HC Deb 09 November 1970 vol 806 cc23-4
25. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on how many occasions since 24th July he has intervened to prevent proposed price increases by the gas and electricity supply industries.

Mr. John Davies

I have once invited a board to defer a proposal.

Mr. Judd

Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman has not vetoed price increases in this sphere? Does he recall the specific pledges made by his right hon. Friends on this issue of price increases in the public sector? Is he aware that many of the least affluent members of our community feel betrayed by this Government and, together with many others, regard the so-called pledges in the recent election as nothing more than cynical and despicable opportunism?

Mr. Davies

I recognise the wide spread concern that there is over the various increases in prices. I also realise the degree to which this is due to the pace of inflation at the moment. I would stress that I have no formal powers to prevent price increases.

As regards the undertakings given by this Government, it will be recalled that Mr. Macleod said in this House that we would scrutinise very closely all proposed price increases in the public sector and that these increases would be allowed only when there was a proven case for them.

Mr. Emery

Can my right hon. Friend say what proportion of these increases has been due to the very considerable increases in wages given within these industries, illustrating the wage inflationary position? Can he also say that it will be very much better if those industries are able to stand on their own feet, with a sensible pricing policy?

Mr. Davies

It is certainly true that a large part of the recent coal price increase was involved with the wage settlement. But I think it is only right to point out that in the case of gas and electricity, domestic rates have not gone up for a considerable time—for at least two-and-a-half to three years.