HC Deb 16 December 1974 vol 883 cc1102-4
14. Mr. Alison

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what monitoring of the effect of the cash flow position of smaller food manufacturing companies caused by price controls is undertaken by her Department; how many redundancies or closures have occurred in this context; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I keep in close touch with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Employment about cash flow and employment in the food manufacturing industry and I have carefully considered many representations from the industry during the current review of the Price Code. While there have been some redundancies and closures over the last 12 months it is impossible to say to what extent the Price Code is responsible as opposed to other factors.

Mr. Alison

Has the right hon. Lady heard about the closure of Anglia Canners Company at Wetherby in my constituency, which was directly due to the operation of the Price Code? Is it not perverse of the Government to facilitate a growth in consumer expenditure while at the same time making it impossible for producers to produce the goods and services on which consumers can spend money?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman may know that there have been redundancies and closures in the food manufacturing industry for many months past, long pre-dating the present administration and pre-dating the Price Code. Market factors are at least as important at present as is the Price Code, and I suspect considerably more so. But we are endeavouring to ease the Price Code at least to some extent to meet the problem of unemployment in this field.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

Will the right hon. Lady tell the House when she expects, by publishing the revised Price Code, to end the suspense in which these manufacturers find themselves?

Mrs. Williams

Yes. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the revised Price Code will be laid before the House on Wednesday.

Mr. Giles Shaw

In view of the representations which the right hon. Lady has had from the food industry, may I ask whether she is aware that, despite the concessions made to it both in the Price Code and the Budget, the net cash outflow in the industry is many millions of pounds? Will she take this into account in deciding the final amendments she makes to the Price Code so as to protect the variety and supply of food in our shops?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is one matter which we have taken into account in our discussions and consultations about the Price Code. I also have a great responsibility to try to reduce the effects of the increased rate of inflation and, therefore, we cannot go all the way to meet what the industry wants.