HC Deb 28 January 1987 vol 109 cc333-4
11. Mr. Greg Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he hopes to complete his review of Her Majesty's Government's merger and competition policy.

Mr. Channon

My Department is still receiving evidence, and it will be some time before the review is completed.

Mr. Knight

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proper way to proceed in this matter is to take account of all the representations that are received before reaching any conclusions and not to make snap judgments merely to satisfy the bleating Opposition? However, does he accept that there is a need for clear and unequivocal guidelines so that companies know where they stand and are not subject to decisions made at random or on an unpredictable basis?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend's latter point is entirely right. Recently, I met representatives of the CBI to discuss the matter and they urged on me the need for as much predictability as possible and for consistency in the application of policy. I am determined to achieve that. I also agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. On these very important issues, it is essential to take considered decisions and not to be rushed into action.

Mr. Eastham

May I impress upon the Minister the great urgency for reconsideration of monopolies and mergers policy? I draw to his attention the activities of a company in the north-west called Valuedale which are causing great concern to the Simon Engineering Organisation and a great deal of loss of confidence, which will affect its investment policies for the future. Is it not about time that successful companies should not have to suffer the pressures that they encounter with the parasites that have climbed on to their backs?

Mr. Channon

I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern about this case. It is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) and others. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make his point of view well known in his part of the world. I am sure that those responsible for deciding—the shareholders—will take very much into account what he has said. It is for the shareholders to decide. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will do what he can to influence them.

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that competition in retail and marketing benefits consumers by lower shop prices? Therefore, in his review, will he exercise great care when he receives complaints about dumping from manufacturers and retailers who are less efficient than most?

Mr. Channon

I do not think that this issue has much to do with dumping, but I shall certainly examine the point that my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Is the Secretary of State aware that widespread dissatisfaction and uncertainty over the Government's monopolies and mergers policy are caused partly as a result of recent events, but also because of the general history of the monopolies and mergers policy? Therefore, will he bring forward the results of his review as quickly as possible?

Mr. Channon

I do not accept that there is all that much uncertainty. The decisions have been consistent. In 1984 my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State announced that references would be made primarily on the ground of competition. That has remained the policy, and it is well understood.