|Previous Section||Home Page|
Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : Does the Minister realise that many of us- -on both sides of the House--have been saying for more than two years that the Serbs were not interested in diplomacy, discussions or talking, and that they were interested in a Greater Serbia ? Does he now agree that, as the international community has failed so dismally, we cannot sit in the House of Commons and say that we will prevent the people of Bosnia, including the Government and the Muslims, from being armed and able to defend themselves if we are not prepared to do it ?
Column 654that it implies the ending of the humanitarian operation in Bosnia. She must also realise that there are practical difficulties in implementing such a policy, given that it would require the repeal of Security Council resolution. As Russia--a permanent member of the Security Council--has made it clear that it would not support such a resolution, any ending of the arms embargo would have to be in defiance of a UN resolution. I am afraid that that cannot be ignored.
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North) : May I take this opportunity, which has been denied me by parliamentary convention for two years, to pay tribute to members of our armed forces who have fought the humanitarian war in Bosnia, sometimes at the ultimate cost ? Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he has given, and will give, General Rose the UK military support that he demands ? Was not General Rose right to say that wars cannot be fought from white trucks ?
Does it not behove those who appear to wish to fight to the last drop of somebody else's blood to say clearly how many troops they wish to send, how long they want them to stay there, and how many body bags they are prepared to see come home ? If they are not prepared to do so, should they not recognise that there is a limit to what the United Nations can achieve ?
Mr. Rifkind : May I use this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend for his sterling work as Parliamentary Private Secretary to my colleague, the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence ? I agree with his assessment that it is important that we do not create false expectations. Nothing could be crueller to the people of Bosnia than to use rhetoric that creates an expectation which, in the event, cannot be fuilfilled.
Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South) : As the Government's current policy is based on the Serbians not turning their fire on United Nations personnel but confining their attack and slaughter to civilians and others in Bosnia, is there not a moral imperative to permit the Bosnians the right to defend themselves ?
Mr. Rifkind : I can only repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) : this is a dilemma, and there is no simple answer to it. But the hon. Gentleman must also question the implications for the UN humanitarian operation, which, I notice, he carefully avoided referring to.
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those hon. Members who subscribe to the "something must be done" school of thought and talk airily about committing more troops to Bosnia, should be pressed to say exactly what they mean, so that their constituents can weigh up the dangers to which those hon. Members are prepared to expose British troops ?
Mr. Rifkind : My hon. Friend puts the case eloquently and reasonably. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will realise that if this House is to command respect, it must not call for policy through rhetorical flourishes unless it is prepared to live with the consequences of what it recommends.
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : My right hon. and learned Friend has rightly described to the House the vicious and nasty civil war in what was Yugoslavia. Bearing in mind the events of the past few days and the huge contribution
Column 655made by British troops towards reducing the slaughter in that country, does he feel that the UN mandate can continue to be applied without further resources from other countries, and the burden being shared by other nations ? If that proves impossible, can British troops continue to carry out their present role without that further help ?
Mr. Rifkind : I said in my statement that careful thought will have to be given to how the mandate is operating and whether anything is needed to increase its effectiveness. At present, we should attach importance to the successful achievements which General Rose and his colleagues have to their credit in Sarajevo and the Croat and Muslim areas of central Bosnia. Their achievements have brought a welcome peace to many hundreds of thousands of people. Were that to be put in jeopardy by a withdrawal of the UN, it would be a heavy responsibility, on which we would not wish to embark unless there was no credible alternative.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) : In rightly stressing the importance of having realistic objectives, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that that must extend also to existing UN stated objectives ? Does he accept that there is no historical example of safe havens being maintained by air power alone, the first unsuccessful attempt at that being Dien Bien Phu ?
