HC Deb 04 March 1965 vol 707 cc1504-5
11. Mr. Woodhouse

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that books will be one of the first classes of goods to be referred to the Restrictive Practices Court under sections 5 and 6 of the Resale Prices Act, 1964.

Mr. Jay

The reference of goods to the Restrictive Practices Court under the Resale Prices Act is a matter for the Registrar of Restrictive Trading Agreements. I do not propose to give directions as to the order in which references are to be made.

Mr. Woodhouse

Is not this flouting the intention of Parliament, which gave the right hon. Gentleman power to give these directions? Is the President of the Board of Trade not aware that the book trade, which is one of the very few which has won its case for resale price maintenance in court under the previous law, at great expense to itself, is now suffering great anxiety at the prospect of having to fight it all over again, and even more at the prospect of finding its case prejudiced by a protracted delay in obtaining a hearing?

Mr. Jay

Parliament has given me all sorts of powers, but it does not tell me to use all of them all the time. In this case the most important thing is to get quickly as many decisions as we can affecting large areas of industry, and in formulating that programme I think that the Registrar is as well able to judge as I am.

Mr. Peter Emery

Would not the right hon. Gentleman, however, reconsider what he says if a firm requests him to direct the Registrar? This would mean that the firm was particularly keen to get the matter cleared up in its industry. If that is so, I feel that that is what the Bill was intended to cover.

Mr. Jay

I will, of course, consider any request made to me, but at present it seems to me that this is not a political decision and that it is best for the Registrar to take it.

Mr. Michael Foot

Does not my right hon. Friend agree, recalling the debates on the Bill when it was before the House, that whatever may be the exact nature of the law on the subject, there was a general assumption throughout the House that the abolition of resale price maintenance should not apply to books? When my right hon. Friend says that he can consider the matter further, is it not already the case that he has been approached by the Publishers' Association on the matter? Will he undertake to look at the whole matter afresh and to see whether he can elevate this case to the head of the list?

Mr. Jay

It is clearly for the court and not for me to decide whether an exception should be made in respect of books.

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