HC Deb 28 July 1977 vol 936 cc472-3W
Mr. Austin Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what action he proposes to take on the report of the Price Commission on prescribed school clothing.

Mr. Hattersley

I have today given a limited distribution to this report and placed copies in the Library of each House. More general publication will follow when the report has been printed.

The Commission found that prices of school clothing had generally not increased by more than the increase in the retail price index for clothing over the past three years. It concluded that school wear was no more profitable to retailers or manufacturers than other children's wear, and that this was true for retailers who were nominated by a particular school as well as for those who were not nominated. The bill for school clothing, therefore, depended largely on the amount and nature of the articles of clothing which were prescribed. Many suitable standard items were available in various qualities. If schools prescribed a large number of items, or those of an unnecessarily high quality, or special design or colour, inevitably parents had to pay more than for a limited number of standard items. Where non-standard items were prescribed, nomination of retailers was almost inevitable, but these did not make larger than normal percentage profits.

The Commission concluded that the only way to alleviate the burden of expenditure was to reduce the number of articles prescribed, or to rely more on standard articles, or to combine these approaches.

I am proposing to discuss the Commission's findings with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales as well as with interested organisations. I shall make a further statement when these discussions are completed.