HC Deb 20 May 1974 vol 874 cc22-3
20. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will instruct the Price Commission to desist from controlling the prices of certain products of Shell Chemicals Ltd.

Mr. Maclennan

No, Sir.

Mr. Ridley

Now that the Minister has evidence that such price control will cause a grievous shortage of raw materials for British industry, would it help the Government if I were to charter a ship, load it up with chemicals, take it three miles out to sea and then bring it back, unload the goods for the home market and charge 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. on the turn? Is not that the only way to keep the British market supplied?

Mr. Maclennan

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman considers to be evidence, but I have none. The letter which his hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr, Bruce-Gardyne) referred to from Shell Chemicals Limited is simply a series of assertions which are not backed up by evidence.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

In that case is the Minister aware that the Dunlop Rubber Company, having sought for six months to obtain a quantity of chromic acid and being able to obtain only one-quarter of what it needed from the United Kingdom market, has recently been informed that in Germany it could obtain all the chromic acid that it needed at eight times the United Kingdom price, acid for the most part having been manufactured in Great Britain? If that is not the evidence the Minister wants, what is?

Mr. Maclennan

I can only say that the hon. Gentleman might have supplied that information a little earlier than this afternoon. I point out that the Price Code, under which these arrangements are being made, was introduced by the previous administration. The hon. Gentleman might more effectively have addressed his strictures to that administration.

Mr. Loughlin

If it is true, as some Conservative Members suggest, that certain firms are indulging in practices to which decent people can take exception, is it not about time that we examined those firms and considered whether it was in the national interest to take them over?

Mr. Maclennan

That is a matter which goes rather wide of the Question. My right hon. Friend and I are prepared to scrutinise the assertions of Conservative hon. Members with considerable care. If the practices to which they are drawing attention can be shown to be a direct consequence of the operation of the Price Code, and if it is shown to be in the national interest to amend or alter the code to take account of such practices and difficulties, in the process of review we shall consider taking action.

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