HC Deb 05 July 1955 vol 543 cc946-9
37. Mr. Lewis

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement of the Government's intentions with regard to the recommendations contained in the Monopolies Commission's Report on restrictive practices.

41. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he proposes to take to give effect to the majority recommendations of the Monopolies Commission Report on exclusive dealing, collective boycotts, aggregated rebates and other discriminatory trade practices.

42. Mr. Janner

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he proposes to take to implement the suggestions made by the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission in their recent Report.

43. Mr. de Freitas

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether Her Majesty's Government accepts, in principle, the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission's recent Report on Collective Discrimination, Command Paper No. 9504.

44. Mr. V. Yates

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the practice of certain tea wholesalers in withholding supplies from retailers who sell below the fixed price to old-age pensioners; and if he will now introduce legislation to prevent such practice in accordance with the recommendations of the Monopolies Commission.

50. Mr. Grimond

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to be able to make a statement on the latest Report of the Monopolies Commission on Collective Discrimination.

Mr. Kaberry

It is the Government's intention to arrange for a discussion of the Monopolies Commission's Report before the Summer Recess, and I would ask hon. Members to await this.

Mr. Lewis

Could the Minister give us some inkling whether the Government are favourably inclined to accepting the recommendations? Are we to take it that, as many of the culprits mentioned in the Report are heavy contributors to the Tory Party's funds, the likelihood is that the Government will not take any action that might upset the financiers who support them?

Mr. Kaberry

I think that the hon. Member can safely await the discussion which is to take place before the Summer Recess.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since the hon. Gentleman will realise that the general conclusions of this Report expresses views which have been the policy on this side of the House for some years, a policy which in fact was announced from the Dispatch Box opposite before the change of Government in 1951, can the hon. Gentleman not now at least inform the House whether the Government are going to accept the majority conclusions of the Report? Is he not aware that, in reply to all Questions which the Government have been asked on these subjects and trades for two or three years, we have always been told that we must wait for the Monopolies Commission's Report, and will he not now say that he accepts it?

Mr. Kaberry

The Report was published last week and the debate will take place within a short time. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should await that debate.

Mr. Grimond

Can we be assured that not only will there be a debate but that the Government will announce what action they will take before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Kaberry

I think that the hon. Member could be referred to a statement which was once made by one of his illustrious predecessors.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that his own Chancellor of the Exchequer said only a few days ago that the cost of goods is so high that something must be done about it? Why is the hon. Gentleman not prepared to take action at once on these recommendations? Why is he not prepared to do something about the restrictions imposed by private courts, which he himself said should not be put on traders?

Mr. Kaberry

As the hon. Member appreciates, the Report is an important and complex one which raises very big problems. I trust that the legislation which will follow may not be the worse for having been discussed previously.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Would my hon. Friend consider publishing the evidence which was taken by the Monopolies Commission, in view of the fact that ultimate policy may turn on some nicer considerations than the Commission—either the majority or the minority of its members—was able to put in the Report?

Mr. Kaberry

That raises a broader question of which I should like to have notice.

Mr. H. Wilson

Would the Minister not agree that it would be very much more helpful to the whole House if the President of the Board of Trade were to make a statement of Government intentions in relation to this Report before we have the debate, in order that the debate should not appear to be merely an academic discussion on a report published by an outside body but should be a discussion on Government policy on what is easily the most important Report we have had on an industrial subject for many years?

Hon. Members


Mr. Yates

Is the Minister aware that one of the traders to whom my Question refers has had his supplies of tea withheld since February last because he sold supplies cheaper to old-age pensioners? Is he aware that, having called the attention of the Prime Minister to the matter, he received a telegram from the right hon. Gentleman on 26th May which said: Our policy is to obtain an impartial statement of the facts and their effect on the national interest and then to take the action appropriate in each case."? May we then ask what action the Government think is appropriate to end a scandal of this nature?

Mr. Kaberry

I would remind the hon. Member that a short time ago the question of monopoly interest in tea was referred to the Monopolies Commission.

Dame Florence Horsbrugh

Will my hon. Friend tell his right hon. Friend that the majority of people in this country would prefer the President of the Board of Trade to consider this matter very carefully, not be hurried on a Report which has been described as one of the most important Reports from any Committee, and only then express his opinion to the House?

Mr. de Freitas

Will the hon. Gentleman recollect that my Question asked simply whether the Government accept the Report in principle? Since that has not been answered now, can we have an assurance that it will be answered in the debate?

Mr. Kaberry

I think that my right hon. Friend will make a full statement.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask why the President of the Board of Trade is not here to answer all these Questions?