HL Deb 03 December 1970 vol 313 cc751-68

8.27 p.m.

THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN) rose to move, that the Restriction on Agreements (Estate Agents) Order 1970 laid before the House on November 18 be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, I should like to start with an apology for the comparative shortness of notice that has been given to the House that we should be taking this Order this evening. The Motion was tabled last Tuesday, on December 1, and this means that most noble Lords would not have seen it on the Order Paper until this morning. Technically this was adequate notice, but I am well aware that in practice it only amounts to short notice.

One reason for this is that the Order in question is what is known as a 28-day Order—that is to say, one which is made on a certain date, laid before Parliament on another date, comes into operation maybe on yet another date—in this instance, on November 20, so the Order is already operative, but lapses unless it is approved by both Houses within 28 days of the date of making. Since the Order was made on November 10, the 28-day period expires on Monday, December 7, a day on which the House is not sitting. Therefore, the last day on which we can take this Order is to-day. The position is further complicated by the fact that, although the Order was laid before your Lordships' House as long ago as November 18, Private Bills Standing Order No. 261 makes it impossible to take a Motion about an Order until the Standing Orders Committee of your Lordships' House have reported on that Order. As your Lordships will be aware, the Standing Orders Committee did not meet to consider the Order until Thursday, November 26, and the Report from that Committee was not published I believe until Friday, November 27. In the event, the Committee have not made any report of substance upon the Order. They have not commented upon it. Nevertheless, I wish to apologise to the House both for the shortness of notice and for having to take this Order at this late hour.

This Order renders unlawful collective agreements which give rise to the practice of charging fees at standard rates in connection with the sale and purchase of unfurnished houses. The Order came into force on November 20. Where such arrangements were in operation at that date they must be brought to an end before June 30, 1971. The Order is made under Section 3 of the Monopolies and Mergers Act 1965. It gives effect to the recommendation of the Monopolies Commission, with one dissentient, in their Report on the Supply of Certain Services by Estate Agents (published in February, 1969) that such arrangements operated against the public interest and should be discontinued; that is, the services which have been provided by persons acting as estate agents in connection with the acquisition and disposal of unfurnished dwellings.

In reaching this conclusion the Commission said that the arguments advanced for charging estate agents fees at standard rates appeared to carry no more weight than those in the past advanced for avoiding price competition in the supply of goods. The disadvantages were very similar. The Commission considered that the charging of fees at standard rates meant that at least in some cases fees were likely to be higher than they otherwise would be; that resources were likely to be wasted; that the incentive to introduce or experiment with new methods was likely to be reduced; and that the customer was denied the option of a lower price if he did not want the full service which went with the standard price.

The Commission's recommendations have been the subject of very full discussion since the Report was published between the agents' national societies and the previous and the present Government. The national societies made it clear that at every stage they wholly disagreed with the Commission's judgment of their practices and they repeated the detailed arguments which they had put to the Commission to support their case.

These arguments, I need hardly say, have been given most careful consideration but the Government have reached the conclusion (as did the previous Government) that the judgment of the majority of the Monopolies Commission was fundamentally the right one and that the Government, subject to the approval of Parliament must act upon it.

The Government have also given careful thought to the form which this action should take. The national societies have always argued that the existing scales already had no binding force and at most were merely recommended to estate agents (though the vast majority chose to follow them closely). As an alternative to an Order the societies offered to make it clear to their members that the standard scales of fees had no mandatory significance and would remain in existence solely for the guidance of their members and the public. We acknowledge the spirit in which the offer of voluntary undertakings was made, but we have reached the view that this would not be sufficient to give effect to the Commission's recommendations or to bring about reasonably quickly a real change in the direction of greater competition on the basis of fees between estate agents. Besides the national societies whose members would be covered by any voluntary undertakings, there are very many local associations of estate agents and groupings of estate agents which fall outside any associations. However satisfactory a method of voluntary action could have been agreed with the national societies, we did not think it reasonable to expect that it could be applied over the whole field in a way that would be really effective. In these circumstances, we see no alternative to proceeding by way of the present Order.

