HC Deb 30 June 1960 vol 625 cc1539-40
20. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the President of the Board of Trade why there was a delay of four and a half years in the publication of the Report of the Monopolies Commission on the fertiliser monopolies in this country.

Mr. Maudling

Although the reference was originally made on 29th October, 1955, work on it was much delayed by the discussions which resulted in the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956. After the Report had been received on 23rd July, 1959, the Board of Trade had to consider requests by the parties concerned for the excision of material that might be included in the Report. Publication was further delayed by the printing strike in the autumn of 1959.

Mr. Davies

While once again thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask whether he is aware that some of us—perhaps on both sides of the House—feel that these Reports presented to Parliament do not contain the material with which Members should be provided? Can he say why this Report, presented so late, did not give figures of profits and costs after 1957, when we are now in 1960? Is he aware that this industry costs the British public £30 million in subsidies to farmers, and that farmers pay £100 million to the fertiliiser manufacturers? Will he try to get the Report brought up to date, so that Parliament can be honestly and truly informed of the position in the industry?

Mr. Maudling

I think that it was a very good Report and that, by and large, the impression given of the industry is very satisfactory. I think that there was a debate in which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture took part, and my impression is that the information was then brought up to date.

Mr. Willey

But it is recognised that the Report is incomplete, because the sulphate of ammonia agreements were excluded from the terms of reference of the Monopolies Commission. Will the right hon. Gentleman do his best to see that this is considered by the Restrictive Practices Court, because until we get those we cannot have a complete picture of the operation of monopolies in fertilisers?

Mr. Maudling

I am afraid that the order and timing of taking cases by that court is in the hands of the registrar, who cannot be influenced by Parliament, but I am sure that note will be taken of what the hon. Gentleman has said.