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Mr. Clelland : It may help to progress matters if I answer the points that have been raised. I am sure that they cover the amendments, so other hon. Members may not need to repeat them and prolong debate.
Amendment No. 15 would amend section 14(2) of the 1979 Act. At present, it provides that it is an implied term of a contract of sale that goods are of satisfactory quality. That introduces one of the basic requirements of the 1979 Act, but it is limited to cases where the seller sells goods in the course of a business. It does not extend to sales where the seller is not acting in the course of a business. Amendment No. 15 would remove that limitation, so that all sellers of goods would be required to supply goods of satisfactory quality.
That would place a significant burden on individuals wishing to sell goods. If a dealer sells a secondhand car, it is reasonable to expect him to have the skills and equipment to check that the vehicle is of satisfactory quality. A private seller is not in that position. His description of a vehicle may become an implied term of the contract, but that is all that should be expected. I cannot, therefore, support that amendment.
Mr. McLoughlin : I am most grateful. The Government and I whole- heartedly support the Bill, but in the light of recent suggestions, will the hon. Gentleman confirm--as I believe that he did in Committee--that he received from the Department of Trade and Industry help with his Bill and with meeting points raised in amendments tabled by my hon. Friends ?
Mr. Clelland : I do not understand the point that the Minister is trying to make. Both sides of the House want the Bill to pass, which is why some of us cannot understand the prevarication of Conservative Members and their attempts to delay progress. We know of course that their behaviour relates not to this Bill but to one that is to be considered later today-- if we ever reach it. It is my intention to get the Bill through quickly because everyone wants it.
The effect of amendment No. 16 would be that the requirement that goods should be of satisfactory quality would apply to contracts of sale not only where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, but where, in all the circumstances, it is reasonable to imply--I assume that the hon. Gentleman means infer--that he sells in the course of a business.
I cannot agree to that amendment. Its second part is unclear and imprecise, and would introduce great uncertainty into transactions. What circumstances would be relevant in deciding whether it may be inferred that someone is selling by way of a business ? Is it reasonable for a buyer who responds to an advertisement and visits the seller's house to purchase goods to assume that the seller is in the course of a business because he has 20 items for sale ? The risk of being assumed to be acting by way of a business would deter many individuals from selling goods.
Mr. Heald : What does the hon. Gentleman say to the point that I was making : that if the law stays as it is, as proposed in his amendment, the effect would be that if someone, perhaps a farmer, sells a tractor after two years, where his business is not naturally the sale of tractors, he would not be covered by the legislation ? Surely he should be. The person buying from the farmer should be able to rely on the satisfactory condition of the item.
Mr. Clelland : The farmer might very well sell his car rather than his tractor ; it is still a motor vehicle. He is not an expert in car sales. He is merely selling a second-hand car, as many individuals do.
Column 1064Mr. Heald rose
Mr. Clelland : I shall not give way again. I have answered that point. Any individual can sell an item without being an expert in the nature of the item and cannot be held to be running a business as a result.
I do not see the need for amendment No. 10, as the additional factor is already covered by the present wording of section 14(2)(a). Any representations or other statements made are likely to amount to a description of the goods, which is already a factor referred to in that section. If they are not a description, they are, I suggest, "other relevant circumstances" and are therefore covered by the third factor in that section.
The Bill is drafted in general terms to cover a wide variety of situations and types of goods. Its terms are therefore often of a general nature. We should avoid introducing amendments that move away from that. In addition, introducing further factors into section 14(2)(a) could result in a court feeling constrained to consider only those factors, to the exclusion of all others. Furthermore, the introduction of that factor would be somewhat at odds with the provision of proposed section 14(2)(c). I can imagine that retailers may become most reluctant to offer any statement in respect of goods. That could deprive buyers of the advice that they require. Amendment No. 10 refers to representations or statements on which it is reasonable for the buyer to rely. That would create a degree of uncertainty in commercial transactions. What criteria will be used in deciding whether it is reasonable for a buyer to rely on the representations made to him ? Ultimately, the matter will have to be decided by a court, but it is likely that, in many cases, where the purchaser is an individual, he will not pursue the matter if the seller asserts that it was not reasonable for him to rely on any representations, as to do so could involve considerable legal costs. Amendment No. 11, like amendment No. 10, would add additional wording to the proposed section 14(2)(a) suggesting that an additional factor be introduced, which, in essence, would be the commercial reputation of the seller. Again, I cannot support the amendment. Section 14(2)(a) already refers to the consideration of "all the other relevant circumstances."