The Order has been so drafted as to be directed principally at those practices of estate agents which most directly limit competition. The collective arrangements it renders unlawful include those—whether or not constituted by the rules of associations—which place restrictions on the charges individual agents may make or on the terms and conditions on which they supply their services. This is analogous to action that under the restrictive practices legislation could be taken against collective price fixing agreements. The Order also prohibits collective restrictions on the extent to which estate agents are free to advertise their charges since competition in fees cannot work if estate agents are not free to let the public generally know what different fees or different services they are offering. Here, however, we have in response to representations from the estate agents excluded from the effect of the Order restrictions on clearly undesirable forms of seeking business—what I believe is sometimes described as "coffin chasing"; that is the harrying by telephone calls and personal visits of potential clients. Finally, the Order prohibits arrangements which involve the recommending of the charges to be made by estate agents. This deals most directly with the standard fee scales recommended by the national societies.

I think I should add that the Order specifically excludes arrangements relating to the fees charged where estate agents negotiate with public authorities on compulsory purchase prices—a quite different kind of activity from the bodies otherwise dealt with by the Order and the Commission's Report.

A period of grace is given for the termination of existing agreements and arrangements which otherwise would be in conflict with the Order—until the end of June next year. This is because some associations will need the time to bring about in accordance with their procedures the necessary changes in their rules and by-laws—particularly where the associations have been set up by Order.

I repeat that the Order is aimed at collective arrangements by estate agents. It will not force any individual estate agent to alter his level of charges or to charge on a different basis, but it will enable an agent who wishes to change the level or basis of his charges to do so without any fear that this action would be in conflict with the obligations he has accepted to his association. Over a period we believe that the Order will lead to a greater degree of innovation in estate agency, to a wider choice for clients and the other benefits which normally flow from competition. It will tend to assist the efficient and progressive firms to reduce charges or provide a better overall service and it may bring about changes in the structure of estate agency in so far as the less efficient or less active firms fail to respond to clients' special needs.

The Government are committed to a vigorous policy of promoting competition in those sectors of the economy in which it is not at present fully effective. We shall soon be announcing our proposals for the improvement of the machinery for this purpose and the action we are now taking is in harmony with our view that competition generally is the best means of promoting consumer welfare and the efficient allocation of resources. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Restriction on Agreements (Estate Agents) Order 1970 laid before the House on November 18, be approved.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

8.37 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, it is indeed unsatisfactory that the House should be confronted with so complicated an Order at such very short notice. It is a most important matter, and we feel real dissatisfaction at this short notice. Nevertheless, the noble Lord has made a handsome apology in respect of it, and of course we on this side accept that apology, though I think it is true to say that noble Lords in all parts of the House would have had to run very fast to have caught up with his particular coffin, if they were to make a detailed examination of the Order as we have received it now.

As I say, it is extremely important and very complicated. We are grateful to the noble Lord for his clear explanation of so difficult a subject. We on this side of the House are familiar with, if I may put it this way, its shape and spirit. At this late hour, probably the best thing to do from our side is to give the Order our blessing and approval, but in regard to the last sentence of the noble Lord's introduction I would say that we could not agree with either its shape or its spirit.

8.39 p.m.


My Lords, I also entirely accept the difficulty the noble Lord has had in having to put this upon us at such short notice. I think it caught us all rather by surprise. This is a great pity, because it is an extremely important and much more controversial subject than possibly the noble Baroness indicated. A great many Members on this side of the House, and on the noble Bareness's side of the House, are seriously worried as to whether the Monopolies Commission have come to the right decision. That is why it is such a pity that we have to debate this Order at this late hour and in such a very thin House, without the weight of the distinguished people in the profession who could have influenced your Lordships.

May I remind you that this Report was not unanimous: it was a Minority Report. There are misgivings among a great many people about the way in which the Monopolies Commission collect their evidence. The noble Lord pointed out that very full discussions on this matter have taken place between the Board of Trade and its successors and the professional bodies, but those discussions have mostly been about the methods of how this should be implemented rather than about the basic premises on which the Monopolies Commission based their Report. I wonder whether the present Government are really satisfied that this evidence was properly substantiated: because I am not. I am surprised that the Government have not had second thoughts about this Order. The noble Lord referred to competition. It seems to me that he is on the wrong tack; this is entirely the wrong approach to the matter. My impression is that the Commission have misunderstood an important difference between the supply of goods and the providing of services in the way that these two things should be looked at in relation to what might be a restrictive practice.

