HC Deb 26 June 1972 vol 839 cc987-8
16. Mr. Fry

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many prosecutions relating to package holidays there were under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 in each year since the Act came into force, and of these how many resulted in convictions.

Mr. Noble

There were no prosecutions in December, 1968. In the following three years and in 1972 up to mid-June, the Department has been notified of five, 15, 26 and 15 prosecutions and three, 11, 19 and 10 convictions respectively.

Mr. Fry

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but does he not agree that there are comparatively few prosecutions, despite the number of complaints? In view of the experience with Cosmos tours, of one of my constituents, will my right hon. Friend consider making it obligatory to state in the travel brochure whether the hotel or cruise ship for which bookings are being taken is still under construction or refit and what is the estimated completion date?

Mr. Noble

I will certainly think about that, but it would make the issue of brochures extremely difficult.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is a highly satisfactory answer? Bearing in mind the millions of people who take their holidays abroad each year, the number of convictions is extremely small. Nevertheless, it is necessary for brochures to tell the right story. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that sometimes the blame lies with hotels abroad and not with the tour operator?

Mr. Noble

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The number of convictions is very small when one realises that nearly 3 million tourists each year go on this type of holiday. He is also right in saying that sometimes the fault lies with the overseas hoteliers and not with our package tour operators. None the less, it is right that the House should take this matter seriously.

Mr. Lipton

Will the right hon. Gentleman stop thinking about this, as he said he would, and do something?

Mr. Noble

Any action that has to be taken is taken by the local weights and measures authorities and not by myself.

Mr. Alan Williams

Would the hon. Gentleman look at the difficulties created by the protraction of the legal process, as happened in the Clarkson's case? Does this not raise a serious danger that some unscrupulous operators may use legal devices to delay adjudication until after next season's bookings are over?

Mr. Noble

I think everybody realises that certain legal proceedings take much too long, but I do not think I can deal with that problem.