HC Deb 16 July 1970 vol 803 cc1704-5
12. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what action he is taking with the brewery companies to lessen the anti-competitive effects of the tied-house system.

47. Mr. Dell

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what action he proposes to take on the Monopolies Commission Report on the supply of beer.

Mr. Bryan

My officials will be meeting the brewery companies to discuss the proposals the Department have put to them and the companies' comments on the proposals.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that this discussion has been going on for a long time? May we have his assurance that the Government will not ditch the recommendations of the Monopolies Commission, that the Government will not capitulate to the brewers, and that he will set licensees and the general public free to sell or drink whatever beer they want?

Mr. Bryan

We accept the findings of the Commission that the restrictions on competition involved in the tied-house system, as operated under the present licensing laws, in fact operate and might be expected to operate, against the public interest, which I think covers a good deal of what the hon. Gentleman has just asked me. Meetings with the brewery companies are continuing, and after they have been completed we shall decide what steps we shall take.

Mr. Dell

Is the Minister aware that this will be regarded as a test case whether his Government are or are not interested in increasing competition?

Mr. Bryan

I am sure that we shall come out of this test very well.

Mr. John Hall

Does my hon. Friend agree that to make worth-while changes in the tied-house system will require beforehand a very comprehensive review of the licensing system? Is he prepared to undertake that extremely difficult task?

Mr. Bryan

I think that what my hon. Friend is saying is that apart from the economic aspects of the matter there is a very big social aspect as well. In this connection, clearly, the Home Office will have to have quite a large inquiry before we come to a final decision.