HC Deb 05 December 1972 vol 847 cc1094-5
Q2. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister if he will define the responsibilities of the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend is responsible for overseas trade matters, commercial policy in the United Kingdom, prices policy and competition and consumer policy. On the last he will work closely with other Ministers responsible for particular consumer matters to develop and co-ordinate the Government's policies in relation to the consumer.

Mr. Carter

What will be the new Minister's responsibilities on the introduction of value added tax? Is the Prime Minister aware that already companies are suggesting to wholesalers and retailers just how much they can increase profits when VAT is introduced? Will he urge the Minister to keep a watch for people who attempt to fleece consumers when VAT is introduced?

The Prime Minister

Value added tax is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House is to debate it fully later this afternoon. The point which the hon. Gentleman has made is a very important one, and action will be taken in this respect.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Prime Minister realise that it will not exactly fill the public with confidence in the new Minister's ability to resist the inbuilt pressures and lobbies that will inevitably result from his being wrongly placed within the major industrial sponsoring Department of his Government when they realise that he has already bowed to his own professional lobbies by excluding legal services from outside scrutiny—in other words, the new Bill?

The Prime Minister

This is an arguable point in the structure of government and I do not accept the view put forward by the hon. Gentleman. It has sometimes been argued in the past that it would be better to separate the industrial matters in government from the trading matters because each is likely to influence the other. On the other hand, all Prime Ministers have taken the view, learning from the experience of other countries, that it is better to have trade and industry together because that system works to prevent industry becoming protectionist. The same applies to having consumer protection inside the Department of Trade and Industry, because it can bring the necessary pressure to bear on industry.

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