To the extent that the commercial reputation of the seller is relevant, it is already covered by that provision. I cannot, however, accept that the seller's commercial reputation is a relevant factor. Section 14(2)(a) explains what makes goods of a satisfactory quality, and the reputation of the seller cannot have any impact on that. It is totally inappropriate when assessing the quality of goods to assess the commercial standing of the supplier.
I am most concerned that the effect of amendment No. 11 would be to suggest that buyers should have different rights depending on from whom they purchased goods. That should not be the case. The requirements of the legislation should apply with equal force to all sellers who act in the course of a business.
Mr. Roger Evans : I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is not concerned about the effect of advertising and the vast amount of money that is spent on building up brand names and reputations. When somebody buys a nearly new something-or-other, why should not the fact that it is a something-or-other, with all that goes with it, which has been puffed up in expensive advertising, be specifically drawn to the court's attention as something
Column 1065that could be taken into account ? I should have thought that that was elementary social justice and a considerable protection. 11.45 am
I now deal with amendment No. 7. Section 14(3) of the 1979 Act deals with a situation where a purchaser of goods expressly, or by implication, makes known to the seller or, in certain circumstances, a credit broker any particular purpose for which the goods are being bought. In such circumstances, there is an implied condition that the goods supplied are reasonably fit for that purpose. That is the case whether or not the buyer's purpose is a purpose for which the goods are commonly supplied, except where those circumstances show that the buyer does not rely, or that it is unreasonable for him to rely, on the skill or judgment of the seller or credit broker. A number of aspects of that section should be noted.
The purchaser, if he wishes to rely on the implied conditions, must make it known to the seller or credit broker, either expressly or implicitly, the purpose for which the goods are required. There is an obligation on the purchaser in some way to make known the purpose ; there must be some action by him. Another aspect to note is that the implied condition covers whatever use the buyer has in mind as long as that use is made known to the seller or credit broker. That includes a wholly unlikely use. A third aspect is that the buyer cannot rely on the implied term where circumstances show that he does not rely on the seller or credit broker's skill or judgment, or it would be wholly unreasonable for him to rely.
That can be illustrated by examples. A buyer who wishes to rely on a seller's skills must make it clear what he intends. A purchaser who makes it clear that he wants to fill a bottle with boiling oil should not be supplied with a plastic one that melts on impact with the hot liquid. An expert builder should not seek to rely on the skill and judgment of an untrained assistant in a DIY superstore when purchasing building materials.
That demonstrates that that provision of the Act should remain as it stands. There is reference in the amendment to an implied term that the goods are
"reasonably fit for the purpose usually intended."
But proposed new section 14(2)(b)(a) states that one of the aspects of satisfactory quality is
"fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied".
That part of the amendment appears to amount to no more than a repetition of what is already an implied term. To include it would cast doubt on what is already included in the Bill and could result in considerable confusion.
The amendment goes on to refer to what is
"reasonably foreseeable intended by the buyer".
There is a danger that a court could interpret that as placing a higher burden on the seller than the present provision does. The existing provisions require the buyer to make some indication of his intention, but the formulation of the proposal is such that the seller may be deemed to have been in a position where it should have been reasonably foreseeable to him what the buyer intended, regardless of any activity, or inactivity, on the part of the buyer.
