§ Mr. McNamara
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will refer to the Director of Fair Trading the operations of proprietors of provincial newspapers that are publishing largely advertising sheets under the guise of newspapers ; whether he will take action under the Trade Descriptions Act in respect of such publications and whether he will seek powers to direct that such publications are either distributed free or at a reduced price based on the profits distributed.
§ Mr. John Fraser
No. I am advised that the practice to which my hon. Friend refers is not a false or misleading description within the meaning of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. I am not convinced that consumers are unable to distinguish between a newspaper and an advertising sheet—and I understand that the latter are normally distributed free, though in certain instances they may bear an issue price. I recognise that, because of the current provincial newspaper strike, certain newspapers may contain a higher ratio of advertising to editorial content than is normal. But consumers should be sufficiently aware of this fact to enable them to exercise free choice in their decision to purchase or not during this period of temporary difficulty.