HC Deb 06 March 1978 vol 945 cc968-9
28. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when he referred the matter of costs and charges of coal merchants in West Wales to the Price Commissions; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

Under Sections 4 and 5 of the Price Commission Act 1977, the Commission decides which cases it will investigate. The Commission served notice on 28th October 1977 of its intention to investigate the margins of 14 coal merchants in an area of West Wales. The report was made to me and copies sent to the merchants concerned on 23rd January 1978, laid before this House on 27th February, and published on 28th February. I also announced on 28th February my decision on the recommendations made by the Commission.

Mr. Grist

What does the Secretary of State intend to do to ensure that so slipshod and unfair a report does not appear again? Will he ask why the Price Commission did not investigate the affairs of the Kilgetty Co-operative Society, which is one of the biggest merchants in the area?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not for a moment believe that the report was slipshod and unsatisfactory, although, again, I know that some of the people who were investigated thought it to be so, which is why I invited them to come to discuss the report with me—an invitation which they chose not to take up. What I intend to do to implement the recommendations of the report is to ask the Director General of Fair Trading to examine the contention that there is not competition between those coal merchants, and I am sure that all the supporters of competition on the Opposition Benches will applaud me for doing so.