To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proposals he has concerning manufacturers' obligations to provide United Kingdom consumers of motor vehicles and major household appliances with reliability and after sales service; and if he will make a statement.
The consumer contracts with a supplier, who is normally a retailer not a manufacturer, and it is against the supplier that the consumer has a right of action under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 for defects in the goods supplied. Manufacturers who provide consumers with guarantees of reliability or with after sales service, do so voluntarily and in addition to the consumer's statutory rights against the supplier.
The Government intend to implement by means of legislation recommendations by the Law Commissioners which clarify and strengthen the consumer's rights under the Sale of Goods Act.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I can certainly confirm that we are studying the recommendations of the National Consumer Council most closely, as we do all the work of that excellent organisation. I am not yet in a position to say what, if any, elements of its recommendations will be incorporated in future legislation. I am aware that when we legislate we should put together the most effective and up-to-date package in the consumer's interest, and that we shall do.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that at the end of the list of questions to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry there are no fewer than 14 questions about this country's trade deficit which have been transferred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understand from a spokesperson at the Department of Trade and Industry that this is because the Central Statistical Office is now responsible for trade figures. First, hon. Members should have been notified, and secondly, these questions should rightfully be answered by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. This is yet another attempt by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to evade answering questions. When I received a written answer to my own question it was an answer about the deficit in the balance of payments, which was not what my question was about. Right hon. and hon. Members have a right to have trade deficit questions answered by the Minister responsible, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
I should like to be able to help the hon. Gentleman. I refer him to the 21st edition of "Parliamentary Practice" which has just come out. On page 286 it states:
It is a long established principle that decisions on the transfer of questions rests with Ministers and it is not a matter in which the Chair seeks to intervene.
I am sorry.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that a significant number of Labour Members have put down questions on today's Order Paper and then failed to turn up. Would you be good enough to deprecate that because it is not only an insult to you in the Chair, but unfair to hon. Members from both sides of the House who, having seen a question on the Order Paper, hope to catch your eye on a supplementary question but find that the original questioner is not here?
It is a courtesy to the House if the Chair is told when Members are unable to be present for the very reasons mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. Of course, the fact that some hon. Members are not here today has meant that we have been able to reach question No. 20, which was a bit of good luck for the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby).
Order. That is a clear continuation of Question Time and not a matter of order for me. An Opposition day prayer has been set down and if it were possible for me to limit speeches I would do so today because such a large number of hon. Members wish to participate. Points of order which are not points of order are a disservice to the House.