HL Deb 10 December 1974 vol 355 cc535-7

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, in view of the most unsatisfactory state in which new cars are usually delivered to the buyer and of safety and other factors involved, they will bring in legislation making it compulsory for dealers or manufacturers to provide the buyer with a certified inspection document showing that all functional parts of the vehicle have been examined and, where appropriate, rectified before the vehicle is handed over.


My Lords, the civil law gives consumer protection rights to purchasers of new cars, in particular through the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973. The Road Traffic Acts make the sale of unroadworthy cars illegal and also empower my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to make regulations requiring new vehicle models to be submitted for official type approval. Under such regulations it would be possible to oblige manufacturers to certify that the new vehicles they supply conform to the model for which type approval has been given.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, it does not really answer my Question. Does he not realise that new vehicles are frequently supplied in a state which is illegal, whereas they are supposed to have been checked in a predelivery inspection? Further, does he realise that according to recent Which? reports there have been 20 defects or more in the average car on delivery which should have been attended to by the distributor before-hand, and that whereas perhaps six or eight of these concern only paintwork they also include far more serious matters which involve safety, so that the car as delivered is very often unsafe and illegal to put on the road—for example, to take a simple case, tyre pressures—and that very often a great deal of damage is done——


My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would appreciate that he is now moving towards making a statement although his remarks began as a question?


My Lords, I am well aware of all that. I have read the Which? report and the article published by the AA in their magazine, which give details of these matters. A buyer has rights to take action against the supplier of a vehicle if that vehicle is not in a fit state, and these rights are publicised so that buyers can take advantage of the law.


My Lords, does the Minister not consider that the indictments preferred by the questioner amount to a condemnation of private enterprise?


My Lords, I think it is more a condemnation of the predelivery inspection system.


My Lords, may I further ask the noble Lord why, we having our MOT test, he is against introducing legislation in this very important area?


My Lords, the Government are not against introducing legislation. I have already said that regulations will be introduced so that the Government can ensure that the safety and environmental factors involved in new cars will be checked and certificates produced. The Government's interest is limited to those areas, and private buyers already have rights under the existing law to take action if a car is not in a satisfactory state.


My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government please explain to me why, if cars are being sent out in conditions which the noble Viscount tells us are illegal, any change in the law is necessary?


My Lords, I think I have said several times that a change in the law is not necessary; that private buyers have rights under the existing law.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that if we are to recapture the name for first-class engineering no laws will take the place of good workmanship and honesty of purpose on the job?


My Lords, as a private buyer before I had rights under the present law, I wrote to Lord Stokes and told him that the clutch on a new Triumph that I had bought from him was not functioning. He replied very cleverly, saying that it was not his clutch which was wrong, but my driving.