HC Deb 08 December 1975 vol 902 cc20-1
13. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what has been the percentage rise in grocery prices in the 12-months' period to the end of October 1975.

Mr. Maclennan

"Groceries", as such, are not an item defined in the index of retail prices.

Mr. Dykes

In my Question I was referring to grocery prices. Does not the hon. Gentleman follow, for example, the Financial Times index of grocery prices, or what the Grocer magazine publishes? Cannot he say more than he has said? Does he not accept that he and the Secretary of State have an obligation to aim for a lower percentage rise in grocery prices over the next 12 months than is shown in the general retail price index?

Mr. Maclennan

I am not answerable for the unofficial price indices published by newspapers, and the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment on them, although I read them with interest. The Government have made plain their hope that a selective price restraint scheme will be of benefit in this area, though we recognise the impossibility of concentrating all the benefits on food.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is considerable evidence to show that many large organisations, such as supermarkets, not only offer loss leaders but charge excessive prices for some commodities? Therefore, is there not a case for adding to the system of ranges of prices by having a maximum price for a wide range of consumer goods? We appreciate the difficulties in this regard, but will my hon. Friend consider this suggestion seriously and discuss the matter with the parties concerned?

Mr. Maclennan

As my hon. Friend knows, we have introduced a maximum price for subsidised foods, to ensure that taxpayers' money voted for the benefit of the consumer reaches the consumer. During the passage of the Prices Bill we considered the possibility of price ranges being introduced. There would be considerable difficulties in implementing such a scheme.

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