HC Deb 15 March 1962 vol 655 cc1512-3
10. Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in order to comply with the recommendation of the Monopolies Commission, he will instruct the Imperial Tobacco Company Limited to distribute its shareholding of Gallahers Limited amongst its ordinary shareholders.

Mr. Erroll

No, Sir.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

In fact, even if my right hon. Friend bad proved willing, has he the power so to do? If not, can he see that Government time is found for the Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman)?

Mr. Erroll

What my right hon. Friend says is quite correct. I do not possess the statutory power to implement the recommendation in the way suggested by the Monopolies Commission. But there are many ways of acting in addition to the use of statutory power. One such way is by persuasion, and I think that a company of this standing might well have accepted the Government's wishes in this matter had I wished to ask it to divest itself of shareholdings.

Mr. Lipton

Why should the Government generally be frightened of tobacco companies? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not summon up sufficient courage to ask them to do the right thing? Will not he take a lesson from the United States, where the anti-monopoly legislation is very much more effective?

Mr. Erroll

I bad all the courage required, and I used it. I asked the firm to give an undertaking, and it has given it. That is what I wanted.