§ Mr. Hobden
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will refer the increase in cement prices to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
§ Mr. George Brown
At my request, the Cement Industry has delayed its proposed price increase for a week in order to give me an opportunity of considering it. I am grateful for its co-operation. The Independent Cost Committee of the industry, which has regularly examined the price of cement for many years, operates on principles approved in 1961 by the Restrictive Practices Court. I am satisfied from my enquiries that the principles are in line with the considerations set out in the White Paper "Prices and Incomes Policy" (Cmnd. 2639).
Of the proposed price increase of 6s. 6d. a ton more than half is to be regarded as a temporary surcharge arising from the current abnormal imports of clinker and cement. The level and cost of imports will be taken into account by the Independent Cost Committee in the next review at the end of 266W the year and in subsequent reviews. The surcharge will then be removed or appropriate price reductions made. I am informed by the Independent Cost Committee that the smaller part of the increase is justified by increases in production costs which have already occurred and that the level of profitability of home production will not exceed the level which was thought reasonable by the Restrictive Practices Court. In these circumstances I do not propose to refer this case to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.