HC Deb 26 June 1972 vol 839 cc983-5
12. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will commission a study to make international comparisons on the effectiveness of consumer protection legislation.

Mr. Noble

The Council of Europe and OECD have both undertaken comparative studies of consumer protection legislationin member countries. I do not think I should be justified in commissioning a further study of this kind at present.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not only the EEC countries which seem to have given higher priority than we have to legislation for consumer protection, and that it is extremely important that we should seek to discern how effective such legislation has been so that we can act in the most effective way possible to protect our own consumers?

Mr. Noble

It is for this reason that we are watching very carefully what other countries are doing, but the OECD, as my hon. Friend knows, covers all the most developed countries in the world, and conditions in the under-developed countries are very different indeed from our own. The protection given to consumers under the provisions of our criminal law stands up very well indeed by comparison to what is available to most consumers.

Mr. Darling

Is the Minister aware that the Council of Europe investigation has taken the form of asking the equivalent of the consumer council in each country concerned for an assessment of the effectiveness of that country's legislation? Does he appreciate that the Council of Europe inquiry, which is working under my direction, is having considerable difficulty in getting the information needed from the United Kingdom because of the abolition of the Consumer Council?

Mr. Noble

I have the greatest sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot get the information he wants. If he will write to me about it, I will do my best to help him.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Does the Minister know that in Canada a separate Ministry is concerned solely with consumer affairs and does he think that that might be worth looking at? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Queen's Speech indicated that legislation would be forthcoming this Session to give further protection to consumers? The Session is getting on. Is there any news about that?

Mr. Noble

My hon. Friend perhaps should await the answer to Question No. 20 which covers this point. I note what he says about Canada.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we do not regard him as an adequate substitute for the Consumer Council? Does he realise that in any international study this country will probably show up badly? I hope that he will not use the study as an excuse for further delay. We do not want more reports from the Government; we want signs of life. If that is asking too much from the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps he will at least give an indication that he is capable of action.

Mr. Noble

I would not dream of trying to take the place of the Consumer Council in the hon. Gentleman's mind. Action will be coming, I hope soon.