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Consumers And The Nationalised Industries

Volume 387: debated on Monday 14 November 1977

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2.40 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it remains their intention to make a Statement on the recommendations contained in the Report of the National Consumer Council entitled Consumers and the Nationalised Industries and if so when this is expected.

My Lords, the Government's response to the National Consumer Council's report will be published in the White Paper on Nationalised Industries, which will also he a response to the National Economic Development Office's report on the role of nationalised industries in the economy. This White Paper is still under consideration. However, I can assure my noble friend that our long period of consultation has not been time wasted, and wherever possible we have gone ahead without legislation. Thus, I am sure that my noble friend will welcome, as do the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority's appointment of a new independent chairman, Sir Archibald Hope, to the Airline Users' Committee.

My Lords, as the Minister will be aware, I gave him that information some little time ago, and I am very pleased with the result of four years' hard work. But, if I may revert to the original Question on the Order Paper, while realising that my noble friend wishes to make progress in this matter every bit as much as I do, does he recall that this report was originally published in August of last year, and that, when I asked him a Question about this on 21st March, he told me that this process of consultation necessarily takes time? It has taken a good deal longer. Could he give the House any indication as to when we may see the fruition of all this consultation which has taken place?

My Lords, I fully understand my noble friend's anxiety to see this White Paper, and I appreciated, just before the Summer Recess, that she recognised that the discussions are complex and, therefore, that some delay is necessary. It was under her prompting, to a large extent, that we went ahead in the way that I indicated in my original Answer. However, on this question of the publication of the White Paper, while I should not like to give a specific date, 1 would assure her that progress has been definite and I would hope that in the not too distant future her patience will be rewarded.

My Lords, may I ask one other question. I hope it will be rewarded. Does my noble friend recall that in the gracious Speech the Government said that,

"… they remain committed to bringing forward at the earliest opportunity a number of further highly desirable measures of reform "?
If it should so happen that this House is not unduly burdened with work before we receive some more from another place, would he use his best endeavours to see whether or not what we are discussing today could perhaps start in your Lordships' House?

My Lords, these are not matters primarily for me, but I am sure that those who have this responsibility will have noted what my noble friend has said.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he can state what rights or privileges or powers are available to commuters associated with travelling when British Rail decides to raise prices? Have they any rights at all? Are they considered at all?

Yes, my Lords; there are the various consultative bodies and consumer advisory bodies in association with transport; and it is certainly the case that the views expressed by these committees are duly considered.