HC Deb 11 December 1956 vol 562 cc199-200
9. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade what powers he still retains to impose price controls; and if he will use these powers to prevent profiteering from shortages, following the Suez crisis.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

There is power to control the price of a small number of commodities under Defence Regulation 55AB. I do not expect any general shortages or profiteering in the field for which I am responsible.

Mr. Swingler

Does that mean that the President is not going to use any price control powers at all? Is it not implied from the appeal of the Chancellor to businessmen that there is profiteering, or that there is going to be profiteering? Is it not quite clear from that statement that some price increases are not now justified and, therefore, that the President should take action to stop that happening?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The price control powers which I have are limited to a small number of commodities. As the hon. Member is aware, price control is operated on iron and steel scrap and in a few cases of that kind, but I do not intend to take wider powers.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of statements made by a number of his hon. Friends yesterday that manufacturers and traders are now tending to put up prices because of the increase in distribution charges because of the oil tax and other reasons? In view view of the appeal of the Chancellor, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) has drawn attention, does not the President think that the best way to stop the tendency to put up prices here, there and everywhere is to use price control?

Mr. Thorneycroft

One way to stop it will be for all of us not to exaggerate the increases of prices which have taken place or we can well create an atmosphere in which everybody will go in panic for increased prices. The movement has been quite small.

Mr. Rhodes

Would the right hon. Gentleman get his Department to watch very closely the price of oils other than hydrocarbon oils because at the moment those oils are being chalked up at prices which can get very high indeed without being noticed? Will he watch that?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Certainly, Sir.