HC Deb 19 November 1973 vol 864 cc922-3
5. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many take-overs and mergers were referred to the Monopolies Commission in 1971 and 1972; and how many have been referred so far in 1973.

Sir G. Howe

Apart from proposals for newspaper mergers, one proposed merger was referred in 1971, three in 1972 and seven so far in 1973.

Mr. Mitchell

Is it the Government's intention to make increasing use of the Monopolies Commission, or what exactly is the Government's intention?

Sir G. Howe

If the hon. Gentleman cares to read the article published some weeks ago in Trade and Industry he will see the Government's intentions set out at great length. The aim of our policy is to single out for reference that minority of cases of real economic importance which raise questions of significant public interest.

Mr. Skeet

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his statement in Trade and Industry of 1st November 1973. Will he consider revising and bringing up-to-date the 1969 mergers handbook? Can he confirm that less than 1 per cent. of the total number of mergers are referred to the Monopolies Commission and that only 13 per cent. are specifically considered?

Sir G. Howe

The figures for proportions and actual references are set out in the article to which my hon. Friend referred, and again it is made plain in that article that we shall be working towards a revision of the 1969 handbook.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the glass container industry cannot meet the demands of the milk suppliers and that housewives are going short of milk because milk suppliers cannot get bottles? Earlier this year, because of the financial machinations of Slater Walker, the Rock-ware factory in my constituency had to close. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that that ought to be referred to the Monopolies Commission because it could have met the requirements and provided the milk bottles?

Sir G. Howe

I shall try to work out at leisure, when I have had an opportunity of reading what the hon. Gentleman said, the connection between the premise of his question and the conclusion.