HC Deb 17 April 1978 vol 948 cc22-3
17. Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what representations he has received from the Ever Ready Company (Great Britain) Ltd. concerning the recent report of the Price Commission on dry—primary—batteries.

Mr. Hattersley

I received written representations from the chairman of the Ever Ready group and from the chairman of Ever Ready (Great Britain) Ltd., the company investigated. I also met representatives of the company to discuss the report before reaching my decision to implement the Price Commission's recommendations.

Mr. Morris

What prospect is there for efficient companies when a report such as this shows that the company is efficient, does not abuse its market position and is competitive, yet the Commission still dictates that the return on capital shall be circumscribed?

Mr. Hattersley

There is every prospect for a company that fulfils all those criteria and is, at the same time, anxious to innovate and invest in new technologies of the industry. If this company comes into that category, it has only to apply to me for a change in the order as it stands. As I told the chairman, I have no doubt that it will get one.

Mr. Hardy

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, while he may have received few representations since the report was published, he received quite a lot of representations before the Price Commission considered the subject because large numbers of people believe that batteries are grossly expensive?

Mr. Hattersley

This is the basic question, and perhaps the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) will tell us her answer. The Commission provided the opportunity to keep down the price of batteries in transistor radios, hearing aids and household appliances. I took that opportunity. However, I do not know whether the Opposition agree that I should have done that. If not, no doubt they will pray against the order. If they think that I am right, I hope that they will say so.