HC Deb 21 February 1955 vol 537 cc878-80
42 Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Supply (1) if he is satisfied that the electric cable-making associations brought their trading arrangements into conformity with the conclusions of the Monopolies Commission by 31st December last as requested by Her Majesty's Government; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if the cable-making associations have now furnished the Government with information about the relationship between the prices charged to the British Electricity Authority and those charged to other users of electric cables in those type ranges where the Monopolies Commission reported that no competition exists; and if he will state what action he has taken;

(3) if the associations of manufacturers of telephone cables have yet furnished the Government with information about the prices charged to general users and those charged to the General Post Office, based on cost investigation; and what action he has taken.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I am glad to have this opportunity of adding to the two statements made by my predecessor on 20th May and 30th July, 1954. The Cable Makers' Association and the Covered Conductors' Association have assured me that they have, as requested by Her Majesty's Government, brought their arrangements, as from 1st January, 1955, into conformity with the Commission's conclusions, subject to the two reservations explained in my predecessor's statement of 20th May.

The Cable Makers' Association have also assured me that prices charged to users other than the British Electricity Authority for mains and super-tension cable have borne and will continue to bear a direct and reasonable relationship to those charged to the British Electricity Authority. As regards telephone cable, the Association states that it is still negotiating prices with the General Post Office.

Mr. Palmer

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make details of the new arrangements available to the House so that hon. Members can judge whether the Government are really in earnest in fighting monopoly practices in British industry?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly cannot do so at this stage. The position is that the Associations have given me assurances that they are acting in the way I have described. I think it will be for me, in accordance with the statement made by my predecessor, to review these arrangements at an appropriate time, and then we shall have to consider the question of making information available to the House.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

When the negotiations take place between the cable manufacturers and the Post Office, may we see the end of the ring with which the Post Office has now been dealing for many years, and will it be possible for non-ring manufacturers to enter this important field?

Mr. Lloyd

I think it would be better for me to wait and see the result of the negotiations before I promise any statement.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us some idea as to when the negotiations will be completed, and can we then have a full statement from him, possibly circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT, with details of the arrangements?

Mr. Lloyd

The procedure laid down, which I should not have thought unsatisfactory, is that at some stage I have to satisfy myself that the assurances have been carried out. I think that after that would be the time for making information available.