HC Deb 17 November 1970 vol 806 cc1027-8
27. Mr. Golding

asked the Attorney-General what steps he intends to take to strengthen consumer protection following the publication of the Consumer Council's Report, "Justice out of Reach".

31. Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Attorney-General if he will consider the implementation of the recommendations of the document, "Justice out of Reach", a copy of which has been sent to him, with particular regard to tour operators and their dissatisfied customers; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

My noble friend the Lord Chancellor has considered the report. There are a number of objections to its proposals, but my noble Friend is concerned to improve the procedure in county courts with a view to enabling small claims to be more easily litigated with or without professional representation. He hopes to bring forward his own proposals to this end.

Mr. Golding

Is the Attorney-General aware that legal fees are too often out of all proportion to the sums at issue for justice to be within reach of many consumers, and that there is a need for tribunals to investigate complaints? Will his noble Friend consider further representations from consumers on this whole issue?

The Attorney-General

My noble Friend proposes to call a representative conference of judges, registrars and clerks to explore the simplification of procedure and increased informality. It is sometimes a fallacy to believe that because a claim is small the issue of fact or law involved is necessarily easy.

Mr. Carter-Jones

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for part of his answer. I acknowledge that tour operators frequently give value for money, but does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree, in view of the number of complaints received by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that this would be a first-class way of resolving this problem without the offending parties being put to great expense?

The Attorney-General

As I understand, one of the main causes of complaint about tour operators is the exemption clauses which are incorporated into their contracts. No improvement in procedure would change the substantive law. As the hon. Gentleman probably recollects, the Law Commission is considering whether there should be control of such exemption or exclusion clauses.

Mr. Money

With regard to the second part of my right hon. and learned Friend's answer, is he aware that there is widespread unhappiness about the activities of tour operators this summer in connection with the Passion Play at Oberammergau?

The Attorney-General

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. There may be changes of substantive law which will be of more assistance than changes in procedure.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that this is an admirable piece of work of the Consumer Council and that it is a great shame that the Consumer Council is being destroyed?

The Attorney-General

There are a number of objections to the proposal, but its abolition is not a matter for me.