asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what is his long-term policy towards standardised quantities for household goods and foodstuffs, particularly in view of the transfer to metric units; and what is his policy as regards the EEC concept of a master range of products where the application of unit pricing and specified quantities are insisted upon as an aid to consumers in choosing the best value for money.
I am very much in favour of greater standardisation of quantities for household goods and foodstuffs. We fully support the principles of the draft directive which deals with this. Both this draft directive and our own metrication programme will pave the way for further important consumer protection legislation in this country. However, I do not accept at this stage the view that prepackaged products not made up in conformity with the master range should automatically be unit priced. Unit pricing is, of course, an important aid to consumers and as such figures prominently in our current consumer protection programme. We therefore support any Community initiative that would encourage member States to adopt unit pricing wherever it would be helpful. Nevertheless, there are serious implications, particularly for the small shopkeeper, in the blanket approach currently envisaged in Brussels. and our preference is for the actual application of unit pricing to be based on national consumer preferences and established trade practices. It is against this basic point of view that we shall judge any proposals that may be submitted to the Council.