§ 18. Mr. Watkinson
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether lie has received the report of the inquiry into the Northern Ireland bread industry; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Moyle
The working party on bread costs and prices in Northern Ireland has made recommendations for improving the financial viability of the baking industry and for bringing the price of bread in the Province more closely into line with prices charged over most of the United Kingdom. Copies of the report by the consultant to the working party, Professor Gibson, have been placed in the Library.
In order to give the industry time to implement these recommendations, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection has 644 agreed to extend, for a strictly limited period, the special relaxation of the Price Code which applies to bakeries in Northern Ireland. I shall be maintaining close contact with the industry with a view to encouraging early progress toward rationalisation.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Does my hon. Friend agree that the fact that bread is so much higher in price in Northern Ireland is extremely disturbing? Would he agree that the dispensation given by his right hon. Friend will not encourage the industry to modernise itself to the advantage of citizens in the Province?
§ Mr. Moyle
The price of bread in Northern Ireland is high, and it is our intention to bring it into line with the price in the rest of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend is anxious to help to ensure that no redundancies are created in a period of high unemployment, but the danger is that the industry might sit back and not take advantage of the period it has been allowed for reorganisation. I shall be very vigilant to ensure that the industry modernises in the course of the next few months. I see no prospects of the penny being extended beyond the end of this year.