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Lord Cochrane of Cults: I rise to oppose the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, for the following reasons. Taking subsection (3) of the amendment first, what it is really suggesting is a very bureaucratic method of product recall. The Committee will remember that washing machines, irons, even cars of every sort, are occasionally subject to manufacturers' recall and there is a great deal of advertising in that regard. Regarding gas appliances, there is no reason to depart from that well-established and well-understood system. It may surprise a few Members of the Committee to learn that I am a pensioner. I note that subsection (2) of the amendment proposes that it is not the duty of the transporter to keep a register of consumers of pensionable age who require assistance, but rather of those who may require assistance. If I looked more doddery or were disconnected, would I get on to the list? I believe that the noble Lord, with the best of intentions, is proposing to set up a bureaucratic monster for which there is no present need.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I find the reference to pensionable age extraordinary because there are people who need help due to some lack of tactile ability, perhaps not even to an extent where they consider themselves disabled. There are people who suffer from Alzheimer's who are way below pensionable age. To blanket all pensioners together is illogical and I do not think that part of the amendment is right.
Earl Ferrers: My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter is nothing if not persistent as regards pensionable ages and he is supported by my noble friend behind me. From the point of view of the Bill, pensionable age is described in paragraph 49 to Schedule 3 and of course there is always the difficulty of trying to include someone in a particular group because as soon as one does that everyone says, "You ought to include or exclude someone else". For the purposes of the Bill, pensionable age is described as such. I quite agree with my noble friend that there are people who are not old but who may have other kinds of difficulties or indeed disabilities. However, they are dealt with separately.
I agree with the thoughts behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, but I am bound to say that I have some difficulty with the means which are suggested as the amendment would cut across the proposals which we already have in place in regard to safety which is of enormous importance. Our proposals are to put the principal obligations in respect of assisting
There is a requirementthis may surprise my noble friend Lord Skelmersdalein Condition 17 of a gas supplier's licence for suppliers to keep a list of domestic customers who are pensioners or who are disabled and who request to be identified as such. This requirement is placed on suppliers as they are to provide special services for those customers. However, there is also a requirement that the information on the list should be passed on to the relevant public gas transporter and this is in order that the transporter can undertake the requirement in his own licence to ensure that elderly and disabled customers are not deprived of adequate heating and cooking facilities where the conveyance of gas to those premises has been disconnected for safety reasons.
The safety of gas appliances is already dealt with by a provision of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations and by the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations. The manufacturers of gas appliances are already obliged to meet stringent conditions to ensure that these items are safe before they are sold. In practice, the present legislative and regulatory framework has proved effective in ensuring that manufacturers also respond quickly to the emergence of dangerous design faults in gas appliances. I think that the safety of these people and the concerns of the elderly and of the disabled are taken care of.
Lord Haskel: I thank the Minister for that response. We are here concerned about those who require special services and that is not entirely limited to those who are of pensionable age or who are disabled. Special services can be relevant to people who have Alzheimer's at an earlier age. As regards the comment about product recall
Lord Haskel: I quite agree. As I said, on the question of product recall, one person's product recall is of course another person's preventive maintenance. It seems to me that there is a difference of principle here. We feel that it is the transporters who can provide these services because they are the only people who have the facilities to do so. The suppliers may wish to supply these services but they will not have the facilities and they will not have the ability to do it because they are naturally dealing with a much narrower area. As there is a difference of principle here I feel I ought to take the opinion of the Committee.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: I should inform the Committee that in the Division on Amendment No. 96A the number voting Content was 86, and not 85 as announced.
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