HC Deb 15 February 1967 vol 741 cc599-601
16. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which particular taxes had, by their increase, been responsible for the rise in prices of chocolate and sugar confectionery.

Mr. Hoy

The taxation increases which were partly responsible for the rise in these prices were the increase in Purchase Tax on chocolate and sugar confectionery on 20th July and, so far as it could not be absorbed, the introduction of Selective Employment Tax on distributive workers on 5th September.

Mr. Walker

Does not my hon. Friend recognise that the manufacturers should now be benefiting substantially from the refund and premiums from the Selective Employment Tax and, furthermore, should have benefited from the termination of the import surcharge? Is he not aware that the leading manufacturers have enjoyed large and increasing profits and that it seems unfair to a great many people that these charges should be passed on to the consumer?

Mr. Hoy

I assure my hon. Friend that these matters were taken into account and that, before approval was given, the firms supplied comprehensive statements about their economic position. It was only as a result of that that my right hon. Friend agreed to take the steps that he did.

Mr. Henry Clark

In view of the allegations made by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker), will the Minister consider taking action to prohibit television advertising of chocolate?

Mr. Hoy

That certainly does not arise from the Question.

39. Mr. Maddan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure that the increases in confectionery prices, authorised by him on 23rd January, do not exceed on average the 3 per cent. level referred to in the statement issued by his Department on the same date.

Mr. Peart

In our discussions with the manufacturers concerned, the precise price increase or weight reduction for each line affected was notified to me. I am satisfied that these changes will not be exceeded. The figure of 3 per cent. is our estimate of the overall effect of the agreed increases across the whole industry.

Mr. Maddan

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is rather stupid to have a compulsory prices policy when he does not activate the Weights and Measures Inspectorate to check that it is being enforced?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Member knows that I met the manufacturers on this and they agreed with me that we should proceed in this way. I have every confidence in their integrity. It is important to have voluntary co-operation. This increase was right within the criteria of the White Paper.

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