HC Deb 06 February 1964 vol 688 cc1320-3
22. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development what discussions he had with the Scottish whisky trade before his announcement of his intention to introduce a Bill on resale price maintenance.

35. Mr. A. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development what are the names of the organisations representing the retail traders organisations and their representatives which he interviewed prior to making the Government's announcement on the abolition of Resale Price Maintenance; and how many meetings were held before this announcement was made.

Mr. Heath

Evidence was received from over 70 organisations during the Board of Trade inquiry, including many associations representing retailers and two representing the wines and spirits trade. Evidence from individual manufacturers was also collected. Since the inquiry was confidential, I cannot give further details.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the intolerable strain which has resulted in Scotland because of a "leak" that the price of whisky was to be reduced by 6s. a bottle? Will he inquire who caused this leak? Is he aware that, on the other side, the licensed grocers are protesting to their Members of Parliament that the distillers are calling the Prime Minister a traitor to his class, and others want the money back from the Tory Party funds? Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up this matter?

Mr. Heath

I am afraid the hon. Member did not make plain what was the cause of the strain in his area at the moment. Was it in holding back until prices are reduced, or a misunderstanding about the nature of the leak?

Mr. Stonehonse

In view of the fact that many opponents of R.P.M. are not aware of the arguments in favour of it being abolished, will the right hon. Gentleman consider releasing some details of the investigations he has made in his Department without revealing confidential facts which he does not want to be released?

Mr. Heath

As the evidence was given to the Department on the basis that it would not be published, and was confidential so that the firms and associations felt themselves in those circumstances free to give evidence, I do not think it would be proper to try to extract parts of the information.

Mr. Darling

Would it be possible to publish the Departmental conclusions without the evidence?

Mr. Heath

I think the hon. Member has heard the statement of Government policy, and that is what the Government must give to the House.

30. Mr. K. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development whether, in preparing his promised legislation covering resale price maintenance, he will have regard to the safeguarding of prices when these are maintained in order to include service to the goods, replacement of defective parts and loss caused by defect which the Consumer Council suggests should be made an obligation on manufacturers.

Mr. Heath

I shall have these considerations in mind in framing my proposals, but the resale price maintenance Bill would not be the appropriate instrument for any amendment of the law relating to guarantees.

Mr. Lewis

Since my right hon. Friend decided upon his legislation for the abolition of resale price maintenance very much upon the basis of what the Consumer Council said, may I ask him to bear in mind what the Council said a fortnight later, namely, that servicing, and replacement of parts by manufacturers is a very important factor? Is he not aware that supermarkets and mini-markets and all the things we now have do not always provide this type of service and that it is desirable that we should retain a few of the shops which do provide such service?

Mr. Heath

Yes, I will certainly bear in mind the point my hon. Friend has made about the recommendation of the Consumer Council. As to the last point, this means that a choice is necessary for the consumer and he must make his own decision.

Mr. Oram

Did not the report of the Consumer Council show that customers are at a considerable disadvantage vis-à-vis manufacturers and retailers in the matter of defects in goods and retailers escaping their liabilities? Since the Secretary of State responded to prodding in respect of hire-purchase legislation and resole price maintenance legislation, can we be encouraged to think that, if we go on prodding him on this matter, we shall get legislation in response to this Consumer Council recommendation?

Mr. Heath

I have not given any verdict or decision about this point. All I have said is that it is not suitable for inclusion in the particular resale prices Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are working on a programme of consumer protection legislation.