Mr. Rifkind : I agree with my hon. Friend that the use of air power alone will rarely have more than a limited military consequence, which must be borne in mind in any statements of policy by either the Security Council or others interested in these matters.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) : Is it not remarkable that those who advocate more troops and a more aggressive military stance are at a loss to explain where they will get those extra troops ? Is it not now clear that, unless we can sustain our peacekeeping role and allow our troops to protect themselves effectively--that requires United States involvement to have any credibility--we shall have to look seriously at withdrawal ? I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that it was Lord Owen who drew our attention to the fact that we might have to withdraw.
Mr. Rifkind : Certainly the United Kingdom makes the second largest contribution of forces to the United Nations in Bosnia. I do not believe that anyone would want to suggest that we are not carrying our full share of responsibilities. If there were a need for a significant number of additional UN forces, that burden would have to be shared more widely.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend be more forthcoming about nations that have promised troops and not delivered them, and about those that have not promised any at all ? Surely that is the point that gung-ho types opposite should take into account before running the risk of shedding the blood of our own forces.
Mr. Rifkind : The immediate objective is to meet the need for the 8,000 personnel whom General Rose has said he requires to carry out his current policy. If the countries that have pledged troops are able to ensure their arrival, that requirement will have been achieved.
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : What discussions has my right hon. and learned Friend had with the Russians in the past 24 hours, and what discussions does he plan with them ? Does he agree that Mr. Churkin has been disappointed by the response from Belgrade, but that any hopes that we may have must rest with the Russians exerting due influence on Belgrade ? After all, that is where the sheer energy for this brutal war has been coming from.
Mr. Rifkind : My hon. Friend is correct to say that the Russians have been constructive over the past few days. The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Kozyrev, has been in Belgrade ; Mr. Churkin has been negotiating in Bosnia. It is therefore important that all the permanent members of the Security Council speak with a single voice on this matter, as far as possible.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : The Secretary of State for Defence has continuously referred to the "warring factions" of the Croats, Bosnians and Serbs, ignoring the American-brokered agreement between the Croats and the Muslims. That agreement makes it clear that the only aggressors in the current circumstances are the Serbs. The Muslims are not trying to break out of Gorazde to gain territory, certainly. Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman essentially telling us that the west, the international community, is incapable of dealing with Serbian aggression ?
Mr. Rifkind : The events in Gorazde of the past few days have undoubtedly been the consequence of Serb aggression, but there still are a number of warring factions in Bosnia. One of the British soldiers who lost their lives in the past week was killed by Serbian action ; a Bosnian Government soldier shot the other one dead. The hon. Gentleman must therefore appreciate that the war continues, although I welcome the progress made in respect of the Croat-Muslim relationship.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This statement has run for nearly an hour, showing that there is widespread interest in and concern about the terrible events in Bosnia. You well know that you have said in the past that, when applications are made for an emergency debate, you are highly unlikely to consider them unless there has been a specific change of Government policy.
The horrors of Bosnia continue day by day, and the Government are clearly unwilling to provide a debate in their time which would give critics of Government policy time to expand on our arguments and a chance to answer the challenges that have been made to us during questions on this statement.
If the Government on Thursday do not announce a debate on Bosnia next week, would you be prepared to accept an application under Standing Orders for an emergency debate, to allow the Government to explain their policies on Bosnia, and to give critics of Government policy time to advance our arguments ?
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that the hon. Member for Bradford, West has made an important point. People outside do not understand why this grave international crisis is not properly debated in this House. In the whole of the two and a half years or more since the Serbian aggression began in Croatia, we have had a handful of debates, and most of those were not exclusively on the Yugoslav situation. Therefore, may I ask you, Madam Speaker, to consider most sympathetically the point of order by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) : that, if a debate is not announced on Thursday, you might be minded to consider its importance next week ?
Madam Speaker : I never divulge my thinking in advance. The matter is rather hypothetical, and the House will have to leave it to me. I have clearly heard what hon. Members on both sides have had to say about the matter.
