asked the Lord Advocate if he is aware that the facts, reported to him by the hon. Member for Motherwell, concerning the personal credit account scheme as operated on a large scale by Messrs. N. G. Napier, Limited of Prestwick Road, Ayr, disclose an apparènt infringement of the Moneylenders Acts; and if he will investigate the matter.
I understand that the hon. Member has in mind that part of Messrs. Napier's personal credit scheme under which they give credit to a person to enable him to purchase goods from some third party. My right hon. and learned Friend is prepared to investigate any transactions of this nature which are brought to his notice, and consider whether the facts disclosed would justify criminal proceedings under the Moneylenders Acts.
May I say—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that the Solicitor-General for Scotland will make many people happy since at last steps are being taken? Is he aware that many thousands of people in Scotland, who will be very grateful, have pressed very urgently indeed that he should do what he can about this particular type of practice?
I am glad with the hon. Member. There is one point which I ought to make. One can investigate properly only if one has specific cases to investigate, and that is why I made a sort of invitation to the hon. Member to give us any cases, particularly more recent ones, which are more valuable to us because of the time bar under the Summary Jurisdiction Act.
Is the Solicitor-General for Scotland aware that all Scottish hon. Members, I believe, received a statement from Messrs. Napier this weekend? I see some hon. Members shaking their heads, saying "No.". Well, most of us did. In this statement this weekend Mr. Napier would seem to me to make quite clear that his business is that of moneylending. If I let the Solicitor-General for Scotland have a copy of the statement, will he consider whether in the statement Mr. Napier is not himself claiming to be a moneylender?
Is the Solicitor-General for Scotland aware that allegations are made, apart altogether from the principle of this matter, that cautioners, people who sign their names guaranteeing the original borrower, are alleged to be misled by false statements that they are merely giving testimony of how long a person has remained in a given town, when they are really guaranteeing large sums of money in signing the documents, which are falsely represented to them as being no more than testimony to the characters of the persons involved?
I could not on the facts available to me say whether that is in fact happening, but the right hon. Gentleman will realise that if this is happening a cautioner would have a good defence on being sued for the balance due at the instance of the particular firm involved.