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Pacemaker Machines

Volume 958: debated on Monday 20 November 1978

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will refer the sole supplier of pacemaker machines to the National Health Service to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, in view of the increase of cost by 100 per cent.

I understand that the only United Kingdom manufacturer of pacemaker machines ceased production about a year ago, and that the National Health Service currently obtains pacemakers from 10 suppliers, all of them foreign. I am not aware that any of these suppliers has recently introduced price increases of the order of 100 per cent. Monopoly references are a matter for the Director General of Fair Trading, who would be willing to consider any information made available to him by my hon. Friend.

I readily respond, and shall let my hon. Friend have the necessary information. Is he aware that, while the NHS is one of the largest employers of labour in the country, and therefore its wages affect the cost of living, it is one of the largest purchasers of goods, and the suppliers seem to regard the NHS as the Government and think that they can milk it dry and charge excessive prices time after time? Therefore, will my hon. Friend take as much interest in the prices charged to the taxpayer for supplies to the NHS and nationalised industries as in prices to the private consumer?

Of course, the restraint of prices is important, whoever is the consumer. I must ask my hon. Friend to give me any information that he has about price profiteering, and I shall certainly consider that evidence very seriously.

While we are on the subject of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he will consider referring to that body the attempt by commercial television to exercise a three-year monopoly on football?

The hon. Gentleman should put that Question on the Order Paper. This Question is about pacemakers.