In the provision of professional services, as opposed to the supply of goods, restriction is in some measure the essence of it. If you offer professional services you must be qualified to perform them. You must have the highest standards (possibly even higher standards than with regard to the supply of goods, though I would not necessarily say that was so) and there must be some restriction of entry. There has to be experience and knowledge which you will not get without restriction of entry. This whole concept of what a restrictive practice is with regard to the supply and to the provision of services has implications with other professions. I am sorry that all the noble, extremely learned and articulate Lords who were here this afternoon are not here now, because if they do not watch out they will find their own profession at risk in this particular sphere.

The Commission have not recognised this. It was not for want of telling them—they were told over and over again. The point was put to them as forcibly as it could be, and they have not accepted it. I should have thought that this was self-evident, and I am amazed at their attitude. I know that the selling of houses is a mixture between these two propositions, the supply of goods and the provision of services. It is possibly much more commercial than professional. Nevertheless, it has a considerable professional element about it. If you do not recognise this you are going to damage that element of professional interest and you are going to end up by removing an aspect of professional advice which the public needs—and they probably need it in this sphere more than in any other one.

House purchase is the biggest single financial transaction in most people's lives; the type of transaction which most families probably go through about three times in the course of their lives. The public in this particular capacity are not only buyers of goods, professional advice and services, they are also sellers. If you damage them in their capacity as sellers, you are damaging them in that part of their material possessions which is the biggest commodity they own. I hope noble Lords will consider this point very seriously. It is not the same as being only a buyer of some lesser commodity. If you treat the house purchaser on the same footing as the buyer of a lesser commodity, and you remove that professional clement, you are going to damage the public in that aspect of their life.

This Order will prejudice the standards of professional behaviour and, therefore, prejudice the kind of advice which the public has the right to expect. The existing scales of fees are only guidelines; there is nothing obligatory about them, and there are no hidden persuaders, so far as I am aware. I am a member of the profession, but I have never practised. There are no hidden persuaders within the profession to try to make the fee scale obligatory. A recommended scale of fees is helpful to all parties: buyers, sellers and the professional people.

I take the noble Lord's point that voluntary undertakings are not enough, because there are too many associations outside the profession. Even so, there are certain statutory obligations that can be enforced in this matter which are a great deal stronger than voluntary ones. In the short term you may think that it will produce a reduction in the fees of estate agents. What it will do is to encourage the bucket-shop operator, the unqualified man, the man who is financially unsound, who is offering this type of cut-price agency—I do not say "cut prices"; I say, "cut-price agency". It means asking him to offer professional advice on the cheap, and that has never been very successful. We know from past experience that it damages the people who use the services.

The Consumer Council made certain recommendations, mostly with regard to financial bonds to cover liabilities, and the use of separate banking accounts for clients, which is much more useful than the mere cutting out of scale fees. One has only to look at what has been happening in the insurance world in the past year or two to see how easy it is to get into the hands of the bucket-shop operator. In the long term I am not at all sure that scale fees do not have a damping effect upon rapidly rising prices. It is more difficult to increase a scale fee than to increase a fee which is not a scale fee, or is not any kind of fixed fee. May I remind your Lordships that the existing scale charges are the lowest in the world? I was surprised when I discovered this. I was not surprised when I was told that they do not yield exactly a "killing", and the Monopolies Commission accepted that point.

I should have liked to speak at much greater length but I promised through the usual channels that at this late hour I would neither attempt to divide the House nor speak at very great length; nor, indeed, do anything which might prejudice the Order. I know that the Order is in jeopardy; if we were, somehow or other, to produce a quorum, the Government would be in difficulties, because I understand that it may be impossible for them to lay such an Order again. But I do not think that that would be the right way to set about it. It is much more suitable that the Government should have another think about this matter on the lines of what I have said, to see whether they cannot withdraw it. Perhaps they could deal with the matter along the lines suggested by the Consumer Council. What is now proposed will not diminish some of the difficulties and wickednesses of the bad estate agent; it will probably increase those problems. I do not think that the Order, in the last resort, is in the best interests of the public, and I hope that the Government will have another think on this matter.

