asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that confusion exists among traders as to the requirements of the Advertisements (Hire Purchase) Act, 1957, and, in particular, whether an advertisement which otherwise falls within the scope of the Act is removed from it by inclusion of the word "from", in front of an indication of the amount or fraction of the deposit or in front of an indication of the amount of any instalment payable; and if he will introduce amending legislation to clarify this matter.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that for once I am delighted with the reply which he has given? Could he see that it is given a certain amount of publicity? Is it within the province of the Board of Trade to let the Press have a copy of the advertisement which I sent to him, because certain "wide boys" in the advertising profession have been trying to get away with it?
Investigations showed that in six of the cases there was no deliberate intention to break the law. In the other three cases there was a prima facie assumption that a deliberate breach of the law had been committed, but rightly or wrongly, they were not at the time considered significant enough to warrant prosecution.
This is most extraordinary. Does the Parliamentary Secretary recall that last week my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) asked whether the Board of Trade was now accepting a plea of ignorance as a defence for wrongdoing? Why is the Board of Trade never prepared to help the shopper? Since the President of the Board of Trade told me last week that he had not yet decided what action he would take, does it mean that since then he has decided to take no action in these three cases?
Until they were disbanded in October, 1958, the Board of Trade's 27 hire purchase control inspectors watched for breaches of the Act and advised traders. A special study was made of a wide sample of advertisements and complaints from traders have been investigated, in some cases by visits by the Board's officers. The Board is considering prosecution in a few cases where in its view the circumstances justify it.
Do I gather from what the hon. Gentleman says that this team of investigators has been abandoned? Is he not perfectly aware, as all hon. Members on this side are aware, that this Act, which he helped to put on the Statute Book, is being neglected by many people? Does he think that that is good enough? Should not the Act be enforced?
We certainly agree that the Act should be enforced and, as I informed the House on 14th May, we at the Board of Trade are anxious that it should be observed. However, it is not the Board's duty to be the sole prosecutor under that Act.