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Session 2000-01
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) (Amendment) Order 2001

First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

Monday 19 March 2001

[Mr. John McWilliam in the Chair]

Draft Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) (Amendment) Order 2001

4.30 pm

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Dr. Kim Howells): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) (Amendment) Order 2001.

I welcome the opportunity to introduce the proposed order, which is being made under powers contained in the Weights and Measures Act 1985. It might be helpful for me to provide some background details about the order's purpose. It permits the use of 70 ml capacity measures for trade purposes of measuring gin, rum, vodka and whisky, which are collectively defined as ``intoxicating liquor''. I thought that it would be useful to find out what a millilitre is; it is one thousandth of one litre.

The Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) (Amendment) Order 1994 introduced 35 ml quantities into the Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order 1988. That made 35 ml, or multiples thereof, a legal unit of measurement in which intoxicating liquor could be sold. The 70 ml capacity measure is introduced as a consequence. While the standard single for intoxicating liquor in England and Wales has been 25 ml, the 35 ml measure was introduced because larger measures had traditionally been used in Scotland where, I am reliably informed, few people drink singles. I should clarify that 35 ml measures may legally be used throughout the country, although, in practice, they are in general use only in Scotland.

Having permitted 35 ml measures to be used as single measures, it is now appropriate to permit 70 ml double thimble measures to be used when customers request a double serving. The benefit is that bar staff can carry out a single measuring operation when a double measure is requested without having to fill a 35 ml thimble measure twice. There will be far fewer complaints from customers, claiming that they have lost a few drips as a result of the barman having to push the optic twice. The introduction of the 70 ml measures does not mean that establishments selling intoxicating liquor must hold 70 ml thimble measures. The change simply provides them with an optional alternative means of measuring and serving 70 ml of intoxicating liquor.

4.33 pm

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton): I can understand why the country is clamouring for large doubles. With stealth taxes, huge amounts of regulation and falling productivity and stock markets—not to mention the crisis in agriculture—there are many reasons why the Scots and English should be demanding larger measures of intoxicating liquor.

It baffles me that we have laws about the measures used to serve drinks, but, given that we do, we have no problem with the order. I am perplexed that such a statutory instrument should be made by an affirmative resolution; I understand that the reason is the principal Act. However, it is odd that we have an affirmative resolution for such uncontroversial and small matters, while a whole raft of negative resolution statutory instruments that are far more extensive in their scope and controversial in their aims go through on the nod.

In its regulatory impact assessment of the order, the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association states that the customer must have a clear, unobstructed view of the measurement and the transfer of the liquid to the customer. The BLRA said that that presented practical difficulties for its members who might, for example, be serving customers in a restaurant area, some distance from the bar. Will the Minister explain the practical solution to the problem? What happens when a restaurant in a pub is some distance from the bar? What happens in such places if a customer demands a double or a single whisky when restaurateurs are required by law to serve the drink in view of the customer?

Does the Government intend to go ahead with the Beer Order, consultation on which has just finished, in which the licensed trader—

The Chairman: Order. That is rather wide of the order that we are discussing.

Mr. Gibb: It is; I had hoped that I would be able to say more than one sentence before you leapt in, Mr. McWilliam. As you have done so, I rest my case.

Dr. Howells: I thank the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) for his constructive approach. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd), the Government Whip, has suggested that in restaurants the measures are usually a matter of trust, but I shall check the arrangements, as the hon. Gentleman makes a good point.

I understand that thimble measures, as they are called, must be used to measure servings of spirits in a restaurant, as they are in a public house, where the measures are regularly tested. I shall try to find out the technical arrangements for restaurants where it would not be possible for a customer to see the whisky being measured out.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) (Amendment) Order 2001.

        Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
McWilliam, Mr. John (Chairman)
Cann, Mr.
Dowd, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Gapes, Mr.
Gibb Mr.
Gray, Mr.
Howells, Dr.
Marshall-Andrews, Mr.
Winterton, Ms Rosie


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