HC Deb 14 June 1956 vol 554 cc837-9
Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I beg to move, in page 22, line 27, to leave out from "ten" to the end of line 31 and to insert: declare whether or not any restrictions by virtue of which the said Part I would apply to the agreement (not being such restrictions as are described in paragraphs (b) to (d) of subsection (5) of section six of this Act) are contrary to the public interest. (3) Where the Restrictive Practices Court makes a declaration under the last foregoing subsection in relation to a restriction proposed to be accepted under any agreement, any order in force under the said section ten shall cease to have effect in so far as it renders unlawful the making or carrying out of an agreement under which that restriction is accepted; and the provisions of subsection (2) of section fifteen of this Act shall apply with the necessary modifications in relation to any such declaration as aforesaid as they apply in relation to a finding under that section". With this Amendment, Sir, I think we might discuss those to lines 38 and 41.

The Amendments deal with the question of enforcement under the 1948 Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act. At present, the method of enforcement is an order by the competent authority. The time will come when the Court will be dealing with those of the restrictive arrangements which fall under Part I of the Act. At that moment the responsibility for enforcement—not of the undertaking, but of the order of the Court—will be and should properly be placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Court. The responsibility of the competent authority will lapse.

I am sure that that is the right arrangement to ensure that there can be no possibility of any clash between the Restrictive Practices Court and any competent authority.

Mr. E. Fletcher

It is not clear why the exception, which is contained in the opening part of the Amendment where it deals with an agreement (not being such restrictions as are described in paragraphs (b) to (d) of subsection (5) of section six of this Act), is limited to paragraphs (b), (c) and (d). One would have thought that it was also necessary to include a reference to paragraph (a) of subsection (5) of Section 6. Can the right hon. Gentleman say why paragraph (a) of that subsection is excluded and treated differently?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Paragraphs (b) to (d) must obviously be excluded, because they deal with overseas trading. Indeed, nobody can make an order about that—neither the Court nor the Monopolies Commission—because none of us can control in that sense what happens in the way of overseas trading. Paragraph (a) would refer to restrictions affecting exports. It would not be competent for the Court to make an order referring to the pure export agreements which are referred to in paragraph (a), because that is a matter which comes under Section 25 of the Act, where it is gathered up and brought into the cognisance of the Monopolies Commission. The pure export agreement remains subject to an order of a competent authority. That is the provision which we have made in this case, and that is why that particular paragraph is excluded.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 22, line 38, leave out "subsection (2)" and insert:

subsections (2) and (3)". In page 22, line 41, leave out from "to" to end of line 42 and insert: the said provisions".—[Mr. P. Thorneycroft.]

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I beg to move, in page 23, line 8, to leave out "three" and to insert "four".

This Amendment follows a suggestion which was made in Committee. There was then an Amendment to delay the application for a period of five years, rather than the three-year period which was specified. This seems to be a judicious compromise between those two views, and I hope that it will be acceptable to the House.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

It would be ungracious for this side of the House not to express some satisfaction with the compromise of the President of the Board of Trade. In Committee, I suggested that we should have a four-year period instead of a three-year or five-year period, which were the two opposing suggestions. The compromise is in keeping with the highest traditions of the House and the affability with which the President of the Board of Trade has taken part in our proceedings today.

Amendment agreed to.