§ Mr. Hattersley
I met representatives of the tea blenders on Friday 24th February to discuss with them the Price Commission report on the price of tea. None of the blenders was prepared to make an immediate reduction in the price of medium-priced tea. In consequence, I began the statutory consultations which must precede the making of a price regulation order under Section 2 of the Prices Act 1974. On Friday 3rd March the CWS announced a reduction of 2p in the price of its main blend of packet tea and said that the retail price of this tea would accordingly be reduced to 22p per quarter on 6th March. Later that day the other blenders announced similar reductions.
I have no doubt that active competition in the retail grocery trade will ensure that these reductions in blenders' prices will generate a lower price in the shops. However, I am making arrangements to monitor tea prices in the shops to determine if—as some blenders predict—they settle down at about the Price Commission's recommended level of 21p or 22p per quarter pound of medium-priced packet tea. I am accordingly extending the period of consultations in order to determine the need for an order under Section 2 of the Prices Act 1974 by two weeks until Tuesday 21st March.
It remains the Government's intention that the retail price of tea should be reduced to a level consistent with the recommendation of the Price Commission.
§ 42. Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will make a statement on the action he has taken and intends taking to reduce the price of tea; and whether he will take similar action with regard to beer and bread prices.448W
§ Mr. Hattersley
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Lalywood (Mr. Sever). I have no plans for similar action with regard to beer or bread, where the circumstances are different.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will give a list of the occasions when he took action, similar to that proposed for reducing the retail price of tea; what were the results of such actions so far as price reductions are concerned; and on what dates he took these actions.
§ Mr. Maclennan
A situation comparable to the present one on tea has not previously arisen. It has not therefore been necessary to exercise the available powers in an analogous fashion.