HC Deb 06 March 1978 vol 945 cc951-3
7. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what recent discussions he has had with the Director General of Fair Trading with regard to the operation of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Mr. John Fraser

As I indicated to the hon. Member in my answer on 30th January, there are regular ministerial and official contacts with the Director General. These cover consumer credit as appropriate.

Mr. Hunt

Has the Minister discussed with the Director General the wording of the application form for a standard licence under the Act? Is he aware that it contains no fewer than 48 questions and sub-questions, ranging from the soundness of the applicant's mind to whether he has committed any offences under the Race Relations Acts? Is this not a vivid demonstration of the kind of bureaucratic verbiage which is being inflicted on many small businesses at the present time? Is it not time that this kind of nonsense was stopped?

Mr. Fraser

The Consumer Credit Act was agreed by all parties in the House. Usually the questions require an answer "Yes" or "No", which should not be too difficult. It is the virtually unanimous view of the House that we should outlaw racial discrimination. I think it proper for the Director General to carry that intention into the form that he sends out to applicants.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend tell the House how many licences have been refused since 1974? Is it not a fact that none has been refused, which indicates that the Act is not working as satisfactorily as it might? Will he undertake to look at the case that I have sent to the Department about a firm in Bournemouth which is charging 42½ per cent, interest on the hire purchase of a second-hand car?

Mr. Fraser

I am not aware that any licences have been refused. That does not mean that the Act is not working properly. Warnings have been issued to those who have applied for licences. The right test is not the refusal of licences but the improvement in standards.

With regard to the case mentioned by my hon. Friend, we have now brought into operation that part of the Act which allows the courts to reopen extortionate credit bargains.

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