§ 5. Mr. Ridsdale
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will introduce legislation with a view to reforming the present machinery for consumer consultation over price increases in the nationalised industries.
§ 8. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will review the various consultative committees of the nationalised industries, with a view to taking steps to increase their effectiveness and to make them more representative of the consumer.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Will the right hon. Gentleman form an independent consumer representation to the price review 641 body, and is he aware that a large number of people have no faith in his claim to be the best protector of consumers and regard him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the best two one-armed bandits in the country?
§ 22. Mr. Channon
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will bring to the attention of the price review body the increases in prices imposed by the nationalised industries since mid-February.
§ Mr. Channon
Does not the First Secretary of State recognise that price increases by the nationalised industries are the Government's responsibility to some extent and it is only fair that these matters should be borne in mind? If his price review body is to work, why should not all prices be considered by it?
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
If the First Secretary of State is right in the view he has taken so far, is it not right that these matters should be submitted to the consideration of an impartial body?
§ Mr. Brown
We have many impartial bodies which already look at proposals for price increases in the nationalised sector. They have to satisfy the Government, and I can assure the House from personal knowledge that they have to go through a very rigorous examination. I have made it perfectly plain that I do not rule out referring their cases also to the new body.
§ 25. Mr. Patrick Jenkin
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs by what criteria he determines the level at which the charges made by nationalised industries should be fixed in order to secure the economic 642 use of national resources consistent with Her Majesty's Government's policy for incomes and prices.
§ 26. Mr. Howe
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs by what standards, consistent with Her Majesty's Government's policies for incomes and prices, he determines whether the prices charged by nationalised industries are at a lower level than the economic use of the country's resources requires.
§ Mr. George Brown
The prices and charges of the nationalised industries are determined by the industries themselves taking into account the two considerations referred to in my reply of 4th February to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward).
§ Mr. Jenkin
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. Does he not agree that there is no alternative to this but what the market will bear? Does he not recognise that this is the appropriate criterion?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not also true that before price increases are made by nationalised industries the Ministers concerned have to be thoroughly satisfied?
§ Dame Irene Ward
Since quite a lot of control is presumably exercised by the right hon. Gentleman over prices in the nationalised industries, when can we expect any of the prices to come down, because they have done nothing but go up, up, up?
§ Mr. Brown
All the nationalised industries suffer from the fact that private enterprise puts its charges up to them. What the nationalised industries have done is to absorb a very large part of the costs pushed on to them. I hope that as a result of the new body we shall establish this as the general practice.
§ Mr. Wainwright
Does my right hon. Friend agree that during the period up to 1957 when coal was in short supply the price of imported coal, which ran to the 643 figure of £70 million, had to be borne by the National Coal Board?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Would the First Secretary of State do his best to ensure that fuel supplies at the cheapest price are available both to industry and the consumer, from whatever source?