Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Tuesday 8 December 1992


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. FRANK COOK

Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, North)

Bowden, Mr. Andrew (Brighton, Kemptown)

Bruce, Mr. Malcolm (Gordon)

Byers, Mr. Stephen (Wallsend)

Coffey, Ms. Ann (Stockport)

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

Gerrard, Mr. Neil (Walthamstow)

Grant, Mr. Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Mr. Nigel (Edinburgh, South)

Gunnell, Mr. John (Morley and Leeds, South)

Hawkins, Mr. Nick (Blackpool, South)

Hunter, Mr. Andrew (Basingstoke)

Kirkhope, Mr. Timothy (Leeds, North-East)

Leigh, Mr. Edward (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology)

Lord, Mr. Michael (Suffolk, Central)

Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)

Renton, Mr. Tim (Mid-Sussex)

Wilkinson, Mr. John (Ruislip-Northwood)

Mr. M. D. Hamlyn, Committee Clerk

3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 8 December 1992

[MR. FRANK COOK in the Chair]

Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order 1992

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. Edward Leigh): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order 1992 (S.I., 1992, No. 2833). The order is made under the Estate Agents Act 1979 which empowers the Director General of Fair Trading to make orders prohibiting unfit persons from estate agency work. The Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No. 2) Order 1991 extended the range of circumstances in which the director can use his powers to prohibit persons whom he considered to be unfit. It specified several offences which could trigger the director general's powers to prohibit. The Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order 1992 adds the offence of property misdescription to the list of trigger offences. A parallel order under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 will give effect to the provisions of that Act. I commend the order to the Committee.

10.32 am

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South): I do not intend to prolong the proceedings. I welcome the measure. It reflects the 40 per cent. increase in complaints about estate agents which was revealed last month. However, it is regrettable that property misdescription does not cover redecoration or modernisation, which could be focused on by the Office of Fair Trading. Also, the Minister has not said how the measure will be publicised. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) who originated the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 which saved the Government from embarrassment over their long failure to tackle the problems of estate agents' misdescriptions of properties and abuses in that trade. I hope that the Minister will consider including in property misdescriptions the categories redecoration and modernisation and any outstanding matters that have been brought to his attention by bodies such as the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, the Consumers Association and all those which have the interests of home buyers at heart.


10.33 am

Mr. Leigh: I am grateful to the Committee and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) for their interest in the matter. I also commend my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke on his excellent work and the great care with which he proposed the amendment. I am sure that many future home owners will be grateful to my hon. Friend for his sterling work and we are delighted to see him in his place today. I can tell the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South that all parties were consulted and the order will come into force in April.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kempton): Will the Minister explain why there are no additional controls to restrict the number of estate agents' boards in, for example, squares and terraces, which can be irritating? Some houses almost disappear under a mass of boards even today, although I understand that there are some regulations in force.

Mr. Leigh: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. It was thought that it might be a good idea to include offences under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which covers the proliferation of estate agents' boards. However, it was decided that it would not be appropriate to introduce controls on estate agents' boards because that is a matter of environmental protection and an estate agent should not lose his livelihood because of the proliferation of boards. However, I note my hon. Friend's comments. I know that that is a matter of public concern. As regards the other issue raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, the Property Misdescriptions (Specified Matter) Order 1992 refers to conditions under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. No doubt, the hon. Gentleman has already acquainted himself with the long schedule of misdescriptions which are covered by the order—there are 33 in total. They range from location, aspect view, outlook, availability and nature of services, to rates, existence or nature of any planning permission or proposals for development and so on. The list is full and complex and, I think, covers everything which could possibly amount to any sort of misdescription.Thanks to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke, I believe that the public are fully protected. I therefore commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order 1992 (S.I., 1922, No. 2833).

Committee rose at twenty-four minutes to Eleven o'clock.



Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)

Bowden, Mr.

Fox, Sir Marcus

Griffiths, Mr.

Gunnell, Mr.

Hawkins, Mr.

Hunter, Mr.

Kirkhope, Mr.

Leigh, Mr.

Lord, Mr.

Marshall, Sir Michael

Wilkinson, Mr.