HC Deb 08 March 1971 vol 813 cc23-4
23. Mr. Whitlock

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what circumstances he will use his powers to initiate prosecutions under the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968.

Mr. Ridley

Only very exceptionally, given the resolution and effectiveness with which local weights and measures authorities are enforcing the Act.

Mr. Whitlock

In view of the evidence which I and other hon. Members have given to the hon. Gentleman of the mounting anger of many people who have made what is for them the largest investment of the year on a holiday abroad in response to misleading advertisements in glossy brochures, will the hon. Gentleman now take action himself, bearing in mind that comparatively few prosecutions are made by local weights and measures inspectors? In view of the warnings given to him by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) about future cut-throat competition in this industry, will the hon. Gentleman look at the matter closely to see whether the Trade Descriptions Act needs toughening and whether it is necessary to introduce the requirement of registration for tour operators and travel agents?

Mr. Ridley

Local weights and measures authorities have prosecuted in about 20 cases, 75 per cent. of which have been successful, and fines of up to£6,000 have been levied on convicted operators. I have no evidence to suggest that the Department, if it undertook the rôle of prosecutor, would have prosecuted in so many cases as that, let alone more cases than that.