HC Deb 04 December 1919 vol 122 cc570-1
44. Mr. JESSON

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that certain industries in the country have now become monopolies, and that others are steadily moving in the same direction by amalgamations and other forms of absorption now acing on; whether the Government have any considered policy for the protection of the consumers' interests against the controllers of these monopolies; whether he will consider the advisability of the Government acquiring an interest in all these monopolies on the lines of the Government's interests in such commercial undertakings as the Suez Canal Company, Limited, British Dyes Company, Limited, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Limited, and other industrial concerns, with a view to the protection of the consumers' interests without interfering with the-initiative of private enterprise; to assisting in increasing production; to making labour a partner in these industries, as recommended in the report upon Whitley Industrial Councils; and, after allowing a fair return for the use of the capital invested in these undertakings, to advocate the division of the surplus between the Government to assist the nation's finances, labour and management as extra remuneration for increased output, and the owners of the capital to encourage further industrial enterprise?


His Majesty's Government is alive to the movement referred to in the first part of the question, and is watching it closely. As the House is aware the Government has taken power to investigate the operations of combinations and monopolies in the Profiteering Act, and the question of the extension of those powers is under consideration. A number of inquiries are being made, especially in reference to the effect of such combinations on prices, and the future action of the Government will be considered in the light of the reports following upon the inquiries referred to. As regards the third part of the question, I do not think the hon. Member's suggestion is practicable.