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Maximum Price Notices

Volume 886: debated on Monday 10 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection how many traders have been prosecuted for failure to display notices of maximum prices.

I have not been notified of any by the prosecution authorities in the 63 days since the only display requirements now in force—those for bread—came into operation.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it has been widely held that these notices are confusing to such consumers as read them? Even weights and measures inspectors have found them to be confusing. Therefore, would it not be wise to postpone the introduction into the shops of yet further maximum price orders—butter and cheese orders are due on 17th February—until the matter can be considered during the Committee stage of the Prices Bill?

Consumers are entitled to have available to them in every shop complete information about the maximum prices for subsidised foods. Under the present powers this has not been achieved by the public display notices. However, the Prices Bill contains other proposals which will, I think, provide for greater flexibility.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate how the regulation is confusing small shopkeepers? Surely he can make a concession to stop them having to exhibit printed notices like marriage banns on the church door.

The hon. Gentleman appears to be under a misapprehension. The design of the notices has been subject to discussion with the trade and we have modified greatly the original requirements to allow the sort of informality which I know he would welcome.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the present situation—in other words, the absence of display notices—is even more confusing to thousands of my constituents who do not know the prices of various goods in shops, and particularly in public houses?

My hon. Friend is quite right to express the view that many people would welcome the provision of information of this kind, and the Government are committed by the February manifesto to providing it.

As the proposed Prices Bill amendment would exempt some shopkeepers from displaying these notices, will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the Government will reimburse small shopkeepers who have already been involved in considerable and unnecessary expense?

That matter seems appropriate for discussion during the Committee stage of the Prices Bill.