Orders of the Day — Commission for Industry and Manpower Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1970.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

As my right hon. Friend knows, if there are references to the Commission, these safeguards will apply equally.

Finally, I want to say something about the status of the Commission. The Commission will in no sense be an agency of the Government. It will be a fully independent body. It will be subject to no directions from the Government other than any general directions about its procedure. It will be concerned with the public interest. And for this purpose it is provided with some guidance in Clause 31 of where the public interest lies. This guidance is basically similar to that given to the Monopolies Commission since 1948. But we have widened it to cover all the matters now within the remit of the Commission, including services, and prices and incomes policy. We have also strengthened the references to the interests of consumers.

One word on procedure. I believe that the procedures adopted by the Prices and Incomes Board and the Monopolies Commission have, in fact, been fair to those whose affairs were under examination. But it is important that all concerned should feel they have had a full and fair chance to deal with all the issues which the Commission deals with in the report. This is not a matter which is appropriate for the Bill, but I do want to allay any anxieties there may be about this and I shall be discussing with the chairman-designate, when he is appointed, how this can best be achieved.

This, then, is the Government's blueprint for helping industry to become more virile, more vigorous and more competitive. Without this approach, we shall never be able to fight inflation in this country. We gather from this morning's Daily Express that the Leader of the Opposition now fully launched on his electioneering flood, has told the Tory 1900 Club that he is intends to make the cost-of-living his main battle cry. He will even, so the Daily Express tells us, give this priority over his "bash the unions" campaign, perhaps because his supporters are beginning to get cold feet on that.

Apparently the right hon. Gentleman gave his audience last night the results of Tory research on the cost-of-living issue, which showed that 56 per cent. of those interviewed believed that prices could best be kept down by competition between companies. Well, here is the right hon. Gentleman's chance. If he really believes in competition, he will support the stronger provisions in the Bill. If not, we will know that Selsdon man is full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing". but tough words and soft deeds.

Because the Bill forms the basis for action, I confidently commend it to the House.