HC Deb 01 February 1956 vol 548 cc922-3
46. Lieut-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Prime Minister, in view of his recent request to firms and organisations to give undertakings not to increase prices, what steps he proposes to take to bring this desideratum to the notice of the Post Office, Her Majesty's Stationery Office and other Government Departments concerned with the sale of any item to the public.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

I can best explain the position as follows. In those sectors of industry where productivity is increasing—and it was those to which my right hon. Friend was primarily referring—the firms concerned have a choice between, on the one hand, charging lower prices or, on the other, putting up prices and paying higher wages or dividends. In the case of Government Departments, with all allowance for increases in efficiency, any inadequacy in the charges imposes on the Exchequer a loss which must be met either by the taxpayer or by borrowing.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

With great respect to my right hon. Friend, what on earth is the good of asking private enterprise not to increase its prices when nationalised industries do exactly the opposite? Can my right hon. Friend mention one single nationalised industry which is not raising its charges almost continuously? Is not the recent increase in book postage, for instance, causing great hardship throughout the country?

Mr. Butler

It is somewhat difficult to make an exact analogy, as I have tried to describe in my original Answer, between Government Departments, to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, and private industry. But in general it is desirable that prices should be reduced wherever possible.

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