HC Deb 13 May 1968 vol 764 cc842-3
17. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will take steps to set up separate regional prices boards.

Mrs. Castle

I do not think that this course would be justified.

Dr. Summerskill

Would not regional prices boards serve to speed up the investigation of price increases and take into account the variation in prices of the same commodities which occur in different parts of the country?

Mrs. Castle

I am aware that there are such regional variations, and the Index of Retail Prices takes account of such local and regional variations. I expect a report in a few days' time from my Advisory Committee on the Index of Retail Prices which I think will deal with the question whether a regional price index would be valuable.

Mr. Doughty

Would not the best way of reducing regional or national prices be to have a change in Government policy, particularly in regard to taxation.

Mrs. Castle

No, Sir.

Mr. Barnett

Would it not be better if the Government stopped pretending that they can have anything more than a marginal influence on prices? In the circumstances, is it not impossible to get the co-operation of the trade unions, which is needed to get an effective incomes policy? By persisting with legislation are we not in danger of jeopardising any long-term prospect for a realistic policy?

Mrs. Castle

My hon. Friend is going very wide of the original Question. I shall be very happy to debate this matter with him again, as I have in the past, on appropriate occasions. I cannot for a moment accept his defeatism about the possibility of having an influence on prices. We know that already the Government machinery has had a continuing influence, because firms know that all the fluctuations or variations are watched and that we take action wherever we think that is necessary. Already this has had an effect. The powers contained in the new Bill will have an even greater effect.

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