§ Mr. Skeet
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is considering amending the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956 to 1976 to give the Director of Fair Trading authority to proceed with an inquiry where he has grounds for believing that an unregistered agreement is being operated.
§ Mr. John Fraser
I have been asked to reply.
As I said on 16 January in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection intends to introduce at the earliest convenient opportunity an amendment to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976 to strengthen the powers of investigation of the Director General of Fair Trading. The object of the amendment would be to enable the Director General to require information where it appeared to him that there were grounds for believing that an unregistered agreement was being operated, and remove the requirement at present in the Act that the powers can be exercised only if "he has reasonable cause to believe" that an agreement exists. This change has been necessitated by a ruling of the Court of Appeal in 1969 which heavily circumscribed the Director General's scope for action. The proposal has been the subject of consultation with interested bodies, which have raised no objection.