Mr. Michael Clapham, supported by Mr. Eric Clarke, Mr. Eric Illsley, Mr. Mike O Brien, Mr. Tony Patchett, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mr. Kevin Hughes, Mr. Ted Rowlands, Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe, presented a Bill to amend the Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) Regulations to reduce to 10 years the aggregate period of underground work required to qualify for benefits in cases of chronic bronchitis and emphysema ; to amend the regulations relating to medical examinations for these diseases ; to amend provisions relating to the percentage levels of disablement required to qualify for benefits in respect of these diseases ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon 22 April, and to be printed. [Bill 92.]
Order for Second Reading read.
The Bill represents an important measure for industry and commerce in the United Kingdom. Though long and, in many areas, complex, the Bill will make it easier for industry and commerce to register their trade marks and will provide owners of registered trade marks with wider infringement rights.
The Bill will harmonise our law with the laws of other members of the European Union. That is important, because business wants to have the same registration criteria and protection for its trade marks as are offered in other member states. It also implements our obligations in respect of trade marks arising from the final act of the GATT Uruguay round which was signed last week.
The Bill is also deregulatory, because it sweeps away the need for businesses to present the Patent Office with legal documentation for relatively straightforward changes to trade marks registration. The importance of trade marks in day-to-day commercial activity is easily recognised. I doubt whether any of us could go through the day without using someone's trade mark, but trade marks are seldom recognised by most people as valuable assets. That is, of course, exactly what they are. Some have been valued in company balance sheets at several hundred millions of pounds, and the transfer of ownership of registered trade marks internationally each year is valued at billions of pounds.
There are some 350,000 trade marks on the UK register. Each year, there are approximately 35,000 new applications for registration. Therefore, it is important that the statutory framework that surrounds this important area of commercial activity should reflect the needs of businesses. The Government believe that the Bill does that.
The Bill completely replaces the current Trade Marks Act 1938. At present, the law does nothing to support the international marketing strategies of our large exporting companies ; nor does it reflect the needs of small and medium-sized companies for an easy registration system.
When we started to discuss the draft European directive on trade marks with representatives of industry and commerce, it became obvious that there was a need to reform the whole of our law on trade marks. Therefore, the Government set out in the White Paper "Reform of Trade Mark Law" proposals for legislation. The White Paper was published over three years ago and received a very favourable response from business.
Since that time, extensive consultation has continued with organisations representing industry, commerce, the legal and trade mark professions and consumers, usually through the Standing Advisory Committee on Industrial Property. Of course, that does not mean that the particular wishes of every sector have been met, but the result is a Bill which commands the full support of industry and companies large and small. The Government believe that it
Column 659reflects industry s needs for a law that maximises the protection given to owners of registered trade marks, yet reduces to a minimum the amount of regulation. It means that the direct costs to industry and commerce will be reduced and, therefore, their ability to increase investment in product development and marketing will be enhanced.
Part I of the Bill implements the directive and, in doing so, establishes a new code for the registration of trade marks. Clauses 1 and 3, in essence, provide for a mark to qualify for registration if it is capable of distinguishing one trader's goods or services from those of another. This means that it should be possible to register as a trade mark, for example, a container or a geographic name, where those have proved to be distinctive in the marketplace. Those are unregistrable under the current law, which defines a trade mark in a narrow and restrictive way.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : My hon. Friend will have read in the press that some manufacturers seek to use the Bill as a means of restricting or phasing out own-label products. Does he agree that own-label products in the grocery trade--about which the Minister for Industry, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury), who is also present on the Front Bench, will be happy to inform my hon. Friend--offer the consumer greater choice and more competitive prices, and that it would be wrong to use the Bill to phase them out ?
Clauses 9 to 13 specify the rights given under registration. The infringement rights are widened. Under the 1938 Act, the owner of a registered mark can sue someone for infringement only if that person uses the same mark on the same goods or services as those for which the mark is registered. The Bill extends infringement rights to cover similar goods or services. That means that if the owner of a registered mark observes that his mark is being used by someone else on goods or services that are the same as, or similar to, those covered by the registration, he will be able to sue that other person for infringement and seek damages.