Column 1066The amendment goes on to refer to the "commercial reputation" of the seller. I do not think that that can have any relevance in the matter. The purchaser of goods is entitled to the same level of protection whether he purchases from a household name or from a small trader. The law should not in any way suggest that there is any difference between the requirements applicable to small traders and those applicable to retail chains. The purchaser should always be entitled to the same rights.
I hope that I have answered the points raised by hon. Members. Hon. Members on both sides of the House want the Bill to go through. It has been discussed in this place before, in 1989. It has been discussed on Second Reading and in Committee. We have gone to considerable lengths to discuss it again this afternoon. I see no reason to delay the Bill any further. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
Mr. Waterson : I support the principles and thinking behind the amendments. It was unfortunate and, if I may say so, contradictory that the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland), the sponsor of the Bill, indicated at the beginning of his speech that he thought that it would be helpful to hon. Members, and perhaps make it unnecessary for them to contribute, if he spoke at that point in the debate. He then proceeded, on at least two occasions, to refuse to accept interventions from me. I assume that his intention was genuine, but if he had accepted my intervention my remarks now might not have been necessary. Perhaps he and the House would like to reflect on that as the debate develops.
The Bill is important. I was not in the House in 1989 and so did not have the benefit of debating the matter then. It is important, not least to my constituents and those of other hon. Members. We have lost one important piece of business today thanks to the manoeuvres of Opposition Members, and I hope that that will not be the case with this Bill. It matters to ordinary members of the public who buy goods in the way of business or otherwise. It is important that we understand what "in the course of business" means. Some Opposition Members have tunnel vision during such debates. We are discussing an important measure. Other important measures appear later on the Order Paper and an important measure was lost earlier. I deprecate the sneering attitude that some hon. Members have adopted to an important and technical piece of legislation. I hope that we shall hear no more of that language in speeches or sedentary interventions.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is not acceptable. We all know that the hon. Gentleman is filibustering just after a Division when, breaking all conventions, we had a payroll vote. How dare the hon. Gentleman cast aspersions on hon. Members who support a Bill that we are to come to later? It is not right.
Mr. Waterson : I reluctantly accept that reluctant withdrawal. I hope that we can now make progress. I am several minutes into my speech and have not got to the meat of it. The reason for that lies entirely with Opposition Members. Let us now make progress, as we should all like to do.
The concerns underlying the amendments are important and deserve to be considered. If I can be reassured by remarks made by the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge or the Minister, that will be splendid. We are in a different era from when legislation on the subject was originally introduced. When the sale of goods legislation was introduced, we considered a simpler position whereby there was little option between buying goods in a shop, which is clearly in the course of business, and buying goods privately, perhaps from a neighbour, or through classified advertisements in the local newspaper. But now, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South- East (Mr. Paice) has said, the distinction is blurred.
My hon. Friend related stories of people who respond to classified advertisements and discover that they are dealing with a commercial business such as a car showroom. We heard about the practice of shop squatting, which occurs in my constituency. Local authorities have occasionally been reduced to putting skips full of earth outside premises to stop shop squatters gaining access.
Mr. Clelland : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you rule on whether the hon. Gentleman is talking about anything to do with the Bill ? Shop squatting and skips outside shops have nothing to do with the Bill.
Mr. Waterson : If the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge had held his peace for a millisecond longer, I should have come to the subject of car boot sales, on which I hoped to intervene during his speech when he rattled through his Department of Trade and Industry brief. Car boot sales are a problem in all sorts of ways. There are few Members of Parliament who have not had to deal with the range of problems associated with car boot sales such as planning and traffic matters. Many of us--I am no exception-- regularly receive letters from people who have acquired items that are new or second hand at such sales. They are a substantial business--at least in my part of the country, in Sussex, and I dare say in other parts of the country as well. That is why the definition of
"in the course of a business"
is so important.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) spoke of where the definition draws the line--whether the business is defined by the place where the property is acquired or the activity of the seller. My hon.
