HC Deb 10 December 1959 vol 615 cc713-5
5. Miss Lee

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to see that undertakings given by the British Oxygen Company in March, 1958, in regard to prices and level of profits, have been carried out.

Mr. Erroll

No undertaking was sought from or given by the British Oxygen Company regarding the level of its prices and profits. The company has fulfilled its undertakings to publish price scales and to charge customers, without discrimination, on the basis of these scales.

Miss Lee

Do I hear aright? Are we once again to be told that no undertaking about the prices or profits of this company has been asked for or given?

Mr. Erroll

The company has made no general increase in its prices for oxygen and acetylene since 1957, and we consider that the agreement which we obtained from the company is satisfactory. Furthermore, I point out that part of the profits of this company stem from its operations on other things and in overseas territories.

Mr. Jay

As the Monopolies Commission found that this company indulged in monopoly practices, and as the Commission made several positive recommendations, is it not the job of the Board of Trade to see that those recommendations are implemented? Can the Minister of State say whether his Department has positive evidence that the recommendations are not being implemented?

Mr. Erroll

We agreed with the company that it should publish its price scales and charge customers without discrimination, two very important matters mentioned in the Monopoly Commission's Report. We think that those are the most important, and we understand that they are being adhered to.

Mr. Webster

Does not my hon. Friend agree that a very large proportion of this company's increase in profits has come from overseas trade? Is not a director of the company in close touch with the Board of Trade to ensure compliance with the recommendations of the Monopolies Commission?

Miss Lee

On a point of order. In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of the reply and the fact that the President of the Board of Trade does not know what has been going on in this company for the last ten years, or does not care, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

I repeat my request that when they are giving notice of their intention to raise matters on the Adjournment, hon. Members should confine themselves to the traditional formula.