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Volume 655: debated on Thursday 15 March 1962

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asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that many hire-purchase agreements are framed in such a way as to deceive the purchasers of goods concerning the hire-purchase charges, in addition to persuading people to buy things they cannot afford; and if he will take steps to make it compulsory for every such agreement to contain, in clear figures, both the price of the article and the added amount of purchase charges.

When I receive the Report of the Molony Committee on consumer protection, I will consider whether some reinforcement of the present statutory protection for hire-purchase customers is necessary.

Is the Minister aware that these documents are printed in such legal terms that the ordinary purchaser cannot understand them and that it is easy for a glib canvasser to explain them to prospective purchasers and get them to buy goods they cannot afford? Is he also aware that in a case which has been brought to my attention a man purchased an article for £30 and had to pay an additional £15 by way of charges? Will he look into this case and see what he can do to stop it?

I should be very glad to study the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers if he would care to forward the details to me. The Molony Committee is or has been studying these very matters.

If the right hon. Gentleman spends too long waiting for Molony he will find that the hire-purchase companies and the people who buy their goods broke? Is it not time to hurry up Molony?

The Molony Committee is working hard and well. I do not think it should be hurried up, because I want the Report to be a good one when we get it. I do not think the finance companies or the people who use them are in any danger of going broke.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the recent court decisions on hire-purchase contracts, disagreements among members of the Finance Houses Association on car dealers' commissions, and growing public criticism of some hire purchase practices, he will inquire into these matters to see what changes are now needed in the Hire-Purchase Acts in the public interest.

I am considering the implications of these decisions and will take them into account when I receive the Report of the Molony Committee on Consumer Protection.

But in this case is not the President of the Board of Trade rather misunderstanding the functions of the Committee? Is it not a fact that the hire-purchase question was not specifically in its terms of reference? Is it not a fact that if we are going to have an inquiry into these very technical hire-purchase problems we do not necessarily want to appoint the people who are on the Molony Committee? If the Committee does not produce a satisfactory report on hire-purchase, will not the right hon. Gentleman have to start all over again? Instead of waiting, why should he not do the job now?

Because I want to see what the Molony Committee has to say. Then I can decide what further action, if any, is required. It would be very irresponsible if I were to embark upon piecemeal legislation or other forms of action which, on the publication of the Molony Committee Report, were proved to be either wrong or misplaced.

This is not a question of asking for piecemeal legislation. It is generally agreed throughout the country that the Hire-Purchase Acts, which were pre-war legislation, are now out of date, and no longer fit the circumstances of today, and that legislation will have to be introduced, anyhow. It is surely missing the point to refer to amending legislation on hire-purchase as piecemeal legislation.

If hire-purchase legislation has to be introduced it is surely appropriate that it should be good legislation.