Column 1068Friend wondered whether someone who sporadically sold items would fall within the definition. That is precisely what I want to know from the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge. If someone occasionally, not necessarily every week or every weekend, goes to car boot sales, rents a pitch and sells items that are new or second hand--it is common ground that the sales of goods legislation applies every bit as much to second-hand goods as to new ones--and a member of the public buys an item, is that transaction caught within the wording of the Bill ? I do not know whether the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge wants to deal with that issue- -apparently he does not.
One way to approach the subject is to look at the ordinary life style and business of the seller. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will comment on that subject. Perhaps the tax law can assist us. Will the person who is selling on a part-time basis be caught by the tax provisions, and is what he or she is doing a business ? If tax is paid, will it be capital gains tax or income tax ?
I have one reservation about amendments Nos. 15 and 16 : I wonder whether they are drawn a little too wide. Any law student will say that there is already an enormous body of case law on the sale of goods. I hope to speak later on the word "merchantable", which has acquired a massive body of case law--I regret its proposed demise. The same will apply to the amendments, which are loosely worded. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire South-East said that he did not have the expert assistance from which the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge benefited. With due respect to my hon. Friend, perhaps the Government draftsmen can do a better job. My only reservation is whether the amendments, if accepted, will produce a substantial volume of new case law, which is the last thing we need on the subject of sale of goods.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : It seems that when one speaks on the subjects of Bills one has to provide one's provenance to prove that one has a genuine interest in the subject. I spoke on the subject in 1989. I think--I do not know--that I am the only Member present today who spoke on the Consumer Guarantees Bill in 1990. For those who are interested in great speeches, my remarks can be found in columns 1221, 1222 and 1223 of the Official Report of 26 January 1990. I opposed the Bill then because I thought that it was far too widely drawn. I do not know whether it was as a result of opposing the Consumer Guarantees Bill that shortly after that I was made a Minister with responsibility for consumer affairs. I have taken an interest in such matters for some time.
Although a number of us opposed the Consumer Guarantees Bill on 26 January 1990 because we felt that it was drawn too widely, it was in many ways a forerunner of the Bill that we are discussing today. When I was a Minister with responsibility for consumer affairs, I took an interest in such matters, not least because, as a lawyer, I had been involved in them for a number of years. I had hoped that we would manage to produce a wider consumer Act. Replacing "merchantable quality" with the words "satisfactory quality" has been a controversial issue for a long time. The law commissioners dealt with that at some length and the Bill of the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) is useful. There is no doubt that, whatever one's romantic feelings about an old-fashioned term such as "of merchantable quality", the Bill is long overdue.
I regret that the Government, for very good reasons, have been unable to introduce a Bill in Government time
Column 1069--we understand the pressures on the legislative timetable--but this is a useful Bill which we should all welcome. It is precisely because it is useful that I oppose the amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice).
My hon. Friend is not a lawyer, and it is perhaps because he is not a lawyer that he spoke so clearly on a complex subject. I shall deal in a moment with the concerns of my hon. Friends the Members for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) and for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald). I understand the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East that led him to table the amendments. I hope that I shall not sound too much like a negative lawyer, but I believe that the amendments would be unworkable. If, by some mischance, they were to be accepted, they would drive a coach and horses through the Bill and provide new opportunities for litigation. They would be a lawyers' paradise. I do not know what my hon. Friend the Minister is going to say, but I suspect that it will be very similar to what I am saying.
I understand why my hon. Friend the Cambridgeshire, South-East tabled the amendments. He is worried about Sunday markets and I, too, constantly receive complaints about car boot sales. I suspect that he was speaking as a frustrated layman and on behalf of his constituents when he said that the public should be protected. The people who set up at car boot sales are effectively masquerading as business men. The public should therefore be protected as they would be if they were dealing with a business. I agree that a member of the public cannot possibly know the nature of the business involved in a car boot sale or a shop squat. My hon. Friend said that the Bill should be restrictive and that only the wholly private seller should be excluded from its provisions. He felt that the amendment would make that clear.
