage of merchants and traders, who would be in a position to decide on the local weight or measure according to the amount of profit that they could make.

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I realise that this is a difficult question, but I should like my hon. Friend to answer it, and also to say how he thinks that the lawyers would deal with the problem, divided as they are at present on so many other issues.

10.30 am

Mr. Skinner : If I were to answer that I should want a lawyer and legal aid, because it would take a long time. I am not sure that I could get legal aid, however, because this is a well-paid job : we all agree on that. Some of us believe that we are well paid, anyway, although some hon. Members may think that they are poorly paid. We do not need moonlighting jobs on the side to supplement our income. Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) rose --

Mr. Skinner : I think that there is a lawyer in the House.

Mr. Waller : I should like the right of reply, Mr. Walker. I plead not guilty on that count.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in this instance the lawyers do not count as much as those who are responsible for enforcing the law--that is, the trading standards officers? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, of which I have the honour to be a vice-president, is agreeable to the provisions in the Bill? The institute was consulted, and amendments that it suggested have been incorporated. It does not consider that its interests are at stake ; indeed, it wants the Bill to go further, and looks to my hon. Friend the Minister to introduce legislation in accordance with the representations of the Eden committee. It would be extremely disappointed if the Bill did not make progress today.

Mr. Skinner : Who said that the Bill would not make progress? We have got to examine it thoroughly. It is no use leaving it to the lawyers when it leaves this place. It is no use thinking, "Well, it went through on the nod. The Members of Parliament had a nice cushy Friday. The debate only lasted for an hour, and the Members of Parliament went off to listen to the results of the Vale of Glamorgan by-election. They were not bothered about giving the Bill proper scrutiny." We want to know what is meant by some of the references in clause 2, and we are not going to leave it to the lawyers. Some of us know that they are in business only to make a lot of money out of it.

I will tell the House why I am keen on making sure that the Bill is scrutinised properly, even if it is passed. Let me remind hon. Members what happened the other week. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) may have been here : he usually comes in to--in quotes--filibuster on a Friday. When I saw him today I thought, "Hullo, here he is. Here is the backstop man. He is the bloke who comes in at about 2 pm and puts an end to the proceedings." He has done it several times on various issues : I do not know why.

What happened the other week was that a Bill had the wrong title. The Government lawyers had brought in a Bill to repeal the Clean Air Act when it should have been "amend". I remember that the hon. Member for Keighley

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was present. He was going to introduce his Bill that day, but then he went : he bobbied off. He went for an early bath, and mind the showers on the way out.

When we discovered that well-paid Government lawyers had actually got the title of the Bill wrong, we had to amend it. We told the hon. Gentleman in charge of it to sort it out. That was a valuable exercise in scrutiny and examination.

The Chairman : Order. I hope that eventually the hon. Gentleman will get round to discussing whether clause 2 should stand part of this Bill.

Mr. Skinner : I was asked to explain why a Bill drawn up by and with the help of Government lawyers and handed to a Back Bencher should be other than perfect. In your capacity as Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Walker, you will know only too well the importance of being careful to read the small print, and this morning we are into the small print.

Mr. Soames : The hon. Gentleman said that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley had come in to filibuster

Mr. Skinner : In quotes.

Mr. Soames : That is most unfair. My hon. Friend is known on the Conservative Benches as a legislative humane killer. From time to time, because he happens to be here to deal with important parliamentary matters, my hon. Friend considers it his duty to come into the Chamber and examine closely and in detail private Members' Bills requiring the kind of scrutiny that would not take place if the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)-- and I pay tribute to him--were not present on most Fridays. If he were not here, the most pernicious legislation would slip through on the nod. My hon. Friend, along with the hon. Member for Bolsover, is called on from time to time to administer the coup de grace.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of a split among the lawyers, and speculated on what kind of lawyers might have drafted the clause. If the lawyers who drafted the clause had the interests of the consumer at heart, they would have been supporters of my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor ; if, however, they were supporters of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Hailsham, they would not have been interested in consumers' rights.

I think that the hon. Gentleman can take some comfort from the fact that those lawyers will have consulted the Consumers Association, and will be interested in consumers' rights. The hon. Gentleman should give more credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare, who would not allow such an important piece of legislation to be introduced unless he was satisfied that it could withstand the closest scrutiny of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman is actually saying that there are some devious lawyers. That is what he is saying, in a nutshell. He may have said it in a posh Tory fashion, but that is what he means. He means that there are devious, cool, calculating, desiccated, machine-like lawyers who are only in it for the money, and some of them are close to the Government. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman realises that he has put his foot in it--and it is a big foot.

