R.P.M. good for Consumer—M.P.
Safeguards for the small shopkeeper
Abolition of Resale Price Maintenance would not reduce the numbers of small shops, and the consumer would benefit, suggested Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, M.P. for Finchley, speaking last Thursday at Golders Green.
Mrs. Thatcher was one of an “Any Questions?” panel appearing at the North-Western Reform synagogue.
With her on the panel were Mr Janus Cohen, Mr Ashe Lincoln, Q.C., Mr. John Pardoe, prospective Liberal candidate for Finchley, and Mr. David Weitzman, M.P. for Stoke Newington and Hackney North. Question master was Mr. Godfrey Phillips.
To the question: “Will the abolition of Resale Price Maintenance be of benefit to the consumer?” Mrs. Thatcher, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance answered: “Yes, I think so.” She quoted cases of “enormous mark-ups” protected by price maintenance, including a carpet shampoo priced to the shopkeepers at 36s. and sold for 67s. 6d.; and a brush manufacturer's product, priced at 2s. 7d., selling for 4s. 11d.
“I do think there are some trades—newsagents. pharmaceutical chemists, tobacconists, where margins are very small—that should keep it.” Mrs. Thatcher said.
Pointing out that her father had owned two shops in the grocery trade. Mrs. Thatcher said:
“I know the shopkeepers' difficulties—I have lived with this, and I know that some of them will be desperately worried. When small shopkeepers write and say: ‘I'm afraid it will put us out of business’. I can only say that my father Alfred Roberts would have said the same thing 10 years ago. But Resale Price Maintenance has virtually gone from the grocery trade, and opportunities for small shops have increased.
“The Bill is not out yet,” Mrs. Thatcher added, “and we are still negotiating safeguards for some of the small shopkeepers.”
Will suffer, unless
Mr. Pardoe thought the small shopkeeper would suffer unless anti-monopoly legislation was brought in.
“Obviously the consumer will benefit,” declared Mr. Cohen. “I am looking forward to buying things on the cheap, and I am sending my wife out from shop to shop to see what is going on.” Whether in the end prices would rocket again. Mr. Cohen said, was “another matter.”
To the question: “Should drivers be tested regularly like motor vehicles?” Mr. Ashe Lincoln said: “Over a certain age, everyone should have a medical certificate before getting a licence.”
Pointing out that this was an “enormous problem,” Mr. Cohen said: “Supposing M.P.s had to be tested for intelligence every year? It is bad enough with one driver's test.”
Mrs. Thatcher said: “I personally take a regular test with the League of Safe Drivers, which began in Finchley, up the road. It is very well worth doing, because the danger is that bad habits creep into your driving, and, until there is someone to tell you, you don't notice them.”
Mr. Pardoe declared: “We know very little about the causes of road accidents. That is the real tragedy. We could make a start with the roads.”
Non-M.P.s were asked first to give their views on the question: “Should being an M.P. be a full-time job and be paid accordingly, as in other countries?”
Mr. Lincoln said that being an M.P. was so near to being a full-time job that it was “scandalously under paid.”
The objection, he said, was that we did not want “career politicians.” But, he added, “we are getting them, and I am not sure that we are always getting the right type. I think they should be free of financial worries.”
Mr. Cohen agreed that this “glorious occupation” was a full-time job and should be free of financial worry. Mr. Pardoe said this was the problem of the professional and the amateur.
“You don't complain at having professional doctors or lawyers, but it is an insult to call a politician professional,” he said.
The two M.P.s both vetoed the idea. Mrs. Thatcher said: “It is practical experience that makes legislation. I would far rather see an adequate pension scheme.”
Mr. Weitzman agreed, saying: “I have been in the House for 19 years. If I had had no connection outside, I should have had to draw on the practical experience of 20 years ago.”
On the lighter side, the panel discussed “Beatlemania” and the familiar balloon problem— “Which of the panel should be thrown out?”