HC Deb 08 July 1974 vol 876 cc921-3
3. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether the Director General of Fair Trading has recommended changes in the law relating to exclusion clauses in contracts of service.

13. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she expects to receive the Law Commissioners' report on exclusion clauses in service contracts.

Mr. Alan Williams

I understand that the Director General accepts, as I do, that any wide-ranging change in the law in this area must await the proposals of the Law Commissions. We are pressing them for the earliest possible report.

Mr. Janner

Is my hon. Friend aware that that answer is not satisfactory because many of us have been pressing for action on these disgraceful and fraudulent clauses for several years without result? Does he agree that there is no need for any further delay in dealing, for example, with exclusion clauses in the scandalous contracts which are foisted on the public by car parks and similar organisations?

Mr. Williams

I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend is disappointed with that answer. It is exactly the same answer as I gave him a short while ago—

Mr. Cormack

That is why he is disappointed.

Mr. Williams

—when I said that the Law Commissions were due to report later this year and that on the basis of their report we would take the earliest possible action. I said that we should have to hold consultations on any alternative action envisaged in the meantime. By the time those consultations were completed the report would be available. It would obviously have been an absurdity to have two sets of consultations running in parallel.

Miss Fookes

In view of the general dissatisfaction with some of these exclusion clauses, may I ask the hon. Gentleman when he expects the Law Commissions to report? "Later this year" could be almost any time. May we expect the same kind of energy from the hon. Gentleman in office as we had from him when he was in opposition?

Mr. Williams

I am afraid that my energy is rapidly being drained by the Committee stage of the Consumer Credit Bill. I assure the hon. Lady that whatever energy I have left is very much devoted to this issue. The way in which many operators quite unjustifiably exclude the normal legal protection to which the public are entitled is a scandal. What I want and what I suspect the House wants is that at the end of the day we should have a comprehensive approach to this matter which will ensure consistency over the whole service area.

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