asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he plans to introduce legislation giving general powers to regulate trade and commercial practices.
Not in the immediate future. But I do think that there is a case for taking general enabling powers to require registration or similar arrangements to cover individual sectors where this seems necessary to protect the interests of consumers.
Does that mean that the Government will seek powers to regulate trade and commercial practices generally under one Act of Parliament rather than, as recently, by introducing separate Bills? For example, there have been the Farriers (Registration) (Amendment) Bill and the Insurance Brokers (Registration) Bill—although one of those was a Private Member's Bill. Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that this is a departure from the Government's previous policy and that it indicates dissatisfaction with the Fair Trading Act?
In a way it does, but it also recognises that the powers of the Fair Trading Act to deal with a number of commercial practices are not as satisfactory as they were intended to be. I have put forward only a tentative proposal upon which I invite discussion, but there are a good many professions and trades that would prefer to have a regulatory system, to protect the vast majority of reputable traders, introduced rapidly.