HC Deb 19 July 1974 vol 877 cc893-5

12.45 p.m.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

I beg to move Amendment No. 24, in page 50, line 5, after 'writing', insert 'expressly'.

The Government amendment to Clause 173 has to a great extent met the object tions, but there is still an outstanding problem that has been expressed to us, in that Clause 97 is the only clause in which a statement can be requested but where no fee is advanced.

The Minister of State will know that the clearing banks have said that the fee would act as a red light to them in warning them that there was a danger. If the bank manager failed to comply with subsection (1) he would not be entitled to enforce the agreement, and if he continued to fail to supply the statement he would be subject to a £50 fine.

Nearly all local branches of banks give statements on demand or at the request of the customer at any time. If such a request from a customer is not recognised as a request for a Clause 97-type statement, the manager could be in a difficulty and the bank might be unfairly penalised It has been suggested that the drafting is loose and could be tightened by the addition of "expressly", although a more specific amendment would have been preferable.

I understand that the Department has given the clearing banks to understand that the type of statement envisaged is the one where the customer wants to terminate his agreement and to know the total amount of his indebtedness. As this wording is not included in subsection (1), there may be confusion and some statements may fall into the grey area.

I am, possibly, making the Minister's argument for him. My mind, like his, is consumer oriented. It is important, too, that customers should know what sort of statement they are asking for. Perhaps the bank could supply customers with a formal printed statement of the Clause 97-type to enable them always to ask for the right type of statement, when needed, and so avoid precluding their rights. I hope that the Minister will think that the tightening up of the drafting will in no way inhibit consumers' rights. The amendment also seeks to strengthen the fundamental objective of the clause and to avoid the possibility of confusion.

Mr. Alan Williams

I must oppose the amendment. I accept that conceivably there could be difficulty in some instances. The hon. Lady in a sense highlighted the other side of the problem when she said that the bank could have printed slips which people could sign to make clear their expressed request for such information. She and I on numerous occasions have tried to explain to others that the more legalistic the requirement imposed upon a consumer the more difficult it is for the consumer to meet that requirement. The amendment would mean that an extremely precise form of statement would be required, which would be difficult for many customers who would not realise that they had to go to the bank to acquire a slip for this purpose or that they had to put the request in so precise a form.

It is more likely that the bank will be able to detect the meaningful application in terms of the Bill than that the average customer will be able to put in a submission to meet absolutely the requirements of the amendment. I am sorry to have to disappoint the hon. Lady. We have met many of the points she and her hon. Friends made in Committee on other aspects, but I prefer not to accept this amendment.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

In view of the Minister's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

There remains a long list of Government amendments. Does the hon. Member wish to discuss any particular amendment?

Mr. Channon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Subject to what my hon. Friends may have in mind, apart from Amendment No. 28 we should be prepared to take formally all the Government amendments.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a very encouraging intervention. I shall put formally Government Amendments Nos. 25, 26, 46 and 27.

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