8.49 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to declare my interest at the outset, as did the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I am a working member of the Chartered Surveyors. In taking up the last point of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I would say that he is not correct in saying that the Government will be embarrassed if the Order were not moved to-day. So far as I am advised, they could re-lay the Order. I am sure, however, that the House was grateful to my friend for explaining and defending the introduction of the Order at such short notice. My noble friend, being an experienced politician, will appreciate better than perhaps any other noble Lord present that, however appealing his reasons may appear, it somewhat strains his most ardent supporters to receive these Orders at 24 hours' notice.

Mention has been made of the hour. I would also mention, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has, that this Order is very controversial. It is not only a complicated Order; it is in fact a very controversial Order. As my noble friend has explained, it springs from the Monopolies Commission's Report of February, 1970. Anyone examining that Report will, I am sure, be in complete agreement on its main objective: to examine the estate agency profession and to recommend ways, if any, of encouraging a good service at the lowest cost possible in the best interests of the public.

It is the conclusions and the recommendations of the Commission which have caused such bitter controversy among all the professional bodies and among quite a number of people outside those bodies. The controversy is on the ground of what the Report recommended, and of course this Order implements the Report. The controversy stands on the view, and the strong view, that both the short-term and the long-term interests of the public are not fortified by the Order. The clear issue at stake is whether or not the professional bodies should offer and publish guidelines, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, suggests, on fees for sale of houses passed by estate agents. Those guidelines, as we now have them, have in fact been published since 1912. Indeed, since 1922 the scales that have been published have never been increased, despite, I am told, great pressure from fellow members of my profession.

What has angered the professional bodies more than anything else is that the Report made two fundamentally wrong assumptions on which the Commission apparently based their recommendations. The first, and a simple one, is the assumption that estate agency is a business akin to a sweet shop and that it is in the public interest to be able, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, to shop around among estate agents and seek the best terms for fees, irrespective of the advice. This assumption is, I submit, a dangerous one and could cause great hardship to the public in general in the future. The reason, I suggest, is that whereas there are a number of cases where by simple comparison of values certain houses in streets and towns are known by comparison values, there are a great many cases where opportunities of development exist within the premises of a house and where only an experienced estate agent could advise a client responsibly.

I believe that, in a curious way, an estate agent is a very remarkable fellow. He is meant to have knowledge of the law of landlord and tenant; of the law of planning, of the law of compensation, of the law of the Rent Acts and of the law of contract, and, on top of that, a knowledge of building construction. It is a very wide area. The essence of it all, which I support, is that the estate agency profession must keep a reasonable standard of advice. Indeed, when the noble Lord comes to reply, if he does so. I should like him to say whether it is the Government's intention at some time in the future to register estate agents and to seek that all estate agents shall have a bond against defalcation of deposits. The case against shopping around for cut-price fees is that clearly the standard of service is bound to deteriorate, and many innocent people could well lose a great deal of their capital through bad service.

The second fundamentally mistaken assumption in the Report was that the scale fees published as a guidance by the professional bodies were somehow termed mandatory. I quote from the Report of the Commission, paragraph 257: We are not impressed by any of the arguments advanced by the Estate Agents' Committee in favour of the estate agent fee continuing to be charged at standard rates. It is wholly wrong, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, to assume that these scales are mandatory. Any member of the public to-day is perfectly entitled and is at liberty to agree with an estate agent any fee he likes over the sale of a house. It is, however, frowned upon heavily—and this is an important point—by the professional bodies for a qualified firm to agree a fee way above the scale of charges unless that firm can prove it has done exceptional work. That, I believe, is the safeguard that the public will be losing.

What is the likely effect of preventing the professional bodies from publishing these guidelines on scale charges in future? The Report, in a curious way, in paragraph 251, makes a very vague statement as to the likely effects the Commission consider will occur. They say here: As we have said, we do not think the removal of the present restrictions would cause widespread competitive reduction of fees. There would, however, be some flexibility and consumers could be given more choice. It is a very odd argument to say that, and perhaps the noble Lord, if he understands it, will explain it to some extent when he comes to reply. The professional bodies are a great deal more forthcoming. They say quite clearly in the brief they have sent round to a number of your Lordships that, in their opinion, the fees will undoubtedly go up, and the reason for this, as Lord Henley suggested, is that the present scale of fees in Britain is well below the scales on the Continent; secondly, firms have been pressing the professional bodies for an increase in fees, and will now be allowed to charge additional fees without any control from their professional body. If professional bodies are right in this, it is surely not in the public interest to abolish this limited control over the members of these professions.

