HC Deb 15 July 1964 vol 698 cc1297-8

Lords Amendment: In page 10, line 39, leave out subsection (2) and insert: (2) Where the dealer referred to in section 2(1)(a) or section 3(1) of this Act, or the supplier referred to in the said section 2(1)(a), is one of a group of inter-connected bodies corporate within the meaning of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956, the reference shall include a reference to any other dealer or, as the case may be, any other supplier, who is also a member of that group.

Mr. Heath

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment was moved by the Government in another place as a result of an Amendment of a similar kind put forward by a noble Lord who drew attention to the fact that Clause 11(2), as it left this House, was drafted rather widely and, as a result, produced certain anomalies. What the Clause did, as it left this House, was to require a supplier company and a supplier's subsidiary to be treated as one person for all purposes under the Bill. We did have some discussion about this when it was before the House. This meant, as was pointed out in another place, that unlawful conduct by one person was treated as unlawful conduct by another person and rendered a person liable to legal proceedings.

This Amendment narrows this, and I hope that it will be acceptable to the House. It requires suppliers and dealers who are interconnected bodies corporate—or members of the same group, as normally we would say—to be treated as a single dealer or supplier only in relation to the withholding of supplies, and it also applies where this withholding is on account of loss leadering.

We therefore accepted the proposal of the noble Lord in another place and put it into appropriate words and I hope that the House will feel that this is an improvement to the Bill.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)

I understand the reasons for the Amendment as moved in another place, but I would ask the Secretary of State why it does not appear to apply to Clause 2(3, a, b, c). Would it be possible, under the Bill as amended, for a supplier to use one of its subsidiaries in order to bring pressure to bear on one of the firms with which it is in business? If the Secretary of State can give me an assurance on that point I think the House could well agree with the Amendment. If it will be possible for a supplier to use a subsidiary to bring pressure upon one of the firms with which it is in business I should think we should look askance at the Amendment.

Mr. Heath

By leave of the House, I think that the purpose of this is exactly to meet the point which the hon. Member has raised—so that it will not be able lawfully to bring pressure.

Question put and agreed to.