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The hon. Gentleman has said that there are some dodgy lawyers who support Lord Hailsham and others, whom he regards as clean, who support the Prime Minister. He admits that people in both camps are not only to be found among Members of Parliament--although a lot are : I think that at the last count there were about 70 of one kind or another. There are not many here this morning, though. Of course, the courts are still open, and they cannot be here and in the courts at the same time.

It is difficult for lawyers on Fridays. If they are making £30,000 or £40,000 a year as lawyers--

Mr. Soames : A week.

Mr. Skinner : I was trying to be fair. But perhaps the hon. Gentleman can prove that some of them are lining their pockets to that extent at the same time as drawing up clause 2 of the Bill. Perhaps he can prove that they are getting their snouts into that kind of trough--I will not call it pig swill ; that kind of money cannot be called pig swill.

The hon. Gentleman is closer to the heart of Government than any other hon. Member present today, apart from the Minister. [Interruption.] Well, the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the number three pairing Whip, is pretty close. But the hon. Member for Crawley is PPS to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Did he get his information from the Secretary of State? What he has said this morning could well be an admission of what is stirring in the breast of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps there is a Ridley plan mark 3 to cause real trouble among the lawyers. We may see that in the course of 1991.

The Chairman : Order. A clause that deals with the passing and stamping of equipment by authorised persons does not lend itself to a debate on the terms and conditions of employment for lawyers. I think that we should get back to clause 2.

Mr. Skinner : I am making the serious point that if Government lawyers--beset by all their worries and troubles and infighting--could bring to this House the other week a Bill whose title was wrong, we have to do something about it. They wanted to sweep away the Clean Air Act. We stopped them. We did a service to the country, as always.

If Government lawyers, who are involved in all this infighting between themselves, solicitors versus barristers, are sending Bills to the House on Friday mornings--including the Clean Air Act which they wanted to repeal instead of amend, which we had to do in the end--I have to ask myself, especially when the hon. Member for Crawley says that he agrees that there is trouble among them, "Can I be satisfied with clause 2 of the Bill? Who drew it up? Was it a solicitor? Was it a barrister? Was it a solicitor who hoped to be a barrister? Was it a solicitor who hopes to be a barrister under the new re gime, or was it a solicitor who hopes to be a barrister but who wants to retain the status quo? What motivated the lawyer who drew up clause 2 and then handed the Bill to the hon. Member for Weston-super- Mare? What was in his or her mind?" We need to know. That is the question that needs to be answered this Friday morning.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central) : I am almost sorry that I am here, as I am a lawyer. I think that I am the only lawyer in the House. I can only assume that all the others are doing precisely what my hon. Friend the

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Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said that they are doing. I apologise for the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) is not here. I am sorry that she is not here and she will be sorry, too, when I speak to her next week. She has been unavoidably detained on very important business in the north. Looking at clause 2 as a lawyer, is it not clear that it is no friend of the consumer? The explanatory memorandum and subsection (4) of clause 2 make it clear that faulty equipment could still be passed, not by inspectors but by authorised people, whoever they may be. The Bill--clause 2 in particular-- is seeking to privatise the inspection of equipment and to allow shoddy equipment to be passed. For that reason, the Bill deserves to be opposed. In particular, clause 2 should not stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend, who is a Scottish lawyer and who has still not been given an answer to his question as to whether the Bill applies to Scotland, has put his finger on another important flaw in clause 2 : who will inspect and test faulty equipment? Does it mean that the Government--who have done 19 different fiddles of the unemployment figures, who are now fiddling the cost of living figures, who are threatening to fiddle the balance of payment figures and who are threatening to fiddle the inflation figures by leaving out mortgage interest relief--are going to do yet another fiddle? The Government live by fiddles. They are run by what have been described as bent lawyers. Does the Bill mean that we shall have equipment that can fiddle as well?

Mr. Buchan : I have been ruminating on my hon. Friend's barristers versus solicitors argument. The point about a barrister or a solicitor, or a solicitor wishing to be a barrister, is that both get the lolly. The solicitor briefs the barrister ; he gets paid for doing the briefing. The barrister gets paid for explaining the brief. Both of them are at it. It is a double fiddle. Does my hon. Friend see the point?

