HC Deb 28 November 1977 vol 940 cc36-8W
Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what action is being taken to carry out the review of the legislation and institutions governing competition policy; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

The review stems from concern at the increasing concentration of ownership in British industry and the effect that this may be having on the economy, the disappointing results of many mergers and the Government's desire to ensure that competition policy makes its full contribution to improving industrial performance. The review will reflect the fact that competition policy and the industrial strategy are complementary, in that they share the same basic objective of increasing the efficiency of British industry.

We have decided to set up an interdepartmental group whose task will be to prepare a preliminary study for Ministers by the spring.

The group will carry out a survey of the existing evidence on the causes and consequences of concentration, the factors that encourage mergers and their results, the effects of monopolies, and the effectiveness of the present competition legislation. It will have regard to competition policy in other countries and especially the development of the EEC rules of competition. It will see what lessons can be drawn from the evidence and what further studies may be necessary. It will be giving special attention to the implications of United Kingdom membership of the EEC as well as the increasingly international structure of markets and the generally more competitive international trading environment in which our industry has to operate.

The group will concentrate initially on possible changes in mergers and monopoly policy and the way that this is applied in the legislation. It will also make a preliminary assessment of further aspects of competition policy, including restrictive trading practices, and possible changes

The information about the bodies for which I am responsible is detailed below:

Full-time* Part-time Salaried Fee Paid Unpaid
Advisory Committee on the Safety of Household Electrical Equipment 15 15
British Hallmarking Council 8 8
Consumer Protection Advisory Committee 15 15
Hearing Aid Council 12 12
Metrication Board 13 13
Monopolies and Mergers Commission 1 23 24
National Consumer Council 17† 17†
Scottish Consumer Council 12 1 11
Welsh Consumer Council 12 1 11
Office of Fair Trading 1 1
Price Commission 1 14 15
Tate and Lyle Customer Safeguards Committee║ 7 7
Nationalised Industries' Consumer Councils:—
Domestic Coal Consumers' Council 21 21
Electricity Consumer Council 13‡ 1 12‡
Eastern Electricity Consultative Council 27 1 26
East Midlands Electricity Consultative Council 20 1 19

in the institutions governing competition policy, notably fusion of the competition and prices policy institutions.