18. Mr. Ioan Evans
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection on what goods unit pricing will be required; and when it will be introduced.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
The first goods which I have in mind for unit pricing are fresh meat, fish and certain vegetables. I anticipate that others will follow in due course. I am discussing the practical problems on this first list urgently with the trades affected and hope to be able to make the orders as soon as possible after the Prices Bill has become law.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her success in the action she is taking, in which the previous administration failed? When my right hon. Friend frames the new orders, will she deal with the special problems which face small shopkeepers? If she is taking vegetables into account, will she also include fruit? In that way she may perhaps include the sour grapes of the Conservative Party.
§ Mrs. Williams
We are looking closely into the problems of small shopkeepers. We are concerned that many small shopkeepers are speciality traders, such as greengrocers and butchers, and to exclude them from the effects of unit pricing would be to undo some of the benefits of that scheme. We are specifically consulting organisations that represent small shopkeepers with a view to trying to minimise the trouble to them. We believe that unit pricing needs to be a universal system, and we shall look sympathetically at my hon. Friend's proposal with regard to fresh fruit.
§ Mr. Cormack
Will the right hon. Lady repudiate the rather partisan suggestions of her hon. Friend since this legislation was an all-party measure which was before the House under the Conservative Government? Has she yet decided whether marketing should be on the shelves or on the products?
§ Mrs. Williams
The hon. Gentleman may remember that in his earlier incarnation his Bill was defeated by Tory objection, and he should recognise that a minority Labour Government have had the pleasure of getting it on to the statute book. We are discussing with the trade details of labelling, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman wishes me to anticipate the results of that consultation, which is genuine, because we want to take into account all the views and concerns expressed by people on this issue.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
Is the right hon. Lady aware that she is being less than honest if she does not mention that the Bill was twice defeated by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton)?
§ Mrs. Oppenheim
Is the right hon. Lady also aware that her original reply was disappointing? With the new change to metrication on sugar, unit pricing will be important. Since her hon. Friend the Minister gave an undertaking on this subject, will the Secretary of State give the House reassurance on this topic?
§ Mrs. Williams
The hon. Lady will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) strongly supported unit pricing in the name of the official Opposition during the last Parliament. That measure reached the statute book with all-party support. On the question of sugar she will be aware that there are orders concerning sugar, particularly the metrication of sugar, in another place. This must be considered alongside any move towards unit pricing.