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Price Commission

Volume 974: debated on Monday 19 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Price Commission.

My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet the chairman at present.

Now that the Government's counter-inflation strategy seems to be an absolute shambles, with inflation over 17 per cent. and likely to rise to 20 per cent. by the turn of the year, and with more and more people complaining about the high price of food, fuel, clothing and many essential goods and services, will the Government, even at this late stage, abandon their insane proposals to abolish the Price Commission? What we need is more price control, not less.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's diagnosis that the Government's counter-inflation policy is a shambles. If the last Government had had the courage to face economic realities, as we are doing today, the country would not be facing its present problems. As the Price Commission never significantly affected prices in any way, the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is irrelevant.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the prices policy of the last Government drove nearly half the suppliers of paraffin out of business? The result of that is that in many rural areas today no paraffin can be obtained for delivery to homes.

I am aware that the operation of prices policies under the last Government caused prices to more than double. I am also aware of the problems to which my hon. Friend rightly referred.

Are the many companies which donated so generously to the Conservative Party now satisfied with the abolition of the Price Commission?

The people who donate most generously to the Conservative Party are the people who work for the party on the ground.

The right hon. Lady rejected the word "shambles" as a desscription of the Government's counter-inflation policy. With inflation heading towards 20 per cent., what word would the right hon. Lady use?

I would use the word "shambles" to describe the counter-inflation policy of the last Government.