I receive many complaints from my constituents, especially about Hemswell market near Gainsborough where people have bought what they subsequently considered to be shoddy goods but had no redress. I confess that I receive fewer complaints about goods from people who have bought them at car boot sales than from reputable businesses in Gainsborough which believe that such goods have fallen off the back of a lorry. It is not so much a question of the goods being shoddy and the public not receiving a perfectly satisfactory buy ; the people who are suffering are not those who attend Sunday markets such as that at Hemswell but the reputable traders of Gainsborough who are losing business and the ordinary people of Gainsborough whose videos and other goods have perhaps been stolen.
Unlike my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East and for Monmouth, I do not believe that the main problem with car boot sales is the nature of the goods sold there. I suspect that members of the public who attend car boot sales know that they are taking a slight risk because they are not going to a reputable shop. They know that such sales take place on an ad hoc basis. They wander around enjoying themselves and hope to get a bargain.
Column 1070recorders at car boot sales are often assured that the goods will work but find that they do not when they get them home ? In the present circumstances, they have no redress.
Mr. Leigh : My hon. Friend is quite right. It is precisely for that reason that I would not buy a video or a tape recorder at a car boot sale. I would have the common sense--I suspect that many of my constituents have, too--to know that, if one goes to a car boot sale and picks up a lemon, one has no redress. That is the nature of the deal--that is life. It is the give and take of commercial life. Let us consider what would happen if the amendments were passed. Anyone selling items at a car boot sale or any kind of informal gathering would have placed on him an obligation as onerous as that placed on an ordinary shopkeeper. A potential purchaser could attend the sale determined to buy something dirt cheap--it could have fallen off the back of a lorry--but do so in the knowledge that the item he bought was covered by the implied term "satisfactory quality". He would therefore win in every way.
The amendment would therefore promote the very shop squats and car boot sales about which the House is worried, whereas we want to protect reputable shopkeepers who are paying rates and rents. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East will accept that the amendment would not only mean a massive increase in litigation but would achieve precisely the opposite of what he wants and harm reputable shopkeepers.
Mr. Fabricant : My hon. Friend is right to say that anyone attending a car boot sale should not expect the same quality of goods that one buys in a shop and that we should not seek to place the same onerous responsibilities on a car boot salesman. However, if one finds a bargain and asks the person selling it whether both rings on the cooker work or whether the tape recorder works, one asks a specific question to which one receives a specific answer. In that case, it is surely wrong for the car boot salesman to lie. Should not there be redress in such circumstances ?
Mr. Leigh : That is a different situation. If there is misrepresentation, various forms of traditional legal redress are available under common law, if not statute law. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth has more experience of this than I. We are debating an implied term. Is my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) arguing that the new implied term "satisfactory quality" should apply to goods bought at informal gatherings ?
I am not in the business of protecting people who misrepresent goods. If I, as a private person, wish to sell my car and go out of my way to misrepresent it, there would be a right of redress against me, or at least the possibility of damages. The consumer could come back to me. I hope that no one is suggesting that if I sell my car as a private person, I should be bound by the same implied terms that would cover a commercial car salesman. I am open to persuasion, but I hope that, whatever his concerns, my hon. Friend will withdraw the amendments.
My hon. Friend mentioned classified advertisements, but he did not make a very powerful case. Under modern law, one is entitled to know whether a classified advertisement has been put in a newspaper by a commercial salesman or a private individual. The situation is quite different at a car boot sale where one is face to face during a transaction. One can ask someone questions face
Column 1071to face. It is difficult to ask a classified advertisement about what is being sold, but one can ask someone who is trying to sell something at a car boot sale where the goods come from and what the nature of the person's business is.
Similar arguments apply to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth. He is trying to take matters so wide that virtually anything that one says can be taken as a description. I appreciate that my hon. Friend is a lawyer ; for all I know, he may still be in practice. However, I am sure that when he thinks these matters through he will realise that, once again, this is simply an opportunity for opening up vast areas of litigation.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, I am nostalgic for the old term "merchantable quality", but I am sure that my hon. Friend would accept that the ordinary member of the public has no idea what that term means. I hope that, although my hon. Friend is, as I am, a conservative, he will realise that the term "satisfactory quality" is a far more modern term which the man on the Clapham omnibus can understand.