Mr. Skinner : Yes, I know that that is the game. That is why this important debate is taking place. However, I do not believe that it will ever happen. I hope that I am helping some of the lawyers when I say that changing the relationship between solicitors and barristers is just a publicity stunt by the Prime Minister. I do not think that she has the nerve to carry it through. The judges, who were going to go on strike at the Royal Courts of Justice the other day, decided to call it off when the Prime Minister gave in. Some people thought that the judges had backed down, but they did not. The Prime Minister gave in. The jury is still out on that question.

Mr. Barron : On the question of the drafting of clause 2 by lawyers, it is a question not of personalities in the other place but whether one is a member of the Bar Council or the Law Society. If the White Paper ever leads to legislation, what it contains will depend on who drafts the clauses of the next employment Bill. That will show who is the victor in the argument.

10.45 am

Mr. Skinner : There is no doubt that infighting is taking place and that we shall have to scrutinise Bills more carefully. We do not know what the motives are. When they get up in the morning we cannot be sure whether they say, "I think I'll draft a Bill for the Government today that will make them look up when I've finished with it for

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having caused all that trouble--for having set the Lord Chancellor going with this new idea of undermining my living standards. I'll have to move from Henley and sell up."

What goes through their heads when they sit down at their desks and somebody says, "Emergency! We need a Bill, quick, for Friday morning. We need it to be drafted quickly to pass to a Back Bencher. We need to give the impression that this is a private Member's Bill when in reality it is a Government Bill. Get it done quick." The solicitor says, "Huh, you want me to pull out all the stops. This Tory Government want me to get stuck in all day on it and draw up clause 2 of the Bill. I'll cause some trouble. They're not going to upset me. They won't stop me becoming a barrister and making all those big fat fees. They're not going to cause all that trouble. I'm going to draw up clause 2 in a fashion that makes it unworkable. I know what I'll do. I'll draw up a clause 2 in which I say that anybody can inspect faulty equipment. That will cause some trouble. Someone on the Labour Benches will spot that."

Mr. Barron : Or any barrow boy.

Mr. Skinner : Yes, or any barrow boy, but let us get that into perspective. Barrow boys are as good as solicitors. I would say that they are better than solicitors.

Mr. Darling : Is my hon. Friend saying that they are both a bit shifty?

Mr. Skinner : No. I am saying that they are both in the business of selling, so we ought not to go too far down that road. In the elections yesterday I think that we got more votes than barrow boys and solicitors in some areas of Britain. It was a pretty good day in Derbyshire. We won a seat, not far from me, from the Tories. It was supposed to be an independent seat, but we know the score. We won a glorious victory in Brackenfield ; part of it is in my constituency. Some lawyers voted for us who might be of the kind who would draft clause 2. Who knows? They were so disenchanted with the Government who had introduced this new divisive element into the legal fraternity that, word has it, of the few lawyers in the Bolsover area, almost all of them voted for us. So we had a pretty spectacular victory in Brackenfield.

Mr. Waller : In view of the hon. Gentleman's obviously well-founded doubts about lawyers, about whom he has spoken for some time, was it not rash of him to adopt without question the advice that was given to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) who is a self-confessed Scottish lawyer? His hon. Friend's advice was that clause 2 reduces the rights of the consumer. That clause, however, is designed to remove from trading standards officers purely routine tasks that could be carried out by anybody in order to ensure that trading standards officers can protect the rights of consumers who are under attack from a whole range of rogues.

Mr. Skinner : I do not think that the hon. Gentleman believes that. I think that he is making a point on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. Let us be fair. Let us imagine that we are in a grocer's shop in Grantham with a weighing machine--

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Mr. Barron : It has closed down.

Mr. Skinner : It is a cafe now ; it is called the Premier Cafe. Let us go back two or three decades. When the Prime Minister used to serve behind the counter she used to use a weighing machine. Probably an inspector called every so often.

Mr. Wiggin : He still will.

Mr. Skinner : Yes, but he could be anybody. That is why the law has been relaxed. When the Prime Minister was weighing out the dolly mixtures, if it went overweight she used to cut the dolly mixtures in half rather than give too much. She used to cut the heads of the jelly babies. If somebody came in the shop for two ounces of jelly babies, if they were just a touch over the weight, off came their heads. When the Prime Minister sliced the bacon, one could see through it.

