HL Deb 10 November 1987 vol 489 cc1288-90

3.6 p.m.

Lord Gallacher

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when it is proposed to publish the code of practice as required under Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, we are at present revising the code of practice, in consultation with the main interested parties, including the Concordat. As soon as these informal consultations have been completed, the public consultation required by the Act will be held.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Will the noble Lord agree that the code of practice is basic to the implementation of Part III of the Act? Will he further agree that Part III of the Act constitutes a small but necessary piece of legislation to assist consumers in general? In view of this, will the noble Lord ask his noble friend the Minister to use his best endeavours to speed up the consultation process?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, we want to introduce this code as soon as possible. We have not yet reached any final decisions on the Concordat proposals for the regulations. These are still under discussion with the Concordat and other interested parties. We hope before very much longer to be ready to go out to consultation as required by the Consumer Protection Act.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, is the Minister aware that on 14th May at col. 791 of the Official Report the then Minister told the House that: …we are, in effect, denied the opportunity of discussing the status of the code in relation to the Bill. The code must be approved by order and that could he debated, but the status cannot. Will the Minister comment upon that and additionally will he bring it to the attention of his noble friend? Is it not right that we should be reminded that we in this House have had no opportunity at all of discussing this code of practice?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, when the code of practice is in its final form and goes out to consultation, everyone who wishes will be able to comment on it. As regards whether it is debatable in this House, I am not fully aware whether that is a possibility. I shall look into it and come back to the noble Baroness on that point.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, have the Government had wise second thoughts about regulating the quantity of wine that one gets when one asks for a glass of wine in a pub? Is not the consumer entitled to the same protection where wine is concerned as he is where beer, cider and spirits are concerned? Cannot a regulation be issued under Section 26 and be included in the code of practice?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, if my noble friend would care to put down a Question on that subject, I should be pleased to answer it. However, I think that his question is rather wide of the one on the Order Paper.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the consumer has the greatest difficulty in making comparisons with national retailing organisations when they use abbreviations? For example ASP on their prices means "after sales price"; they use RAP, meaning "ready assembled price"; and AEP meaning "after event price". Could not the consumer find himself in difficult circumstances if no true comparison can be made when those abbreviations are used?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I entirely agree. In fact I find it very difficult to understand many of the abbreviations that are used by my colleagues in this House.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the noble Lord recognise that in his reply to the original Question he used the expression "revising the code of practice"? Will the noble Lord agree that there never was a code of practice because this is a new Act? There was a draft code of practice which was unanimously criticised in your Lordships' House at the time of the passage of the Bill. Does the noble Lord further agree that we did our utmost from the Opposition Benches to make sure that the Bill became an Act before the dissolution of Parliament on the understanding that the Government would use their best endeavours to ensure that the code of practice was published and implemented as soon as possible? Can he please get a move on?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, we are trying to finalise the code of practice and, as I said, we hope to be ready to go out to consultation before very much longer.