When I was doing my law finals, I did not understand what "merchantable quality" meant, but I was too shy to ask my law teachers. I am still not entirely sure what it means. We have in the Bill satisfactory wording that a reasonable person, if he is buying from someone who is engaged in sales in a commercial sense, can understand. He will know that there is an implied assurance of satisfactory quality. If we were to take matters further, we would not improve the legislation.
I know that what I am saying is, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, that there will be all sorts of Arthur Daley-type salesmen who will get away scot free. That has always happened in real life. We can rely on the good sense of people who go to Sunday markets to know what is going on and to take particular care. I hope that, on mature consideration, we shall leave the Bill unamended.
Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport) : I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this short debate. I do not propose to detain the House long as there is important business after this which I know that a number of hon. Members present wish to address.
I very much endorse the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh). I believe that the Bill should be left alone. However, I believe that my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) and for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) made some powerful and telling comments. I shall pick up one or two of their points and refer to two or three of the amendments.
If you will allow me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel that it is necessary to make one important point. I was not present for the debate on the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Bill, although I have sought to speak on this Bill. In view of some of the rather unpleasant exchanges during the previous Division, I feel that it is necessary to say that I propose to speak with considerable brevity. It is well known that within my constituency I have been a campaigner for disabled people, both before and during my time as a Member of Parliament. I am also a registered
Column 1072disabled person myself, so I hope that it will not be necessary to listen to any nonsense by way of sedentary interventions by Opposition Members.
With regard to amendments Nos. 7 and 11, I am especially concerned about the suggestion that members of the public should have adequate protection if they buy goods from a particular seller. What concerns me more than anything else is the suggestion that it should be possible to provide consumer protection for those who buy goods from a particular source. I am especially concerned about whether we should allow for protection in respect of goods that are bought from someone who appears to the buyer to be a reputable seller, but who turns out not to be a reputable seller of the goods.
Amendment No. 7 goes to the heart of the problem, but it will be rather unworkable. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth should think carefully about withdrawing it. I accept that the amendment would make it a requirement that the goods would need to be fit for the purpose reasonably intended by the buyer. However, I subscribe to the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle that the amendments would lead to a lawyers' paradise and that they are unworkable. The Bill should be left intact. Amendment No. 15, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) referred, would require that goods would need to be of satisfactory quality even if not sold in the course of business. This goes to the heart of my concern about how much one can legislate for. I want to see adequate consumer protection.
Mr. Roger Evans : The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) did not give way when I tried to intervene on this point. Bearing in mind what our hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) said when he introduced the amendments, it is unrealistic to look at amendment No. 15 without looking at amendment No. 16, as they are part and parcel of the same proposal. It is not being suggested that all private sales should be covered. What is being proposed is that
"whenever the seller sells goods in the course of a business and otherwise when in all the circumstances it is reasonable to imply the same",
such sales should be caught.
Mr. Evans indicated assent .
Mr. Banks : My hon. Friend indicates that he does not seek to over- legislate and I am grateful to him for that. Under the law as it stands, the only implied terms when the seller is not acting by way of business are that the seller has good title and that the goods are as described. However, I am not convinced that the amendments should be accepted. It will be for my hon. Friend to decide on the appropriate course of action later.
The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) referred to the question of buyers having different rights depending on when or where they bought their goods. My contention is that it will be especially difficult to legislate for all the occasions when a member of the public buys an item from one source or another.
Column 1073I hope that the Bill will move smoothly through the House today. I want it to be workable and enforceable, and I want it to provide adequate protection for the public. I did not have the opportunity to speak in the House in 1989, but I have taken a particular interest in consumer protection both before and during my time in the House and I am grateful to be able to speak in the House, albeit briefly, on this important Bill and the amendments.