HC Deb 12 April 1976 vol 909 cc907-9
21. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she next plans to meet the Chairman of the National Consumer Council.

Mr. Alan Williams

My most recent meeting with the Chairman of the National Consumer Council was last Tuesday, 6th April. I have since asked to meet the Chairman and the full Council in the near future. Ministers and officials of the Department are continually in touch with the Chairman of the Council.

Mr. Lamont

In view of the conclusion by the Price Commission that increases in nationalised industries' prices were greater than would be justified merely by the withdrawal of subsidies and in view of the concern that has been expressed on both sides of the House about nationalised industry price rises, will the Minister discuss with the Chairman of the National Consumer Council ways in which the consultative committees might be strengthened, particularly as they have been revealed as being so ineffective?

Mr. Alan Williams

I am a little surprised that the hon. Gentleman has overlooked the review, to which I have referred on several occasions, which my right hon. Friend and I set in motion, asking the NCC to do exactly that. It is due to report, I hope, within the next two months or so on the operation of the nationalised industry consultative councils. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. Friend has given the reference to the NCC to investigate the impact of energy tariffs upon the low-income family.

Mr. Ioan Evans

When my hon. Friend meets the Chairman of the NCC, will he congratulate him on the work of the Council since it was set up by the present Government? Does it not prove that the action taken by the Opposition in abolishing the old Consumer Council was very damaging to consumer interests?

Mr. Alan Williams

The surprising thing is that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) has already virtually committed the Opposition, as far as I read her remarks in an interview, to abolishing the NCC, or at least, apparently, she regards it as superfluous. The important thing that must be established, however, is that the NCC—whether or not I agree with it on points of difference—has taken exactly what we told it to take—an independent line on behalf of consumers. It is up to myself and my right hon. Friend to discuss whether there are points of difference, but certainly the National Consumer Council is beginning to stand up not only for itself but for the consumer.

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