HC Deb 31 March 1976 vol 908 cc508-9W
Mr. Weilbeloved

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she expects to implement the recommendations of the report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the supply of plasterboard; and whether she will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Williams

On 22nd January 1974, the then Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs announced his acceptance in principle of the recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission contained in its report on the supply of plasterboard. Since then, the Director General of Fair Tading has been in discussion with BPB Industries Limited (BPB) to obtain from it undertakings as to the future conduct of the business which would give effect to the recommendations of the Commission. BPB has fully co-operated in this task and has indicated that it would be prepared to give undertakings which would substantially implement the Commission's report.

I consider that the Commission's recommendations were soundly based and that the carrying out of the undertakings offered by the company would be likely, in the long run, to make for a more competitive and efficient trading situation. However, implementation of the Commission's recommendation that the company should abandon its system of uniform delivered prices would result in an immediate increase in prices in those areas of the country remote from centres which would be inconsistent with the present Price Code. Given the overriding importance of the Government's anti-inflation policy, I do not think that it would be desirable to implement that particular recommendation at the present time. Until it is implemented, it would not be practicable to bring into effect the Commission's recommendation for customer collection. BPB has, however, agreed to implement forthwith the third recommendation of the Commission relating to customer accounts.

My intention is that a system of zonal prices for plasterboard will be introduced when the time comes for me to make other alterations on the operation of price controls. As I have already said on another occasion, I do not have it in mind to make any fundamental changes in the present price policy before July. There will be further discussions with the company concerning the timetable for the introduction of the revised price system, and I foresee that the likely date will be in the early months of 1977. I shall be asking the Director General to keep under review the carrying out of the undertakings, copies of which will be placed in the Library.