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Solicitors And Estate Agents (Charges)

Volume 888: debated on Monday 17 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will take steps designed to protect the purchasers and vendors of houses against the charges made by solicitors and estate agents.

I am considering whether there is a need for further action in this field.

Will my hon. Friend say how soon he will come to a decision? Is it not the case that the work undertaken by solicitors and estate agents could be done quite competently by an intelligent clerk in a local office? Will he undertake to examine again the possibility of putting all sales and purchases of houses on the market in the hands of the new local authorities?

Many complex questions are involved here, including the question of the safety of the client's money, as well as the conveyancing work. However, I shall look at the points my hon. Friend has made today. We in the Department are at the moment working on the question of the position of estate agents and solicitors.

Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to look at the organisation chaired by Lord George-Brown? Would he give it his blessing?

I shall consider whether or not to bless the organisation. However, we are having to review the question of the most appropriate way of dealing with these transactions. There is no simple answer, because very large sums of money are involved, and in some cases very detailed technical problems must be coped with.

Before allowing the local authorities to take over these functions, will my hon. Friend encourage the Government to give time to the very useful—indeed excellent—Ten-Minute Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch), which is designed to protect the house purchaser from the monopolistic depredations of solicitors?

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) brought a deputation to see me about these matters, and we have discussed them in some detail.

Although we are full of admiration for Lord George-Brown, is it right for the Minister to undertake either to grant his blessing to his noble Friend or withhold it from him? Perhaps I should declare my interest, as I am a solicitor.

I suspect that it will not much matter to the noble Lord whether I bless him or not.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department is considering bringing the advertisement of houses and descriptions in estate agents' brochures within the Trade Descriptions Act?

I am actively examining the question of amending the Trade Descriptions Act in this context.