The directive is the result of negotiations in which the UK participated fully. United Kingdom industry and commerce were, through interest groups, fully consulted. Harmonisation occurs only in those areas where differences in the substantive law of member states could distort competition. The directive does not affect procedures connected with the registration of a trade mark. For example, it requires member states to protect the rights of earlier registered marks, but does not tell them how that should be done. We decided, after consulting users of the trade mark system, that in the United Kingdom the registrar of trade marks will continue to carry out a search of marks already registered and to refuse an application for registration where that conflicts with an earlier registered trade mark. Clause 5 reflects that. Small companies, in particular, will benefit.
As I said, the Bill deregulates in a number of ways. In particular, the procedures for the registration of assignments and licences of trade marks, which are also dealt with in part I, will be much simplified. The current law requires the registrar to fulfil a kind of consumer
Column 660protection role. That is an old-fashioned notion. Other bodies and modern legislation can do that job far more effectively. Customers are far more sophisticated than they were in 1938, when the current trade mark law was enacted. More important, it is not in the interests of the trade mark owner to do anything that would cause confusion in the market--and registration could be revoked if, through the actions of the proprietor, the trade mark becomes misleading. It will not be the registrar's job to police the assignment or licensing of trade marks. The present requirement for the registrar to examine in detail the deeds of assignment and the licence agreements will be discontinued. That will reduce the burden on owners of marks as well as the running costs of the trade mark registry.
Industry tells us that will save it more than £30 million a year. In addition, the resources saved in the Patent Office will be applied to the more positive objective of meeting customer service targets. Current trade mark law does nothing to support the international marketing strategies of companies in the United Kingdom. Part II remedies that. It makes provisions for the United Kingdom to ratify the Madrid protocol concerning the international registration of trade marks. That will make it much easier for UK industry to protect its marks overseas.
An international trade mark registration system known as the Madrid agreement has been in operation for more than 100 years and has a membership of more than 30 countries. That membership has, however, been fairly static. It has not appealed to countries that, like the UK, examine trade marks before registering them. They include the United States of America, Canada, Japan and the Scandinavian countries.
For that reason, a protocol to the Madrid agreement was agreed in 1989, which overcomes all the disadvantages of the old agreement. The UK took a leading role in the negotiations on the protocol and we signed it. Ratification, however, needs the Bill, which provides for the making of regulations to bring the protocol into force here. Once the protocol comes into force, a simple arrangement will enable UK companies to obtain an international registration, covering any or all of the countries party to the protocol. The registration will have the same rights and legal effect in those countries as a national application.
That will be of considerable financial benefit to UK trade mark owners. At present, a UK trade mark owner who wants to protect his mark overseas must apply separately for registration in each of the countries concerned. That involves observing whatever procedures each country requires and paying fees in local currency. Some countries insist on the use of a lawyer. All that, as can be imagined, involves a great deal of trouble and expense. Industry told us that the new international registration arrangement should save it up to a further £30 million per year--a considerable benefit.
A further option for companies wishing to protect their trade marks overseas will be the Community trade mark, which will come into being as a result of an EC Council regulation that was adopted last year. The Community trade mark office will open for business in about 1996, in Alicante. The test for obtaining a Community trade mark will, of course, be the same as that applying in all member states. But, through a single application, a proprietor will be able to secure a unitary right that is effective in all
Column 661member states. Therefore, in the European Union, industry has a further choice when managing its international trade mark portfolios.
Parts III and IV of the Bill deal with administration and general provisions. I should like to single out the provision dealing with trade marks counterfeiting. That is a growing problem throughout the world and the United Kingdom is not immune to it. The offence trades on the reputation of famous and established trade marks. Unscrupulous traders copy goods sold under well-known trade marks. That devalues the reputation of the trade mark, because the counterfeit goods are frequently of inferior quality and might even be dangerous. Moreover, it also harms traders in the genuine goods, who, consequently, lose business. The Bill, therefore, will strengthen the protection against trade mark counterfeiting.
