HC Deb 19 April 1990 vol 170 cc1004-6W
Mr. Favell

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will implement the recommendations in the Director General of Fair Trading's report on estate agency.

Mr. Forth

Since receiving the Director General of Fair Trading's report last month, I have given it careful consideration and generally agree with his analysis of the problems and with his recommendations.

I believe that the package of legislation which he has proposed would deal effectively with the malpractices identified in the report while not imposing significant burdens on reputable estate agents. It is therefore the Government's intention that, as soon as legislative time is available, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 should be extended to cover misdescription of property. It is also my intention, as soon as the consultation required under the Estate Agents Act 1979 can be carried out and the results considered, to make and lay before Parliament orders under section 3 and regulations under section 18 to deal with misdescription of property, forced sales, misleading terms and other abuses identified in the report and to add to the list of offences which can trigger banning action against estate agents.

I have read with interest the analysis in the report of the arguments for and against licensing and use of the power under section 22 to prescribe minimum qualifications for estate agents. I agree with the Director General's view that the case for these measures has not been made out. This finding on section 22 is in line with the conclusion I reached in the review of estate agency which I completed last year and also with the conclusion reached by the Consumers Association in its recent report on estate agency.

I have noted with regret the Director General's conclusion that there is little prospect of agreement in the immediate future on an industrywide voluntary code of practice. However, I consider that the package of legislation I propose deals with the main problems. I welcome the Director General's undertaking that his

Directives in the White Paper programme which are not yet required to have entered into force
Subject Required date of entry into force Remarks
Part one: The removal of physical barriers
1 Control of Goods
2 Veterinary and phytosanitary controls
1 Microbiological controls (meats, poultry, red meat) Dir 85/323 Time for implementation not yet fixed
Dir 85/324
2 Mince meat and similar products imported from third countries Dir 88/657 1 January 1992
3 Zoo technical standards applicable to breeding animals of the porcine species Dir 88/661 1 January 1991
4 Modification of Directive 77/99/EEC on meat products Dir 88/658 1 July 1990
— Amendment to Directive 74/63 on undesirable substances and products in animal nutrition (maximum pesticide residues in animal feedingstuffs) Dir 87/519 3 December 1990 Implementing regulations have been made and will come in to operation on 3 December 1990
5 Imports of meat products from third countries (animal and public health rules) Dir 89/227 30 June 1990
6 Pedigree animals (sheep and goats) Dir 89/361 1 January 1991
7 Hygiene and health problems affecting the production and the placing on the market of egg products Dir 89/437 31 December 1991
8 Embryos of farm animals Dir 89/556 1 January 1991

Office will maintain contact with the industry with a view to resuming discussions on a voluntary code of practice if the climate of opinion becomes more favourable.