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Orders Warning Against Continuing Certain Practices

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1979

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I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 5, line 31, after 'per son', insert

'has failed to comply with any such obligation as is referred to in section 3(1)(c) above (in this section referred to as a "relevant statutory obligation") or'.

This amendment honours a promise I gave to the Committee. Clause 4 provides for a warning procedure where an unfair practice has been carried on. The Committee wanted me to extend the warning procedure where there had been breach of an obligation under clause 15 and under clauses 18 to 21.

We welcome the amendment as a response to an amendment moved by us in Committee, which allows and requires the Director General of Fair Trading to give a warning to an estate agent guilty of one of the offences designated in the appropriate clauses of this Bill. In Committee, the Minister expressed some reservations about such a move. He implied that it might not be to the advantage of the estate agent. I wonder whether he has come to any conclusion on that point and whether he is completely satisfied that what he is now moving is in the best interests of the estate agent.

I said that, if that was what the Committee wanted, it could have it. It has got it if the House passes the amendment. It is true that a warning can be given for breach of the obligation under the clauses I have mentioned. If subsequently, when there has been an order, because of the words used in clause 4, there is a further breach of the obligation, the estate agent could quickly be disbarred from practising as an estate agent. I was a little worried about that in case a small infraction should bring about a disbarring. But I am now satisfied that he is protected because, even before giving the warning notice, under the procedure set out in the amendment, the Director General will have to be satisfied that he is unfit to practise as an estate agent, and then come to the conclusion that a warning would be an adequate way of dealing with the matter.

It is very unlikely that the Director General would take the view that one small infraction of one of the obligations in clauses 15 and 18 to 21 would itself cause a man to receive a warning. I believe that that is an adequate protection. There would have to be a full inquiry and the chance to make representations before even a warning was given. That was a mitigated penalty. In the circumstances, I believe that represents a happy conclusion to the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 3, in page 5, line 34, after "person", insert

"were again to fail to comply with a relevant statutory obligation or, as the case may be".

No. 4, in page 5, line 41, after "Director", insert

"a further failure to comply with a relevant statutory obligation or, as the case may be".

No. 5, in page 6, line 2, after "addressed", insert

"fails to comply with a relevant statutory obligation or, as the case may be".—[Mr. John Fraser.]