§ Mr. David Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether it was with his authority that officials of his Department sought to persuade a Basingstoke company to undertake not to increase prices for nine months but without allowing the company concerned any redress if the cost of materials outside of its control alters substantially; and if he is satisfied that this attitude has sufficient regard to the practicalities of business.
§ Mr. Maclennan
The discussions which, with the authority of my right hon. Friend, officials of my Department conducted with Optrex Ltd., were based on the recommendations of the Price Commission report on proprietary non-ethical medicines. All points raised by the company on the particular circumstances of their business were fully considered. Following these discussions, as I indicated in the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr.20W Kilroy-Silk) on 17th July, Optrex stated that it did not propose to increase the prices of its eye lotion, ointment and drops before the end of this year. My right hon. Friend does not, therefore, propose to use his powers under the Price Commission Act 1977 to make an order against the company.
§ Mr. Neubert
asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection (1) if he will publish in the Official Report a list of companies' prices which have been restricted, and for how long, and by how much, both during and after an investigation under the Price Commission Act 1977;
(2) if he will publish in the Official Report a list of companies who have been allowed a full interim price increase during an investigation under the Price Commission Act 1977; and what was the percentage increase;
(3) if he will publish in the Official Report a list of companies whose prices have been partly restricted during an investigation under the Price Commission Act 1977, for how long and by what amount.
(4) if he will publish in the Official Report a list of companies whose prices have been wholly restricted during an investigation under the Price Commission Act 1977, and by what amount.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Between August 1977 and June 1978 the Price Commission initiated 24 investigations under sections 4 and 5 of the Price Commission Act 1977. A further three investigations were initiated in July. Twenty-one investigations have now been completed.
During an investigation of a price increase under section 4 the increase proposed is automatically restricted unless a variation notice permitting an interim increase—whether as required by the safeguard regulations or at the Commission's discretion—is given by the Commission. A variation notice may be given at any time during an investigation, but a decision is usually taken within the first two or three weeks.21W
The following table shows interim increases permitted under variation notices to enterprises subject to investigations
Enterprise Price increase notified (percentage) Interim increase (percentage) Metal Box Ltd. … 10.5 9.81 Area Electricity Boards in England and Wales … 0.030–0.104 pence per kilowatt hour as notified Barclays Bank Ltd. … 154.42 nil Fisons Ltd. … 1.4–29.9 maximum of 15.68 UG Glass Containers Ltd. … 9.8 7.22 Tate & Lyle Refineries Ltd. … £5.20 per tonne £5.20 per tonne* British Railways Board Passenger Fares … 14.6 14.5 Miscellaneous charges … 36.1 13.8 The Ever Ready Company (Great Britain) Limited … 7.0 nil Cadbury Schweppes Foods Ltd. … 7.42 7.42 Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. … £3.50 per tonne £2.00 per tonne Weetabix Ltd. Cereal Products … 8.74 6.36 Muesli Products … 6.51 6.46 Allied Breweries (U.K.) Ltd. Beer … 7.42 7.42 Food, drink, accommodation … 7.34 6.85 Southalls (Birmingham) Ltd. … 4.31 1.03 IPC Magazines Ltd. … 2.88 nil Thames Water Authority … 9.5 7.2 Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Limited Portland Cement … 10.0 7.09† Special Cement … 9.21 8.15† South of Scotland Electricity Board … 7.6 7.6 London Transport Executive Bus Fares … 9.2 9.2 Train Fares … 10.8 10.8 CPC (United Kingdom) Ltd. … 7.34 7.34 British Gypsum Ltd. … 8.0 3.36 Trust Houses Forte Hotels Ltd. … 5.28 2.08 Lever Brothers Ltd. … 4.8 4.8 Royal Doulton Tableware Ltd. … 9.3 7.3 Procter & Gamble Ltd. … 5.5 nil Imperial Tobacco Ltd. … 1.92 nil‡ * Interim increase granted after 2 months. † Two variation notices given. The figure shown is the cumulative increase allowed. ‡ No application for an interim increase yet received
Excluding the minor restrictions on British Rail fares and charges, 15 enterprises were subject to price restrictions during investigations between August 1977 and June 1978. In nine cases prices have been held or restricted following investigations. In one case—The Ever Ready Company (Great Britain) Ltd.—the restriction was imposed by order. The price increase was restricted to a maximum of 2 per cent. until 30th August 1978.
In the following cases an undertaking to restrict prices has been given by the enterprises concerned to the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection:
Enterprise and Undertaking Given
Fisons Ltd.—Garden Products22WNo price to be increased by more than 20 per cent before 7th September 1978.
under section 4 up to the end of July:
ICI Ltd.—Soda AshNo further price increase to be notified before 1st July 1978.
Southalls (Birmingham) Ltd.—TamponsNo increase of more than 3.17 per cent. before 23rd December 1978.
IPC Magazines Ltd.—Magazine cover pricesNo increase in cover prices before 31st July 1978.
Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd. (now Blue Circle Industries Ltd.)—Portland Cement.No increase in "basing point prices" by more than 7.09 per cent. before 18th January 1979.
In the following cases companies have given assurances, recorded in the Price Commission's reports, that certain prices will be held for various periods unless major or unexpected cost increases are incurred:
- Metal Box Ltd.
- UG Glass Containers Ltd.
- Allied Breweries (UK) Ltd