HC Deb 11 November 1974 vol 881 cc19-20
15. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she is satisfied that increased consumer protection has produced better service to the consumer.

Mr. Alan Williams

Yes, Sir. But I am continually seeking ways of encouraging further improvement.

Mr. Carter

Is my hon. Friend aware that, while it is true that because of consumer protection it is now much easier to get goods changed or to get one's money back, many industries see this as the limit of their responsibilities and are ignoring the subject of quality, and in many cases quality is actually falling? Does he agree that quality is just as much a part of consumer protection as is anything else, and will he carry out investigations to determine to what extent consumer protection might have affected quality?

Mr. Williams

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the examples which he has put to the Department. I have been having discussions recently with the Director General of Fair Trading on the quality of certain products. For example, one obviously has looked at the report which appeared recently about the quality of boots and shoes. If there is any way in which one can improve the protection given to consumers, it will be our objective to do so.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that his Department has given no protection whatsoever to consumers in relation to the sugar shortage, that rationing at an earlier stage could have avoided intolerable pressures on shopkeepers and consumers, that insulting remarks about hoarding relating, for example, to working housewives and housewives with young families, have caused a great deal of anger, and that if anybody is hoarding it is people who can afford to pay the financial sanctions—which I asked the right hon. Lady to stop and which she partially condoned in a Written Answer to me and which means rationing by cost, a strange concept for a Labour Government?

Mr. Williams

I am sure my right hon. Friend will note that the Conservative Party is now asking for rationing.

Mr. Raison

Can the hon. Gentleman say what he expects to happen to sugar prices over the next few months and what steps, if any, the Government propose to take on this?

Mr. Williams

That goes way beyond this Question. I advise the hon. Gentleman to table a specific Question.

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