§ 18 Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he is aware that the national newspapers practise a restriction on competition by price maintenance, as is instanced by their joint action in raising prices simultaneously on 7th May, 1951; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission;
§ (2) if he is aware of the activities of the Joint Committee of newspaper proprietors and newsagents in collectively refusing supplies of newspapers to newsagents who do not conform to their joint requirements and, in particular, refusing supplies to Co-operative societies and other wholesalers; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission;
§ (3) if he is aware that the newspaper industry generally practises resale price maintenance by preventing small retail customers obtaining newspapers at a discount; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission under Section 15 of the 1948 Act.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
The Monopolies Commission's existing inquiry under Section 15 of the 1948 Act has a close bearing on these matters, and it is advisable to await its report.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Does the Parliamentary Secretary consider that the simultaneous raising of prices, refusal of supplies to potential newsagents, and price fixing of newspapers at standard prices, can be described as a wicked price ring, Star Chamber, or a vicious system of price maintenance, as was eloquently condemned in the columns of the" Daily Express "?
§ Mr. Bowden
Is the Parliamentary Secretary of the opinion that motor traders who live in glasshouses ought not to throw stones?
§ Mr. Dalton
May I ask why the President of the Board of Trade does not answer his own Questions, instead of leaving them to the Minister of State and the Parliamentary Secretary?
§ Mr. Bishop
Is my hon. Friend aware that full particulars of these arrangements in the newspaper industry were furnished to the Monopolies Commission by the Newspapers Proprietors' Association a long time ago?
§ Mr. Strauss
I have little doubt that the Commission was given the assistance it required in its existing inquiry under Section 15 of the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act, 1948.
§ 25. Mr. G. Darling
asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the fact that, following on the report of the Monopolies Commission, the electric lamp manufacturers have given him an undertaking to revoke their trading ban on retailers who offer deferred dividends on sales, if he will seek similar undertakings from all other manufacturers and traders who resort to this ban, and whose activities thus come within the scope of the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act, 1948.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
The undertaking given to my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Supply followed the Report of the Monopolies Commission into the supply of electric lamps. The Commission is now considering the general effect of such practices on the public interest, and we await its report.
§ Mr. Darling
Is it necessary to wait for the report if the President of the Board of Trade can do a useful job of work without waiting for the report? Can he not approach manufacturers other than the electric lamp manufacturers who resort to this practice and ask them to behave themselves?
§ Mr. Strauss
No, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken about the effect of the Act. The Commission's recommendation on the supply of particular goods does not enable action to be taken on a similar practice applying to goods into which the Commission has not conducted an investigation. But the present examination which it is making under Section 15 of the Act may deal with the practice generally.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams
Will not the Parliamentary Secretary seek from manufacturers some kind of assurance similar to that given by electric lamp manufacturers? When he gets those replies, could 983 he not let the House know so that the House may know what kind of practices have been operated? There is no need to wait for the report of the Commission to do that.
§ Mr. Strauss
The hon. Gentleman cannot have understood my answer to his hon. Friend. It cannot be deduced, from the fact that the Commission has made a particular finding in any one inquiry, that it would necessarily think that the same applied in relation to the supply of different goods.
§ Mr. Stokes
On a point of order. May I ask why the President of the Board of Trade is not answering his own Questions? Has he already lost his job and gone to a different Department?