It is easy to use the equipment in a faulty fashion. It only takes one tinpot inspector who is interested in making a small fortune from fiddling to come along and say, "I have inspected the equipment under clause 2 of the Bill drawn up by those dodgy lawyers, who produced it when they were so frustrated with the threat to their livelihood posed by the Prime Minister."

The Bill was born out of frustration and a degree of devilment, and, as a result, faulty weighing machines will probably carry out measurements in the Common Market. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South referred to that earlier when he spoke about having to measure in ecus rather than using old-fashioned British measurements. There are foreign lawyers in the Common Market. What will they do with the Bill? They will say, "Have you heard about the Bill that they have passed over in Britain? We have just received a copy of it." They will say that it is cock-eyed--I do not know the French or German for that--but they will say, "This is a tidy old Bill". The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) has just come in. He is a Liberal lawyer. He has come here to lick his wounds. Some of his colleagues have been asked to go on television to explain why the Liberals, or whatever they are called, lost so many seats yesterday. They cannot get Paddy to go on television. He will not appear in order to explain. It is a good job that the hon. and learned Gentleman has come in here as we are discussing whether lawyers, frustrated with the threat that has been posed to their livelihood by the Lord Chancellor's new proposals, would draw up for the Government to pass to Back Benchers Bills that are a little bit dodgy. The hon. and learned Gentleman is a lawyer. What does he think? Could they be so worked up and frustrated that they will say, "We will cause the Government some trouble if they threaten our livelihood."?

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) : I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Government's legislative record on these matters is so poor that they are well capable of creating legislation that gives more work to lawyers without lawyers offering any assistance in that regard.

Mr. Skinner : I reckon that that was a legal answer. I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman would charge for that outside this place.

Mr. Campbell : Two hundred and fifty guineas.

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Mr. Skinner : The hon. and learned Gentleman would charge 250 guineas for that advice. I have been giving advice on the Bill all morning, with a briefing from the Consumers Association in my hand because it is against the Bill. I shall read it out because people in Britain have a right to know why the Bill is defective as it has been drawn up by dodgy Government lawyers.

The Secretary of State for Health has just entered the Chamber. He is another lawyer. Perhaps we shall find out what he thinks. Will the lawyer on the Government Front Bench tell us whose side he is on? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman take the side of those who support the Lord Chancellor, or does he take the side of those who support Lord Hailsham? Does he have a view of his own? Dare he speak his mind? He should tell us today whether he is in the Prime Minister's pocket. What does he say to her in the Cabinet? Has he the guts to speak out? Does he agree with the Secretary of State for Wales about our economic problems? The lawyer who has just entered the Chamber should answer all those questions so that we can find out whether the Bill has been drawn up properly.

The Consumers Association, the publishers of Which ? magazine, has a longstanding reputation in Britain for its reports. Those reports are based on intensive research, and when Radio 4's "Today" and "PM" programmes say that Which ? has produced a report on something, people sit up and take notice. The Consumers Association has produced a report on the Bill and the first paragraph reads :

"Although this Bill appears uncontroversial"--

that is, the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Bill, and clause 2 in particular--

"it does in fact overturn basic measures of consumer protection which have been taken for granted for over 100 years. The Consumers Association urgently requests your support in opposing this Bill." That is what I am doing today.

Mr. Buchan : My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the fact that we have only just discovered that the Bill, through the smuggling out of another Bill, suddenly confronts us. We have to start finding our way though the labyrinths of the Bill, and only now, through the Government's non-response, do we realise the iniquity of the Bill. Now, we are confronted with a proper analysis and know that the Bill that was to be smuggled through under the pretence that it was a private Member's Bill was a Government Bill handed to a Back Bencher. Another private Member's Bill was whipped out of the way for it and the Government hope that they will smuggle it through. Is that not what has happened this morning? I came in here by chance to say that there is something fishy about the Bill. We asked some questions, and before an hour had passed we received a briefing from the Consumers Association defending the people of this

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country saying that the Bill should be opposed. The Government have been caught in a labyrinthine net of their own contrivance and it is up to the House to throw it out with contempt. We have a job on our hands, but it shall be done.

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