HC Deb 03 December 1973 vol 865 cc899-900
14. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will use his powers under Section 12 of the Fair Trading Act 1973 to direct the Director General of Fair Trading to investigate the practice of certain companies in advertising goods, accepting deposits from consumers and subsequently going into liquidation before the goods are delivered.

Sir G. Howe

My powers under Section 12 do not enable me to direct the Director General to investigate particular practices, and, as I told the House on 19th November in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes), I intend in general to leave the Director General to evolve his own order of priorities.—[Vol. 864, c. 919–20.]

Mrs. Oppenheim

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is widespread concern among many consumers and trading standards officers about this practice? Is he satisfied that it is always made, clear to consumers on such occasions that if they have paid a deposit on an item in stock, at the time of liquidation they may have a lien on it?

Sir G. Howe

I appreciate that there is concern about this problem in general terms as stated by my hon. Friend, and I have given it some consideration. It is being considered, too, by the principal associations concerned with advertising and the publications in which the advertisements appear. I am hoping that an agreement can emerge on some more generally useful solution. I shall bear in mind the last point made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Alan Williams

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not give the direction for which his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) asked, may I request him to consider giving a direction to the Director General to investigate the sale of Christmas killer toys? Does the Minister realise that the situation outlined in the Sun cannot wait until the Home Office eventually stirs itself? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the regulations reportedly being considered by the Home Office are not sufficiently comprehensive?

Sir G. Howe

I have seen examples of the kind of dangerous toys to which the hon. Gentleman referred. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State for the Home Department has been considering the matter and I am sure that the Director General will have noted the situation. The need for safe toys is something to which attention should be given as urgently as we can manage it, but it ought not to be done in a way that is ill-directed or is not likely to work at the end of the day. That is why it would be wrong to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the Director General is likely to be able to take swift action on the matter in time for Christmas. I hope that people will take account of the potential dangers lurking not only in toys but in other products on the market. I take account of the concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman.