HC Deb 05 June 1972 vol 838 cc15-6
20. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent communication he has received from the Brewers' Society about the tied house system in the licensed trade; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Noble

None, Sir. But I will be pleased to give the hon. Member what information I can if he will let me know what specific point he has in mind.

Mr. Price

I am about to do that. Does the Minister understand that some brewers are using the tied house system to treat tenants in a way which would have been regarded as disgraceful in the eighteenth century? Is he aware that hundreds of tenants who operate successful businesses are being kicked out for no reason other than that the brewers wish to maximise profits, and that they want both retail as well as wholesale profits? Does he not think that instead of letting them act like tyrants he should deal with them by breaking many of the ties operating in this trade?

Mr. Noble

The picture which the hon. Member presents certainly differs from the information we have in the Department. There have been a few cases in which it has been alleged that the Brewers' Society recommendations relating to choice of drinks at tied houses have not been complied with. We take these up with the individuals concerned. Cases so far have been few, but if the hon. Member would like to give me some cases we will do our best to help in what we know is a genuine problem.

Mr. Lipton

In view of the tendency of the brewers to replace licensees by managers, are the Government taking any action in the near future on the Erroll Report on the whole question of tied houses? Is it not time that the whole tied house system was abolished?

Sir G. Nabarro

Certainly not.

Mr. Noble

Questions about the Committee chaired by Lord Erroll, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are for the Home Secretary.

Mr. Mason

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that on the tied house system the Monopolies Commission reported that it operated against the public interest, that it restricted competition, that it was detrimental to the efficiency of the trade, and that it should be ended? Have the Government any intention of acting on that?

Mr. Noble

According to my information, which may be wrong on this, the Monopolies Commission's only recommendation in its report on the supply of beer was for a substantial relaxation of the licensing laws.

Mr. Price

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I will seek to raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.