HL Deb 18 June 1973 vol 343 cc1018-20

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a Statement concerning progress made at the meeting on June 11 last called by the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs to discuss representation of consumer interests in the nationalised industries; and whether they will state which industries were represented.


My Lords, a useful and constructive meeting was held with the chairman or representatives of statutory consumer consultative bodies to discuss broadening the membership to include more women to represent the domestic consumer, and to exchange views on matters relating to the work of these councils and publicity for them. The bodies covered coal, gas, electricity, agriculture, post office services and transport.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that Answer, may I ask him whether the Minister for Consumer Affairs and he himself would not consider it regrettable that a very large area of consumers, in other words more than one million people who take air flights each year, were entirely unrepresented at this meeting, and whether there is anything that the Government propose to do so that their representations may be heard?


My Lords, as I said, these were consumer consultative bodies which had been set up by Statute. These were the bodies that were consulted. There are no statutory consultative councils connected with air travel, which the noble Baroness plainly has in mind.


My Lords, I know that, but I ask the Minister whether the Government were going to do anything about it. May I ask him, in view of that very large area which is entirely unrepresented, whether the Government would perhaps consider the establishment of an air line users' national council and, separately from that, would he tell the House whether, if the Government were so minded, it could be set up only by legislation or whether any other means could be used?


My Lords, if a voluntary non-statutory body were set up, it could be set up by the Civil Aviation Authority if it was to cover the whole of the civil aviation field. As to the other part of the question, the noble Baroness has made her point on many occasions about this, and I can assure her that her point is being very carefully considered.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell me why meetings of the nationalised industries have to be held in order to consider whether women, the main consumers in this country, should be represented on them? Why are meetings necessary? Why is not a directive sent to the nationalised industries to tell them that the main consumers in the country should be represented?


My Lords, if we do not consult in advance, we are accused of not consulting. Where we do consult on cases like this, I should have thought it was only fair that it should be treated on its merits as an honest occasion to bring people together to reach sensible conclusions.


My Lords, does not the Minister consider it high time that there was a consultative council for those who use the airlines? If all the railways are to be abolished or cut down, we shall be forced into the air, even if we do not particularly like it.


My Lords, my noble friend asked me what I consider, but I am afraid it is not a question of only what I consider. I have given the assurance that this matter is under consideration.