HC Deb 26 March 1973 vol 853 cc901-3
12. Mr. Sydney Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to ask the Director General of Fair Trading as a first priority, to review the working of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and make recommendations, if necessary, for amendments.

Sir G. Howe

When the Fair Trading Bill becomes law, the Director General will no doubt give attention to the work- ing of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 in the course of the review of consumer trade practices which it will be his duty to undertake. But it is too soon to say whether this should be his first priority.

Mr. Chapman

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply, but will he go a little further and try to get the Director General of Fair Trading to look particularly at Sections 11, 14 and 28 of the Act as recent court decisions have suggested that the Act is not working as Parliament intended?

Sir G. Howe

I am sure that the Director General of Fair Trading will bear my hon. Friend's point in mind and particularly his suggestion about looking at certain sections rather than at the Act as a whole. I am sure that he will want to proceed by concentrating on those points which give rise to the most anxiety.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ask the Director General to look into the sale to a constituent of mine of a second-hand car with an unfit spare tyre, no tool kit, a dud battery, no MOT certification and a suspect guarantee? Does he regard that as fair trading?

Sir G. Howe

I hope that the hon. Member has already invited his constituent to refer the matter to the Weights and Measures Inspectorate in his constituency. This is primarily and essentially a matter for the inspectorate which it is well qualified to investigate.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that we want action long before the Director General of Fair Trading is established, since that is not likely to be before the autumn? Does he recognise that we are already well into the holiday booking season and that because of his refusal to close the loopholes in the Trades Descriptions Act, as revealed by the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice, many thousands of families this year will not have legal protection which the tour companies thought them to have had last summer? Will he accept that the Government will be primarily responsible for holiday losses this year as a result of his Department's inactivity?

Sir G. Howe

I will accept no such thing. If there be any consequences resulting from the provisions of the 1968 Act, they result from a statute passed by the Government of which the hon. Member was a member. He exaggerates the substantial difficulties which arise from the decision in Beckett v. Cohen, the publishers of which have emphasised that where there are misstatements of facts in holiday advertisements the provisions of the criminal law will continue to apply. I am sure I shall have the co-operation of the hon. Member in getting the Bill on the statute book quickly so that the Director General can get into action on this point alongside many others.