It is an essential ingredient of the offence under the current trade mark law that a trader intends that a consumer should believe that the goods were genuine. There has, however, been a dramatic growth in the practice of selling counterfeit goods clearly advertised as "brand copies".
Until recently, it was believed that that was, none the less, an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. However, the divisional court held in a recent case--Kent county council v . Price--that this was not so, observing that the Trade Descriptions Act existed to protect consumers and, as the defendant was advertising the goods as fake, they were not deceived. There was, therefore, no offence.
However, as the Bill is concerned with the protection of trade marks, clause 87 defines the offence in terms of unauthorised use of the mark. That protects the legitimate rights of trade mark owners. Even if an unscrupulous trader sells the goods as "genuine fakes", it will still be an offence, because he will be deliberately exploiting someone's mark without their permission.
Some concerns were expressed, both in another place and elsewhere, that the anti-counterfeiting provisions in the Bill went too far and could have made the person who inadvertently infringes someone else's trade mark liable to criminal charges. They felt that such infringements should be left to the civil courts. The Government believe that the changes that have been made in another place remove that danger and better focus the criminal sanctions on deliberate counterfeiting.
It will not have escaped notice of hon. Members that one of the issues surrounding the Bill has been given wide coverage in the press and on television--the issued termed "lookalikes", which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) raised earlier. The issue, however, is a new one. It was not raised until the end of last year, despite the fact that the Government consulted exhaustively on the White Paper and the Bill for some five years. Last December, a number of large firms banded together to form the British Brand Owners and Producers Group, with the aim of pressing for the inclusion of a clause in the Bill to curb what have become known as "lookalike products". These are own-branded products allegedly designed to look like the brand leader's goods. It is claimed, for example, that supermarkets sell their instant coffee in jars with labels designed to look like other, well-known brands. Industry is divided and although the brand owners are pressing their case vigorously, many others feel that existing remedies, such as passing-off, are
Column 662adequate, or that it is not a matter for the Bill. Furthermore, many organisations have emphasised that distinctive shapes and packaging will be registrable under the Bill.
During consideration in another place, an amendment was tabled that would have made it an infringement of a trade mark to market goods designed to look like those of the trade mark owner, even though the actual trade mark was not used. The Government resisted that ; it was, in any case, incompatible with the EC trade marks directive. Those advocating action then changed the amendment to introduce a new cause of action for unfair competition. The Government, therefore, decided to consult via the Standing Advisory Committee on Industrial Property. The committee was a channel through which the discussions on the White Paper and the Bill were carried out, and it is appropriate that it should be involved here.
The advisory committee met on 30 March and discussed the issue. Many other organisations with an interest in the "lookalikes" issue, including the British Brand Owners and Producers Group, were present. Each organisation put its case, and made written submissions. The Government have not yet taken a view. We are continuing with the consultation process, but at this stage we do not believe that it is an issue that can be addressed under trade marks legislation.
Dame Peggy Fenner : I must tell my hon. Friend that there will be considerable relief that he does not believe that the action of the British Brand Owners and Producers Group in its amendment in the other place forms a proper part of the Bill. He will know, no doubt, that National Opinion Polls carried out a survey on whether people can be confused by so-called "lookalikes", and found that 78 per cent. of consumers, who, as my hon. Friend said, are very sophisticated, are never confused. MORI carried out an even more recent survey and came to exactly the same figure. I hope that he will regard this as a competition matter and not at all a matter for the Bill.
Mr. McLoughlin : My hon. Friend has adequately voiced the concerns of other people as well as the Brand Owners and Producers Group, which has voiced other concerns. This is something that, obviously, will be addressed throughout our consultation process. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her view.
