HC Deb 23 April 1964 vol 693 cc1515-613

3.49 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I beg to move Amendment No. 95, in page 5, line 20, at the end to insert: (d) there would be serious damage to the livelihood of large numbers of self-employed retailers and distributive workers without any comparable gain to the public as consumers and users.

The Deputy-Chairman

With this Amendment we can discuss Amendment No. 103, in page 5, line 25, with a Division on the latter Amendment later, if the hon. Lady wishes.

Mrs. Castle

Yes, Sir Robert.

The purpose of the Amendment is to add another gateway to the Clause in addition to all the others that we have spent so much time discussing during the course of the proceedings on the Bill. The Amendment would enable the Restrictive Practices Court, in deciding whether to exempt any goods from the abolition of resale price maintenance, to take into account the ensuing damage to the self-employed retailer and to distributive workers. This is a very important Amendment, because this is the first point in the Bill at which the question of the future of those two groups, which are vitally affected by r.p.m., is directly taken into account.

As the Bill is drafted, any benefit accruing to the consumer, however small, would outweigh any detriment to the retailer or distributive worker, however large. Of course, during the debates on the Bill the Committee has been anxious to promote the interests of the consumer. That certainly is the attitude of hon. Members on this side. We are anxious that the consumer should reap the advantage of any legitimate economies in distribution. On the other hand, we do not believe that the interests of the consumer should be interpreted so sweepingly as to override any other consideration whatsoever.

We should not, therefore, be in favour of a price-cutting war which would rain large numbers of small retailers, or undermine the living standards of the workers in the distributive trades. That would be to apply economic criteria to the point of lunacy. Clearly, it would not be in the public interest as a whole if the abolition of r.p.m. were to be carried through in circumstances and to an extent which would lead to the bankruptcy of large numbers of self-employed small retailers who would have little opportunity to find alternative employment or of being reabsorbed into the economy in a productive way. They might face the propspect of ending their days in receipt of National Assistance. Clearly, that would not add to the economic well-being of the community as a whole and, therefore, would not be a legitimate interpretation of the public interest.

The point of view of the distributive workers was put effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) during the Second Reading debate. My hon. Friend would have been present to move this Amendment. Unfortunately, he has to attend a conference of his union and, therefore, is unable to be with us.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

What about his duty to this Committee?

Mrs. Castle

Does the hon. Member wish to say something?

Mr. Graham Page

I was suggesting to the hon. Lady that perhaps her hon. Friend's duty to this Committee should be put before his duty to his union.

Mrs. Castle

I think that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) might search his own conscience and decide whether or not he is living in a glasshouse before he starts to throw stones.

My hon. Friend, who was speaking as President of the Union of Shop and Distributive Allied Workers, was able, on Second Reading, to put the point of view of the distributive workers. Obviously, he would be anxious to be present and speak in support of this Amendment. During that debate he said: I accept that the public, as consumers and users, must have the paramount interest in such a Bill as this. But, as it is drafted at present, there could he a situation where 100,000 self-employed retailers and distributive workers could have an income reduction of £3 or £4 a week, and if one single consumer got ½d. benefit that ½d. benefit to the one consumer would outweigh the loss to the 100,000 retailers and distributive workers. That is the public interest as at present defined in the Bill. I am prepared to accept the paramount interest of the public as consumers and users. But suerly there must be some qualification of the public interest so that there must be a comparable advantage to the public as a whole to offset what could be a drastic loss to an important section."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1964, Vol. 691, c. 297.] I am sure that the Committee will accept that as a very reasonable statement of the position.

By this Amendment we seek to give to the distributive workers and to the small retailers a locus standi under the Bill. In other words, their needs should be one of the factors in the situation which the Court must take into account when weighing one claim against another. Unless they are given this locus standi under the Bill there will be a possibility that they will not be able to have their case put to the Court at all.

Later, some hon. Members on this side of the Committee will be moving an Amendment to give these groups the right to appear before the Court; and I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment. If it is accepted, a corollary of it will be that in having the right to appear they should also have the right, under the gateway Clause of the Bill to state their point of view. That is the whole purpose of wanting to appear, to put an argument on their own behalf. At this stage, we are saying that such an argument should be one of the factors legitimately to be taken into account. The same applies in respect of the small retailer. We can all think of points of view which they might wish to put.

The other day I was approached by some licensed victuallers in my constituency who are tenants of their public houses. They were profoundly concerned about the effect on their livelihood of the abolition of resale price maintenance. They told me that already there were cases in which multiple firms were using wines, spirits and beers as—well, I do not know whether they were being used as loss leaders, but, certainly, the multiple shops were able to sell wines and proprietary brands of spirits and beers at prices lower than those at which the licensed victuallers could obtain the same sort of goods from the brewers. Clearly, if r.p.m. were abolished, the effect for those local publicans could be disastrous.

That is the sort of argument which ought to be heard by the Court and taken into consideration. I was asked by the licensed victuallers to probe the mystery of the astonishing price levels at which some multiples were able to sell these products. It seemed to be more than a case of discount being given on bulk supplies because, presumably, the brewers could buy in bulk for distribution to their tenants. It may be that the answer lies in the policy of the brewers. That may be the fault. But if the retailer had the right to go to the Court and the right under the gateways Clause to put his side of the case, the very publicity that ensued might bring the truth to light and produce a more equitable policy.

I repeat that the point is at this stage to give these two groups the right to have their point of view considered by the Court. I am sure that this is an Amendment which is self-evidently fair, and I am confident that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

Although I interrupted she hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) just now, I support her on this Amendment. This is a case which I was trying to put on Amendment No. 71 yesterday as part of the argument in favour of that Amendment, that the interests of those who are employed in the distributive, trade, whether as principals or as employees, should be something which the Court can take into account.

I prefer the hon. Lady's Amendment to my rather wider one, because she pinpoints the small retailer. It is the small retailer and also the shop assistant, because of his employment, who will be hit first by the Bill. They will be immediately hit. They may well recover from it, but I am sure that the Court ought to be allowed to take their interests into account. I can see

no reason why the Court should be precluded from that consideration.

Before the Court decides to make an order because it appears to it that the situation described in the hon. Lady's Amendment exists, there are two further things for it to consider. The hon. Lady wants to introduce a gateway into subsection (2). But there are still two gates to open before one can pass through that gateway. There is the gate which she puts in her Amendment: without any comparable gain to the public as consumers and users. Therefore, the Court would have to consider, as against the interests of the small retailer and his employees, the comparable gain of the public as consumers and users. There would also be the other gate to open in the tailpiece of subsection (2)—again, the interests of the public as consumers or users. So the public are well protected here.

The point is merely that the Court should be permitted to consider the very vital interests of the retailer and the employee. I should lke to see this as another gateway. I should, at least, like to be sure that the Bill does not itself preclude the Court from giving full consideration to these interests.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I support the Amendment. I want, first, to take up the point made in an interjection by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) is very sorry indeed that he cannot be here today. He is attending an international conference, and I imagine that it is of the greatest importance that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee should play some part these days in international matters.

Mr. Graham Page

I am happy to withdraw the interjection, which I made rather too hastily.

Miss Herbison

I am very glad indeed. It is most generous of the hon. Member.

I am also very glad that we have support from the Government side of the committee for the Amendment. Clause 5(2)—it is important to read this far—says: An order under this section directing that goods of any class shall be exempted goods may be made by the Restrictive Practices Court if it appears to the Court that in default of a system of maintained minimum resale prices applicable to those goods… and then we are given three gateways.

The hon. Member for Crosby was right to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that in the other gateways the right of the consumers is very greatly safeguarded, and that before any class of goods is exempted it will have to get over those two hurdles before the fourth gateway that we are asking for is considered.

I am sure that the Minister must be very well aware of the great fears of many small shopkeepers about what the Bill will do to their livelihood. They are very hardworking people. I have some of them in every village in my constituency. They have no regulated hours of work indeed, very often they work many more hours than those who are employed. It is of the greatest importance that we should do everything possible to safeguard their interests.

At this stage, when the Bill has been discussed for many days, I find that the shopkeepers not only have grave fears, but are very indignant with the Government. They seem to agree with what The Times has said, that so far the Minister has made no real concession in the Bill to any point of view. The Times was commenting on the meeting which the right hon. Gentleman had with his back benchers. We have been discussing the Bill for such a long time, and in the light of the discussions and the strong case which has been made time and time again from both sides of the Committee, no real concession has yet been made, and it seems strange that, although no real concession has been made, the Minister has by some means or another managed to quell what was very great opposition on his own side.

Mr. Graham Page

Is the hon. Lady right in talking about "concessions"? My right hon. Friend has improved the Bill very considerably as we have gone along, perhaps with some advice from the back benches. But surely we cannot refer to "concessions".

Miss Herbison

I do not think that it really matters which word we use, but I will adopt the word "improvement". Most of us do not accept that any real improvements have been made to the Bill so far.

The Deputy-Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I think that the discussion had better be brought back to the Amendment.

Miss Herbison

With all due deference, Sir Robert, I do not think I have strayed from the Amendment. I am dealing with the position of the small shopkeepers and telling the Minister their feelings and pointing out that so far any concessions or improvements which had been made in the Bill are not worth very much and have certainly gone no way to alleviate the fears of the small shopkeepers.

The Deputy-Chairman

Perhaps the hon. Lady will relate her remarks to the small shopkeepers. We must not get into a general discussion about concessions which have been made in other parts of the Bill.

Miss Herbison

I accept your Ruling, Sir Robert. Whatever I say, I shall certainly attempt, as I have been doing—perhaps not very successfully—to relate it to the small shopkeepers.

Under the Bill, the supplier of goods, or the trade association representing him, may make representations to the Registrar to have certain goods considered by the Restrictive Practices Court. I agree with that procedure. What we would like to see is the small shopkeeper and those representing the workers given the same right. This is important for the livelihood of both the workers and the small shopkeepers. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has dealt with this issue fully and I need not spend more time on it today. It is desirable as a matter of justice that both the workers and the small shopkeepers should be able themselves to make representations to the Registrar to have certain goods considered by the Court. If the position of the small shopkeeper were safeguarded, in many instances that would safeguard the consumer.

Small shopkeepers in my constituency fear that if this or a similar Amendment is not accepted many of them will have to go out of business. They fear that it will not be possible for them to compete at the beginning with the big multiple stores which have a great deal of capital. In spite of the provisions about loss leaders, and so on, there would still be a danger that the big multiple stores would drive small shopkeepers out of business with certain commodities.

Tobacco is one example and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has mentioned alcohol. Multiple stores might use such sales to attract customers who would almost certainly buy other goods and the result would be that mans small shopkeepers in those goods would lose a great deal of custom. There are other examples, but I am sure that the Secretary of State has had these matters brought to his attention. We have to try to do justice to all this hard-working, part of our community.

What would be the effect on the consumer? Because the Bill deals only with resale price maintenance, and does not touch the subject of monopolies, once small shopkeepers have been forced out of business, multiples would be able to hold the housewife to ransom over many commodities. Accepting the Amendment would safeguard not only the interests of the small shopkeeper, but the interests of the workers in the distributive trades and ultimately the interests of housewives and other consumers. I hope that the very strong case put by tie hon. Member for Crosby and from this side of the Committee will make the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that this is an Amendment which he can accept.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I rise to ask the Secretary of State to look carefully at the general principle lying behind the Amendment. The wording can easily be criticised and I propose to criticise some of it, but that is a drafting matter.

The principle behind the amendment is one which we should support. I believe that my right hon. Friend had in mind the danger to the small shopkeeper when in subsection (2,b) he provided that one of the considerations would be the number of establishments in which the goods are sold by retail would be substantially reduced to the: detriment of the public as such consumers or users… Why do we have to wait until a number of establishments—in other words, small shopkeepers—have been put out of business before the Restrictive Practices Court considers their interests?

That goes too far and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) is right to try to alter the wording—I say "alter the wording" rather than make a separate subsection—when she says that the Court should be able to take into consideration the fact that they might suffer serious damage to their livelihood or that of the people they employ.

Once again, I criticise drafting: the hon. Lady speaks of self-employed retailers, but they may form themselves into a small private company and yet be in exactly the same position.

It would, therefore, be better if this matter were dealt with by some form of Amendment to subsection (2,b) whether it was a self-employed retailer, or a small private company. As a self-employed person myself, I have the greatest sympathy with self-employed people. I must not go on praising them unduly, or hon. Members will begin to think that I am speaking of myself, and I am not.

The smaller shops have a long history of good and valuable service. I am not in any way against supermarkets, big stores or big chain stores. They all have their part to play in the service of the country, but in some ways they have a great advantage over the small shopkeeper. They have much more capital and much more bargaining power when purchasing from manufacturers, and they are able to get much bigger discounts. They can sell their goods, be they wines or spirits or tobacco, at a much greater loss if for trading reasons that should suit them, quite regardless of the competition which that offers to the small shopkeeper.

The small shopkeeper should take that in his stride if he can, provided that he has protection in his agreements with the manufacturers. If every form of protection is removed from him, he will be in a very bad way, and it would be unwise and dangerous for the Committee to remove every form of protection from him.

This is a very modest Amendment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has pointed out, there are two safeguards because two matters have to be considered. It would be repetitive to mention them. However, I ask my right hon. Friend to look closely into the question of not waiting until the numbers of small shopkeepers are reduced, or when they are suffering substantial damage or hardship. This is a matter for the Court to decide and it should be given the opportunity to consider it when deciding whether a manufacturer should be allowed to retain resale price maintenance in respect of goods, many of which are sold in the small shops whose interests I have at heart as. I think, all hon. Members have.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

Yesterday, I withdrew an Amendment in favour of this one. I am glad that I did so, for this Amendment is much more effective. The Amendment which I withdrew dealt only with the second part of this matter. It was concerned with the workers in the distributive trades. I am glad that this Amendment also includes the self-employed retailer, and I would accept at once the suggestion that the phrase might be extended to all small traders, whatever might be the character of their business.

I think that every hon. Member has received communications on behalf of the small traders. Sometimes we have been inclined to regard these as pressure by organised and interested groups, but no one who has met the representatives of these small traders can doubt that they have legitimate fears about the effect of the Bill. If the small traders were to become a less representative section of the community, the whole of our social life would suffer. Because of that, I am glad that the Amendment refers to retailers as well as to workers in the distributive trades.

I do not propose to emphasise that point, because it has been stressed at considerable length during the debate, but I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the personal association which the small shopkeeper at the corner of the street in an urban district, and the small shopkeeper in a village, has with the residents in the neighbouring streets is a valuable part of the social life of the country. If the Bill were to result in those people going out of business, the image of our society would be damaged.

I propose to address my remarks chiefly to the position of workers in the distributive trades. There is a serious danger that they might suffer as a result of the Bill. If they do not all suffer, it will be due entirely to the strength of their trade union and to the extraordinary negotiating capacity of their officers and leaders, because we must not forget that even a strong union is not always able to protect all its workers.

When we go into a shop to buy an article, we are apt to forget all the elements involved in making that article available to us. I must keep to the Amendment, and, therefore, I shall go no further than saying that the production of the article involves not only the manufacturer and the retailer here, but the producer of the raw materials and foodstuffs in far-distant lands. Their conditions, have been getting steadily worse in recent years because of a fall in their prices.

The production of an article involves the relationship between the manufacturer and the wholesaler, and that between the wholesaler and the retailer, and one of our complaints about the Bill is that it has made the retailer the scapegoat of profit-making at the various stages of the industries which are dealt with by the Bill. The Amendment is concerned with the last stages in the process—with the retailers and the workers.

The Bill is typical of those produced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It ignores the workers employed in the distributive trades. There is not a Clause in the Bill to safeguard their position and no Amendment has been moved from the other side of the Committee to try to protect them.

Mr. Graham Page

I do not know whether the hon. Member was present yesterday when I moved Amendment No. 71, which included protection for the workers.

Mr. Brockway

I appreciate that, but the hon. Gentleman's Amendment followed an Amendment which I had tabled. He followed my initiative in that respect.

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment was No. 187, and mine was No. 71.

Mr. Brockway

I am not very good at figures. I do not think that that statement is right. Mine was the first of the two Amendments to be called yesterday, and I am sure that I tabled my Amendment before the hon. Gentleman tabled his. I do not want to become involved in that kind of banter. It is typical of the trivial way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite deal with such points. Nevertheless, I am prepared to accept what he says.

I am concerned about protecting the workers in the distributive trades. If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will lead to the dismissal of workers in that industry, due to the closing down of many shops. Unless these workers are protected by their trade union, many of them will have to work longer hours, and, because of reduced profits, pressure will be brought to bear on them for wages to be reduced.

I wish to make two appeals. My first appeal is to all distributive workers to join their trade union so that they will be strong enough to defend themselves against the danger which the Bill will bring to their conditions of employment. My second appeal is to the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment, which has been supported by hon. Members or both sides of the Committee.

Those who are associated with the Amendment are not very much concerned about the exact wording of it. We want the Government to accept the intention behind it, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, both for the sake of the retailers and small traders who are involved, and for the sake of the thousands of workers who may suffer, to accept the Amendment, which will do something at least to safeguard their interests.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)

As one who has organised distributive workers for many years and who is an official of the trade union which caters for them, I am very proud that in this Committee today I have heard from hon. Members on both sides praise of distributive workers. Goodness knows, they need some consideration in an industry which has an inflow and outflow probably more than in any other industry of the country.

I can understand that if the Bill were to intensify competition to the extent that bankruptcies and difficulties in distribution became matters which were thrown about over the negotiating table, in view of the gross profits made in the distributive trades, unless special consideration were given to them, the workers would suffer.

I am proud that opposite to me in the Committee is a lawyer whose father was a distinguished industrial lawyer. He was president of the Wholesale Grocers Joint Industrial Council when I entered this House and I was the chairman of that Council. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has spoken in the debate and both employers and employees in the industry would support most strongly what has been said on behalf of distributive workers.

In the grocery trade there is a great deal of direct contact between the manufacturer and the retailer and when the total gross margin is no more than l6½ per cent. in many shops—because of intense competition—doing a trade of less than £200 a week, and having to keep one or two employees, it is certain that if the Bill intensifies that competition to the extent that wages are thereby placed in jeopardy, some day the conscience of this House must be aroused.

I hope that the Minister will respond to the appeals made from both sides of the Committee. The wording of the Amendment may not be all that it should be. It may be necessary to amend it so that the drafting will conform to many of the practices of law which perhaps those who drafted it do not fully understand, but I hope that the Minister will accept the principle of the Amendment and grant a reasonable concession on behalf of the distributive workers.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

I wish to support the Amendment. I do not think that we should be too finicky about the wording, because in itself the Amendment is admirable. If it were included in the Clause it would strengthen the Bill.

