HC Deb 22 April 1958 vol 586 cc767-8
37. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that recently hire-purchase interest rates of 70 per cent. on electric fires and 69 per cent. on bicycles have been charged; and if he will take action to limit these interest rates, and so protect both the honest trader and the consumer.

Mr. Erroll

I have seen reports of a recent survey which quoted these rates but indicated that they were exceptional. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir". The Hire-Purchase Acts and the Advertisements (Hire-Purchase) Act, 1957, in my view give adequate protection to the honest trader and to the consumer.

Mr. Osborne

Does my hon. Friend realise that he cannot copy Pilate and wash his hands of a difficult situation like this? Even if these are only exceptional cases, will not he take action to drive the worst type of money lenders out of this business, to protect the "mugs" and "suckers", and see that the honest trader has a square deal?

Mr. Erroll

The honest trader has a square deal, and the public has fair protection through freedom of choice as between one trader and another.

Mr. H. Wilson

But does not this make utter nonsense of the Government's credit Counties area, respectively, for the years 1951 to 1957.

Mr. Erroll

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the Answer: New buildings and extensions over 5,000 square feet in manufacturing industry which were completed in the areas and for the period specified are as follows:

squeeze policy? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the Board of Trade itself has recently produced figures showing that there are 1,227 of these hire-purchase finance companies unregistered and uncontrolled? Is he further aware that, quite apart from these fantastic rates, which do apply if people want to borrow the money, considerable sums of hot money are coming into this country from Switzerland and elsewhere at very high interest rates which impose very heavy charges on our exchanges? Will he pluck up courage to look at this whole business again?

Mr. Erroll

No. The particular examples quoted were extreme rates discovered in a survey of some 400 hire-purchase and credit-sale transactions. I do not think that there is any need for further control than that which already exists.

Mrs. Mann

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of these replies, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at the first opportunity.