HC Deb 16 July 1970 vol 803 cc1697-8
2. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many notifications under the Prices and Incomes Act in respect of price increases have been made to his Department since 18th June, 1970; and what action he has taken on them.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment and Productivity (Mr. Paul Bryan)

Such notifications are not made to my Department. Since 18th June, 60 notifications have been received by Departments responsible for particular commodities and services under the voluntary arrangements for the early warning of price increases.

Mr. Fraser

Will that voluntary notification machinery be continued in order to keep a watch on prices, and will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, wherever there is a price rise which gives cause for concern, he will, jointly with other Ministers, refer it for public scrutiny to the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Bryan

The Government have stated their determination to strengthen the economy and to curb inflation. As I have said, the arrangements under which firms at present notify proposals for price increases are under review in the context of our detailed consideration of means of achieving the Government's objective. As for the Prices and Incomes Board, my right hon. Friend will be answering Questions on this subject a little later.

Sir G. Nabarro

As so many of the price increases are motivated by the behaviour of nationalised industries—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes, they are—and as price increases by nationalised industries are now to be the responsibility of Government Departments, will Ministers answer in the House for the reaction of Government Departments to the demands of nationalised industry for price increases?

Mr. Bryan

In his speech on the Address, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that all these rises, or possible rises, in the nationalised industries would be carefully scrutinised.

Mr. Barnett

Following the Prime Minister's recent reply, may we take it that the Government intend to allow private industry to increase prices as it will without any Government intervention whatever?

Mr. Bryan

The hon. Gentleman may take it that competition will be introduced during the lifetime of this Government in a way which was not known under the last Government.

17. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what action he proposes to prevent unjustifiable price rises.

Mr. Bryan

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on 9th July, 1970.—[Vol. 803, c. 79–80.]

Mr. Sheldon

What action does the Minister propose to take if, as a result of the dock strike or for any other reason, a company abuses its market power and increases prices unjustifiably?

Mr. Bryan

History shows that competition—[Interruption.] I say again, history shows that competition has been much more effective in curbing prices than have any of the administrative measures of the last Government.

Mr. Dell

If the hon. Member believes so intensely in competition, will he inform the House when he expects to complete his current investigation into competition law and when he proposes to introduce legislation creating a Registrar of Monopolies and Mergers?

Mr. Bryan

Neither of those things may be said yet.

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