§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the question of the legality of the Salt Union (Limited) on the face of their own prospectus and advertisements has been referred to the Law Officers of the Crown; and, whether the Government will agree to a Committee to inquire into the subject of this and other combinations of capitalists with the avowed object of raising the price of articles of consumption?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman appears to be of the opinion that the Salt Union is guilty of an infraction of the law. If he holds that opinion, it is perfectly open to him or to any other person in the United Kingdom to take proceedings in support of that view, but I retain the opinion I expressed a few days ago that the inevitable result of a combination to raise 1398 prices is to stimulate production and competition, which must bring down prices to a lower level than that from which they originally started. The events of the last few days furnish abundant evidence of the absolute certainty of such a result, and I have no doubt, if the hon. Gentleman lives long enough, he will see salt at a lower price than that at which it stood before the Salt Union was formed. With these views I have only to say as to a Committee, that it is for the hon. Gentleman to make out a case for any Motion he may put on the paper, and he must support it by facts and arguments which will convince the House of the necessity of such a Committee.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
The right hon. Gentleman has given a very argumentative answer to questions I have not asked him. Will he be good enough to answer the question I have put—whether the opinion of the Law Officers has been taken?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have given abundant reasons why I should not answer that question. If this combination is illegal it is open to any member of the public to take action.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I beg to ask whether, in the event of the combination coining under the Joint Stock Companies Act, and bearing in mind the recently decided case against raising the price of the necessaries of life, it would not be the duty of the Government to prevent the registration of such a Company?