I listened with some interest to the exchanges between my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and hon. Members opposite about who had the honour of first placing on the Notice Paper an Amendment to protect the interests of the small shopkeeper, and particularly of the distributive workers. I do not think it important from which side an Amendment first came. What is important is that in the drafting of the Bill the Government completely ignored both these interests.

Although the organised strength of the union which I am proud to represent would mitigate many of the dire effects of the Clause if this provision were excluded from it, this is not a sectional appeal. It is not only a question of stressing the claims of the small shopkeeper and the distributive worker, but also the real interests of the consumer in the context of the Clause. The rights of the small shopkeeper and the distributive worker will have to be reconsidered by the Restrictive Practices Court. Often when there are trends in distribution those working in the industry are more aware of those trends and their implications than are those whose job it is to derive profit from them.

Great praise has been given to the improvements which have taken place in distribution over the years. A great many of those improvements, into whatever quarter they have moved, have come about because of the existence of the union and the advice which the union has been prepared to give to employers on the joint negotiating and other bodies with which we are associated. I appeal to the Minister to look closely at the idea of accepting this Amendment.

Subsection (2) of the Clause would become largely meaningless and valueless unless some wording of this type were inserted. As the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said when dealing with subsection (2,b): the number of establishments in which the goods are sold by retail would be substantially reduced to the detriment of the public as such consumers or users This is not purely a question of sectional interest. If the interests of the consumer are to be protected by Clause 5, they can be further protected by the right of the self-employed small shopkeeper and the distributive worker to have his voice heard on changes and trends in the industry.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I have listened to the speeches on the Amendment made by hon. Members opposite and by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) with great sympathy, I should like to support the Amendment, but I do not think that those who have spoken on it are being honest. I do not mean that in a nasty way. I do not think that they have thought out the Amendment to its logical conclusion.

Take the case of any item which goes before the Restrictive Practices Court. The small shopkeepers, presumably in the National Retail Alliance, will go before the Court and say, "We think that resale prices should be maintained on this commodity because, if not, it will be adverse to the principles of the Alliance". They have to say: without any comparable gain to the public as consumers and users. There is a loss to consumers and users, because if the Court accepts the view of the Alliance, which probably represents less than 10 per cent. of the turnover of that particular commodity, the other 90 per cent. will have to continue the sale at fixed prices because, if that were not done, it would be a detriment to the to 10 per cent. It would be very difficult, in those circumstances, to justify the contention that there was not a loss to the public as consumers and users. I do not see how the Amendment as worded could be justified.

The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby and other hon. Members say that they are not wedded to the wording of the Amendment. If something could be included in Clause 5 which would give the small retailers' organisation or the organised workers an opportunity to go to the Court to make their case, I should not have an objection, but we have to be clear about what the Amendment is designed to do. In practice, although I am sure that it was not in the minds of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North or of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley), when they produced this Amendment, it would be largely a wrecking Amendment. If it were carried, and the Court worked on the wording of the Amendment, everything which was price-maintained at present would be price-maintained in future.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that when the hon. Member suggests that it is a wrecking Amendment he means that the result of the Bill will be to cause damage to small retailers, a fact which has frequently been denied by his right hon. Friend?

Sir D. Glover

I do not accept that at all. Personally, I do not think that I have spent £5 in a supermarket in my life. I go to individual retailers, because I like the individual retailer, I like to know the person to whom I am talking and I do not haggle over the ½. or 1d. on the price. I think that the same thing will apply in other cases.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North talked about her village shop, but I think that there is undue anxiety in the minds of that sort of shopkeeper as to what will happen as a result of the removal of resale price maintenance. I speak with some knowledge of a trade in which we have never had resale price maintenance. We had to compete one against another—but we had to make a profit, because we were not working as a philanthropic organisation.

The same thing will apply where there has been resale price fixing. If the retailer gives; the service which the public requires and needs, then the public will support and patronise his retail shop. It is not only a question of price. Reference has been made to cigarettes. People smoke too many cigarettes; I know that I do. But it is the kind of commodity that one does not want to travel very far to buy. One likes simply to be able to go into the store, to buy another packet and put oneself further on the road to damnation rather than travel half a mile to get add. off the price. What one wants is service. The small shop is available, and one buys from it. This applies to a great many commodities.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Surely if the hon. Member's interpretation of the Amendment is correct, it must follow that in his opinion the removal of resale price maintenance in most cases will cause serious damage to the livelihood of a number of retailers and workers without any comparable gain to the public as consumers and users", and that the Court cannot take that into account in reaching a decision. That must follow from his argument.

Sir D. Glover

It does not follow. I said that I would have no objection to my right hon. Friend incorporating in the Clause the right of a trade union, and, for example, the National Retailers' Alliance to state their case to the Court. All I said was that the Amendment as worded would, in my view, virtually wreck the Bill. Personally, therefore, I cannot support it, although I have enormous sympathy with the views of hon. Members who have spoken.

Mr. Winterbottom

The hon. Member said that he had no objection to various trade organisations and trade unions stating their views before the Court. We hope that that will be the opinion of the Committee in general. But what we are discussing is not whether people shall have the right of representation before the Court we are discussing the gateway within which the discussion shall take place at the Court. Even though the wording of the Amendment may not be strictly accurate, if it is accepted by the Minister it will become part of subsection (2) and will provide another paragraph for the consideration of the Court, quite apart from the right of representation.

Sir D. Glover

But the words are without any comparable gain to the public as consumers and users". I do not think that it would ever be possible to prove that, otherwise it would mean that fixed prices would be maintained over the whole field, which must be to the detriment of the public, in order to protect a very small segment of that field.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Winterbottom

I refer the hon. Member to the words of St. Matthew: If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you". We are dealing with what the hon. Member believes or thinks or hopes will be done. We are dealing with the factual position, outlining what the Restrictive Practices Court will have to do and are considering, as it were, the terms of reference of the Court. I hope that the Minister will meet us on this matter, not in terms of the right of representation but in terms of words embracing the spirit of the Amendment and to be framed within the Clause.

Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)

I have extreme sympathy with the Amendment and with what is sought to be secured by it, but I am bound to say that share a little the difficulty which my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) expressed. It seems to me that what the Amendment seeks to remedy goes to the basis of the Bill and that it is a fundamental Second Reading point.

The Bill might very well threaten serious damage to the livelihood of large numbers of self-employed retailers and distributive workers, but if that is the case it is a vice inherent in the Bill, and the Bill having been given Second Reading by the House—with the silent acquiescence of the Labour Party—it seems to me extremely difficult at this late stage to try to cure a basic defect in the Bill by an Amendment in Committee.

If my right hon. Friend can suggest a way by which it is possible, no one will be more pleased than I, but I think that the drafting of subsection (2) is such that any Amendment of this kind sits almost impossibly in the company of the rest of the Clause. I wish that it did not. If the gateways (a), (b) and (c) and the tailpiece are examined, it will be seen that the point which runs through the whole of the criteria is the principle of the detriment of the public as…consumers or users". Although I wish that the criteria in the Amendment could be put into the Bill, I cannot see how it can be done in this way at this late stage in relation to the groups of people who are referred to in the Amendment.

Mr. Graham Page

May I draw attention to Clause 8(3) in which the retailers are allowed to be represented? Could they not put their case then?

Sir H. Linstead

I was coming to precisely that point. If the general situation is as I have described it, and if this is inherent in the Bill, and if my right hon. Friend can find no way by which something can be put into the Clause to achieve the objective of the Amendment, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said, we must look at the right of representation before the Court not only by associations of retailers, but possibly by associations of employees as being the way in which something of the nature of what is sought in the Amendment can be secured in relation to each application which comes before the Court.

Mrs. Castle

What is the good of giving the self-employed retailer and the distributive worker the right to put their case to the Restrictive Practices Court if, under the Bill, the Court is not empowered to take that case into account?

Sir H. Linstead

There will undoubtedly be an identity of interest between a manufacturer who makes an application and various people who are working in the industry concerned with those goods. It may very well be extremely valuable that the people working in the industry shall have the opportunity of being heard before the Court.

I am not myself abandoning all hope, until I have heard my right hon. Friend on the Amendment, about something being done here. I only point out that I think that the opportunity of doing this was missed on Second Reading and that this is a consequence of a Bill of this kind having gone as far as it has gone now. I shall listen with great attention to what my right hon. Friend says, and I very much hope that at a later stage we shall at least find a way by which the points of view of those referred to in the Amendment can be effectively put on individual applications before the Court.

Miss Herbison

The hon. Gentleman says that he hope that his right hon. Friend will find a way by which those mentioned in the Amendment will be able to state their point of view to the Court. If the Court when reaching its decision has no right under the Measure to take into account any detriment to the small shopkeeper or to the worker, it would be a mere waste of time for these people to go there, knowing full well that it was outside the Court's jurisdiction to deal with the matters in which they were interest.

Sir H. Linstead

I do not want to appear to be taking a strongly differing point of view from that of the hon. Lady. I merely point out that under subsection (2,b) and (2,c) there are items in the gateways which are of substantial interest to the owners of businesses—to independent retailers—and those employed by them. It may well be extremely important to those two classes that they should be able to be heard concerning the number of establishments and the extent of the services which could be affected by the decision of the Court

Mr. Jay

Surely the hon. Gentleman sees that under the Clause it is only the interests of the consumer which can be taken into account, not those of either the retailer or the worker? Whether that is right or wrong, that is how the Bill stands, and it is what we are seeking to amend.

Sir Dereld Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

Before my hon. Friend answers that point, may I put this to him? Would not the position be this? The retailer would have a right of representation. He could show cause that the number of establishments would be reduced, to the detriment of the consumer. If the number of establishments is reduced, that is likely, one would think, to lead to serious damage to the livelihood of large numbers of people employed. Therefore, in arguing the points under subsection (2,b), retailers are indirectly, if not directly, able to argue the point contained in the Amendment.

Mrs. Castle

The only point that the retailer would be able to argue under subsection (2,b) would be that he would be bankrupt. He could not press that he would be near bankrupt.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

There is nothing about bankruptcy here.

Mr. Winterbottom

It would be possible to argue that the number of establishments would be substantially reduced, but that is the extent of the argument. If it is argued that employees have lost their jobs as a consequence, it is as a natural consequence. It is not part of the argument which must be advanced under this gateway. That is the problem.

The Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Edward Heath)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), I fully appreciate and realise the reason why the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) is unable to be with us today. Many hon. Members of the Committee will recall the very robust and vigorous speech the hon. Gentleman made on Second Reading, when he spoke very much from his own experience. I remember then being impressed when the hon. Gentleman said this: From the trade union angle I am not unduly fearful about the passing of the Bill…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 297.] The hon. Gentleman went on to say that for other reasons he did not think that the Bill would achieve certain objectives which other Members had mentioned. I remember very well the vigorous way in which the hon. Gentleman said that he was not unduly fearful about the passing of the Bill". We have had a number of comments today about those engaged in the retail trade. I agree very much with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) that those employed in retail distribution ought to have full consideraion. I believe that the Government have given full consideration to these questions. We have only to recall the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act as the latest demonstration of the Government looking after the conditions of those working in offices and shops.

I know that my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour, who is now in another place, was keenly concerned about them, as I was myself when I was at the Ministry of Labour, because I originated the discussions which led to that Measure being put before the House of Commons. These are matters of great importance and those engaged in retail distribution should have full consideration.

Miss Herbison

- The Minister gives the example of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act as showing the good faith of the Government towards the workers. This frightens me a little, because if the workers have to wait as long after the Bill reaches the Statute Book before the realisation dawns of what damage might be done to them as they had to wait for the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill it will not be very much comfort for the workers.

Mr. Heath

That is not a very helpful remark by the hon. Lady.

Miss Herbison

It is true.

Mr. Heath

The matter certainly was not dealt with by the Labour Government when they were in power, if the hon. Lady wishes to exchange political views.

It has been said, rightly, that these matters should be given full consideration. I mentioned the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act as an example of action taken by the Conservative Government of avery important kind to deal specifically with that point. I did it also because, as I pointed out yesterday to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), there are interests which should be looked after, but the question is: is this the right way, by giving it as a reason for retaining resale price maintenance, to look after them? I suggest to the Committee that it is not. There are other ways in which this should be done.

For that reason, I would very gladly and willingly join the hon. Gentleman, as I often said in the past when I was Minister of Labour, in an appeal that those engaged in the distributive trades should join their trade union. I agree with that concept entirely. I think that my hon. Friends would fully support it. The trade union organisation is there to look after the interests of those engaged in particular industries. As was pointed out yesterday, they have been successful in doing this. This is the right approach to the interests of those who are engaged in retail distribution, as, indeed, in any other form of industry. I therefore hope that the Committee will agree that the real question facing us now is how these interests are to be looked after.

I find that I have more confidence in the small shopkeeper than some of those who have contributed to our discussions. I have confidence for exactly the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) placed before the Committee, that when people go to the small shopkeeper they do not go always, or perhaps often, on a question of price, though even in this respect the small shopkeeper can often help, but because of other facilities which the small shopkeeper provides. So long as he continues to provide that service, he will flourish and be successful, and the more efficient he is in providing alternative services which the consumer wants the more successful he will be.

Let us not forget that there are many small shopkeepers who have emphasised that they want to have the facility to use their prices flexibly, in order, indeed, to compere with other forms of organisation. I would ask the hon. Member for Brightside, who is very experienced in these matters, this question. Is it not true to say that at least some of the advantages which those engaged in retail distribution have obtained in recent years have been due to the improved forms of retailing which have taken place in the last two or three years?

The retail workers themselves have benefited from this, and rightly so. Nobody is more pleased than I am. Let us not forget that the developments in retail distribution which are taking place, of which there has been an underlying stream of criticism in some of the remarks which have been made, have benefited those who have been engaged in and are now working in retail distribution. The trade unions, rightly, have been able to obtain advantages for their members as a result of these improved methods.

Mr. Winterbottom

If the right hon. Gentleman is thinking in terms of new methods of service, such as those employed in the self-service stores and supermarkets, I would remind him that these ideas must be left to one side when considering the type of service provided by the small shopkeeper over the counter.

5.0 p.m.

The small shopkeeper usually serves behind the counter in a shop in which the customer wishes to be served in the privacy of that shop. In many instances, the customer does not want her neighbours to know precisely what she is buying. This may sound odd, but it is true.

These people serve in small shops not from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, but at intermittent hours during the day. Their problem involves having to buy at wholesale prices at the highest level—that is, without any discounts, and so on—which means that when they lose trade they not only lose the money they receive from their customers, but also the goodwill on which their businesses are built up.

Mr. Heath

I appreciate what the hon. Member has in mind, but we have on previous occasions discussed developments in wholesaling which have taken place, including the broad question of different discounts, I will not go into that matter now.

I was saying that, taking distributive workers as a whole—and not just those the hon. Member for Brightside has in mind—the improved means of retailing have helped those employed in retail distribution. I was pointing out that the trade unions have taken advantage of these improvements. Equally, if the Bill encourages the development of techniques it retail trading that, too, will be to the benefit of those who take part in retail distribution.

Not only is this point borne out by the experience of other countries, but also by the analysis of what has happened in bankruptcies in the grocery trade. This has benefited the small shopkeeper considerably, along with those engaged in retail distribution. Two things must not be overlooked when dealing with an Amendment of this kind. In a broad matter like this, we have a continuously improving standard of living and a continuously increasing population. Both of these things are vital for the prosperity of the distributive trade.

I have on previous occasions explained that the numbers engaged in distribution are increasing. As we know, the demand for manpower for manufacturing processes and other requirements throughout the country is also increasing. Over a large part of the country there is a great demand for man and woman power to enter manufacturing processes. This is essential if we are to maintain our export output. We must, therefore, look carefully at the means of distribution, where the numbers engaged are steadily increasing, to see that manpower may be attracted into manufacturing processes in the right numbers, for those processes are the basis of our export effort.

Looking at the matter broadly—always bearing in mind those two important factors—I can understand why individual shopkeepers should have the sort of fears the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) expressed. However, looking at industry as a whole, these two factors are fundamental to its future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) was right in saying that the Bill is based on the interests of the consumer. The Amendment tries to add other interests to that basis—the interests of retailers and distributive workers. I have on previous occasions given the figure of 40 per cent. as being the part of the retail trade which is covered by r.p.m. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) does not estimate it as high as that and considers that it is probably about 20 per cent.

On my figure it means that about 60 per cent. of the retail distributive trade is not covered by r.p.m. That exists in the interests of the consumer, as, indeed, does all the manufacturing process of this country. As soon as it ceases to do that its reason for existence ceases and the well-known processes begin; in other words, it must produce or sell something else or go out of business.

Why, therefore, should there be a different approach to those items which are at the moment covered by r.p.m.? Should we say to the Court, "You must take every interest into account for maintaining fixed prices"? This lies at the bottom of the Bill and today's discussion. I pointed out yesterday, when dealing with an Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in respect of including the word "purchasers", that under the 1956 Act we were dealing with manufacturers. Here

we are dealing with a practice that involves wholesalers and retailers—the chain of distribution—and, therefore, the interests to be taken into account are those of the consumer.

It is fundamental to realise that more than 60 per cent. of the trade is without r.p.m. and that the only interest taken into account is that of the consumer—apart from negotiated wage agreements or such legislative procedures as the Measure concerned with shops and offices. They remain and cover the whole sphere; and it is right that that should happen.

However, I suggest that it is not right when, one is considering whether r.p.m. should go, to say that this part of our retail trade can only go provided not only the interests of the consumer but other interests—such as those of the shopkeeper and those who work in shops—are also considered; in other words, that the present position should be kept even though in certain cases it may be to the detriment of the consumer.

This is what lies at the bottom of the Amendment.

Mr. Winterbottom

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to recall that we are discussing a Clause which provides gateways to the Court. I accept his figure of 40 per cent. as representing that part of the retail trade which is covered by r.p.m. I accordingly accept that 60 per cent. of it is not. Nevertheless, the whole of the retail trade—100 per cent. of it—will be covered by the Bill. Even the parts of industry which have abolished r.p.m.—and the grocery trade has abolished it for years—will be subject to the Bill.

If there is a limitation of supply by a wholesaler on a retailer, that retailer, if aggrieved, will be able to take his case to the Court. I am trying to make the right hon. Gentleman realise that while his figure of 40 per cent. may be correct we are, nevertheless, legislating for the whole of the grocery trade, even that part which is not represented in that figure of 40 per cent.

