HC Deb 16 December 1974 vol 883 cc1109-10
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.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I did so in the debate on 2nd December.

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.