HC Deb 22 January 1980 vol 977 cc319-20


'(1) It shall be the duty of the Director to make to the Secretary of State within one year of the coming into force of this Act and thereafter in each year a report which shall include a report on the performance of his functions and which shall also include a description of those courses of conduct which he has under section 3 of this Act found to be, in his opinion, constituting anti-competitive practices and a description of those courses of conduct which he might be minded to investigate under the said section.'—[Mr. John Fraser.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. John Fraser

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This new clause provides for the Director General to publish an annual report and to give some indication of the matters that he is minded to investigate as anti-competitive practices. I do this briefly in the hope that I shall get some indication from the Government that they will meet the point, since they made a half-assurance in Committee. I think that at that point I can stop.

Mr. Tebbit

I should like to be as helpful as I can about this, although I am not sure that I am necessarily going to be able to be sufficiently helpful to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. We discussed this, of course, in Committee and, as we indicated then, there is no need to provide for an annual report on the Director General's activities under the Bill itself as he is already required by the Fair Trading Act to present an annual report on all his activities. But I appreciate that that is not the main point of the hon. Gentleman's concern, and we did undertake to consider further the principles underlying the new clause.

I do not believe that it would be helpful for the Director General to be required by statute to set out his policy towards various kinds of anti-competitive practices. This would put him under pressure to adopt a more rigid approach, which would be at variance with the flexibility that we feel he should have and that is at the heart of this legislation, but I can well understand the desire for some kind of guidance to be provided.

Indeed, with that end in view, my right hon. Friend has discussed this with the Director General of Fair Trading, who has assured us that he will do everything in his power to provide as much guidance as possible on anti-competitive practices. It should be possible for him to analyse in general terms the circumstances in which they may arise and the manner in which they affect the competition, based on the experience of investigations under the Bill, and indicate any particular practices that cause concern.

9 pm

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman might want us to be still more definite than that, but to go further would cause the Director General some difficulties. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman thinks about it he will be content to leave it that both he and I and the Director General are agreed that as much guidance as possible should be given but that the Director General would not want to be bound either by statute or too closely by any commitment on his part as to precisely the form in which he would indicate the activities that he hopes to indulge in in the coming year.

Mr. Fraser

I am sure that the Minister does not give that form of words lightly and that industry and the public generally will be able to rely on that promise of an indication.

On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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