Written Answers. - Competition Authority.

John Perry

Question:

221 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps she has taken to assess the impact on increases in food prices due to the current rising rate of inflation; if her attention has been drawn to the differing stances on this from representatives of the retailers and the Competition Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20615/00]

The policy on prices followed by this Government, and by all Governments since price controls were abandoned in the 1980s, is that prices should be set by competition in the marketplace. To ensure that competition operates in the marketplace, the Competition Authority is charged with fostering competition in all sectors of the economy and combating anti-competitive practices. I have approved five additional posts for the authority – two economists and three lawyers – which will increase the authority's professional staffing level by approximately 70%. This demonstrates the Government's commitment to ensuring that competition law is vigorously enforced and that competition operates to the benefit of consumers.

To ensure that the situation regarding staffing is tackled comprehensively, my Department, together with the authority, is currently involved with outside consultants in a study of the authority's operations with a view to having its future resource requirements assessed. All staffing issues are being dealt with in the study.

As regards the second part of the question, I am aware that there are differences in interpretation of the statistics on food price inflation, both for those foods covered by the Groceries Order and those which are not. I understand that the Competition Authority are in consultation with RGDATA to clarify the matter further.

Question No. 222 taken with Question No. 216.