Mr. Heath

The Bill deals with the question of where r.p.m. exists and is saying, "This is unlawful unless exemption is granted". That is its main purpose and why I am drawing the comparison between the 60 per cent. of the retail trade in which there is no r.p.m.—and in which the interests of the consumer are the only interests—and the 40 per cent. I suggest that in deciding whether or not r.p.m. should be maintained—which is the purpose of the gateways—the sole consideration should be the interest of the consumer. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Putney is right when he hinged his remarks on the basis of the Bill. Other methods such as we have been discussing should be used to look after the interests of those engaged in the industry.

I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) that when one considers the gateways themselves—in subsection (2,b)—one sees that the retailer and those who work in distributive industry will be affected. This must be looked at from the point of view of the consumer and whether the consumer will suffer disadvantage because of the number of establishments which are being reduced. In the same way, we are concerned with the variety or quality of goods and whether there will be disadvantage to the consumer, along with the services provided.

If it should be shown that the number of establishments and services provided for people is to the disadvantage of the consumer, then, indirectly, that affects retailers and those who work in the distributive industry. In that respect, they are already affected by the existing gateways.

Mrs. Castle

It is taking a very extraordinary form of development, is it not, to say that there must be a substantial reduction in the number of establishments? It means that one must have an absolute holocaust of small retailers closing and unemployment in the industry. We are saying in the Amendment that the Court should also be able to take into consideration serious damage, short of that total holocaust.

Mr. Heath

The hon. Lady is using extreme phrases which may be suitable for debates on foreign affairs but which do not apply in this Committee. "Holocaust" is not a word to which we are accustomed when dealing with retail distribution.

It is perfectly clear that it must be a substantial disadvantage to the con- sumer and, perhaps, that there are no off-setting advantages. This gateway would introduce these other interests. Under it, it would not he necessary to show that any detriment to the public as a whole would arise from the ending of resale price maintenance. Those who applied under this gateway would need to show no more than detriment to those engaged in the trades concerned. It is then that the problem arises. The Court would be required to balance this against any gains to consumers or users.

I am advised that it poses a most difficult problem to the Court to try to balance up the interests on two quite different things. It would be asked, under the Amendment, to balance up the detriment to retailers and workers, on the one hand, against the gains to the consumers and users, on the other. It is generally believed that we have in any case posed the Court with a fairly serious problem which is to weigh up detriment and benefits to the consumer. If one now asks the Court, as this Amendments would do, to balance up detriment to retailers and workers, on the one hand, against gains to consumers and users, on the other, I am advised that we would be posing the Court with an almost impossible problem.

It is, in fact, a political or economic judgment, or, as was said yesterday, a combined political, economic and social judgment, and the right place for that to be made is in Parliament. I suggest, therefore, that the Amendment as drafted would, if adopted, pose an impossible problem to the Court. I am not putting that forward on purely technical, legalistic grounds. I am merely setting out that an Amendment which takes interests of that kind and tries to balance one against the other is a very difficult thing to ask any court to do. I am also suggesting that, for the reasons I have explained, the Bill is based fundamentally on the interests of the consumers and the interests of retailers and workers in distribution should be covered by other means, such as we have discussed.

It has been pointed out that there are on the Notice Paper Amendments which deal with Clause 8 and especially subsection (3). It would not be in order for me now to go into the question of those Amendments. Other hon. Members touched upon that. All I would say is that I recognise that the Bill gives a right of representation to retailers. I believe that that is important—I think that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) rather discounted this—because it enables them to give firsthand views on the matters embodied in Clause 5(2) about quality, variety of goods and services, and the number of establishments. On those matters they could have very valuable views which they could give to the Court.

It does not carry the corollary that they ought, therefore, to be included in a gateway. I do not think that that necessarily follows at all. They can give valuable evidence without themselves being part of the interests which have to be weighed up.

Mr. Winterbottom

They are covered by this gateway.

Mr. Heath

I have been pointing out—

Mr. Winterbottom


The Temporary Chairman (Sir John Arbuthnot)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must give way while the right hon. Member is on his feet.

Mr. Heath

I have pointed out that the retailer is covered by Clause 8(3).

Mr. Winterbottom

And by Clause 5(2).

Mr. Heath

No, the retailer is not covered by Clause 5. The interests covered in Clause 5 are the interests of the consumer and indirectly, because of the number of establishments, the retailer could be affected, as could be some of the distributive workers.

I was coming to the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn and other hon. Members that under Clause 8(3) the retailer has the right of representations in the proceedings which, I think, is valuable because of what he can do there. From representations which have been made to us, the retailer wishes to have that right. I think that, undoubtedly, later in the proceedings, we shall hear put forward under other Amendments the argument that those who are engaged in retail distribution should also have the right of representation in that way. I believe that this is a matter at which we should look very seriously when the time comes. I would not advise the Committee to accept the Amendment for the reasons that I have given.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I do not know whether it was a slip of the tongue, but my right hon. Friend said that the retailer came under Clause 8(3), and he went on to say that it might be right to include retail distributors as well. Was he referring merely to the retailer, or was he going on to consider those employed in distribution?

The Temporary Chairman

We are getting rather wide of the Amendments.

Mr. Heath

I was referring to the distributive workers. I was saying that when these Amendments come up that we shall have to pay serious consideration to that point. I would, therefore, tell the Committee that it is not possible for me to accept the Amendment which we are now discussing, but that I shall, of course, give serious consideration to the Amendments which come later.

Mr. Jay

I think that the Minister has made an astonishingly doctrinaire speech. In some respects, it was a positively extremist speech. He is arguing that in deciding on exemptions in the Bill the interests of everyone but the consumer ought to be totally disregarded. We are merely saying that they should be taken into account to some extent, and he is arguing that they should be completely disregarded. It is no answer, and it is not relevant, to say that something may be done about representation. We are not discussing on this Clause representation before the Court we are discussing what the Court can take into account in its deliberations.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) said, if the interests of the retailers and the workers are bound to be ignored because of the law, there is very little that they can achieve by being represented. The Minister entirely failed to meet that point. The hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), who, I know, is anxious to be helpful, said that because the Bill had been given a Second Reading we could not make any Amendment to Clause 5.

Sir H. Linstead

indicated dissent.

Mr. Jay

If the hon. Member is not saying that, then he did not make much contribution. If I had thought that the Second Reading would make it impossible for Amendments of this kind to be made to this Clause. I would have voted against the Second Reading. We know from the rules of the House that if it were out of order to amend the Bill in the way that we are suggesting, because it would be totally contrary to the principles of the Bill, we could not have been allowed to debate these Amendments. Clearly, it is in order, and is highly relevant.

When we look at this Clause we find that it is, like the Minister's speech, of a most extreme character. It tells us whose interests the Court may take into account deciding on the exemptions. It says, in effect—and the Minister confirmed this, so there is no dispute—that nobody's interests can be taken into account except that of the consumer, and the right hon. Gentleman says that, because he has decided that, it is really improper, or quite wrong, to make any suggestion that someone else's interest should be taken into account. We do not agree that that is just, and if it is the consequence of the Bill that everyone's interest is to be totally disregarded, that does not mean that this discussion should not go on; but that the Bill is obviously defective in this respect, and that we are trying to put it right.

Our Amendment—and, as I said before, I do not think that the interpretation put on it by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) is correct—is very moderate in its substantial intention. It still accepts that the consumer's interests should be paramount. I agree with the Minister that the consumer's interests should be paramount—the consumer is the whole nation, and any group of distributors or retailers is but a section of the nation—but I do not agree that other people's interests should be totally ignored.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) quite rightly said that under sub- section (2,b), indirectly, the retailer's interest comes into account only in the one instance that if the reduction in the number of establishments were shown to be contrary to the interests of the consumer and happened also to be detrimental to the retailer—that is incidental and accidental—the retailer's interest would he taken into account. That is quite true, but it does not meet the real point at all.

I should have thought—and I welcome the support our Amendment has had from two hen. Members opposite—that ours is really an extremely moderate proposition. To suggest that, where there was serious damage to large numbers of self-employed persons and distributive workers without comparative gain, the Court should at least be able to take note of it, is about as moderate a suggestion as any that one could possibly put forward. For the Minister to argue that that should not even be taken into account really prompts one to think, as I sometimes do, that the Bill was drafted by a fanatic and pushed through by a doctrinaire.

I hope that that is not too strong language—I would not have used it before the Minister's speech this afternoon—but to reply that this very reasonable Amendment is contrary to his impression about the Bill, and that, therefore, whether it is just or socially desirable is completely irrelevant, is incredibly doctrinaire—

Sir D. Walker-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman suggests that his Amendment retains the principle of the paramountcy of the consumer. That seems to be contrary to the natural meaning of the words used. The words "without any comparable gain" suggest not the paramountcy of the consumer, but an exact parity between consumer and retailer.

Mr. Jay

The only point is that the tailpiece governs all the subsections. It would govern (d) as well as the others—

Sir D. Walker-Smith

But the tailpiece does not apply at all until one is through the gateway.

Mr. Jay

The Minister says that he is advised that it would be very difficult for the Court to compare the interests and welfare of the consumer with those of the retailers and distributive workers. That may be so, but that is the system the Government proposed. The Government introduced the Restrictive Practices Court—we originally argued that these were decisions that should be taken by Parliament and a Minister. That issue has been decided.

We have the Court, which has to take these decisions, and if it has to take them surely they should be just. We think that the welfare of one section of the community should be weighed against that of another, but the Minister now says that, having set up the Court and launched the Bill, because it would be rather awkward, under his own procedure, to take one section of the community into account, that section should be ignored. That is to introduce an unjust procedure, and to defend it by saying that, under his system, anything else

would be unworkable is an extraordinary proposition to put before us.

We have had a good deal of propaganda from hon. Members opposite about the small shopkeeper, but it is sometimes seen that the proposals put forward are more in the interests of the manufacturers than those of the small shopkeepers. But here is a proposal that would help the genuine small shopkeeper and the distributive worker. All the Amendment would do would be to enable their arguments to be listened to and their interests to be weighed against those of the others. It is incredible that the Minister should offer no concession to that point of view, and hope that he will think about it again. If not, we shall certainly divide the Committee.

Question put,That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 153, Noes 216.

Division No. 82.] AYES [5.25 p.m.
Ainsley, William Grey, Charles Moody, A. S.
Albu, Austen Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Barnett, Guy Hamilton, William (West Fife) Moyle, Arthur
Beaney, Alan Harper, Joseph Mulley, Frederick
Bence, Cyril Hart, Mrs. Judith Oliver, G. H.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hayman, F. H. O'Malfey, B. K.
Benson, Sir George Healey, Denis Oswald, Thomas
Blyton, William Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Harbison, Miss Margaret Pargiter, G. A.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Lelcs, S.W.) Hilton, A. V. Paton, John
Bowles, Frank Holland, Philip Pavitt, Laurence
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Houghton, Douglas Peart, Frederick
Bradley, Tom Hoy, James H. Pentland, Norman
Brockway, A. Fenner Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Popplewell, Ernest
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Prentice, R. E.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hunter, A. E. Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Carmichael, Nell Hynd, H. (Accrington) Randall, Harry
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Rankin, John
Chapman, Donald Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Redhead, E. C.
Collick, Percy Janner, Sir Barmett Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Reid, William
Crosland, Anthony Jeger, George Reynolds, G. W.
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Kelley, Richard Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Dalyell, Tam Kenyon, Clifford Ross, William
Darling, George Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Davies, Harold (Leek) King, Dr. Horace Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Short, Edward
Dempsey, James Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silkin, John
Diamond, John Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Dodds, Norman Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Doig, Peter Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Skeffington, Arthur
Driberg, Tom MacColl, James Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, H.)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Coine Valley) Mclnnes, James Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. McLeavy, Frank Small, William
Edelman, Maurice MacPherson, Malcolm Snow, Julian
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sorerrsen, R. W.
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Evans, Albert Manuel, Archie Spriggs, Leslie
Foley, Maurice Marsh, Richard Steele, Thomas
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mayhew, Christopher Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Millan, Bruce Stones, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Milne, Edward Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mitchison, G. R. Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke on-Trent, C.)
Gourlay, Harry Monslow, Walter Taverne, D.
Greenwood, Anthony
Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Winterbottom, R. E.
Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.) Whitlock, William Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Thornton, Ernest Willey, Frederick Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Wainwright, Edwin Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Warbey, William Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Weitzman, David Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton) Mr. Lawson and
Mr. Charles A. Howell.
Agnew, Sir Peter Harris, Frederia (Groydon, N.W.) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Allason, James Harris, Reader (Heston) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Amery, Rt, Hon. Julian Harrison, Brian (Maiden) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Atkins, Humphrey Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Percival, Ian
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Hay, John Peyton, John
Balniel Lord Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Heald, Rt. Hon. Edward Pike, Miss Mervyn
Barlow, Sir John Hendry, Forbes Pitt, Dame Edith
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hill, J. E, B. (S. Norfolk) Pounder, Rafton
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hirst, Geoffrey Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Berkeley, Humphry Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Biffen, John Hocking, Philip N. prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Biggs-Davison, John Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bingham, R. M. Holland, Philip Pym, Francis
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hollingworth, John Quenneil, Miss J. M.
Black, Sir Cyril Holt, Arthur Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Bossom, Hon. Clive Hornby, R. P. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bourne-Arton, A. Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Rees-Davies, w. R. (Isle of Thanet)
Box, Donald Hughes-Young, Michael Ridsdale, Julian
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hutbert, Sir Norman Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Brewis, John Hurd, Sir Anthony Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hutchison, Michael Clark Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Iremonger, T. L. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Bryan, Paul Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Russell, Sir Ronald
Buck, Antony James, David Sandys, Rt. Hon. Dunoan
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Johnson, Eric (Btackley) Scott-Hopkins, James
Butcher, Sir Herbert Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Seymour, Leslie
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Sharples, Richard
Campbell, Gordon Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Shaw, M.
Channon, H. P. G. Kershaw, Anthony Skeet, T. H. H.
Chataway, Christopher Kirk, Peter Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Chichester-Clark, R. Lagden, Godfrey Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Lambton, Viscount Spearman, Sir Alexander
Cleaver, Leonard Lancaster, Col. C. G. Strainton, Keith
Cole, Norman Leather, Sir Edwin Stevens, Geoffrey
Cooper, A. E. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stodart, J. A.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Storey, Sir Samuel
Corfield, F. V. Lindsay, Sir Martin Studholme, Sir Henry
Coulson, Michael Linstead, Sir Hugh Summers, Sir Spencer
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Litchfield, Capt. John Tapsell, Peter
Critchley, Julian Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'd field) Temple, John M.
Cunningham, Sir Knox Longbottom, Charles Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Curran, Charles Longden, Gilbert Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Dalkeith, Earl of Loveys, Walter H. Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Dance, James Lubbock, Eric Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
d'Avigdcor Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lucas, Sir Jocetyn Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Gordon
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Digby, Simon Wingfield McLaren, Martin Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Turner, Colin
du Cann, Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & Ayrs) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Duncan, Sir James Macmillan, Maurice (Hallfax) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Eden, Sir John Maddan, Martin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Martland, Sir John Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Vickers, Miss Joan
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Marshall, Sir Douglas Wade, Donalld
Fell, Anthony Marten, Nell Walker, Peter
Finlay, Graeme Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Fisher, Nigel Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Wall, Patrick
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mawby, Ray Ward, Dame Irene
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Freeth, Denzil Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C Whitelaw, William
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Mills, Stratton Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Gammans, Lady Miscampbell, Norman Write, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Glover, Sir Douglas Montgomery, Fergus Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Morrison, John Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Goodhew, Victor Neave, Airey Woodhouse, C. M.
Green, Alan Nicholls, Sir Harmar Woodnutt, Mark
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Woollam, John
Gurden, Harold Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael
Halt, John (Wycombe) Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Mr. Batsford and Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 21, after "detriment", to insert: taking into account in particular the interests of those living in sparsely populated areas". Before I proceed to discuss this Amendment, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which throughout three days he has sat on the Front Bench and hardly missed a word that has been spoken in these debates. I think that my right hon. Friend richly deserves the comment in The Times today, that …he now seems to have pleased almost everybody". Last night, that certainly was the case. Unfortunately, my right hon. Friend has today lapsed just a little from grace, but I am hopeful, now that we have come to this point in the Bill, that he will be back in his form of last evening and will be able to accept this Amendment.

Whatever view one takes about the gateways—and I think that we are all very glad that we have disposed of the so-called gateways in this Clause—whether they are wide or narrow, at the end of the day the Court, having decided that a particular trade has succeeded in proving a prima facie case and getting through the gateways, will then have to judge which is the greater public interest. I believe that this will be the greatest difficulty for the Court.

I submit that the question of the public interest is a point on which it might well be desirable for us in Parliament to give the Court some advice. There is a substantial difference between the public interest in the big towns and cities of the country and the public interest in the sparsely populated areas. The Bill, very significantly, applies to the whole of the United Kingdom, and in that respect it is almost unique. It applies to Northern Ireland as well as to England. Scotland and Wales.

Those of us who know the sparsely populated areas of the country know how very valuable the small and mobile shops are. Most of us do not live in those areas, but most of us have visited them and gone into a cosy little shop where the shopkeeper can always apprise us of everything that is going on in the locality. Of course, after the visitors have departed it is only the people who live in these sparsely populated areas who will, in fact, patronise that shop, and today, thanks to the prosperity of the countryside, the wage-earners who live there have, very largely, their own transport.

If there is a sharp differential in the prices of goods as between the small country shops and shops in the town, those wage-earners will be attracted to take their motor transport and go to the local towns and do their weekly shopping. All that might be left to the local shop would be the trade of the old and the very young. I stress the "very young", because those in the teen-age groups have motor scooters and motor cycles available. It is quite unrealistic to think that these local shops can maintain their trade on the basis of the custom of the old and the very young and those who go to the countryside for a week or two in the summer on holiday.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Do I understand from what the hon. Member says that the word "those" in the Amendment refers to the shopkeepers and not to the consumers? If so, in the light of what the Minister has told us, is not the Amendment irrelevant?

Mr. Temple

No, because where the Amendment applies in it the Clause refers to the public as consumers. Therefore, the Amendment is entirely applicable to the interests of the public as consumers, but what I am taking into account is the importance of the small shops to the public as consumers in the sparsely populated areas.

The Amendment is moved as a result of no pressure groups whatsoever. The public on whose behalf I am speaking are extremely fortunate in that they never read Parliamentary Bills! They rely on their representatives in Parliament to understand their interests, and speak on their behalf. It is incumbent upon Members of Parliament to put the case for a public which otherwise is largely inarticulate.

