HC Deb 18 June 1969 vol 785 cc461-2
13. Mr. Brooks

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will set up an inquiry into the activities of trade protection associations and the methods they employ to seek recovery of alleged debts.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

It would be premature to set up such an inquiry until the Government have decided what action to take on the recommendation of the Committee on the Enforcement of Judgment Debts that unreasonable harassment of debtors should be made a criminal offence.

Mr. Brooks

In view of the fact that the committee confirmed the existence of some highly disreputable tactics involving intimidation and blackmail, has not the matter to be dealt with urgently? Speaking as one who has had a little personal experience of the arm-twisting methods employed, may I urge my hon. Friend that this part of the Committee's recommendations be acted upon forthwith?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am sure that the whole House will deplore some of the disreputable methods used to harass debtors. But we must make up our minds on this before deciding which action to take.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is the hon. Lady aware that, following recent legislation, there is a small but growing number of layabouts who contrive to live in London all but rent-free except for occasional down-payments and on debts that they never intend to pay?

Mrs. Dunwoody

One can deal easily with people who are layabouts without making it difficult for people who are genuine debtors and are being harassed unnecessarily.