HC Deb 29 April 1965 vol 711 cc616-7
28. Mr. Park

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many manufacturers have made applications to the Registrar of Restrictive Trade Agreements for the exemption of their products from the provisions of the Resale Prices Act; and for how many categories of products such exemption has been claimed.

Mr. Darling

I understand from the Registrar that he received some 700 applications from various firms and trade associations and that these relate to over 400 classes of goods.

Mr. Park

Would not my hon. Friend agree that under existing procedures the hearing of such a large amount of exemption claims may well take several years? Would he not further agree that there is some evidence here of a conspiracy, by some manufacturers at least, to defeat the purposes of the Act? Will he consider methods by which the hearing of claims can be expedited?

Mr. Darling

I do not know about evidence of conspiracy, but my hon. Friend will be aware that the Registrar is able to group goods for the purpose of references to the Court. In fact, in the 12 references already made about 300 different classes of goods are involved and, if experience under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act is any guide, of every four or five references only one goes to a full hearing.

Mr. Peter Emery

Has priority been given to those firms which specifically requested that their applications for hearing should be dealt with first in order that the matter should be clarified for their own industry?

Mr. Darling

No. The priority of references was left to the Registrar. The Board of Trade did not give any directions.

Mr. Peter Emery

The President of the Board of Trade gave me an assurance a few months ago that he would look into this matter to ensure that priority was given to firms which requested it. Will the Minister reconsider this matter immediately?

Mr. Darling

No, because after the consideration that was given to the matter by my right hon. Friend it was concluded—I, and I am sure most people who are involved in this, think rightly—that it should be left to the Registrar to decide, and he has decided the order of references.

Mr. William Clark

Would not the Minister of State agree that the reduction in prices—particularly the reduction in the price of whisky—following the Resale Prices Act has been largely offset by the penal taxation of this Government and that the benefits of the Resale Prices Act——

Mr. Speaker

No such whisky arises out of the Answer.