The underlying object of the Bill is to increase competition and to bring down prices. As for bringing down prices, I was glad that last night my right hon. Friend gave an undertaking on the question of any increases in prices. I was concerned, when I tabled this Amendment, that the diminution of resale outlets might lead to an increase in prices. Thanks to the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend last night, that aspect will be covered, but I am concerned about a decrease of a substantial nature in the number of resale outlets in sparsely populated areas.

Whereas, in our great cities and large towns, a small diminution of resale outlets would not be significant, where there is only one village shop or two mobile shops, and where the village shop is eliminated or the two mobile shops are reduced to one, competition between those retailers will be severely diminished to the detriment of the public as consumers who are living in a sparsely populated area.

Some hon. Members may wonder why I chose the term "sparsely populated". I do not know that it is precedented in other statutes. I chose it because think that it is, in the words of my right hon. Friend, which I can safely use at this hoar of the day, a "justiciable issue" and I thought that "sparsely" is something that could be interpreted easily by the Court. If the Court can make a judgment on what "substantial" means it can certainly make a judgment on the basis of the meaning of "sparsely". If I had chosen the expression "rural areas" it might have been misinterpreted in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In any case, some so-called rural districts are not entirely rural. "Low density" is sometimes used with reference to population, but I thought that was not as applicable as the word "sparsely".

When I have spoken in this Chamber on other occasions on legislation of a somewhat similar character, and have been faced with the difficulty of indicating some guidance to an administrative tribunal which would judge a matter of this nature, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has frequently said, "This is a matter which is suitable to be placed in a ministerial circular". Unfortunately, by having chosen the procedure of a judicial tribunal, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as far as I can see, has cut himself off from any communication with the Restrictive Practices Court. He cannot send a message of guidance to the Court in any way.

The only guidance that the Court will use will be the words in the Statute. It is for thin reason that I have sought to insert those words in the Bill. This guidance might have been more suitable as guidance conveyed in a ministerial circular, but I do not believe that in this instance that course of action is open to us.

5.45 p.m.

My right hon. Friend has said on various occasions that he cannot judge what the Court will decide in respect of any particular application. I would say that the pronouncements of the courts are extremely unpredictable. Therefore, I seek, through this Amendment, to draw the attention of the Court to the special interests of those living in the sparsely populated areas. If one assessed the public interest as a whole throughout the country one would find that a far higher proportion of the total population living in cities and towns than in the sparsely populated areas.

A few moments ago my right hon. Friend mentioned that we were to see a vast increase in the population. It will be within the knowledge of the Committee that hat increase will not occur in sparsely populated areas, but in the already built-up areas of our towns.

I shall not claim in any way that the wording of the Amendmen is unexceptionable. It was drawn up with the help of a Parliamentary Agent and my right hen. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It has not the advantage of a Parliamentary draftsman behind it but I would point out to my tight hon. Friend that what we are asking is only that the Court should have to take this matter into account. We are not seeking to prejudge the issues. It is purely a factor that the Court would have to take into account in weighing the public interest. Believing as I do that the village shop and the mobile shop are an essential part of the rural scenes, I would hope that the Committee would not dare to risk damaging this service to the community. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment may prove acceptable to the Committee.

Mr. J. Hynd

My intervention in the debate will be short, to ask only what purpose the Amendment would serve in the light of the wording of the Clause. Subsection (2) provides that these factors shall be taken into account in so far as they concern detriment to the public in each case under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). A detriment to the public in any particular case will depend on the circumstances of the public in different areas. In other words, detriment to the public may be in one form in a sparsely populated area and in another form in an urban area. One would have thought that this would be self-evident to anybody considering what was detrimental to the public.

What, therefore, is the additional value of the Amendment? Furthermore, the Amendment uses the words: taking into account in particular the interests…". Do those who support the Amendment mean that the Court should be asked to take into account in particular the interests of those living in a sparsely populated area? I should have thought that the Court would be required to take into account the interests of the whole population, that is those living in sparsely populated areas with their special problems and those living in urban areas with theirs.

It is on this ground that I ask whether there is any purpose at all in the Amendment.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I agree with every word spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), even to the extent of saying that I am not entirely happy about the drafting of the Amendment, and that I doubt whether, in this form, it could be accepted.

Here I should like to answer the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd). The purpose of the Amendment is to meet the danger of the Court, sitting in London, having to weigh up the resulting detriment to the whole of the inhabitants of the country, the major proportion of whom would be living in large urban areas. What the Amendment tries to do, no doubt imperfectly, is to get the Court to pay particular attention to the problem in the more sparsely populated areas—in other words, not to weigh up the problem quantitatively but, taking my own constituency, to do it qualitatively as well. This is a real problem.

I am sure that there is justification for saying that in some cases resale price systems provide undue margins. I can think of several reports that I have read on the subject. On the other hand, one of the major points of a resale price system is to see that one pays the same price for a product whether one lives at the top of one of the dales in Yorkshire, or in a crowded borough in London. That is another problem.

One of my anxieties on Clause 5 is whether my own constituents, who live in more sparsely populated areas, will not lose tremendously as a result of the ending of some of these systems. It is not merely a question of price. It is also a question particularly of service. It concerns people who are living in a locality where there is no rail or bus service, such as constituents of mine who live in villages and who rely on the mobile shop. The whole system of credit in a village is a much more homely and reasonable affair than in the towns. If that is to be destroyed, the result will be that these areas which are now sparsely populated will be much more sparsely populated, and that will not be good for my right hon. Friend in his endeavours in connection with regional development, nor, indeed, for any other Member of the House. That is the problem. I do not say that it is easy to solve.

I should like the Restrictive Practices Court to go on circuit. I am sure that it would enjoy sitting in some of the village halls in the dales, where it could appreciate much more closely the problems in these rural areas. I do not see how my right hon. Friend can tackle it with the form of words such as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester has suggested. However, it is a problem which we must tackle before we dispose of the Bill. At the same time, we do not want prices to increase and services to diminish in the rural areas as a result of any Measure brought forward by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I strongly support the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). As I understand it, this Amendment asks that the Court shall be particularly sensitive about the position of consumers who live in sparsely populated areas. There is a distinct danger that unless one has an emphasis of this kind the Court will be tempted to look at the position of consumers as a whole, and in carrying out that process there is a danger that the specialised position of those living in areas such as the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) has in mind will be overlooked.

The situation is likely to become more acute as time goes on. The sparsely populated areas are, in the main, becoming more sparsely populated. That is the trend. An additional factor which has not been mentioned so far is that public transport in those areas has seriously diminished.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

In those areas also the wages are low compared with the rest of the country, so that any rise in prices would bear most harshly on people living in those areas.

Mr. Bowen

That is certainly so.

I was dealing with the question of public transport. In my area many of the villages now have a poorer public transport system than they have had at any time during the last 50 years. We often talk about the necessity to maintain a population in the countryside and to provide the basic social services. I believe that one basic social service is a reasonable standard of retail trade. I think that it is right and proper that we should ask the Court—whether precisely in the form suggested in the Amendment I do not know, but perhaps in some other form—to pay particular regard to the position of the consumer in an area such as the hon. Member for the City of Chester has in mind.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). I think that this Amendment is eminently suitable, because it recognises the unique position occupied by people who live in sparsely-populated areas.

I should also like to support the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) about the availability of public transport. As is no doubt the case in Wales and as is also true in many other parts of Britain, train and bus services are becoming increasingly restricted, and it is thus be- coming increasingly necessary for people who want to shop in the towns to possess their own means of transport. Unfortunately, this is not always financially possible.

There is all the difference in the world between the public interest as it affects a person who lives in a sparsely-populated area and one who lives in a busy shopping town. Subsection (2,b) of the Clause refers to a substantial reduction in the number of retail establishments as being a sufficient reason to exempt goods from the provisions of this Bill. In a town with 100 shops a substantial reduction would probably be 10, but in a village or hamlet with only two shops a reduction of one would be an extremely substantial reduction.

Another reason I would like my right hon. Friend to incorporate my hon. Friend's suggestion into the Bill is that a purchase who is living miles away from a shopping centre is far more dependent than a town dweller on the reliability and quality of the goods that he buys. If something goes wrong with a purchase a town dweller can go to the shop next door in the morning. For the country dweller it is probably a case of making a morning's journey, probably on a Saturday morning. Obviously, a person living in the country is far more dependent upon the reliability and serviceability of the goods which he purchases.

If a country dweller buys a radio or television set, he is far more dependent upon it being in good working order. because it is more difficult for him to get reliable attention for it, living, perhaps, 20 miles from a centre of population, than would be someone living in a town just round the corner from the retail shop.

For those and other reasons, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to incorporate this innocent little Amendment in the Bill.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Winterbottom

I support the Amendment, strangely enough, for none of the reasons so far advanced. I regard all those reasons as illogical and quite contrary to the interests of consumers. It is not true to say that even the remotest parts of the country today are not served by mobile shops just as effectively as ever they were in the past. Indeed, the modern type of mobile shop—I think that I was one of the first to start mobile shops, about 40 years ago—penetrates into all but one or two sparsely populated parts of the country.

As I see it, there will be this rather peculiar situation. If the village shops are exempted, travelling shops sent round to the villages may, within the terms of the Bill, indulge in the abolition of resale price maintenance and, in the long run, this will be dangerous for the shopkeepers in the rural establishments because the travelling shops will more and more capture their trade in out-of-the-way places.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

There is no suggestion in the Amendment that resale price maintenance should be abolished for shops or retail establishments in urban areas and not in the countryside. There is no question of making that distinction at all.

Mr. Winterbottom

The proposal is that after "detriment" in the final paragraph there should be inserted: taking into account in particular the interests of those living in sparsely populated areas". Taking that into consideration gives exemption.

Mr. Farr

The hon. Gentleman is wrong there. In fact, the detriment referred to is not the detriment referred to in the last line of paragraph (c) of subsection (2), but is the detriment in line 21, which gives the matter a quite different aspect.

Mr. Winterbottom

Nevertheless, the fact remains—[Laughter.] No, it does not matter where the detriment applies. It is suggested that the particular interests of those living in sparsely populated districts should be taken into account, and this means that it would be a factor to be taken into account by the Restrictive Practices Court before exemptions can be given.

Mr. William Wells (Walsall, North)

In going through the gateway.

Mr. Winterbottom

Through the gateway, yes, but before exemptions can be given. After an exemption has been considered, this will in the final analysis have to be taken into consideration, and, if the Court is satisfied—assuming that the Amendment is accepted—an exemption can be granted.

Mr. Temple

May I endeavour to explain a matter which is not clear to the hon. Gentleman? There is no question of exempting shops in any particular part of the country. Exactly the same rules would apply to shops in all parts. All we are asking is that the Court should take into account this special factor in reaching its judgment.

Mr. Winterbottom

Yes, but in this connection it would not be taking into account in reaching a judgment all the shops in the country because all shops are not in sparsely populated districts Therefore, they are to be exempted according to the actual terms of the Amendment.

I come now to what worries me in connection with shops in very remote parts. I am frightened that the remote village shopkeeper, because of the way he conducts his business and the habits of life in the village, may find his livelihood in jeopardy. The village shopkeeper is not merely a person who supplies goods. He is the one to whom villagers go for all sorts of purposes. He is the one who has to know whether a baby has been born, sometimes he is the one who telephones for the midwife, and very often he has many other things to do as well.

In many instances, because he knows the individual circumstances of almost every person in the village, the village shopkeeper can give special consideration to the needs and circumstances of each villager. I have known occasions when times have been hard in some villages in sparsely populated areas and shopkeepers have not only granted credit for long periods, but have even allowed goods to go from their shops at less than the wholesale prices to them. This is where the danger may lie. If a shopkeeper did that, and the wholesaler supplying him from the nearest town discovered it, the wholesaler could, according to the terms of the Bill, stop his supplies. If it is desired to have exemption for shops in the sparsely populated districts, there should be a specific provision in the Clause to deal with their special needs and qualifications.

I know that there are certain considerations regarding the number of shops necessary in these areas, and I know that the problem in rural parts is not the same as it is in urban parts. I sometimes wonder whether paragraph (b) of subsection (2), which refers to the number of establishments being substantially reduced to the detriment of the public, should not have contained a requirement to consider whether or not there were too many retail outlets in some urban areas.

The Temporary Chairman

I do not think that that arises on this Amendment.

Mr. Burden

What the Amendment is aimed at is this. If resale price maintenance were withdrawn, there would be nothing to stop a retailer in the North of England, because of delivery charges, charging more to the customer in outlying districts than if the business were strictly controlled by resale price maintenance

Mr. Winterbottom

I shall deal with that later.

I contend, first, that there is a danger here because of circumstances in the sparsely populated regions where the shopkeeper, because of the friendly way in which he lives and conducts his business and because of his knowledge of the people, can do things which would enable a wholesaler, sometimes the one who is supplying the travelling shop, to stop supplies to the small shopkeeper and then—I have known this sort of thing to happen—to use a well stocked travelling shop in an effort to supplant the small shopkeeper.

I now come to the problem of prices. There is a danger in prices, and that is why I support the Amendment. If we take away the principle of resale price maintenance and allow anyone to charge less than the resale price subject to the provisions of the Bill, we will also take away the provision which some suppliers demand that the retail price shall be the standard price and that by taking away the standard price it will allow for an increase in price over and above the standard price. This is one of the difficulties which will arise in the rural areas and this is the only reason why I support the Clause.

The other arguments which have been put forward, although they may be true, are not relevant because they do not affect the Clause. The only logical argument is that the wholesaler who is supplying goods over great distances will have to add something to the cost of the goods to cover the cost of transport. Just as there should be, in subsection (2,b), provision to deal with limitations on shops, so there should be something in the Bill to prevent them from overcharging for the goods. This is why there would be difficulties in rural parts of the country.

I know that this may not be unusual in some of the remote parts. When I have gone into some of the shops in the country districts, the town prices have been exceeded in many cases. With the practical knowledge of having supplied shops on a wholesale basis in remote rural parts, I can say that, even with resale price maintenance, customers pay more than they would pay in the urban parts.

Mr. Turton

Is the hon. Member suggesting that under resale price maintenance more is being charged for branded articles in the rural areas than is authorised under the agreement?

Mr. Winterbottom

No, I am not suggesting that. I am saying that usually prices in the country districts are slightly higher, even though there may be resale price maintenance on some of the articles and even though they are not branded goods. Resale price maintenance is applied to non-branded goods. In some cases prices in the country districts are higher than those in the town.

If that situation obtains now, it will be intensified when the Bill becomes law, because the wholesaler will say, "Not only has the standard price gone but, from my point of view, the whole price level has disappeared and you can charge what you like". Any transport costs which the wholesaler often has to charge over and above the charge which he makes in urban districts will be put on the bill and the standard price in rural areas will be increased. For that reason alone, I support the Amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Sir Patrick Bishop (Harrow, Central)

I do not think that I can entirely follow the comments of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom), but I wish to express the hope that my right hon. Friend will give some consideration to the purpose of the Amendment. What concerns me is what might be called the side effects of the Bill in country areas. I do not represent a country area, but I live in a small village of only a few hundred inhabitants where we get services and benefits on a very similar scale to those which people in large towns get.

Yesterday and the day before we were discussing newspaper deliveries. It is a marvel to me that in a small village of a few hundred inhabitants, eight miles from the nearest railway station, I still get my newspaper delivered every morning in time for breakfast at exactly the same price as I get it in my fiat in town—that is, the fixed price printed on the newspaper without any extra charge for delivery.

I am very well aware that, to some extent, that depends on the fact that there is a shop in the village which undertakes this work, but which is largely dependent on the sale of a number of items which are subject to resale price maintenance and which is able to compete not only with the travelling shop, but with the big general store a mile or so away.

Newspapers are only one example. It is a matter of the greatest importance to people that there should be a post office in every village and hamlet. In fact, there is, but the village postmaster does not live entirely by selling stamps and postal orders. He also engages in the sale of cigarettes, chocolates and other items in respect of which he is in competition with the general store and with the travelling shop which comes round daily. If the price of these items in which he trades is cut by the travelling shop representing the store in the town, and if he finds that he cannot compete, I wonder what will happen when the village post office job falls vacant and the Postmaster-General advertises for someone else to take it over.

I want to defend the local village shop as against the travelling shop which comes round from the town in competition with it. I am anxious to defend the services which we get in the country—it is a marvel to me that we get them in the way that we do—compared with the services which we get in town and which, in part at any rate, depend on the capacity of the small local man to compete with competitors from outside. That in turn is in part dependent on the maintenance of standard prices.

It is for those reasons that I support my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and ask my right hon. Friend to give consideration to the principle of the Amendment.

Miss Herbison

I support the Amendment. It is a very modest Amendment, but one which might make a very great difference to the lives of all those who live in the sparsely populated areas.

One hon. Member spoke about those who lived in the dales. I know very well those who live in the glens and the many sparsely populated areas in Scotland. It is a modest Amendment because it asks that in reaching a decision and considering the resulting detriment, the Court should take into account particularly the sparsely populated rural areas. It does not ask for what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) thought it asked, namely, that there should be resale price maintenance in the sparsely populated areas but not in the cities and urban areas. If the Court does its job, as I expect it will, this is only one of the factors to which it must turn its mind before reaching a decision.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who moved the Amendment, said that the Minister will not be able to send notes or circulars to the Court to say that it should take this or that into account. The Court will be bound by whatever is in the Bill when it goes on to the Statute Book. Those of us who are concerned, as I was in the last Amendment, about the small shopkeeper and, in this Amendment, particularly about people who live in sparsely populated areas must be in favour of the Amendment.

If r.p.m. is abolished on certain articles, people who live in the sparsely populated areas might find that prices rise considerably.

Mr. Burden

Does the hon. Lady realise that there is an excellent example of that in North-West Scotland? Beyond a certain point, north of Aberdeen, petrol costs 1d. a gallon more. This will be the pattern which develops.

Miss Herbison

Indeed, that is the case. Although there are varying prices for petrol in different areas, by and large people have to pay more in the areas to which the hon. Member refers.

When so many problems are being created, both in housing and in transport, in our crowded cities and areas, no Government who are wise should take any step that would encourage people to move away from the sparsely populated areas into heavily populated areas. So much has been done since the war, and particularly in the last 10 years, to make these places more and more sparsely populated that the Government should try to call a halt to this trend.

