HC Deb 06 March 1978 vol 945 cc956-7
13. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection how many new consumer advice centres will open in the next year.

Mr. John Fraser

It is intended that 26 new centres will open as a result of the £300,000 which my Department is providing to grant-aid their setting up costs. A total of 25 of these centres are receiving 100 per cent, grants. I hope that other centres might also be opened independently of this scheme.

Mr. Bennett

I welcome that reply. Can my hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to ensure that the less progressive authorities do not close centres that are already running successfully?

Mr. Fraser

On every occasion when there is a proposal to close a centre, I offer to discuss it with the chairman of the consumer protection committee. I understand that the proposal in Manchester to close centres has been deferred until May. I am glad that there has been no precipitate decision.

Mr. Rathbone

Does the Minister accept that local government authorities are best able to decide whether the centres are worth while and that therefore Ministers should take more cognisance of their wishes?

Mr. Fraser

I have always accepted that local government should have autonomy, but sometimes the views of the party in power are not the same as those of consumers.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does my hon. Friend accept that it is becoming more difficult for consumers to know what is going on because of the increasing number of EEC directives? Will he ensure that more consumer centres are opened as soon as possible?

Mr. Fraser

I have ensured that 26 new centres will be opened this year. As a result of 100 per cent. Government grants, no cost will fall on the ratepayers.

Hon. Members


Mr. Fraser

I hope that the House welcomes the scheme.