HC Deb 16 March 1981 vol 1 cc7-8
7. Sir Frederick Burden

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will ask the Director General of Fair Trading what reaction he has had from the Motor Agents Association in relation to the approaches he has made to it following the Consumers Association's report on garage servicing.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) on 22 January I regard this as a valuable report which, I feel sure, reflects the experience and great concern of a number of motorists. I hope that the trade will take steps to strengthen its code of practice and to enforce it more effectively as the Consumers Association recommends. The Director General has for some time been discussing with the relevant trade associations proposals for strengthening the code of practice.

Sir Frederick Burden

Will my right hon. Friend take a considerable interest in this issue? Will she do her best to ensure that effective regulations are introduced by the motor manufacturers? Is she aware that there is undoubtedly grave concern among many members of the public over the way in which they are being taken for a rotten ride by some repair units in the motor industry?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was especially disappointed that the MAA's published reaction to the CA report was not more constructive. I hope that acceptance by it of the many criticisms in the CA report will be reflected in a strengthened code of practice that is currently being negotiated and that such a code will be widely observed. If it is not, we shall have to consider what alternatives might be applicable.

Mr. Ioan Evans

As a result of the proposals in the Budget the Government have hit motorists by increasing the price of a gallon of petrol by 20p and by increasing the road fund licence. Will they now take some action to defend the motorist? Why did not the Government come forward with some definite proposals following a good report?

Mrs. Oppenheim

The question concerns garage servicing. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to table an appropriate question, I shall be pleased to answer it.

Mr. Alan Clark

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Motor Agents Association has absolutely no concern for anything outside the narrow self-interests of its own membership and that it regards the public as a golden goose to be alternately plucked and stuffed?

Mrs. Oppenheim

My hon. Friend has expressed a characteristically robust view. I fear that it is a view that is shared by all too many members of the public as a result of their experience. That is why I have said that I hope that there will be a strengthened code of practice negotiated. I hope that it will be widely observed. I repeat, if it is not we shall have to consider what alternatives might be appropriate.

Mr. John Fraser

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we look forward to the time when she will be no longer a spectator but an intervener in these matters? Bearing in mind the enormous amount of evidence of abuse by garages when engaging in sales and servicing, is not there a case for giving statutory force to a code of conduct and eventually disqualifying those who repeatedly rook the consumer?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that at a time when the Director General of Fair Trading is conducting negotiations with those in the motor trade on this issue it would be premature for me to make a more definite observation than the fairly definite one that I have already made.

Mr. Fraser

May I advise the right hon. Lady that there is nothing like a mention of action on her part to make the negotiations easier and not more difficult?

Mrs. Oppenheim

Surely that is precisely what I have done.