HC Deb 17 January 1972 vol 829 cc28-30
40. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will now refer the proposed take-over by Beechams of Glaxo to the Monopolies Commission.

Mr. John Davies

I announced on 6th January that I did not intend to refer this proposal to the Monopolies Commission.

Mr. Pavitt

Although the boot is now on another foot, will the right hon. Gentleman take a further look at the matter? It would be wholly indefensible if one proposed take-over is not to be referred and another proposed amalgamation is. Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the fact that the main consumer of the products of the three companies concerned happens to be the taxpayer, through the Department of Health and Social Security, and that there is a need to protect the interests not only of shareholders but of the consumer?

Mr. Heffer

And the workers.

Mr. Davies

My task is to assess the potential effect on the public interest generally of such mergers. It is not possible to assimilate one merger with another; each must be examined on its own merits.

Mr. Jay

In view of the obvious effects on the public interest in the case we are considering, is not it pre-eminently a case where there should be a reference to the Commission? If the right hon. Gentleman does not refer this proposal, what is the point of having a Monopolies Commission?

Mr. Davies

I am far from clear whether "this proposal" in the right hon. Gentleman's parlance is Boots—Glaxo or Beecham—Glaxo.

Mr. Jay


Mr. Davies

Then the right hon. Gentleman means "these proposals". I am considering very carefully that of Boots. I have already given my decision on that affecting Beecham.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Can my right hon. Friend say how far he takes into account the effect on the workers in the industry in making such decisions? In that context, will he pay special attention to the letter I wrote him on Friday in regard to the proposed take-over? One of the factories is in my constituency?

Mr. Davies

I shall of course take careful note of what my right hon. and learned Friend says. I emphasise that "the public interest" for this purpose is a wide-ranging consideration and would certainly include employment matters.

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Beecham bid was an example of City buccaneering at its worst, and that the effect on the employment of people in development districts could be considerable? As has already been said, there is no reason for the continued existence of the Monopolies Commission if such a bid is not referred to it.

Mr. Davies

I would not agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said. The employment consideration is very much in my mind in considering this case. No doubt he will have seen the observation by the Chairman of Beecham about its intentions in relation to employment.

Dr. Summerskill

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has a duty to the taxpayer to refer any merger involving drug companies to the Monopolies Commission in view of the fact that the National Health Service spends £200 million a year with them?

Mr. Davies

That very fact is very much in the forefront of my mind in making my considerations.

Mr. Torney

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the usual practice, when a Minister is replying to a Question, to include similar Questions on the Order Paper? Will you draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that I had a similar Question on the Order Paper to No. 40?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for the Chair.