HC Deb 03 April 1974 vol 871 cc1238-9
7. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to stop the practice known as "winkling" by persons who engage in the business of estate agents.

Mr. Freeson

I am considering further action, although it may be difficult to improve the law on harassment. Vigorous enforcement by local authorities of the existing provisions of the law could go a long way to stamp out such abuses.

Mr. Tuck

Is my hon. Friend aware that many so-called estate agents are combining property dealings on a huge scale with their orthodox agency activities and are running veritable empires of property dealing? I mention two: the Lofts Estate Agency and Mr. Oliver Burge. This is regarded as unethical by leading professional bodies. Will my hon. Friend consider introducing legislation compelling anyone who sets himself up as an estate agent to have professional qualifications and to join a recognised and professional body, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, to make impossible that sort of dodge?

Mr. Freeson

I accept what my hon. Friend says, that these abuses occur and are to be deplored. On the question of legislation, I can only say at this stage that the matter is under consideration. It is a matter of reform of the law which has previously been considered in Parliament. I shall consider the matter further.

Mr. George Cunningham

May I ask my hon. Friend not to overlook the fact that some firms of solicitors are prepared to put their names and prestige behind some of the activities mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck)?

Mr. Freeson

Yes, I am aware of that as well. If there were to be a change in the law covering the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck), it would necessarily have to deal with certain other spin-off activities, so to call them, which are concerned in this type of abuse.