§ Mr. Prior
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has now concluded discussions with fertiliser manufacturers on the matters raised by the Report of the Monopolies Commission on the Supply of Chemical Fertilisers; and if he will make a statement.177W
§ Mr. Erroll
Yes. The Monopolies Commission recommended that Fisons Ltd., should adjust its pricing policy to yield a lower level of profit than that earned in the years investigated; the firm immediately accepted this criticism and announced that its prices had already been reduced. The Commission did not criticise the profits being earned by Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. and made no recommendations about that company. Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. has subsequently given the Board of Trade access to its books as a result of which I am satisfied that its profits since have not been unreasonably high. There has in fact been a marked increase in competition within the fertiliser industry since it was investigated by the Monopolies Commission.
However, since farmers are paid a substantial subsidy on the chemical fertilisers they use I have sought and obtained from these two companies assurances that they will not seek unreasonable profits from the materials for which they were found by the Monopolies Commission to be monopoly suppliers, and the two companies have agreed to afford to accountants appointed by me facilities to verify regularly that these assurances are being observed.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been closely associated with my Department in the discussions with the two companies.
In view of these assurances I am satisfied that the profits which will be earned by Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. and Fisons Ltd. from chemical fertilisers will not be unreasonably high, having regard to the average rate of return on capital earned in manufacturing industry generally.