HC Deb 27 October 1975 vol 898 cc1016-8
14. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she expects to implement the proposals of the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading to amend the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

Mr. Alan Williams

The committee, under the chairmanship of the Director General, which is reviewing the Act is still seeking comments on the proposals set out in its consultative document. When I receive the committee's final report I shall consider the content and timing of any amending legislation.

Mr. Neubert

Does the Minister understand the need to make haste in these matters? Otherwise, the Government's proposals may come into the Director General's offending category of vague and misleading claims. Are the proposals likely to include a statutory definition of words such as "waterproof", "unshrinkable", and "dye-fast"? Will the Minister give an assurance that there is no question of reintroducing retail price maintenance?

Mr. Alan Williams

I should not have thought that there was the slightest question of reintroducing retail price maintenance. There is a separate consultative document on the terms to which the hon. Gentleman referred, in addition to the consultative document's reference to prices.

I remind the hon. Gentleman of the words of the Shadow Chancellor, who, in his announcement of the reference to the Director General, stated that the consultation should be wide and exhaustive. Those were the words of a former Conservative Minister. They are not the words of a member of this Government. The Director General is merely doing what the Minister at the time told him to do.

Mr. Adley

Successive Governments have used phrases such as "fair trading" and "consumer protection", but the recent events at Southampton, relating to the "Eagle" affair, show that the poor old consumer has no protection when he or she is used as a bargaining counter between two sides of an industrial dispute. Does the Minister accept that this is a matter of the consumer's failing to obtain protection? Will the Department look into the implications of what happened?

Mr. Alan Williams

The hon. Gentleman's request goes beyond the subject of this Question, which concerns consultation on the Trade Descriptions Act. If he will put down a specific Question we may consider the matter.