I was interested in a point which was made by an hon. Member who spoke about the restricted bus and train services. These restrictions have come about during the last 10 years or so. If the Amendment is not accepted—It might not mean much in the end, but it embodies a factor that the Court should take into account—there will be the chance that more and more people will leave these areas.

It is important to remember the many of those who live in sparsely populated areas are agricultural workers, people with a small wage. They may be forestry workers, such as we have in the northern parts of Scotland. Mainly, they have a much lower income than even the average wage-earner in this country. We should care for these people and try to help them in whatever way we can.

There are many other things which could be said, but there are many Amendments still to come. I hope that the case which has been made from both sides has been listened to by the Minister and that he will be able to give us a much better reply than he was able to do on the last Amendment.

Mr. W. Wells

We have had a full and interesting debate and time is passing. I will try to explain shortly why, first, I support the Amendment, but why, secondly, I do not think that it could be accepted in its present form. I hope that the Minister will express his sympathy with the purpose of the Amendment and say that he will reconsider it and try at the next stage of the Bill to put down an Amendment which, broadly, would achieve the same objectives as those at which the Amendment is aimed.

As we go along with the Bill, with this curious phaseology of our own, which would, no doubt, offend and horrify the ghost of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, one might say that the Amendment deals with a situation in which, having passed through the gateways, one has reached the tailpiece. This is the situation with which the Amendment deals. One or more of the three gateways must have been passed before the Amendment would come into play. It seeks to give guidance to the Court that provided one of these three factors—

Mr. Turton

There are five factors.

Mr. Wells

Very well. But there are the three gateways, (a), (b) and (c)—

Mr. Turton

We have passed (d).

Mr. Wells

That is quite right; four gateways. The right hon. Member is quite right, as he nearly always is.

Mr. Temple

We have had an undertaking abort a fifth gateway, on prices.

Mr. Wells

We have had an undertaking, but it is not yet a gateway in existence. The foundations have been laid but the structure has not been completed. One cannot pass through a gateway until the arch is built.

The Amendment introduces a factor which the Court should take into account in deciding what are the interests of the consuming and the using public. The case which has been established in today's argument has amounted in substance to something formidable. It is a common object of social policy, on both sides of the Committee, to encourage people in the sparsely populated areas to continue to live there. If they are to do so, their wants must be satisfied by people such as those to whom the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Sir P. Bishop) referred in his powerful speech. They include the village postmaster, who is earning his living partly by selling stamps but also by dealing with any commodities that are wanted in the village.

Before the debate on the last Amendment, the words which my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) half applied to the Secretary of State were "fanatic" and "doctrinaire". These are not words which to me would have been natural in thinking of the Secretary of State. But if he is unable, having heard the arguments on both sides of the Committee, to say that he will look at this problem again and put into more workable shape the intentions expressed, we shall feel bound to divide in favour of the Amendment.

We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will regard this as a serious attempt to improve the Bill and that we shall be able to pass on to our labours without the interruption of a Division.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Heath

The Amendment, moved with great clarity, has led to an interesting exchange of views about the problems of the sparsely populated areas. I was particularly interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Sir P. Bishop) had to say. He comes from a village which is eight miles from the nearest railway station and in a sparsely populated area. His morning newspaper is delivered before breakfast and without charge for delivery. If he cares to reveal the name of his village it will rapidly become one of the expanded towns of the South-East.

We have also had various expressions on the service which the sparsely populated areas get from small shops and also from mobile shops. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) was really praising the services they receive from both types of shop. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central had a slightly different view. He wanted to ensure the continuation of the local shop against the competition of the travelling shop.

As so often in the past, when looking at this problem we see two intertwining interests. In this case, they are the interest of the shopkeeper and that of the consumer. Probably most hon. Members would agree that, in the sparsely populated areas, the shopkeepers are less anxious about any effects of the removal of r.p.m. because these areas are, on the whole, without the competition that arises where there is a small shop near a big city or town. It is, therefore, a situation in which probably fewer anxieties are expressed.

Strong competition from the mobile shop undoubtedly has its benefits, but it also helps to deal with some of the anxieties expressed by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winter-bottom), who feared that we might get a situation in which there was overcharging, which would be against the interest of the consumer. That could be countered by the mobile shop. His fear is also answered by the power that will remain after the Bill is law for maximum prices to be enforced.

I sometimes feel that hon. Members, because it is not specifically set out in the Bill, overlook the fact that maximum prices can be enforced. It is minimum prices which will not be permitted unless exemption is granted. There are many circumstances in which a manufacturer can enforce maximum prices and therefore prevent the events coming about which some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Brightside and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), fear. These are two aspects of the problem.

It has been said that the purpose in moving the Amendment is to draw attention to the special interests of these areas and ensure that they receive consideration from the Restrictive Practices Court.

Mr. Temple

it is the consumer interest we are thinking of.

Mr. Heath

It is the consumer interest. I quite agree with that. But I can reassure my hon. Friends that, under the 1956 Act, the Court has had exactly such interests put to it and that in a number of cases the arguments have been put, "These are the particular interests of the rural areas", as they have been called—and I fully understand the reasons for my hon. Friend's talking about "sparsely populated areas".

Under the Wholesale Confectioners' Alliance Agreement, in 1960, the arguments were put very forcibly, and put again in the case of the motor vehicle distribution scheme, about the situation of rural or sparsely populated areas. There can be no doubt that not only can these arguments be put, but that, in the past, the Court has given thorough consideration to them and expressed its opinion on their validity.

I reassure hon. Members that although Clause 5 deals with the interests of consumers as a whole, nevertheless, under the 1956 Act—and the same Court will be involved—the interests of the rural areas have been put before the Court and have received the fullest consideration. The Court has explained its views on them. To go further than that would be to alter the balance of the Clause as far as the rest of the country is concerned.

We should then find that some hon. Members would say that the problems of the small shops near to large shops or to multiples or self-service stores are very great and that the interests of the consumers in those areas should be considered. Or they might say that the interests of consumers in areas not sparsely populated but near big towns should be considered. I think that they will feel that, as the Court in the past has had the interests of rural areas put Before it, has given them full consideration and has explained its attitude in each particular case, my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester will feel that the same situation will exist under Clause 5 and that this will ensure his purpose that the special interests of these areas will always receive the fullest consideration by the Court.

This is the best way in which we could deal with any particular problems in the country as a whole. With the assurance that the interests he has, quite rightly, put to us will be fully considered when the Bill becomes law and that the Court looks at particular requests for exemption, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I apologise for not having been present for the whole of this debate. I was at a meeting of a sub-committee of the Estimates Committee, but I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and the reply of the Secretary of State. As a Scottish Member with a new town in my constituency, I am concerned with his argument that manufacturers who cannot get their products registered will be able to fix maximum retail prices. That is an assumption which cannot be justified.

I cannot see that any manufacturer who fails to get his r.p.m. supported will insist on retailers having a maximum price on it. If he cannot get exemption I do not believe that he will fix maximum prices for the retailer. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument. It seems fantastic.

In the developing new towns—it is true in my constituency, and I am sure that it is true elsewhere; it is certainly true in the Highlands of Scotland—those goods which are marketed without being subject to r.p.m. are invariably dearer than in Glasgow. There is an intense traffic from the new town of Cumbernauld into Glasgow, because everything in Glasgow which is not subject to r.p.m. is 1d., 2d. or 3d. a lb. or 2d. a packet, cheaper than in Cumbernauld.

It has been pointed out to me that a shopkeeper has to pay £500 or £600 in rent in a developing new town which, for the first few years, may have a population of only about 1,000. His turnover is small in the initial stages, and he cannot market his product—

The Chairman

I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but the Amendment deals with sparsely populated areas. I hardly think that a new town comes under that heading.

Mr. Bence

That is just it, Sir William. When the area is first designed by an overspill agreement it may be that only 20 families move there from Glasgow. For about three years it is a sparsely populated area. For about three years in Cumbernauld the population was only about 500. The traders in the area said, "We cannot sell at the same price here as we could in Partick." In 1961, there were only 100 houses in the area, and the shopkeepers could not make a living without increasing prices. I suggest that in this context the new town of Cumbernauld is a sparsely populated area.

I am informed that the firm of Boots, the chemists, considers that it is not justified in establishing one of its shops in an area which has less than 22,000 people. I have only heard this; it may not be true. But from practical experience I know that in the rural areas of Scotland those goods which are not subject to r.p.m. are a little dearer than they are in the heavily populated areas.

I contend that if a manufacturer fails to obtain exemption for his products he will not be interested in fixing a maximum price. He will not fix one price for Glasgow and another for Thurso. Retailers will be free to sell his products at any price they like. The people living in these sparsely populated areas are British citizens and pay the same taxes as other people. They are not second-class citizens.

6.45 p.m.

In my opinion, the provisions as they now stand will amount to another force acting in the direction of the depopulation of our rural areas. More and more people will be driven into the huge conurbations. This may be only a small force in that direction, but it is one more to the already existing number of forces which are driving in this direction. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter, because it is an important issue for people living in the rural areas. This is an important question from the point of view of securing a better redistribution of population from the huge conurbations of London and the Midlands to the rural areas.

Mr. W. Wells

The speech which the right hon. Gentleman made in reply to the debate shows that there is a clear difference in principle between the two sides. The right hon. Gentleman says that a specific Amendment directed to this purpose will upset the balance of the Bill; we believe that a specific Amendment directed to this purpose will make the balance right, and we shall therefore divide the Committee on the Amendment.

Mr. Temple

I have listened with great attention to what has been said on both sides of the Committee in support of the Amendment. I was particularly interested in the summing up of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I was aware of the wording of the 1956 Act, but I was not aware of the weight which the Court attached to this factor when reaching its judgments. Speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend who has supported me, I can say that we are satisfied that the Court will have regard to these features. I hope that it will do so in the same way as it has done in the past.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 137, Noes 187.

Division No. 83.] AYES [6.47 p.m
Ainsley, William Edwards, Robert (Bilston) King, Dr. Horace
Albu, Austen Edwards, Waller (Stepney) Lawson, George
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Evans, Albert Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Beaney, Alan Fitch, Alan Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Bence, Cyril Fletcher, Eric Lipton, Marcus
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Foley, Maurice Lubbock, Eric
Benson, Sir George Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mabort, Dr. J. Dickson
Blyton, William Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) MacColl, James
Bottomtey, Rt. Hon. A. G. Ginsburg, David McInnes, James
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. McLeavy, Frank
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Greenwood, Anthony MacPherson, Malcolm
Bowles, Frank Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Maifalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfiefd, E.)
Bradley, Tom Hamilton, William (West Fife) Manuel, Archie
Brockway, A. Fenner Harper, Joseph Marsh, Richard
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hart, Mrs. Judith Mason, Roy
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hayman, F. H. Mayhew, Christopher
Carmichael, Neil Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Millan, Bruce
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Herbison, Miss Margaret Milne, Edward
Chapman, Donald Hilton, A. V. Mitchison, G. R.
Collick, Percy Holman, Percy Moody, A. S.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Houghton, Douglas Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Crosland, Anthony Howell, Charles A (Perry Barr) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Crossman, R H. S. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moyle, Arthur
Dalyell, Tam Hunter, A. E. Mulley, Frederick
Darling, George Hynd, H. (Accrington) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Oliver, G. H.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) O'Malley, B. K.
Dempeey, James Janner, Sir Barnett Oswald, Thomas
Diamond, John Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Dodds, Norman Jeger, George Paton, John
Doig, Peter Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Peart, Frederick
Driberg, Tom Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pentland, Norman
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Kenyon, Clifford Popplewell, Ernest
Prentice, R. E. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Wainwright, Edwin
Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Warbey, William
Randall, Harry Small, William Weitzman, David
Rankin, John Snow, Julian Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Sorensen, R. W. Whitlock, William
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Steele, Thomas Willey, Frederick
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Ross, William Stones, William Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Shinwel, Rt. Hon E. Stros, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Winterbottom, R. E.
Silkin, John Taverne, D.
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Thornton, Ernest Mr. Grey and Mr. Redhead.
Skeffington, Arthur Thorpe, Jeremy
Agnew, Sir Peter Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Allason, James Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Goodhew, Victor Percival, Ian
Atkins, Humphrey Grant-Ferris, R. Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Green, Alan Pike, Miss Mervyn
Balniel, Lord Gurden, Harold Pitt, Dame Edith
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Halt, John (Wycombe) Pounder, Rafton
Barlow, Sir John Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Batsford, Brian Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tulton Harris, Reader (Heston> Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Berkeley, Humphry Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pym, Francis
Biffen, John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Biggs-Davison, John Hay, John Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Bishop, Sir Patrick Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanett)
Black, Sir Cyril Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Bossom, Hon. Clive Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Bourne-Arton, A. Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin Russell, Sir Ronald
Braine, Bernard Holland, Philip Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Brewis, John Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Scott-Hopkins, James
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hughes-Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Seymour, Leslie
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hughes-Young, Michael Sharples, Richard
Bryan, Paul Hulbert, Sir Norman Shaw, M.
Buck, Antony Hurd, Sir Anthony Shepherd, William
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hutchison, Michael Clark Skeet, T. H. H.
Burden, F. A. Iremonger, T. L. Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Butcher, Sir Herbert James, David Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Campbell, Gordon Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Channon, H. P. G. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Stainton, Keith
Chataway, Christopher Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Stevens, Geoffrey
Chichester-Clark, R. Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Stodart, J. A.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Kaberry, Sir Donald Storey, Sir Samuel
Cleaver, Leonard Kershaw, Anthony Summers, Sir Spencer
Cole, Norman Kirk, Peter Tapsell, Peter
Cooper, A. E. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Cordle, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Corfield, F. V. Linstead, Sir Hugh Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Coulson, Michael Litchfield, Capt. John Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sutton C'd field) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Critchley, Julian Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Crowder, F. P. Longden, Gilbert Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Cunningham, Sir Knox Loveys, w after H. Turner, Colin
Curran, Charles Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Dance, James Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Tweedsmuir, Lady
d'Avidgor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) van Straubentee, W. R.
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Maddan, Martin Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Digby, Simon Wingfield Maltland, Sir John Walker, Peter
Doughty, Charles Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Drayson, G. B. Marshall, Sir Douglas Wall, Patrick
du Cann, Edward Marten, Nell Ward, Dame Irene
Duncan, Sir James Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Eden, Sir John Mawby, Ray Whitelaw, William
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Fell, Anthony Mills, Strartton Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Finlay, Graeme Miscampbell, Norman Wise, A. R.
Fisher, Nigel Montgomery, Fergus Woodhouse, C. M.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles More, Jasper (Ludlow) Woodnutt, Mark
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(Stafford & Stone) Morrison, John Woollam, John
Freeth, Denzil Neave, Airey
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Glover, Sir Douglas Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Mr. McLaren and Mr. R. M. Elliott.
Orr, Capt. L. p. s.
Mr. W. Wells

I beg to move Amendment No. 100, in page 5, line 21, after "would", to insert "substantially".

The object of this Amendment is to give some clear guidance to the Court in what again, using our curious language in respect of this Bill, I can only describe as the weighting of the tailpiece. In order to see the kind of guidance which we wish to give, as to one set of detriments against another in its entirety, it will be necessary to do that which, Sir William, I apprehend you would say it would be out of order to do, that is, to look at Amendment No. 104. Apprehending that as I do, I will only say that Amendment No. 104 will be moved later and our object is to preclude any fine balancing of interests—

The Chairman

Order. I heard what the hon. and learned Member said. Would it suit the convenience of the Committee to take the two Amendments together?

Mr. Wells

I doubt it. This is a small Amendment. Amendment No. 104 is rather a large one and I think that it would be better to consider that Amendment alone.

The Chairman

So be it.

Mr. Wells

As I was saying, our object is to preclude any fine balancing of interests and to give a clear guidance to the Court that the interests of the public as consumers or users shall be paramount, subject to the considerations to which reference is made in Amendment No. 104.

The tailpiece says that when an order is being made directing that goods of any class should be exempted goods, and it appears to the Court that one of the four conditions which we now have enumerated in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) are satisfied, the Court then tries to see whether the resulting detriment would outweigh any detriment to the public as consumers or users. In order to avoid this process of fine balancing we wish to insert this word to make abundantly clear the paramount nature of the consumer's interest, We think it particularly important that guidance of this kind should be given, the Court being constituted, as the Restricted Practices Court is normally, of one and sometimes of two judges and three or four other members. Whereas with one judge sitting alone this fine balancing might very quickly be resolved, with a larger Court it may be a more difficult and time-consuming process.

This obviously is not the kind of Amendment about which one is dogmatic. We offer it as a small contribution hoping that it will improve the Bill. We offer it respectively to the attention of the Secretary of State and his advisers.

7.0 p.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edward du Cann)

Our main discussion in relation to Clause 5 in considering the number of Amendments we have had to look at, has been about proposals designed to widen the gateways. This proposal is designed to narrow the gateways to some extent. We think that it would make it unreasonably difficult for applicants to establish a case for exemption. Since the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells) appears to disagree with me when I say that, perhaps I had better spell the matter out more carefully.

Mr. W. Wells

I disagree only with what the hon. Gentleman says about narrowing the gateways. It does not affect the gateways, but makes it more difficult to establish a case.

Mr. du Cann

In that case we are agreed. I appreciate that the Amendment is concerned with the tailpiece and not with the gateways, but I repeat that the majority of our discussion has been about widening the gateways and making it easier for applicants to obtain exemption. The effect of this Amendment would inevitably be to make it more difficult for applicants to obtain exemptions, not through the gateways, but through the tailpiece. In our opinion it would make it unreasonably difficult. For that reason I must advise the Committee to reject the Amendment, unless the hon. and learned Member sees fit to withdraw it in the light of a later discussion we are to have, which, as he said, concerns a wider and more important point.

In courtesy to him and to the Committee, I must say a further word about this Amendment. In drafting Clause 5, which, as the hon. and learned Member and the Committee will know, has not been the easiest of exercises, we have done our best to strike a fair balance. Some say that in suggesting that resale price maintenance in general is not in the public interest we have perhaps gone a little too far. Other hon. Members have said that putting the onus on the applicant to justify r.p.m. in particular trades as in the public interest is also going a little too far.

We do not take that view. We think we have struck a fair balance, but this Amendment, as the hon. and learned Member admitted and we obviously agree, takes the argument a little further and might even upset the balance. We have asked the Committee to reject Amendments which would weaken Clause 5. In the light of what I have said I ask the Committee not to press an Amendment which would strengthen Clause 5 and which would particularly put an undue burden upon applicants. There has been talk about justice in this matter. This Committee is seeking to establish justice. We believe that in general we have the balance about right and we think that this Amendment would upset it.

