HL Deb 11 July 1966 vol 276 cc4-5

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they propose to introduce amending legislation designed to curb the activities of "rings" of dealers resulting in the sale of articles at auction at a fraction of their market value, and their subsequent re-auctioning among members of the "ring".]


My Lords, the Government have for some time been considering whether practices at auctions could be improved by further legislation or voluntary control. We have asked bodies representing the various interests for their views. We have had a number of discussions with these bodies, and hope to reach a conclusion before long.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask whether it is still the case, as I believe it was a year ago, that no successful prosecution whatever has taken place under the 1927 Act? And is it also the case that these cynical frauds are flourishing with impunity?


My Lords, with regard to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, my information is that there has been only one prosecution under the 1927 Act, and I have not been told whether it was successful or not. I should not think it was, or I should have been told. With regard to the second part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, the Auctions (Bidding Agreements) Act 1927 forbids "rings" and "knocks". It is evidence that we are short of. If we could get more evidence that would lead to prosecutions then, I have no doubt about it, it would have good effect.


My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that in November, 1964, the Sunday Times printed a long and documented account of the most cynical specimen of these frauds which took place at Leamington Spa? Is the noble Lord not aware that one of their reporters actually got into the subsequent "knock-out" with a transistorised tape-recorder and that all that evidence was available?


My Lords, the evidence in a newspaper article of that sort and the evidence that would lead to a conviction are two different matters altogether.


My Lords, arising out of the noble Lord's Question, may I ask my noble friend whether the Government would not agree that probably the most effective way to curb rings is for members of the public to be encouraged either to bid themselves at auction sales or to do so through the agency of a reputable dealer?


My Lords, I think that is so.