HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc191-2
24. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Power, in view of the fact that the gas and electricity boards advertise on television, cinema screens and in newspapers and periodicals and offer free gifts to customers with a view to securing new consumers at the expense of each other and as this cost is eventually passed on to the consumers, whether he will issue a general direction to gas and electricity boards that they should cease this practice.

Mr. Freeson

No, Sir.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Is it not quite ludicrous that two public bodies like these should be encouraging customers to do precisely what the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not want them to do and which, we understand, he will be having to introduce legislation in the next Budget to prevent them from doing, and using public money to do it?

Mr. Freeson

We have had this Question often before—[Interruption.]—but this time it is more loaded than previously. It must be borne in mind that these industries, whatever views there may be about different kinds of advertising, spend less than 0.5 per cent, of their combined turnover on advertising, which is a much smaller percentage than that applicable to industry at large. As for the general position of publicity and promotion, we are now looking into this matter.

Mr. Palmer

Would my hon. Friend agree that publicly-owned commercial undertakings are expected to compete in the market with every other form of consumer demand? Will he do nothing to combat the normal and proper advertising methods of these publicly-owned commercial undertakings?

Mr. Freeson

My hon. Friend's question gives me an opportunity to make it clear that it is incorrect economically to speak of these industries just competing with each other. They are, in fact, competing with other forms of consumption; and, therefore, a certain amount of advertising is inevitable and right.