The hon. and learned Member said a little about his fears in relation to the operation of the Restrictive Practices Court. He will understand that one of the matters we have had most carefully under consideration is how the Court would operate and whether these criteria would put the Court into any difficulty. My clear opinion—and he will know that I prefer to state clear opinions when I hold them—is that this would not be so. I think that the working of the Court at present to a large extent justifies what I am saying. I think, therefore, that the fears the hon. and learned Member expressed so clearly are not likely to be borne out in practice. For these additional reasons, I hope he will not seek to press the Amendment, or that alternatively the Committee will reject it.

Mr. W. Wells

Certainly I shall not seek to press this Amendment. There comes a limit beyond which one cannot go about drafting. It may be that, at a later stage, when we have discussed Amendment No. 104, the hon. Gentleman may perhaps think that the balance would not be so disturbed as he now thinks it would be. In all the circumstances, beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Jay

I beg to move Amendment No. 104, in page 5, line 25, at the end to insert: Provided that in any case where the detriment referred to in paragraphs (a) or (b) or (c) by itself may not outweigh, but such detriment taken together with the detriment (if any) of suppliers or dealers or distributive workers in the conduct of their business in default of a system of minimum resale prices applicable as aforesaid does outweigh the last-mentioned detriment to the public as consumers an order may he made under this section. This is a somewhat more substantial Amendment than the last. The Minister of State has said that we ought to strike a balance and that he is trying to achieve justice. I suggest that this Amendment gives him an excellent opportunity to achieve greater justice in the Bill. We have already had a discussion which elicited the fact that throughout the Clause—the gateways, tailpieces and all—the Court is not at present empowered to take account of the interests of the retailer. The Minister and the Committee rejected our main proposal to enable it to do that, but this is a more modest proposal which would enable the interests of the retailer in certain circumstances to be taken into account.

The Bill refers to harm to the consumer. Perhaps I may use the word "harm" rather than "detriment" as this is Shakespeare's birthday. I do not think the word "detriment" occurs very often in the plays of Shakespeare. In paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), the harm which the consumer is presumed to suffer by paying higher prices as a result of the retention of r.p.m. is taken into account. It is one harm to the consumer weighed against another harm to the consumer and no one else's harm or benefit is taken into account.

Under this Amendment if the harm to the consumer under the gateways (a), (b) and (c) plus any harm done to retainers taken together were to exceed the harm lone to the consumer as a result of higher prices, the case would be made cut. That seems reasonable. This would, be a very modest way of taking into account any harm done to the retailer by the abandonment of resale price maintenance in a particular trade. It would still provide for the doctrine to which the right hon. Gentleman is dearly attached, and which on the whole we accept, that the consumer's interests should be paramount, but it would not go to the extreme length of saying that no one else's interests should be taken into account.

Mr. Heath

The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has moved the Amendment briefly because, as he indicated, the arguments with which it is concerned have already been put fully on an earlier Amendment which the Committee rejected. This Amendment takes the same factors into account and would give a slightly different emphasis from the previous Amendment. The principles which I enunciated earlier, which other hon. Members discussed and which underlie the Bill, still apply. For that reason, various aspects of the Amendment should not be accepted.

I was interested that in the right hon. Gentleman's previous speech he made no effort to answer any of the reasons which I put forward about why this general principle underlies the Bill. When I said to the right hon. Gentleman that more than 60 per cent. of the retail trade was carried out on the basis that it must be of interest to the consumer and that if it does not satisfy the consumer it must change its form or go out of business, the right hon. Gentleman had no comment to make and did not try to answer the point. I asked the right hon. Gentleman why, if r.p.m. is to be removed, exactly the same situation should not apply also to particular items, goods or trades which at present have r.p.m. To that I received no reply.

The logical conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's argument is that if that approach is to be made to items which have r.p.m., the other goods which at present do not have it should have the opportunity of coming to the Court and asking for protection on the ground that it should take into account the interests of various other bodies even though they are not satisfying the consumer and are about to go out of business. I do not think that anybody would suggest that that should occur. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has made clear on various occasions that he thinks that, In general, r.p.m. should go.

If one carries that argument to its logical conclusion, to the area of trade which does not at present have r.p.m., one sees that the general thesis underlying the Bill is fully justified. It is not in any way fanatical or doctrinaire. It is one of the aspects of business and manufacture in this and in every country, particularly in every free society in which the consumer has the right of choice and of judgment.

The right hon. Gentleman did not wish to prolong the debate on the Amendment and I have no desire either to continue it at length. The same considerations as I placed before the Committee earlier apply. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Amendment is a more modest approach, but I ask the Committee to bear in mind its previous decision and not to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Jay

I must slightly prolong the debate in view of what the Minister has said. The reason why I did not answer his curious argument about 40 per cent. of retail trade being under r.p.m. and 60 per cent. being outside it was, first, that I wished to be brief, but my main reason was that it was totally irrelevant to the issue. The right hon. Gentleman has not appreciated that this is not a general argument about whether r.p.m. is beneficial or over what sphere of trade it operates. We are discussing what criteria are to be taken into account if the Restrictive Practices Court is to take a decision and if the law is to intervene.

Over that area of trade, which the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt correctly, states is 60 per cent., r.p.m. has gone in any event. The law does not intervene and business and economic forces operate one way or the other. That is not relevant to the question of what criteria the Court should take into account in the sector within which it is being asked to reach a decision and to say how the law should apply. We are here considering the narrow question of what interest should be taken into account when the Court has to make up its mind and say over what area Section 25 of the 1956 Act should be enforced.

I come back, therefore, to the argument. It seems to me to be an extreme view to take that when that decision has to be taken, and when the Court is giving judgment, the interests of everybody except the consumer should be totally ignored. It is wholly irrelevant to say that there is another 60 per cent. of trade over which these circumstances do not arise because no r.p.m. exists. That was why I did not answer the right hon. Gentleman earlier. I make this observation only because he did not appear to understand the point at issue.

7.15 p.m.

I do not prolong the debate further except to say that the argument still seems to me to be valid. By refusing, not merely the main preposition, but even a modest example of it, the right hon. Gentleman has shown how extreme and doctrinaire he still is on this point.

Question put,That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 124. Noes 183.

Division No. 84.] AYES [7.15 p.m.
Ainsley, William Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Oliver, G. H.
Allen, Scholefield {Crewe) Hamilton, William (West Fife) O'Malley, B. K.
Beaney, Alan Harper, Joseph Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bence, Cyril Hart, Mrs. Judith Paton, John
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hayman, F. H. Pavitt, Laurence
Benson, Sir George Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Peart, Frederick
Blyton, William Herbison, Miss Margaret Pentland, Norman
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hilton, A. V. Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bowden, Rt. Hn, H. W. (Leics, S.W.) Holman, Percy Randall, Harry
Bowles, Frank Houghton, Douglas Rankin, John
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Redhead, E. C.
Bradley, Tom Hunter, A. E. Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Brockway, A. Fenner Hynd, H. (Accrington) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rose, William
Carmichael, Neil Janner, Sir Barnett Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Silkin, John
Chapman, Donald Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Collick, Percy Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Kenyon, Clifford Skeffington, Arthur
Crosland, Anthony King, Dr. Horace Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lawson, George Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Dalyell, Tam Lee, Frederick (Newton) Small, William
Darling, George Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Snow, Julian
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Steele, Thomas
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lipton, Marcus Stones, William
Dempsey, James Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Diamond, John MacColl, James Taverne, D.
Dodds, Norman McInnes, James Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Doig, Peter McLeavy, Frank Thornton, Ernest
Driberg, Tom MacPherson, Malcolm Wainwright, Edwin
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.) Warbey, William
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Manuel, Archie Weitzman, David
Evans, Albert Marsh, Richard Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fitch, Alan Mason, Roy Willey, Frederick
Fletcher, Eric Millan, Bruce Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Foley, Maurice Milne, Edward Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mitchison, G. R. Winterbottom, R. E.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Moody, A. S.
Ginsburg, David Morris, Charles (Openshaw) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Moyle, Arthur Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Grey, Charles Mulley, Frederick Mr. Whitlock.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Noer-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Agnew, sir Peter Bourne-Arton, A. Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)
Allason, James Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Cleaver, Leonard
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Box, Donald Cole, Norman
Atkins, Humphrey Braine, Bernard Cooper, A. E.
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Brewis, John Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Cordle, John
Barlow, Sir John Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Corfield, F. V.
Batsford, Brian Bryan, Paul Coulson, Michael
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Buck, Antony Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Critchley, Julian
Biffen, John Burden, F. A. Crowder, F. P.
Bigge-Davison, John Butcher, Sir Herbert Cunningham, Sir Knox
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Campbell, Gordon Curran, Charles
Bishop, Sir Patrick Channon, H. P. G. Dance, James
Black, Sir Cyril Chataway, Christopher d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Bossom Hon. Clive Chichester-Clark, R. Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Rees-Davies W.R. (Isle of Thanet)
Doughty, Charles Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
du Cann, Edward Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Duncan, Sir James Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Russell, Sir Ronatd
Eden, Sir John Kaberry, Sir Donald Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kershaw, Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Elliott, R. W. (Newcute-upon-Tyne, N.) Kirk, Peter Seymour, Leslie
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evolyn Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Sharples, Richard
Fell, Anthony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shaw, M.
Finlay, Graeme Linstead, Sir Hugh Shepherd, William
Fisher, Nigel Litchfield, Capt. John Street, T. H. H.
Fietcher-Cooke, Charles Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Freeth, Denzil Loveys, Walter H. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stainton, Keith
Gammans, Lady Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Stodart, J. A.
Glover, Sir Douglas Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Storey, Sir Samuel
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Maitland, Sir John Summers, Sir Spencer
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Tapsell, Peter
Goodhew, Victor Marshall, sir Douglas Temple, John M.
Grant-Ferris, R. Marten, Neil Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Green, Alan Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Gurden, Harold Mawby, Ray Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thorpe, Jeremy
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mills, Strattom Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Harris, Reader (Heston) Montgomery, Fergus Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Harrison, Brian (Maidon) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Turner, Colin
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morrison, John Turton, Rt. Hon, R. H.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Neave, Airey Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hay, John Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael van Straubenzee, W. R.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Vickers, Miss Joan
Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Pannel, Norman (Kirkdate) Wade, Donald
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Hirst, Geoffrey Percival, Ian Wall, Patrick
Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Peyton, John Ward, Dame Irene
Hocking, Philip N. Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Whiteiaw, William
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quinton Pike, Miss Mervyn Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Holland, Philip Pitt, Dame Edith Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Holt, Arthur Pounder, Rafton Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hornby, R, P. Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Wise, A. R.
Hughes-Young, Michael Price, David (Eastleigh) Woodhouse, C. M.
Hulbert, Sir Norman Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Woodnutt, Mark
Hurd, Sir Anthony Proudfoot, Wilfred Woollam, John
Hutchiaon, Michael Clark Pym, Francis
Iremonger, T. L. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter TELLERS FOB THE NOES:
James, David Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Mr. McLaren and Mr. Hugh Rees.
Mr. W. Wells

I beg to move Amendment No. 105, in page 5, line 25, at the end to insert: (3) Any order made under this section directing that any goods shall be exempted goods may provide that terms or conditions establishing minimum prices to be charged in the resale of goods shall not be enforceable against third parties. With this Amendment we pass with some relief from the tailpiece and come to a proposed new subsection. Whatever heat may be engendered about other parts of the Bill, I shall not seek to engender any over this. The Amendment seeks to empower the Court to make a type of order which, under the Bill as it stands it has no power to do. Under the Bill as it stands, the Court has simply the alternative of making an order that a certain class of goods are to be exempted goods, or refusing to make such an order.

We believe that there is a case for making an intermediate order to the effect that the goods are exempted goods for a limited purpose, leaving third parties completely at liberty to trade without regard to the terms of the contract providing a minimum price. In the case of a contract for the sale of goods at a minimum price, if the Court is empowered to make this type of order the buyer will be bound not to sell above the minimum resale price. We think that this could be a reasonable provision in a number of cases. After all, it is desirable to maintain, so far as possible and reasonable, the sanctity of contract. This is what the Amendment seeks to do.

If the Amendment were accepted, the Court would have the power to say that third parties would not be bound by the provisions of a contract as to minimum resale price, but the parties who entered into the contract, presumably with their eyes open, and understanding what they were doing, would be bound.

I would not expect the Secretary of State, whether the idea appeals to him as reasonable and as having possible utility or not, to accept the Amendment in its present form. I can say without fear of contradiction, since I drafted it myself, that it is badly drafted. I realised this looking at it in the cold light of day, which is not the time of day at which it was drafted. I am not very proud of it, However, I believe that the underlying idea may be useful for certain limited purposes. I commend it to the Committee's attention.

Mr. Heath

I listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells) with care, because I was very interested, on seeing the Amendment, to try to ascertain what the purpose of it was. What it means is that the Court shall be given a discretionary power to repeal Section 25 of the 1956 Act.

Mr. W. Wells

indicated assent.

Mr. Heath

I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me. I was hoping that he might provide some specific instances in which he thought that such a power would be useful, because, considering it generally, I have found it rather difficult to think what would be the purpose of the Court having this power. If the Court decides to give an exemption, it is deciding that the maintenance of fixed prices in these conditions is in the public interest. Its decision amounts to deciding that the right to resale price maintenance should be granted for that purpose. As the Bill stands this means that the right to enforce this would go with it.

7.30 p.m.

The Amendment, by repealing Section 25 of the 1956 Act, would, in this case, remove that right of enforcement. I cannot see the point of having an exemption from the Court and then giving the Court power to remove the right of enforcement, although that is what the Amendment is designed to achieve. The hon. and learned Member did not demonstrate any cases in which he thought it would be useful for the Court to have this power, and my approach is that if the Court has given an exemption—and considers it right that r.p.m. should continue in a particular case—the right of enforcement should remain and that there is nothing to be gained by giving power to the Court to remove it.

I suggest, therefore, that the Amendment does not give the Court any sort of discretionary powers by which it would take lotion after a certain time has elapsed or after any other point. It would give the Court power which is not required useful or even justifiable, and I suggest that it is not necessary to insert it in the Bill.

Mr. W. Wells

As I pointed out, I am not anxious to press the Amendment. In the Bill we are interfering with the sanctity of contracts to a considerable extent and some of my hon. Friends and I thought it reasonable that the Bill should provide for a neutral territory, so to speak, where the Court sees no reason to interfere with a contract but does not think it appropriate to extend the right of enforcement against third parties.

This was a novel conception introduced by Section 25 of the 1956 Act and we thought it a reasonable idea worth considering that the Court, in certain circumstances, might think this an appropriate order to make. Time will show whether the right hon. Gentleman or my hon. Friends and I were right. However, this is not a matter of vital moment and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Jay

I beg to move Amendment No. 107, in page 5, line 25, at the end to insert: (3) in any case where the Restrictive Practices Court on a reference made to it determines that no order under this section is to be made in respect of goods of a specified class, the Court may nonetheless, if it satisfied that special circumstances make it reasonable so to do, make an order that the provisions of section 2 of this Act shall not from a date to be specified in the order apply to any supplier of that class of goods in respect of such goods. This Amendment is similar to the last in the sense that it seeks to give the Court rather more discretion than the Minister is at present giving it. However, it is a suggestion which we would wish to press rather further because it appears to contain a substantial point and it is only due to the rigours of the time-table that we are reaching this matter at this stage in the Committee proceedings.

I said on Second Reading that the Minister has never appreciated in our discussion that he has an alternative to the action he is taking in the Bill. He could have introduced a Measure which would have simply repealed Section 25 of the 1965 Act with, no doubt, certain provision for exemptions or exceptions, and have left it at that. That would have taken us to a situation which we did not have before 1956 because then the collective boycott was legal, and the situation we have not had since 1956, because since then we have had Section 25 enforced. It would have been a situation in which the law intervened neither way—the law neither enabled a manufacturer to enforce his prices on the retailer, nor did it do what the Minister is now seeking to do; to compel a manufacturer and supplier in certain circumstances to trade with the retailer even though he may not wish to do so. We discussed that at some length previously.

The Minister could have stopped at that point without introducing Clause 2. I realise that this is an arguable proposition. I understand his argument for going beyond that point—that if one took away the legal power of enforcement from the manufacturer and left it in his business or economic power to withdraw his supplies, he would have been able to enforce his fixed resale prices not by law but by the threat of at least a boycott. I do not argue that and it may be that in some cases he would have been able to do that. Nevertheless, I think that the Minister has been too ready to assume that this would have been possible in virtually all cases and that, because of that, we had to load the onerous obligation of Clause 2 on the supplier in every case, in addition to taking away from him the legal right he now has under the 1956 Act.

There might have been a halfway house established here, and what we suggest in the Amendment is that in certain cases the Court might think that there was no case for deciding against the trade or group of manufacturers in question, but that the legal power of enforcement should not be retained under Section 25.

It might help if I give an example. The Secretary of State argued his reason for imposing Clause 2. He said that the removal of r.p.m. in a particular case would be undermined because it would be enforced by the withholding of supplies rather than by the law. There may be circumstances when a Court would think it unlikely that that would happen. The Court might consider it wiser and more liberal—if I may use that word in this context—to take away the power of legal enforcement and not to impose the additional obligation not to withhold supplies. This is a complicated matter and it is difficult to explain it without the use of double negatives. The Court might decide not to apply Clause 2, because there was no need for it. Thus it would be open to the Court, if circumstances were such later, to impose it if it were necessary.

I realise that this complicates the Bill even further. Hon. Members may say that it is complicated enough already. Nevertheless, there is a case for considering this in detail and had we had the opportunity earlier we would have debated this subject at greater length.

The essential point is that there may be no need to impose the obligations contained in Clause 2 unless circumstances and experience show that that is necessary. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think this matter over, particularly since I have made a reasonably clear case for the Amendment. It is a substantial one and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to meditate further on this issue in the period of a full week which will occur before the Report stage.

Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)

rise in an effort to get this matter clarified because I am in a bit of a muddle over this Amendment. It appeared from the speech of the Secretary of State when he replied to the previous Amendment that his remarks could have been made in reply to the Amendment which I understand we are discussing. If so, may we dispense with a further reply from the Minister?

Mr. Heath

I have carefully checked and I did make the correct reply to the previous Amendment. Indeed, this Amendment is the reverse of the coin. The last one dealt with the case where an exemption had been granted but where the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells) was suggesting that the right of enforcement should not go with it. I said that there was no point in having that Amendment. In this case an exemption has not been granted and the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) is suggesting that the supplier should have the right to withhold supplies nevertheless.

