HC Deb 08 July 1974 vol 876 cc942-3
25. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what are her plans for establishing local centres to protect and inform customers.

Mr. Alan Williams

On 14th June my right hon. Friend had a useful discussion with the local authority associations about the development of consumer advice services. There are now about 35 local authority centres; on present plans 40 more will be open by March 1975 and a further 100 by the end of that year.

Mr. Roberts

In view of the financial difficulties facing some local authorities will my hon. Friend circulate to authorities details of mobile consumer units which operate successfully in some parts of the country and which could provide consumer advice over a large part of an authority's area?

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion. This is one of many ideas being discussed between the Department and various authorities. I might add that the expenditure on advice centres is taken into account for rate support grant purposes.

Mr. Cormack

How is recruiting going among the League of Labour Women?

Mr. Williams

I imagine that it is doing very much better that it is among the Primrose League.

Mr. George Lawson

As well as protecting the customer in the shop in terms of prices, will my hon. Friend give protection to consumers generally? Will he bear in mind the case of an old couple m my constituency who have been stripped of £600, being the cost of the fare to Australia, which they had to forfeit because unavoidably they were unable to go? Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that shipping companies like Chandris Shipping Lines Limited require also to be put in a position where they cannot behave in this manner? Will he give this sort of protection as well?

Mr. Williams

On the general position of protection, the programme which my right hon. Friend has announced is much bigger than any programme considered by the previous administration. As for my hon. Friend's specific point, I congratulate him on his ingenuity on adding it as a supplementary question at this stage. However, if I attempted to answer it now I feel that I should attract Mr. Speaker's wrath since the same subject is down on the Order Paper as Question No. 35.