My hon. Friend said that this was a relatively new subject in that the representations had come fairly late. I stress that they did so because the problem is growing, and growing daily. As I heard the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) say, one has only to look at the Coca- Cola issue in Sainsbury today.
Mr. McLoughlin : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his cautionary word about opinion polls. I wholly agree with him. I never agree with them unless they say what I want them to say. That is possibly the line that we
Column 663politicians always take. I am, therefore, very cautious about opinion polls. But he rightly points out the way in which this issue has, perhaps, come more to the fore. It did so rather late. The Bill had been widely debated for a long time. That was the point that I was stressing. We must address ourselves very carefully to whether this would be a right issue for the Bill. That was the point and concern that I was reflecting to the House a while ago.
The Bill, though long and complex, meets the Government's objectives in relation to UK industry. It simplifies and deregulates the national trade mark registration system and, therefore, saves time and money. Reduced costs will assist UK industry to compete in international markets. The provisions in the Bill for the Community trade mark and the Madrid protocol will help also. But, perhaps more important, the Bill represents what users of the trade mark system want. I hope that the Bill will command the support of both sides of the House and that we will give it a fair wind. The sooner that it is on the statute book, the sooner will the benefits start to accrue. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South) : Hon. Members on both sides of the House welcome the Bill : we understand the importance of trade marks to both British business and national and international trade. Unlike the Bill, however, the debate is concerned with the Government's delays and dithering over the presentation of legislation.
As we all know, trade marks are among a company's most valuable assets. Household names such as Persil and Pedigree Chum are all protected by trade mark legislation. Trade marks are a token of the esteem in which the public hold consumer products, and of a company's investment in achieving quality in a product.
The problem is the time that it has taken for the Bill to be presented. On the Government's own admission--the Minister has just said as much--the measure is likely to save British business £30 million. Why have the Government dithered for four years, while a White Paper published in 1990 has gathered dust on the Minister's shelf ? He has had to blow the cobwebs off it.
The Minister must also explain why, during those years of dithering, businesses spent an unnecessary £90 million that would have been better spent on jobs in the businesses concerned and on taking up opportunities that they lost because of the delay. Those costs--and £90 million is the Government's figure, not mine--have all been passed on to the consumer. Businesses have begged the Government for action, but little has been done.
In October 1991, a letter to The Times stated :
"Industry will continue to be deprived for at least two years and probably more of the proper means for the protection of its trade marks."
The delay has cost business dear. Despite that plea, however, nothing was done.
In June 1992, even Conservative Members were concerned about the Government's dithering. In reply to a parliamentary question, the then Minister, the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) reminded the House that there had been many representations on the matter from business--from the
Column 664Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, Sir John Banham, to the president of the Institute of Trade Mark Agents, Richard Abnett.
The Minister said that there was no time : that the Government's priorities did not allow them to legislate, although business was losing £30 million a year because of the delay. Yet in that very year, although they could spare no time for an important Bill for businesses, the Government found time for the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill and 51 other measures that were deemed to have a higher priority than the reform of trade mark law. There was no movement for yet another full year--until the end of 1993, when a Bill was at last produced and debated in the House of Lords.
That, however, was only part of the culmination of a number of lengthy delays. More than 20 years ago, Sir Reginald Mathys reported on British trade mark law and practice, and made a number of recommendations to amend the law. None of those recommendations have been implemented in the intervening 20 years, save one--the requirement to register trade marks.
The White Paper published in 1990 followed extensive consultation on the Mathys plan. During the White Paper's consultation period, businesses were asked to make representations by the end of 1990 ; no action was taken for three years, however. Apparently, the Government had other priorities. Certainly, the President of the Board of Trade has had other priorities recently--for instance, ceasing to be President of the Board of Trade as quickly as possible.
