Dáil Éireann - Volume 291 - 01 June, 1976

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Clare Hotel Prices.

[468] 21. Dr. Loughnane asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will make a statement on the control of prices in respect of two hotels (names supplied) in County Clare where for equal drinks (details supplied) ordered on the same day the price in one hotel was £1.33 and in the other £2.45.

Mr. Bruton: Maximum prices orders for drink are in operation in seventeen areas throughout the country, including Ennis, County Clare. The orders do not, however, apply to premises registered under the Tourist Traffic Acts. Both premises referred to are registered under the Tourist Traffic Acts. All licensed premises, including hotels, are required to display price lists and such lists are on display in the hotels in question.

A prices inspector from my Department has visited the two hotels named by the Deputy and has found that the price of £1.33 represented an excess of 5p for the drinks in question over the prices shown on the price list displayed. This excess will be refunded to the complainant, on request. The inspector has also established that the price of £2.45 charged for the drinks in question was in accordance with the prices listed up to 20th April, 1976. After that date, the price of each of the drinks named was reduced by 5p.

Mr. O'Malley: In view of the situation revealed by the question, does the Parliamentary Secretary not propose to impose price control on the sale of drink?

Mr. Bruton: As the Deputy is probably aware, the existing prices orders are being questioned in the courts and this is something which hangs over the whole area. The question of new powers in regard to price controls on the licensed trade is being considered in the context of price legislation which is being considered. The best way of getting the lowest possible prices for drink is by more active competition in the trade rather than by a measure of price control, and for that reason public emphasis is being [469] placed on the desirability of a fuller display of prices and on the enforcement of existing prices orders under the restrictive practices legislation against collusion among publicans in the matter of prices.

Mr. O'Malley: Does the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that the position disclosed by this question, that a round of drinks was lawfully charged for at £2.45 and that exactly the same round which cost £1.33 involved an overcharge of 5 pence which is now to be refunded, displays a ridiculous situation and that surely the answer is price control rather than the Parliamentary Secretary's efforts to have competition? There is clearly no competition between those two hotels in the same town or the same county.

Mr. Bruton: People who go out to drink—both hotels are in the same town—are free to go to the one which charges the lower price.

Mr. Molloy: I do not think that is true. Did the Parliamentary Secretary say that both of these establishments are in the same town? I do not think his information is correct.

Mr. Bruton: They are in the same area.

Mr. Molloy: They are both in Clare.

Mr. Bruton: One is in Ennis and the other in Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Mr. O'Malley: That is a good one.