HC Deb 16 June 1975 vol 893 cc950-1
18. Mr. Ian Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she will make a statement on the latest report of the Price Commission.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The report deals with many topics, including movements in labour costs, and material costs. The report says that prices were still being affected by the increase in oil prices but once this worked its way through, rising prices would largely be due to rising labour costs.

Mr. Stewart

In the light of the Price Commission report, does the right hon. Lady consider that there is any further scope for restricting price increases by limitations on wholesale or retail margins? Will she say whether her plan for continuing restraint of prices will take into account the danger of promoting unemployment through the erosion of profit margins, caused in many cases by a delay in approving price adjustments at a time of high and accelerating inflation?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

As I have already said, we are trying to strike a balance between the needs of investment and the maintenance of employment, on the one side, and the need to reduce the rate of inflation, as far as possible, on the other. It is with this in mind that I have given the Price Commission additional powers to make special inquiries about individual prices while retaining a general structure of control over the profits of enterprises.

Mr. Lipton

What is the Price Commission doing about the excessive cost of ice-cream, hamburgers, and so on, charged by street traders in the West End? Let us forget all these airy-fairy theories. What is it doing about that?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Since one of my hon. Friend's colleagues has asked exactly this Question, it would be unfair of me to answer it in reply to a supplementary question.