asked the President of the Board of Trade when he intends to publish the Monopolies Commission Report on the solus site system of retailing petrol and other commodities; what action he contemplates; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Jay
The Report was published this morning. It deals with the supply of petrol to retailers in the United Kingdom. The Monopolies Commission was asked to investigate the existence in this trade of monopoly "conditions", as defined in the monopolies legislation, and, if it found that such conditions prevailed, to investigate whether certain practices were followed as a result of, or for the purpose of preserving, those conditions, and, if so, whether the practices operated or might be expected to operate against the public interest.
The practices in question were:
- (i) the making of agreements under which exclusive dealing and other restrictions were accepted by retailers;
- (ii) the withholding of supplies of petrol from retailers;
- (iii) the acquisition or use of petrol stations.
The Commission found that there were monopoly "conditions" as defined in the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948. With regard to the specified practices, it found that:
- (a) most of the suppliers made agreements involving the acceptance of exclusive dealing and other restrictions by retailers either as a result of, or for the purpose of preserving, the conditions;
- (b) none of the suppliers withheld supplies of petrol from retailers either as a result of, or for the purpose of preserving, the conditions;
- (c) most of the suppliers acquired petrol stations for the purpose of preserving the conditions.
The Commission found that some of the features of the agreements made by petrol suppliers with retailers operated and might be expected to operate against the public interest. It also found that the acquisition of petrol stations by petrol 272W suppliers might be expected to operate against the public interest unless some limit was imposed. The Commission recommended certain safeguards against those features of the system which it considered to be harmful.
In the light of the Commission's thorough investigation and Report, I am satisfied that the solus system in the petrol trade as now operated is in some respects contrary to the public interest. I am now considering with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power what action should be taken to protect the public interest. We look to the fullest co-operation from the industry in following up the Commission's Report.