HC Deb 20 March 1991 vol 188 cc278-9
13. Mr. Michael J. Martin

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what further steps he is taking to prohibit misleading timeshare advertising.

Mr. Leigh

The Director General of Fair Trading made recommendations for changes to the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 to tighten the controls on statements about services and to bring timeshare award schemes within the Act's powers. I announced on 18 February that I had accepted those recommendations in principle. The detail of their implementation will be dealt with as part of the general review of the Trade Descriptions Act currently being undertaken.

Mr. Martin

I welcome the Minister's reply, but I urge him to hurry up and implement his proposals. Like many people in Glasgow, I received a personal letter. Mine said "Congratulations, Mr. Martin. You have won a holiday." In other cases it was a car or an item of jewellery. I was supposed to report to premises that were rented by the day. One newspaper reported that folk who turned up had to be turned away because these people had run out of jewellery. It is a scandal not only that people are allowed to operate in that way but that local authorities and national bodies are allowed to provide names and addresses for use in that manner. I hope that the practice will be stopped.

Mr. Leigh

I agree absolutely. [HON. MEMBERS: "What will the Minister do about it?"] We shall amend the Trade Descriptions Act——

Mr. Foulkes

And put the Bill through all its stages in a day? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. There seems to be an air of excitement today. I do not know the reason for it.

Mr. Leigh

We shall amend the Trade Descriptions Act to include award schemes. I should stress that a heavy responsibility rests on the public. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) went to one of those award schemes and demanded his Fiesta. Surely the towering presence of my right hon. Friend would put any timeshare tout into full retreat.

Mr. Michael Brown

I am sure that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) will be delighted with what my hon. Friend has said. However, may I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Opposition's attitude in Standing Committee B this morning? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows that we are dealing with questions about Government policy.

Mr. Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that, this morning, he could have accepted an amendment relating to timeshare——

Mr. Speaker

No. I am afraid that the hon. Member is out of order. What goes on in Standing Committee may not be discussed on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Ron Brown

Is the Minister aware that many people are conned by those advertisements and by literature that comes through their letter boxes suggesting that they have won special prizes? For example, I was told that I had won a special and wonderful Volkswagen limousine. As I was very interested, I went to Glasgow to pick up the vehicle. Instead, I received a watch. I protested. I said that I thought that in taking the parliamentary road to socialism we would travel in British cars, but that was not to be. Irrespective of whether I received a watch—incidentally, the watch went to charity—many of my constituents received correspondence similar to that which was sent to me. It is about time that something was done to stop companies abusing their position by kidding people on that they will receive prizes when the reality is that they will not.

Mr. Leigh

I feel sorry for the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will not face too many disappointments in his forthcoming career. I understand that boats are offered in award schemes, and that might come in useful for the hon. Gentleman.