HC Deb 16 June 1959 vol 607 cc211-3
2. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that confusion exists among traders as to the requirements of the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act, 1957, and, in particular, whether an advertisement which otherwise falls within the scope of the Act is removed from it by inclusion of the word "from", in front of an indication of the amount or fraction of the deposit or in front of an indication of the amount of any instalment payable; and if he will introduce amending legislation to clarify this matter.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Rodgers)

I am advised that the phraseology mentioned would not remove an advertisement from the scope of the Act.

Miss Burton

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that for once I am delighted with the reply which he has given? Could he see that it is given a certain amount of publicity? Is it within the province of the Board of Trade to let the Press have a copy of the advertisement which I sent to him, because certain "wide boys" in the advertising profession have been trying to get away with it?

Mr. Rodgers

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks, in the first place, and, in the second place, I should like to look into the suggestion which she has made.

11. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade, of the nine cases found by his Department to involve possible breach of the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act, 1957, how many were due to ignorance and how many to other causes; what these causes were; and what action he has decided to take in the matter.

Mr. J. Rodgers

Investigations showed that in six of the cases there was no deliberate intention to break the law. In the other three cases there was a prima facie assumption that a deliberate breach of the law had been committed, but rightly or wrongly, they were not at the time considered significant enough to warrant prosecution.

Miss Burton

This is most extraordinary. Does the Parliamentary Secretary recall that last week my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) asked whether the Board of Trade was now accepting a plea of ignorance as a defence for wrongdoing? Why is the Board of Trade never prepared to help the shopper? Since the President of the Board of Trade told me last week that he had not yet decided what action he would take, does it mean that since then he has decided to take no action in these three cases?

Mr. Rodgers

If the hon. Lady studies my Answer, she will find that I have not said that we do not propose to take any action.

17. Mr. Beswick

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to collect information as to the observance or otherwise of the provisions of the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act; and what further action he proposes to take in cases where the provisions of that Act have not been observed.

Mr. J. Rodgers

Until they were disbanded in October, 1958, the Board of Trade's 27 hire purchase control inspectors watched for breaches of the Act and advised traders. A special study was made of a wide sample of advertisements and complaints from traders have been investigated, in some cases by visits by the Board's officers. The Board is considering prosecution in a few cases where in its view the circumstances justify it.

Mr. Beswick

Do I gather from what the hon. Gentleman says that this team of investigators has been abandoned? Is he not perfectly aware, as all hon. Members on this side are aware, that this Act, which he helped to put on the Statute Book, is being neglected by many people? Does he think that that is good enough? Should not the Act be enforced?

Mr. Rodgers

We certainly agree that the Act should be enforced and, as I informed the House on 14th May, we at the Board of Trade are anxious that it should be observed. However, it is not the Board's duty to be the sole prosecutor under that Act.