HC Deb 06 May 1968 vol 764 cc8-10
5. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of Technology if he will refer to the National Board for Prices and Incomes for examination prices currently being charged for the repair and servicing of gas and electrical domestic appliances.

Mr. Benn

I will certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion. However, I 'think it preferable to await the reports of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on the two references affecting these industries with which it is already dealing and which should throw useful light on consumer service arrangements.

Mr. Barnes

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that, like the garage business, this is an area in which there are very wide variations in the standard and costs of repairs and that such an examination would make an important contribution to the prices and incomes policy?

Mr. Benn

Yes, but we made the reference on distributors' margins covering domestic electrical apparatus last summer and have now made it on the gas industry, covering the consumer services as well, and it would be better to wait until those reports are in. I have some complaints—very few on the gas side but some on the electrical side—but this is generally because people do not understand the necessarily high labour charges when visits are made.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, despite the fact that garage prices were considered by the Board, no action has been taken to bring them down? I hope that, in this case, much more effective action will be taken.

Mr. Benn

Garage charges are quite a separate question. We have been in discussion with the trade about the follow-up from the Report and my hon. Friend should not be unduly depressed about the outcome.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have received complaints—as, I dare say, have other hon. Members—from constituents that they are being charged these extra sums now?

Mr. Benn

As I said, there are very few complaints about gas appliances, these being done mainly by the boards—electrical appliances are done also, of course, by private electrical firms—and most of those which we have considered carefully have, on examination, proved to be unjustifiable.