We have four key concerns : the issue of "lookalike" products, the problem of brand copies and disclaimers, the return of seized copied goods to the copier and the future and role of the Patent Office. Recently, there has been much belated lobbying on the issue of lookalike products. On one side, some manufacturers and copyright holders fear that the public might make a mistake in their local grocer's shop or supermarket--that, for instance, they might mistake Coca-Cola for Sainsbury's cola. On the other side, are the British Retail Consortium, the Consumers Association and the National Consumer Council, all of which believe that public choice would be restricted if--in the Bill or in future--the Government introduced provisions to protect packaging in itself, as a concept, and to prevent non -branded goods from being marketed in packaging that might resemble that of branded copies.
In fact, non-branded goods are often merely using packaging that the public have come to accept as symbolising a certain type of product, rather than the particular product being offered by the branded producer. We all find it useful, for instance, to see yellow bottles of washing-up liquid when we are shopping : the colour tells us that the fragrance is lemon. Similarly, the red tops of some coffee jars tell us that the coffee is decaffeinated. Those who lobby for the banning of non-branded similarities would condemn consumers to a lack of choice and much higher prices. The Consumers Association estimates that non-branded goods are between 20 and 25 per cent. cheaper than branded goods.
If the House accepts the arguments for an amendment now or later, it will pander to some of the companies with near-monopolistic market shares. Procter and Gamble and Unilever have 87 per cent. of the market share in detergents ; Kelloggs has 57 per cent. of the share in cornflakes. Last year, Kelloggs was involved in a
Column 665disgraceful attempt to stop its cornflakes being sold at a discount by Shoprite and the Great Northern Co-op chains because it wanted to set the price ; no doubt it colluded with other outlets that were not prepared to cut the price of Kelloggs cornflakes. Nestle has more than half the market share in instant coffee, and Pedigree- -which I praised earlier--has built up nearly 60 per cent. of a sector of the dog food market.
Mr. Griffiths : I do not think so. The packaging of some products that I buy looks remarkably like some branded packaging, and the contents also look very similar. I was taking it for granted that I could buy the original product at a discount. Let us say, however, that I was wrong, and that I was buying an inferior product. In this sector of the market, where products often cost pennies rather than pounds, the scope for a consumer to make an irretrievable mistake or to be deceived is much more limited, and the scope for damage to the consumer is narrower as well. Provided the consumer is not being deliberately deceived into thinking that he is buying branded goods and the manufacturer is not being cheated out of moneys, I can see no harm in it.
Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) : The hon. Gentleman gave figures showing that Kelloggs remains the brand leader. It remains so not because of the protection of the Bill but because it has marketed a product that people want to buy. Is not that far and away the best practice, because people are capable of making a rational choice ? The hon. Gentleman is right in his line of argument : the suggestion that branding requires the additional protection of law is contrary to the consumer's interest.
Mr. Griffiths : The hon. Member makes a forceful point. The second matter that I wish to deal with is disclaimers, which were mentioned by the Minister. I am sorry to say that his interpretation seems to differ from that of the industry or of trading standards officers and other enforcement officers. I hope to have a chance to question him further on that in Committee. One of the problems is that people running car boot sales at the disreputable end of the market, as against the majority of highly reputable market stalls, are getting away with selling illegal fakes and copies by putting up a sign declaring that goods are copies. It is no comfort for businesses that have invested in the development of a product and have tried to ensure its quality to find that it is a defence in law for someone who has illegally manufactured similar goods at far lower cost and of a far lower quality to say that they are copies.
Kent county council trading standards officers have drawn my attention to problems that have arisen when counterfeit items have been seized. I received a letter dated 2 September 1993 from the British Phonographic Institute on the problems of securing convictions. It believes that
"the stance adopted by the CPS will enable criminals to trade in illegal goods with impunity especially in the wake of a recent decision of the Divisional Court",
which the Minister cited,
"in Kent County Council' v. Price which has permitted the use of disclaimers on counterfeit goods as a defence to charges under