HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc504-5
44. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether he will make a statement on Government policy on resale price maintenance, in view of the recent controversy concerning sales of tobacco and sweets.

49. Mr. Milne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will initiate discussions with manufacturing and retail bodies in the tobacco trade, with a view to amending legislation to ratify forthwith the existing resale price arrangements on cigarette sales.

Mr. Jay

It is too early to measure the full effects of the Resale Prices Act, 1964, although I am satisfied that it is introducing a measure of competition into retail distribution which is in the general public interest.

In the circumstances, I am not convinced that discussions about possible amendment of the Act would serve any useful purpose.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Government make plain that they favour the abolition of resale price maintenance in the interests of lower prices and of the consumer, and use all their powers to persuade manufacturers and distributors voluntarily to abandon the practice now?

Mr. Jay

We would be very glad to see abandonment of the practice voluntarily, but while the present legislation is in force proceedings under the Act must be followed.

Dr. John Dunwoody

Would my right hon. Friend agree that when he uses the phrase "the general public interest" in this context he should consider the possible consequences of a cigarette price war on the health of the community as a whole?

Mr. Jay

Yes, I would certainly agree with that.