My objection to this is that this is an indirect way of maintaining r.p.m. Where the Court has said that it is not in the public interest that it should be maintained, the right hon. Member for Battersea, North would give the supplier the right indirectly, to maintain it. That is why the Committee should not approve this Amendment.

The only reason that I can detect in the right hon. Gentleman's speech for doing this is that he says that experience may show that it might not be necessary for resale price maintenance to go for us to have Clause 2 under which action could be taken against the supplier who withholds supplies. I should not have thought that it was wise to take that risk. I should have thought that experience would have shown that, so determined are some people to maintain resale price maintenance, they would do everything possible to keep it. It has been very necessary to keep Clause 2, whatever we may think about the details of it, which we have discussed in this Committee. I would suggest that this is the reverse of the case which we were discussing previously, and that the insertion of this Amendment would be no more justified than the last. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will pursue the same course as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walsall, North and withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Jay

May I tell the Minister, briefly, why I do not agree with him? The fallacy in his argument is that he assumes in every case that a manufacturer or supplier would be in an economic position to withhold supplies. He assumes that wherever he wishes to maintain resale price maintenance, and has lost the legal power to do so, it would be entirely in his hands, in the business circumstances of the case, to withhold supplies. That does not follow at all. This might be so in some cases, but it is quite unsound to assume that this would be so in all cases.

The manufacturer or supplier has to carry on business and sell his goods somewhere. It all depends on the rela- tive bargaining strength and whether the manufacturer or the retailer is in more of a monopoly position. It depends whether the retailer is small and the manufacturer large, or vice versa. There might be all sorts of circumstances connected with it. I am very modestly and, I think, realistically assuming that circumstances will differ from case to case, whereas the Minister is assuming that in every case it would be open to the manufacturer to enforce resale price maintenance by withholding his supplies regardless of the business situation. That is an unsound assumption. It would be more realistic, more empirical and more flexible if we allowed for the fact that circumstances differ and enabled the Court to make its decisions accordingly.

In my opinion—I know that the Minister will not agree—I think, again, that he is rather doctrinaire and that my hon. Friends and I have shown a more flexible and practical attitude. I hope that he may reflect on this point a little more before we finish with the Bill, but meanwhile, for the reasons that I have given, I must advise my hon. Friends to press for the Amendment in order to encourage the Minister to do so.

Mr. Heath

When the right hon. Gentleman presses an Amendment to a Division then the Minister in charge of the Bill is always exempt from giving any further consideration to it. That is well known in this Committee. There have been cases, and there was one very famous case of which I read an account the other day in which a French manufacturer, Coty's, was deliberately prepared to damage itself to a great extent by withholding supplies over the whole of the United states in order ultimately to be able to enforce price maintenance. In fact, it succeeded. One of the members of the firm recently delivered a lecture to demonstrate exactly how it was done.

The right hon. Gentleman is saying that, because there are some firms who are not able to do this, we should withdraw the power of Clause 2 from the Bill. If they are unable to do it, I do not see any reason why we should withdraw it, and it is there as a safeguard.

Mr. Jay

I do not wish to carry on an altercation with the right hon. Gentleman, but we are not seeking—that is the misunderstanding of the Amendment—to withdraw the powers of Clause 2 altogether. We are saying that the Court should have the option to impose or not to impose it. I think that the Minister, in the example he has given, proves my point. He said that there was a firm, which, despite considerable damage to itself was willing to withhold supplies over a long period, because it believed that, finally, that would be in its own interest.

7.45 p.m.

That admits that there could be considerable damage in withholding supplies, and it is, therefore, highly probable, that in certain circumstances, the damage could be too great for the manufacturer to sustain. I admit that there may be some circumstances in which that may not be so. Therefore, I think that our approach is more flexible and

appropriate to the various circumstances of the resale and wholesale trade.

Mr. W. Wells

As my right hon Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) suggests, it is only in special circumstances that the Court would make the order. Clearly, in the case which the right hon. Gentleman has cited, there would be a most strong set of special circumstances against the Court making the kind of order which my right hon. Friend's Amendment contemplates. The Amendment would leave, as my right hon. Friend said, a measure of flexibility about the application of the orders, which we think is desirable, and that is why we are pressing for its acceptance.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 123, Noes 187.

Division No. 85.] AYES [7.46 p.m.
Ainsley, William Harper, Joseph Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hart, Mrs, Judith Oliver, G. H.
Beaney, Alan Hayman, F. H. O'Malley, B. K.
Bence, Cyril Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Herbison, Miss Margaret Paton, John
Benson, Sir George Hilton, A. V. Pavitt, Laurence
Blyton, William Holman, Percy Peart, Frederick
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Houghton, Douglas Pentland, Norman
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.) Hughes, Emrye (S. Ayrshire) Purser, Cmdr. Harry
Bowles, Frank Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Randall, Harry
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hunter, A. E. Rankin, John
Brockway, A. Fenner Hynd, H. (Accrington) Redhead, E. C.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hynd, John (Attercllffe) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Carmichael, Neil Janner, Sir Barnett Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Ross, William
Chapman, Donald Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Silkin, John
Collick, Percy Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silverman, Sidney (Nelson)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Kenyon, Clifford Skeffington, Arthur
Crosland, Anthony King, Dr. Horace Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lawson, George Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Dalyell, Tam Ledger, Ron Small, William
Darling, George Lee, Frederick (Newton) Snow, Julian
Davles, Harold (Leek) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Steele, Thomas
Dempsey, James Lipton, Marcus Stones, William
Diamond, John Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Dodds, Norman MacColl, James Taverne, D.
Doig, Peter McInnes, James Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Driberg, Tom McLeavy, Frank Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) MacPherson, Malcolm Wainwrigtit, Edwin
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mallalleu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Warbey, William
Evans, Albert Manuel, Archie Weitzman, David
Fitch, Alan Marsh, Richard Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fietcher, Eric Mason, Roy Whitlock, William
Foley, Maurice Millan, Bruce Willey, Frederick
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Milne, Edward Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mitchison, G. R. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Ginsburg, David Moody, A. S. Winterbottom, R. E.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Moyle, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mulley, Frederick Mr. Charles A. Howell and
Mr. Grey.
Agnew, Sir Peter Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton
Allason, James Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Barlow, Sir John Biffen, John
Atkins, Humphrey Batsford, Brian Biggs-Davison, John
Bishop, Sir Patrick Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Black, Sir Cyril Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pitt, Dame Edith
Bossom, Hon. Clive Hay, John Pounder, Rafton
Bourne-Arton, A. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Powell, Bt. Hon. J. Enoch
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Price, David (Eastleigh)
Box, Donald Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Braine, Bernard Hirst, Geoffrey Proudfoot, Wilfred
Brewis, John Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Pym, Francis
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hocking, Philip N. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bryan, Paul Holland, Philip Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)
Buck, Antony Holt, Arthur Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Bullua, Wing Commander Eric Hornby, R. P. Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'tn'ld)
Burden, F. A. Hughes-Young, Michael Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hulbert, Sir Norman Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Campbell, Gordon Hurd, Sir Anthony Russell, Sir Ronald
Channon, H P. G. Hutchison, Michael Clark Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Chataway, Christopher Iremonger, T. L. Scott-Hopkins, James
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Sharples, Richard
Cole, Norman James, David Shaw, M.
Cooper, A. E. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Shepherd, William
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Skeet, T. H. H.
Cordle, John Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Corfield, F. V. Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Spearman, Sir Alexander
Coulson, Michael Kaberry, Sir Donald Stalnton, Keith
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kershaw, Anthony Stevens, Geoffrey
Critehley, Julian Kirk, Peter Stodart, J. A.
Crowder, F. P. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Storey, Sir Samuel
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Summers, Sir Spencer
Curran, Charles Linstead, Sir Hugh Tapsell, Peter
Dance, James Litchfield, Capt. John Temple, John M.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Loveys, Walter H. Thomas, Sir LeeKe (Canterbury)
Digby, Simon WingfieCd Lubbock, Eric Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Doughty, Charles Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Drayson, G. B. McLaren, Martin Thorpe, Jeremy
du Cann, Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Tllney, John (Wavertree)
Duncan, Sir James Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Eden, Sir Join Maitland, Sir John Turner, Colin
Elliot, Capt. Waiter (Carshalton) Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Elliott, R.W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Marshall, Sir Douglas Tweedsmuir, Lady
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Marten, Neil van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fell, Anthony Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Finlay, Graeme Mawby, Ray Vickers, Miss Joan
Fisher, Nigel Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wade, Donald
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Freeth, Denzil Mills, Stratton Wall, Patrick
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Miscampbell, Norman Ward, Dame Irene
Gammans, Lady Montgomery, Fergus Whitelaw, William
Glover, Sir Douglas More, Jasper (Ludlow) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Clyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Morrison, John Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Goodhew, Vlotoc Neave, Airev Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Grant-Ferris, R. Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael Wise, A. R.
Green, Atan. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Woodhouse, C. M.
Gurden, Harod Osborn, John (Hallam) Woodnutt, Mark
Hall, John (Wycombe) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Percival, Ian Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Harris, Reader (Heston) Peyton, John Mr. Hugh Rees.
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth

Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I want to speak only briefly on a residual point, as it were, left over from yesterday's major discussion on the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It is what is known for short as the "any goods" point, and will be recognised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State under that appellation.

In yesterday's debate I said: Then there is the possibility that abrogation of resale price maintenance might result in a diminution in the quality or variety of other goods socked—not the goods actually covered by the resale price maintenance agreement but other goods. If a general uncertainty was introduced into a retailer's position by such abrogation, it might cause him to stock less of some other article not actually covered by the agreement. Under the Bill that is not a matter which he could deploy before the court, but under the different and wider language of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act he could do SO."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 1320.] My right hon. Friend's reference to this aspect of the matter may be found in col. 1392 of yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT. I hive read it and, with great respect, I must say that I find it a little less clear than most of my right hon. Friend's observations. The Secretary of State made some notable and helpful and very proper proposals for improvement to this Clause in response to the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend, but he did not, as I read this part of the OFFICIAL REPORT, give any undertaking, or even make any suggestion, that he might pursue some further thinking in regard to this point. I may be wrong about that; my right hon. Friend may intend to do so, and my purpose now is to ask that he will do so.

If my right hon. Friend has it in mind that the widening of the gateway in this way might lead to detriment to the purchasers of other goods in other establishments and that that consideration would not be taken into account in the balancing exercise of the tailpiece as at present drafted, it would, of course, be necessary also, if he does anything to expand the reference to goods so as to admit of the deployment of this argument within the gateway provisions, to expand the reference to goods in the tailpiece so that the balancing exercise could take account of any consequential detriment caused thereby.

In that context, I hope that my right hon. Friend will look further at this point, because there were so many matters dealt with in yesterday's major discussion that, reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT what he then said, I feel that, perhaps, he has not as yet done full justice to this argument.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Like the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), I intervene in an attempt to clarify some of yesterday's discussion, which is a proper purpose when we are discussing whether the Clause, as amended, should stand part of the Bill—particularly as we have some hon. Members present whom we did not have throughout our earlier proceedings.

In that respect, I am particularly glad to see the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), who was, at an earlier stage of the Bill, the leader of the so-called "Tory rebels"—the Robespierre from Rugby. Some of us had wondered what had happened to him. We thought that he had been guillotined, perhaps, but we are glad to see him there, with his head still neatly on his shoulders, and hope to hear from him.

The debate yesterday, however, which was introduced by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), was by common consent one of the most important debates that we have had in the whole of these proceedings. Certainly on the test of time taken to reach our conclusion it was a most important debate and was so considered on both sides of the Committee.

8.0 p.m.

It was remarkable for this state of affairs—that the right hon. Gentleman, who in introducing the Amendment was backed by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), made a pretty formidable case for an alteration in the Bill, and when we reached the end of the proceedings both of them proclaimed themselves in effect satisfied by what the Minister had said. It might be deduced by innocent people from that development that the Minister had made a substantial concession, but the Minister, of course, throughout the proceedings—and I admire him for it—has insisted that he will make no more than minor changes. Therefore, on the face of it, there seems to be some discrepancy between what the Minister thought he was conceding and what hon. and right hon. Members opposite thought they were getting. This is what I want to clear up before we proceed further with the Bill.

I admit immediately the well nigh staggering proposition that in my own interpetation of what the Minister said at the end of his speech I made a mistake. If I misinterpreted what he said it is no doubt chiefly my fault, but it is also partly the Minister's fault because his speech took a rather curious form. He spent most of his speech—and if I may say so without patronising the right hon. Gentleman it was most skilfully done—in reducing the temperature and getting the Committee into a much calmer frame of mind, or, as it was put, removing the excitement from the debate. The right hon. Gentleman has done it on several occasions before with great skill. There is nothing like being in charge of a bad Bill for improving the cunning of Parliamentarians, and the right hon. Gentleman did extremely well, but by the end he got us all into such a soporific state that we were unable to judge what was happening.

The right hon. Gentleman's speech was of a. curious form because he approached the subject from a whole series of different angles and then compressed his concession into the last minute. At one time I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was under the misapprehension that he was introducing the Budget and was saving his concessions to the end. As we have not had a proper Budget this year it was a reasonable thing for him to do, and I do not complain on that score at all.

Let us see what he conceded and whether it meets the substantial case made by his right hon. Friends, and, in particular the point with which I was concerned, which is the future of the book trade. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the criteria which are provided under the Clause and said: I feel that we ought to give full consideration to the question of including an item about prices among the criteria. The right hon. Gentleman is going to give full consideration—that is not yet an absolute commitment. Later in his speech he said: We will give careful consideration to the framing of the wording in order to deal with the question of price. Then the right hon. Gentleman made a slight retraction from his original comprehensive promise and said: I would not think that a standard price is a question which should come into this. The argument put forward is that the public likes a standard price, but the general view now is that the public's attitude has changed. That slightly mitigates prices being put forward as one of the considerations determining criteria under the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman then said: It is a question of a permanent rise in prices which some hon. Members fear would be the result of the abolition of r.p.m. It is to this point that we should give attention between now and Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 1401–2.] Therefore, what the book trade would have to prove in order to get through this gateway is that if r.p.m. was not permitted to it there would be a permanent general rise in prices.

I am not sure whether the book trade can prove that exactly, and I would have preferred to see the Clause not as tightly drawn as that. I should have thought that if the book trade could prove that there might be a considerable increase in prices of certain types of books, the trade should be able to retain its r.p.m. on that claim. I imagine that the Minister would not go further than the concession he appeared to make to the Committee. He might diminish it, but he is not likely to be more generous when he looks at it on Report than he was when he was trying to get out of his difficulties yesterday. We must, therefore, look at these words carefully and also look at them in the light of what was demanded by some of us on both sides of the Committee.

I drew the attention of the Committee yesterday to the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), the previous Attorney-General, whose opinion on these matters obviously is bound to be taken into account. He said, before the concession by the Minister: The conclusion on the book case is that it could just get through on the quality. I think that it could not get through on the other points which the Restrictive Practices Court found in its favour."—[OFFICAL REPORT. 22nd April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 1353.] That is a view which was disputed by the right hon. Gentleman even before he came to the subsequent concession, but we have to take into account that there is a difference of view between experts as to whether the book trade would have been able to get through under the previous criteria which the right hon. Gentleman had granted.

We might look again at the case made by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton who moved the Amendment, again referriitg to the book trade. This was late at night and I make no apology for quoting, it again because, as I have complained before, the right hon. Gentleman was obliged by the Government to make a formidable case—as it was then—against the Government at a late hour. I cannot think that this was arranged without the guidance of the Patronage Secretary, but it was not a good way of truncating discussion.

I do not apologise for quoting what the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said because so few hon. Members were able to hear it. In the course of his speech he quoted from a speech made by the Minister of Defence when he was President of the Board of Trade in a debate on the Restrictive Practices Act, about which the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East was such an authority. In moving the Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman quoted, as reported in col. 1245 of yesterday's HANSARD, what the present Minister of Defence said about the necessity for a measure to protect the book trade: Without this Clause the net book agreement would be banned. It would be presumed to be contrary to the public interest… It is absolutely essential, for the reasons which I have mentioned, that we should have a Clause of this kind and that a proper opportunity should be given to people to argue that the removal of the restriction would cause specific and substantial damage to the consumer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 650.] I ask the Committee to note the words It is absolutely essential…that we should have a Clause of this kind… that is, a Clause of the nature of the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman moved at the beginning, of our debate yesterday, which was in almost the exact words of the Restrictive Practices Act to which the Minister of Defence was referring in his speech. It was pertinent that the right hon. Gentleman should quote a member of the Government as saying that we need a Clause of this nature to protect the book trade, but we have no Clause of this nature in the Bill, and even with the concession made by the Minister we still have not a gateway as wide as that asked for by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I am not denying that the right hon. Gentleman made a certain concession. It would be absurd to deny that. If yesterday I did not think that he had made as big a concession as it now appears he made, I am very apologetic, but when I examine the words in detail I see that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen them very carefully.

When he considers this matter before the Report stage and when he comes back with an Amendment incorporating the pledge that he has given, we might find that it is hedged around at least as much as he hedged around his peroration when he delivered it to the Committee yesterday. If he were to do that, I think he would—unconsciously, no doubt—have misled the House, but, even more important, he would have put the book trade once again in jeopardy. Therefore, the purpose of my intervention today is to assist the right hon. Gentleman, to ensure that he does not get into that difficulty in the future, and to ensure also that on a subsequent occasion he will do what he did not do originally, namely, make absolutely certain that the book trade in particular will not be injured by this Measure.

On his own showing when he introduced the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman had not safeguarded the position. Had he done so there would not have been any necessity for him to make this concession. Therefore, we have to watch the point particularly carefully. I do not know from which pigeonhole the Board of Trade produced this Bill, but it took it out of a pigeonhole and introduced it to the House of Commons. It tried to push through the House a Measure which, on its own confession, was not sufficient to protect the book trade from the injury which many of us feared it would suffer. Now the right hon. Gentleman has made a concession, but we want to be absolutely sure that the concession is sufficient. Therefore, I give every warning—though it may be entirely superfluous—that on the Report stage we shall examine the matter extremely carefully.

I will go even further and say this. The book trade went to the Court before and proved its case. Now under this Bill it has to go through all the turmoil and bother of presenting its case again. If, after this Measure is put on the Statute Book, the pledges of the right hon. Gentleman turn out not to develop as they have been intended to do—if, in other words, the publishing trade, after suffering the enormous disadvantage of having to go to the Court again, discovers that, in spite of these assurances, it is not able to maintain a system which it regards as being absolutely essential for maintaining the publishing trade on a proper basis—in other words, if all these pledges are misleading—I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that there will be hell to pay. I hope, therefore, that he will introduce his new Clause with that point fully in mind.

