§ 21. Mr. Peter Morrison
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will make a statement on her plans for implementing paragraph 13 of the Price Code.
§ Mr. Morrison
Is the right hon. Lady aware that, desipte the sliding scale, the average company will face a 20 per cent. productivity deduction? Is she further aware that for the most efficient company this must mean a reduction in profit margins, which will lead eventually to redundancies and possibly shortages?
§ Mrs. Williams
Once again, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a difficult line to tread in these matters. The 50 per cent. productivity deduction was, in the Government's view, too great for companies to bear if there was not to be a substantial increase in unemployment. Consequently we reduced the productivity deduction, but it is the main plank of a price restriction machinery and therefore it would have been most unwise at this stage to do away with it.
§ Mr. Raison
As the right hon. Lady knows, during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill the other day the Undersecretary talked about a new Prices Bill. Can the right hon. Lady give an assurance that a new Prices Bill will not contain a version of Section 13, and will she explain what the Bill will contain and why it is needed?
§ Mrs. Williams
The hon. Gentleman will discover that the existing Prices Act has within it the possibility of extending its powers with regard to subsidy. There is, however, a figure in it of £700 million. It would require a Bill to be put before the House if that figure were to be raised to allow subsidies to continue even at their present level for a further period. Therefore, the Bill would be largely a technicality.
With regard to Section 13, that matter does not arise. It was a matter for the review of the Price Code. Therefore, if any further action had to be taken on it, it would be a matter for discussion with both sides of industry before anything further was done.