HC Deb 22 October 1979 vol 972 cc17-8
11. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what discussions he has had with the chairman of the Price Commission following the publication of the Competition Bill.

18. Mr. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when last he met the chairman of the Price Commission.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

My right hon. Friend has not met the present chairman, Mr. Leslie Pincott, since he took office on 1 August.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Government reconsider their insane proposal to scrap the Price Commission? It is the only body with any power to control prices, which are now rising at over 16 per cent. If the Government decide to go ahead with that proposal and abandon even the pretence of fighting inflation, will not the Minister be ashamed to remain a member of, probably, the first Government to almost double the rate of inflation in their first six months of office?

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Gentleman ought to have heard enough this afternoon about the appalling record of the Price Commission to make him realise that his question is inappropriate. The Government believe that the best check on price increases is vigorous competition within a framework of strict economic and monetary policies. The Competition Bill, which the House will be debating tomorrow, is an important first step in this direction.

Mr. James Hamilton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, with a declared profit of £35 million, have increased the price of beer by 3p a pint? Is he aware that if the Price Commission had been in operation that increase would have had to be referred to it? How can we overcome these difficulties?

Mr. Eyre

I am not aware of the specific circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, but he will understand that the operation of the Price Commission, with its effect upon company resources, investment and jobs, was very damaging to industry in general and had a harmful effect on confidence in industry. That is why we have moved quickly to abolish the Price Commission and to restore confidence to industry.