HC Deb 02 May 1977 vol 931 cc21-2
21. Mrs. Wise

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will make a statement on his present policy of price display of goods and services, including unit pricing.

Mr. John Fraser

Price display can be an important aid to the consumer and encourage competition. We wish to encourage it more generally and intend to take statutory action to require it where appropriate. The Price Commission Bill accordingly provides for the extension of our powers so that orders could be made to require price display for any goods or services.

Mrs. Wise

Will my hon. Friend be a little more specific on unit pricing? Will he accept that, while they are no adequate substitute for a proper price freeze, clear price display and especially unit pricing are nevertheless helpful to consumers?

Mr. Fraser

I agree, but unit pricing is not always appropriate. Sometimes standardised quantities would be better. But we hope shortly to lay before Parliament orders covering virtually all sales of meat from butchers' shops and a wide variety of cheeses. Following initial consultation with trade organisations, a further draft order covering all sales of wet fish and competing prepacked frozen fish is being prepared. I shall certainly consider the case for other orders to be made as well.

Mr. Donald Stewart

What happened to all the surplus red triangles?

Mr. Kelley

Will my hon. Friend advise his right hon. Friend to move into the jungle in the retail outlets of motor fuel throughout the country, where petrol prices vary by as much as 12½p per gallon? Will he try to introduce some conformity in the way in which prices are displayed so that we do not have "9p off," "30-fold Green Shield stamps" and all that sort of thing? Will he move in heavily armed with the new powers which the Act will give him?

Mr. Fraser

I thank my hon. Friend. I have anticipated his pressure upon me, and only a few days ago I published a draft order for clear petrol price display at garages. I hope that that will have the support of the House and of the country.