The final insult in the Report so far as the professional bodies were concerned was the reason given to remedy the present mischief. The present mischief which so offended the Commission in their Report referred to the provisions under the 1948 Act. If at least one-third of all the country's estate agencies practising could be shown to be charging the standard rates, and if competition was thereby restricted, this was construed as a mischief, When one examines the statistics published in the Commission's Report they are seen to be very astonishing figures. One must remember that these figures were apparently the principal and cardinal reason for the decision of the Commission. Of the 10,000 offices which apparently operate throughout the country practising estate agency, the Commission took it upon themselves to investigate 454 cases—that is, less than 0.5 per cent. It is, I believe, this staggering lack of evidence, coupled with the minority view of Mr. Roche which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that leads one to suspect the value of this Report.

My Lords, the final point to which I wish to draw the attention of my noble friend is the almost total lack of positive consultation which the professional bodies claim took place. Whatever accusations may be levelled at professional bodies as to their restrictive practices—and, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has mentioned, this applies equally to our legal friends—there is little doubt (and I think the Report reinforces this) that the present standard of conduct which the professional bodies have sought to keep is a safeguard to the public. The professional bodies maintain loose but effective control over their membership and all, of course, to the good of the public. With this Order passing into law, this control and the safeguard will be gone.

Despite pleadings by the professional bodies to proceed on a voluntary basis in the interest of the public good and so keep some control over their members, the Government have taken the view that control would not work. I do not agree with this view personally, despite what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and I am sure that time will show the folly of this course.

9.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, for the way in which she has received the Order.


My Lords, it is nice that it is only the Opposition which congratulates the Government on the Order. We did not do so.


My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has said, and I shall come to his points later. I was going to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, that what strikes me as odd is that she objects to what seemed to us to be the major reason why this Report should be accepted; namely, that there was need for competition in prices in this sphere.


My Lords, it was really within the context of the general view of the Government on that question that I objected.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness accepts it in this context, it is difficult to see why she cannot accept it in other contexts, but perhaps we might leave that point for the time being. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, that of course we here recognise the professional status of estate agents. We recognise the important job that they have to do and the important job of giving advice in what, as the national societies themselves have said, is the major transaction that many people perform in their lives. They may do it two or three times, but they are in effect major transactions. Certainly we have no intention whatsoever that the high standards which the national societies seek to impose upon their members, or to get their members to agree to, should in any way be diminished.

I am sure that the Monopolies Commission would not have recommended the course that they have if they thought that this would tend to diminish that adherence to their codes and their professional standards. For myself, I do not see that the course suggested will do so. I find it somewhat difficult to follow my noble friend in this, because the Monopolies Commission go out of their way to recognise, for example, that the majority of offices did from time to time depart from these scales in some or all of the cases listed—and that is referred to in paragraph 77. In other words, there is not a 100 per cent. following up of the scales, but it seems that the scales are carried out in far and away the majority of cases and in some 90 per cent. of transactions.


My Lords, does the noble Lord have actual proof of the statistics and the figure of 90 per cent.? Because this was one of the areas which came up and was a cause of the aggrieved feelings of the professional bodies.


My Lords, the Monopolies Commission cannot be regarded as being entirely inept at collecting statistics, and I understand that this is the figure they have given. If the noble Earl has figures he can give which will show that this is not so, we shall be glad to consider them. The point is that what the Commission really set out to do is to ensure that it is left open to the clients in general to go to those estate agents who can offer them the best service at the best terms. At the moment, this plainly is not the case, because the practice as a whole is to maintain charges.

