HC Deb 10 April 1962 vol 657 cc1125-6
29. Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether he will publish the text of the formal undertaking given to him by the Imperial Tobacco Company Limited not to interfere in the management of Gallahers Limited.

Mr. N. Macpherson

It is the practice not to publish exchanges of letters between the Board of Trade and companies whose affairs have been investigated by the Monopolies Commission. My right hon. Friend sees no reason to depart from the practice in this case. The substance of the undertaking was given in my reply to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) on 6th February.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

With great respect, is my hon. Friend aware that that gives the impression that there is something to hide, whereas, in practice, I believe that there is nothing to hide? Surely, it would be a healthy precedent to see that there was always a formal statement of the undertaking given on these occasions?

Mr. Macpherson

That has certainly not been the case so far. I shall certainly ask my right hon. Friend to consider what my right hon. Friend has just said, but so far he sees no reason to depart from the precedent.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is my hon. Friend aware that I cannot see the logic of this differentiation between the Imperial Tobacco Company and I.C.I.? There is no evidence that the Imperial Tobacco Company was abusing its position, and yet it was instructed not to interfere in the affairs of the other company.

Mr. Macpherson

That is not quite the position. The Imperial Tobacco Company had already given an undertaking not to interfere with the management of Gallahers and, at the request of my right hon. Friend, it repeated that undertaking.

Mr. Jay

Is it not quite obvious that the whole House is dissatisfied with the Government's attitude on this question, and will not the Minister undertake to reconsider it?

Mr. Macpherson

I could not accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said—that the whole House is dissatisfied with the Government's handling of this matter.

Mr. Mitchison

As an undertaking given to the Restrictive Practices Court, like any other undertaking given to a court, would be public, what is the objection to giving similar publicity to the parallel case of the undertaking given to the Monopolies Commission?

Mr. Macpherson

It is not a court, and it has not been the practice in the past to give such information.