Responsibility for investigating excessive charges or unjustifiable price rises rests with the Price Commission. But consumer advice centres and citizens' advice bureaux are the instruments for pursuing individual complaints. The role of consumer protection officers is to investigate misleading statements about prices.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Is he aware that many local officers are dissatisfied because of the restrictions on their duties and that they believe that they cannot investigate on-the-spot complaints and provide a complainant with a satisfactory reply? Would he agree that the attack on inflation could be made more effective and that complainants could be much better satisfied if authority were given to local officers to do these on-the-spot investigations and thereby give a response to the complainant?
Mr. Alan Williams:
I should have thought that the Opposition when in government must have considered that point of view, as we have. But the trading standards officers are already working heavily in following through the consumer protection legislation which we recently passed. I have not received many representations from them for extra work. Indeed, if anything, their representations have been to the effect that they are now working pretty heavily. In any case, it could detract from their other work on the consumer protection front and overlap with the work of the Price Commission. I am therefore afraid that I can hold out no hope of such a change: I am sorry.