There are other trades which are affected. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that there was at least one other trade which was affected in very similar terms to those of the book trade. I would be grateful if he would tell us whether he thinks that the pledge that he gave last night covers that other trade. In addition, if he will tell us what trade it is, it will be helpful and will enable us to judge for ourselves. Perhaps we could have conversations with the trade concerned between now and Report.

I should also like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us first, whether his pledge means that he will do everything he can to ensure that it is wide enough for the book trade to be able to present its case in the terms that some of his hon. Friends desire, through the Restrictive Practices Court; and, secondly, whether it will be wide enough to give it the advantage of being able to put its full case to the other trade which is involved. He has not told us which is the trade concerned; I may have missed something, but I hope not.

In addition, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look afresh at a matter which he dismissed very lightly in his reply yesterday. I do not blame him for doing so. He had a lot of trouble on his hands, and he was dealing with it skilfully. He did not want to get diverted on to another subject. He dismissed what was said would happen to the newspaper industry by saying that resale price maintenance did not apply and he suggested that there was nothing further to be said on that aspect of the matter.

8.15 p.m.

I was aware that resale price maintenance did not apply to the sale of newspapers in a literal sense, but in our discussion on Clause 4 the right hon. Gentleman indicated that, in his view, one of the things that might be encouraged under the Bill was the establishment of new entrants into the newspaper distribution trade.

Mr. Heath

indicated dissent.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I am sure that if he looks at the report of his own speech on the subject he will see that that is what he said. At any rate, that is my interpretation of his words. He said that it would be very wrong is supplies were withheld on this basis. It would be improper for me to discuss that aspect of the matter on the Question "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", but it was precisely because of the right hon. Gentleman's references on that matter that I took the opportunity of referring to what would be the effects on the newspaper trade.

The hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Sir P. Bishop), to whom the Secretary of State paid a special compliment only a few minutes ago, has a special knowledge of that industry, and what he said is true. He said that resale price maintenance does not apply directly to the newspaper trade, but something very like it applies. This Bill could affect newsagents in the sense, I would have thought, that the withholding of supplies in certain circumstances could be an offence under this Bill. Therefore, if the newspaper industry or the newsagents sought to protect themselves under this Clause by taking the matter to the Restrictive Practices Court to establish the right to resale price maintenance, even if they did not have it before—that could be a way in which they could seek to protect themselves—we would have to see how these criteria also affected the newsagents. This is an extremely important matter.

The hon. Member for Harrow, Central, who is not in his place at the moment—I do not blame him for that—described how he got his newspapers delivered in some remote village at 8 o'clock every morning, and said that this was a wonderful thing to happen. Of course it is a remarkable thing to happen. It happens all over the country. But it happens in this country and in precious few other countries. I acknowledge that it happens in a few others, but on nothing like the same scale as in this country. One of the reasons for that is the ordered system of distribution. I am not saying that we should have a system under which no new newsagents should be allowed into the business. Of course we must allow for that possibility. But if we were to disrupt the newsagents' business by preventing them from having the security of resale price maintenance, as we might do, even though they do not have that system formally in operation now, they might seek to protect themselves by going to the Court under this Clause.

I hope that as well as giving the assurances about the pledges that he has given, the right hon. Gentleman will also give us the assurance that, in his view, the newsagents and the newspaper industry or manufacturers, if they wish, should also be able to go to the Court and that the possibility of their arguing their case would be covered by all these criteria.

It is not a trivial matter. When I discussed it before, I indicated my interest in the newspaper business, but, of course, it is a matter of importance not only for those who work in the trade. The distribution of the printed word, whether by books or by newspapers, is of paramount importance for the maintenance of free debate and discussion in this country. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman must be particularly careful that he does nothing to injure these forms of trade, especially when he is introducing a Bill which, naturally, is bound to deal with a whole host of other trades or commodities. He ought to pay special attention to ensure that, in introducing a Measure which can perfectly well be defended if one is dealing with ordinary commodities like soap, detergents, cement and the rest, he does not at the same time injure the dissemination of free opinion in this country.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will treat all these requests for assurances with the respect which they deserve. I do not think that he did so when he introduced his Bill, but he has been doing his best to make amends since, although whenever I have pressed him on some matter he has said, "No, I am not making any substantial changes". I notice, nevertheless, that when he meets his hon. Friends he has to say that the changes which he is making are extremely substantial. I shall not probe into those tender matters any more, but I want the right hon. Gentleman to give in as clear as possible terms the assurances for which I have asked, and I make perfectly clear to him and to the draftsmen who may assist him between now and Report that we shall in due time be looking pre- cisely to see whether all these legitimate interests are properly protected.

Mr. Bence

I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) into the realms of the book and newspaper trades. I wish to direct attention to the matter of service.

Having given a great deal of study to Clause 5, I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the Minister has made considerable concessions to his right hon. and hon. Friends, and I think that those concessions which have been made one way or another are in part, or mainly, perhaps, due to the vigour of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, in taking over the practical work of leadership which was at first in evidence on the Notice Paper, but which, apparently, was silenced at a secret meeting somewhere else. Certainly, in all the meetings of the Committee which I have attended, the vigorous support for improvement of the Bill has come from this side.

I wish to take up a statement which the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday and which has been repeated many times in the Committee. Although there may be one or two isolated cases in which it is correct, in industry and trade generally—certainly in the industry with which I am loosely connected—it is definitely not true.

Referring to services yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman said: I suggest that this is the point where the consumer ought to have the right of choice and should not have to pay for them"— that is to say, services. Although they may be nice, he may not want them and he should not have to pay for them through r.p.m. If r.p.m. is removed he has the opportunity of buying his goods without the services, presumably at a cheaper rate, or of buying the goods at a shop which gives the services but charges for them. This is the element of choice to the consumer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1964; Vol. 693, c. 1399.] How, in the name of fortune, this idea ever arose I do not know. I have been through a long list of consumer durables. Suppliers of the motor car, probably the Singer sewing machine, which is not subject to r.p.m., the W. & T. Avery weighing machine, the Hoover products, and Bloom and the direct selling groups are the only groups which with the sale of their machines offer, for a monetary payment, a periodical service for the machines. With the motor car a service is offered for the first 300 miles, with a book of vouchers covering first change of oil, and so on. That is the only element of service provided in the sale of a motor car.

Mr. Burden

With respect, it varies according to the maker of the car. On some cars, if there is a fault within a year, or 12,000 miles, the part is replaced free of charge. We appreciate his point of view, but the hon. Gentleman must not exaggerate.

Mr. Bence

I am coming to that.

The actual service sold as a service with the motor car is the first service at 300 miles or 1,000—whatever it may be—with a book of vouchers. With it goes a warranty. With the sale of tape-recorders, radio sets, sewing machines and all sorts of manufactured products there is a warranty, and within the period of warranty a free service is provided if a fault is found in the machine; but this is not a service bought with the machine. It is a warranty given with the machine, and this is where the hon. Gentleman is making his mistake.

One cannot call a warranty given to cover the first 12 months or so a service sold with the machine. If it were, should we then have to set about amending our legislation on merchantability and alter the law with respect to warranty? If the price were cut by 5 per cent., should we say that the service provided under a warranty is a service which can therefore be wiped out?

The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the gateways in Clause 5, has said that the consumer has a choice of accepting goods—the hon. Gentleman looks upon a warranty as a service and this is his error—with or without a service, but to speak of that in terms of warranty is absolute nonsense.

Someone buying a consumer durable is interested in getting a good machine, whatever it may be, and when buying it he inquires what are the conditions under which he can get it serviced. I know of no product with which for its life, for three, four, or five years, a free service is sold. I have been in the light engineering industry for many years, and on this side of it, too—

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

The hon. Gentleman is not on the right point here. It is not only a question of free service. The danger would come if no one patronised anything except big establishments which sold the article without any service at all. Then there would be no service, whether free or not.

Mr. Bence

The point I am making is that, when the product is sold, no service is sold with it beyond a period stated according to the purchase price. The service which goes with a motor car, as I have said, covers the first 1,000 miles or so, and one buys also a warranty. There is no question of the warranty being wiped out. The question is, can a person buy it without the service?

All the service on a motor car afterwards is the service which the user of it himself decides to have according to the use which he makes of the car. One has a car serviced every 1,000 miles or every 5,000 miles, but one pays for it. One does not pay for it when one buys the car. One pays for it when one gets the car serviced. I never get my car serviced, because I do it myself. However, I do not get underneath the car and get myself dirty in servicing when it is new. No doubt when the right hon. Gentleman has his car serviced he pays for it. This idea about there being a choice between taking a service or not taking a service when buying a product is nonsense. The service that one gets in the initial period when the article is new comes under a warranty.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Which does not mean anything.

Mr. Bence

I agree that in many cases it does not mean anything.

Mr. Heath

The hon. Member is proving the point to the hilt. One argument put forward for keeping resale price maintenance in the motor trade is the service provided. The hon. Member is saying that he pays for these services when he gets them. Surely he is supporting the argument that resale price maintenance should not be maintained. If that were the case, he would be able to go on doing his own servicing, and that is the element of consumer choice.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Bence

I am dealing with a product, the motor car, in respect of which resale price maintenance does not exist. When a person goes to a dealer to buy a new car and wishes to pay for it partly in cash and partly by trading in his old car the dealer is not obliged by the manufacturer to set a second-hand price on the car that he is taking in. He can take any price that he likes. Resale price maintenance has not existed in that sense in the motor trade for years.

I saw an advertisement the other day by a company which said, "Whatever your second-hand machine is like, it is worth £5 if you buy a new one before 28th April".

Mr. Burden

We should not get confused between a warranty and service. Motor cars are produced on a production line. The manufacturers expect that, because of mass production, there will be faults. Rather than test minutely every vehicle at a cost of perhaps £100, they accept that there might be faults and give a warranty, which is incorporated with the service, to put them right over a year.

Mr. Bence

I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as a result of new techniques and quality control in a modern engineering plant, modern mechanical devices made by machines are far more accurate and better in performance than those which were manufactured by hand 50 or or 60 years ago. One could not hammer a car in 1912 like one hammers them today; they would have fallen to pieces. Cars did only 20 miles an hour in the 1920s.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. F. Blackburn)

The hon. Member must get the debate nearer to the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill". I am not sure what the hon. Member is arguing about. If he says that motor cars are not subject to resale price maintenance, I am not sure to which gateway he is referring.

Mr. Bence

I am referring to services which are supposed to be the alternative for which the consumer is asked to pay. When a consumer goes to buy a product the alternative is not whether he should buy it with or without the service. The proposition which he has to consider is, having bought it, can he get it serviced and at how many points can he get it serviced. He must consider which components in the product may go wrong and the points at which he can obtain components to go into the car.

Clause 5 states, through one of the gateways, that the variety of articles concerned should be taken into consideration when one is considering service. I am arguing that service is not an alternative. It is an essential point, if the article concerned is a consumer durable, which the consumer must take into consideration.

It is well known that there are products which are sold by direct trade and discount houses which people cannot get serviced when they go wrong. I have had a certain consumer durable since 1947. I have an agreement with the manufacturer under which I pay a quarterly charge of about 11s. and have it serviced regularly every quarter. As a result, the article is as good as new. I did not buy the service when I bought the article. I am paying for the service now. I resent the statement by the Secretary of State and others that service is an alternative. People do not buy service when they buy a product. They get a warranty with the product, but that is not a service. It is quite dishonest and misleading to the general public.

One of the consequences of this attitude is that people who buy products will not be able to get them serviced. All over the country, there is a decline in the number of points of service for the motor car. There are plenty of petrol pumps everywhere, but no mechanics at them to service a car which breaks down. In many cases, as can be checked with the A.A. or R.A.C., motorists have to be towed ever-increasing distances to get to a service station to have their car serviced.

I have mentioned before—

Mr. Burden

Yes, three times.

Mr. Bence

—that motorists carry spares in the boot of their car because of the danger of not getting service. If, throughout the range of consumer durables, we do anything that tends to reduce or destroy the points at which people can get the article which they have bought serviced and component parts renewed, we will be doing something detrimental to the users of those products.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. We cannot turn this into a general debate on the question of service. The hon. Member must show how the Clause fails to meet his case.

Mr. Bence

I did not want to go into the details of the Clause, Mr. Blackburn, but as you have asked me I will explain why I have come to my conclusion and how it is relevant—

The Temporary Chairman

I said that this must not be turned into a general debate on service. We are debating the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill".

Mr. Bence

I was under the impression that we were discussing the power of the Court to exempt classes of goods.

The Clause states: An order under this section directing that goods of any class shall be exempted goods may be made by the Restrictive Practices Court if it appears to the Court that in default of a system of maintained minimum resale prices applicable to those goods— (a) the quality of the goods available for sale, or the varieties of the goods so available… I have mentioned varieties of components at service stations. I am explaining why I was talking about services, because I see it in the Clause. It must be made clear by the Minister that "varieties" brings within consideration of the Restrictive Practices Court all the nearly 2,000 components that go into a motor car.

The Temporary Chairman

Order If the Clause does not do these things which the hon. Member wants, he cannot argue about them now. He can argue only about what is in the Clause.

Mr. Bence

This, Mr. Blackburn, is what the Clause does.

Mr. Burden

It does what?

Mr. Bence

The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that the capacity to have these points of service and all these varieties of service, to give service for consumer durables, was an alternative. I say that it is not. It is an essential part of the use of the product. It is not an essential part of the product when somebody is buying it, but it is an essential quality attaching to the product after it is bought. When the right hon. Gentleman suggests that these services are an alternative, he poses a false proposition.

I did not want to go through each of these provisions, Mr. Blackburn, but as you have suggested that I should show how what I was saying was relevant—

The Temporary Chairman

I hope that the hon. Member is not thinking that that I have given him any encouragement to continue.

Mr. Bence

I thought that you had, Mr. Blackburn, when you asked me to explain how what I was saying was relevant. If someone asks me to supply—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I said that the hon. Member must make this speech on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill" and not on other extraneous issues.

Mr. Bence

That is what I was doing, Mr. Blackburn. I was talking about services as a quality or a useful quality attaching to a certain consumer durable and I mentioned motor cars.

Paragraph (c) of subsection (2) states: any necessary services actually provided in connection with… But the services are not provided "in connection with". They are provided after the product has been bought. One does not buy the service with the product. One buys the product in the hope that one can get service after one has bought it. [Interruption.] This is a serious matter. I come from Scotland.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

On a point or order, Mr. Blackburn. I understand that there is a rule about tedious repetition which applies to debates in general. Does it apply to the Committee stage of Bills?

The Temporary Chairman

It applies to every debate. It is left to the Chair to decide when the stage of tedious repetition has been reached. We are getting near it.

Mr. Bence

To continue with that point. Paragraph (c) of subsection (2) says: …any necessary services actually provided in connection with or after the sale of the goods… The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said that this is an alternative to buying the goods below what were r.p.m. prices. But this is essentially to conclude that the service is attached to the article and that there are places where one can get that service. A false impression is being given.

I hope that the Secretary of State will correct the statement made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East, who said that by the Bill the consumer will be offered this alternative. It is an alternative which does not make sense. It is not an alternative to buy a product and then be able to get it serviced. If there is an alternative it is if a consumer, having bought a product from A, can get it serviced with B, C, D, E and F, so that he will not have to come back to the source from which he bought it to get it serviced. If the latter case is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant, I agree with him.

If Clause 5 is restricted to the concept that the service attaching to a product can be rendered only by the vendor of the product, the agency or dealer or retailer who sells the product, I am all in favour of it. But that is not the impression given by the right hon. and learned Member. Nor is it what the Clause does.

We keep being told that the product at the point of distribution is sold at a price which provides a service point. That is not so.

Mr. Burden

This is the tenth time that we have heard it.

Mr. Bence

I am not a lawyer and I have to put this in layman's language. But this is very important when considering the price structure of consumer durables. It is very important that people who buy washing machines—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. We are not discussing the price structure of durables, but the power of the Restrictive Practices Court to exempt certain classes of goods.

Mr. Bence

Yes—from the abolition of r.p.m. I should have thought that a Clause which provided gateways where a manufacturer could submit his product to be resale price maintained would cover the fixing of prices.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not put down a series of Amendments on these particular points.

Mr. Bence

If the other side had been united in their views I probably would have done. There were so many Amendments by hon. Members opposite with which I agreed that there was no need for me to put them down.

The Temporary Chairman

As the hon. Gentleman has not put them down he is not entitled to discuss them now, but only what is in Clause 5.

Mr. Bence

I never mentioned putting Amendments down. It was put to me and I replied. However, I will bring my remarks to a close. [HON. MEMBERS:"Hear hear."] I have made my point. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will assure us that he did not intend to give the impression that by the abolition of r.p.m. when consumer durable goods are submitted for sale, where prices are reduced or discounts given it will be on the assumption that the sale of those products was under conditions in which either a warranty or a reasonable guarantee was given that the goods could be serviced in a remote village or town. I hope that he will give us an assurance that that is not the impression that he intended to give.

8.45 p.m

Mr. Heath

I shall try to reply to the points that have been made.

The Temporary Chairman

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reply only to the points that were in order.

Mr. Heath

I shall do my best to comply with your request, Mr. Blackburn.

I take the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). I have studied the remarks he made in the discussion. When I began to reply I said that I would consider everything put forward in the debate, and this I will do before Report. My approach to the point he raised concerning the variety of other goods which might be sold and the quality of other goods which might be sold is the same as my approach to the question of the price of other goods which might be sold. As he said, it is a question of "any goods"—interconnected goods.

If we took account of variety and quality we should do the same thing in respect of price. Resale price maintenance may be imposed on one set of goods so that other sets of goods may be subsidised in respect of variety and not price. I will consider the point that my right hon. and learned Friend raised yesterday and again this evening.

I now turn to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). I stated my position quite clearly last night, in the discussion of the Amendment, and I adhere to it. The hon. Member has no cause to speak of my misleading the Committee in any way. I gave some undertakings; I carried out one last night, and I have said that I will consider these matters between now and Report.

As for the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), the gateway will give the Restrictive Practices Court the opportunity of considering whether r.p.m. is necessary or reasonably necessary for the consumer. In these cases, if the Court decides that there is no justification for the maintenance of r.p.m., the consumer will have a choice, either of receiving a service—and that was the argument put forward by those who want to maintain r.p.m.—or of buying the goods without a service.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.