HC Deb 06 March 1978 vol 945 cc957-8
14. Mr. Waller Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when he next expects to meet the Chairman of the Price Commission concerning the operation of the Price Code Regulations.

Mr. Hattersley

The Chairman of the Price Commission and I meet frequently, but no firm date has been set for our next meeting. I have no plans at present to discuss the Price Code, as distinct from the Price Commission's investigation and examination functions.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House are seriously concerned about the Price Commission's inability to freeze certain prices because of the Price Code regulations? The brewers are a blatant example of that. Will my right hon. Friend introduce amending legislation without delay?

Mr. Hattersley

I know that many of my hon. Friends fear that the present level of safeguards prevents the Price Commission from taking action that it would otherwise have taken. As a result, I have asked the Price Commission to report to me whenever it is inhibited, because of the level of the safeguards, from taking action that it would choose to take. If I find that there is a general problem, I shall begin consultations with interested parties and introduce an amending order in the House.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend agree to the suggestion that, in Hansard tomorrow, he should support the idea that we should substitute the words "tea blenders" for "wage guidelines"?

Mr. Hattersley

I might even support that now, if I understood what it meant.

Mr. Giles Shaw

I return to the Secretary of State's previous answer. Does he acknowledge that if there were a price freeze for any considerable period many more hundreds of thousands of people would be out of work?

Mr. Hattersley

I am wholly opposed to a general price freeze. That issue is not related to the Question. The safeguard levels are not connected with a price freeze. If there were no safeguards the Price Commission would still have to carry out its statutory duty and make individual judgments about different price levels and increases.