HC Deb 20 May 1974 vol 874 cc11-2
9. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what representations she has received about the prices of baked beans; and what replies she has sent.

Mr. Maclennan

I have received three letters, two of which complained about repricing old stock, and the replies explained the action we have taken to prohibit this practice. The third raised the general issue of rising prices and a suitable reply was sent.

Mrs. Short

This was a talking point at the last General Election, at least in my constituency. Is my hon. Friend aware that Heinz, which sells a lot of baked beans, made sales amounting to £112 million in 1973, an increase of 7 per cent. over 1972, and that in 1973 that same company's pre-tax profits amounted to £11 million, a 19 per cent. increase over its profits in 1972? Is it any wonder that many people feel that the increase in baked beans prices which has taken place, I think, twice in one month is quite unjustified in view of the company's profits? Will my hon. Friend ensure that when it next comes round for an increase the request is refused?

Mr. Maclennan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for providing the information. The manufacturers to whom she refers are subject to the Price Code, and retailers' and wholesalers' costs have been affected to some extent by the 10 per cent. cut recently introduced. However, we are most anxious to reach an agreement with the trade. Discussions are proceeding on this and on an agreed number of lines to be on offer at any one time. It is intended that baked beans should be included in that list.

Mr. Cormack

Does the Minister agree with the Chancellor that "profits" is no longer a dirty word? Will he tell us what were the post-tax profits of Heinz and will he explain how these companies can be expected to prosper, employ people and provide decent goods if they do not make a profit?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Member will be aware that I dealt with that point in my first speech from the Dispatch Box.

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