In paragraph 242 of their Report the Monopolies Commission say this: As regards the method of charging, we have no ground for suggesting that the present method is inherently objectionable or that any other of the methods which have been discussed, such as the quantum meruit charges, or charges of a fixed sum per sale would in general be preferable. We think it likely that the great majority of agents would continue to apply the familiar method of charging if standard rates were no longer recommended or enforced, but the way would be freed for experimentation with other methods which might prove to be more appropriate in particular circumstances. My noble friend says, "Oh but this is a long-tried system. The guidelines have been there since 1912, and there has been no increase in the rate of the scale of charges since 1922". If I may say so, it is a little dangerous to put it that way because as the scale of charges is primarily a percentage charge quite naturally there has been a steady increase in the actual income, although not in the ratio of the charges to the price that is obtained for the house. This very fact, surely, is one reason why it may be a good idea to open the windows to see whether, after all these years, there may not be some other way of doing it. This Order does nothing else than that. It merely says that there must not be a general agreement, or an agreement between particular estate agents in certain sections, to apply certain scales of charges. The purpose of that is simply to enable experimentation to take place; and we hope that it will. No one can possibly foresee exactly what the outcome will be, as indeed the Commission have themselves recognised, and I should have thought it was right, in this day and age, with so many changes and experiments going on, to allow for some departure from practices that have existed for such a long time.

If I may say so, with the greatest respect to the national societies, I thought the way they put forward their case was extremely lucid, and it was very ably done; but I feel that they are overestimating the dangers they foresee. They foresee that prices will go up. But surely, with the effect of competition, the tendency should be to keep charges down, through the force of competition. There may even be cases where it is right that charges should go up for specific services. This may lead to a change in the structure of the charges. This may be a good thing, but we cannot tell that. This is a matter for the market to settle, and I should have thought this was entirely in line with the thinking of the Party to which my noble friend and I belong. So I hope that on reflection he will reconsider this.

I am asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, to ask the Government to reconsider the Order as a whole. I do not feel able to say that I would recommend the Government to withdraw this Order. In any case, it would certainly not be very well looked at by another place if I were to withdraw this Order this evening, when they are going to discuss it on Monday. So I do not think he seriously meant that. If he is asking whether we shall watch the situation very closely, I can say certainly, Yes. But it is the case that nobody expects any sudden or violent changes as a result of this Order. What it does mean is that the windows are open to competition and experimentation.

It may be true that the scale is the lowest in the world. But this is a matter that is equally difficult to substantiate; it is very difficult to make comparisons on an international scale. But that does not mean that the ordinary laws of competition ought not to apply. I could not possibly go into the details of evidence at this stage, and of course I do accept that this was a decision that was not unanimous—although I think it was a seven to one decision. As for the noble Lord's comments about the misgivings felt as to the way the Monopolies Commission collect their evidence, I can only say that I note the point, but I do not think at this stage, unless other evidence is submitted to demolish these figures, they ought to be challenged. I hope I have said enough here, while I appreciate fully my noble friend's divided loyalties in this matter in supporting his own professional association and at the same time finding that that loyalty is in conflict with support of the Conservative Party—


My Lords, if I may interrupt, my loyalties are not divided at all. What I should like to ask my noble friend, because I think it is fundamental, is: does he say that the market forces should react also on doctors, architects, barristers, solicitors? How far is he taking his market argument?


My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, this was the first reference that was made to the Monopolies Commission in the area of professional services. What further references will be made I cannot foretell. But he will be aware that the Monopolies Commission have recently presented a more general report, and this is at the present time being examined. But I would say to the noble Lord that, other things being equal, the same principles apply everywhere.


My Lords, the point I wanted to make is that I am not asking about the Monopolies Commission; I am asking specifically about my Party and the Government.


My Lords, in that case I am afraid that I do not quite get the point. All I can do is to repeat that, so far as the Government are concerned, the same principles in equal circumstances apply everywhere. I hope that I have said enough to convince those noble Lords who have spoken against our making this Order that this is a reasonable thing to do. They may not like it. There are many people, I agree, who do not like it; but I think that in the circumstances it is a reasonable thing to do, and I hope that I may be allowed to get this Order this evening.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I just say that, although we on this side of the House approve of the Order, I could not associate myself with the noble Lord's remarks about the rest of the Monopolies Commission and the professions, and so on.


My Lords, I am not quite clear what the noble Baroness means by that. It was under her own Government that the general reference to the Monopolies Commission was made, and it is that which is now being examined. I quite understand that she must reserve her position. I did not for an instant mean to say that this would apply in every case, because, as the Report itself makes clear, in different cases different considerations may apply.


Yes. I thank the noble Lord.