HC Deb 12 April 1976 vol 909 cc888-90
2. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to strengthen consumer protection within the EEC.

Mr. Maclennan

We have played an active part in the preparation of the Community consumer protection and information programme and are participating fully in discussions on a number of proposals designed to benefit consumers throughout the Community. Officials of my Department have also recently met representatives of the Commission and of other member States to discuss priorities for the future.

Miss Fookes

What are those priorities?

Mr. Maclennan

In the Community they cover five basic areas—health and safety, economic interests, the redress of grievances, information and education, and representation. The Government have suggested that priority should be given to measures of the widest importance which make the best use of the Community's limited resources, including particularly measures to help reduce accidents in the home on a Community-wide approach, automatic means of labelling and pricing goods and the exchange of information on the best ways to collect and disseminate price information to consumers. However, we attach the highest importance to a strengthened role for the Consumer Consultative Committee.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Is my hon. Friend aware that I was pleased to join the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) at a meeting of parliamentarians in Brussels concerned with consumer problems a short time ago? Is he aware that we were appalled to learn that the number and amount of staff and resources within the Commission devoted to consumer problems were equivalent to just four full-time members and that the consumer viewpoint on the common agricultural policy appeared to be grotesquely under-represented? What is he doing about that?

Mr. Maclennan

I fully share my hon. Friend's views on this matter and his concern about the weakness of the staffing and structure of the Consumer Consultative Committee. I particularly regret and deplore the Commission's failure to take full account of the Committee's representations before the ministerial meeting at which the common agricultural policy decisions were taken. We hope that during the coming year this position can be very much improved along the lines that my hon. Friend has suggested.

Mr. Marten

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the forcible incorporation of dried skimmed milk into animal feeding stuffs will raise the cost of food? Has this had the permission of the Price Commission?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Member knows that that is a question for the Minister of Agriculture, but the arrangements are temporary and will all be reviewed.