Monopolies Commission

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th November 1954.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North 12:00 am, 9th November 1954

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will refer the activities of the British trawler owners to the Monopolies Commission.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

Will the Minister look at this question again? Is he aware that a good deal of concern has been expressed for some time about the action of the trawler owners, and that a number of allegations have been made? Would it not be the fairest course to everyone concerned to hold an inquiry so that the facts could be made known?

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

Will not the Minister have the whole question of these restrictions of imports referred to the White Fish Authority so as to obtain their advice on the matter? Was not the whole object of setting up the White Fish Authority to see that the whole industry was properly organised and to ensure that the workers in the industry and the consumers get a fair crack of the whip?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

Dealing, first, with the last supplementary question, the White Fish Authority referred to this question in its last annual report. Hon. Members may like to know that the trawler owners, at the request of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, are drafting proposals to replace their voluntary scheme of controls by a statutory scheme with proper safeguards. Any questions on that subject should be addressed to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Dealing, next, with the question asked by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), if he refers to anything arising out of the ban due to a dispute between Her Majesty's Government and a foreign Government, it would not be appropriate to refer the matter to the Monopolies Commission.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

On a point of order. Is not the Minister making a very grave error when he refers to this dispute as being between Her Majesty's Government and the Icelandic Government. Is it not a fact that the dispute is with the interests concerned in the industry here?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I could not answer that. It is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the delays involved in procedure under the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, he will introduce legislation making certain widely prevalent discriminatory and restrictive practices illegal.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

Does not the Minister agree that the procedure under the 1948 Act, whereby individual industries are picked out for investigation and a great many others are left untouched, is far from satisfactory and not at all effective? Can he say whether the general inquiry which is taking place is designed to assist the Minister in promoting new and more effective legislation or are we merely to have a further report?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

The hon. Member may recall that the Board of Trade has asked the Monopolies Commission to investigate and report on certain widely prevalent practices, including exclusive dealing and collective boycott. It would clearly be absurd to legislate on those matters in ignorance of what the Commission will report.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Can the Minister say how long it will be before the Commission is likely to report to the Board on that matter?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

There is a later Question on the Order Paper on that subject.

Photo of Mr Richard Thompson Mr Richard Thompson , Croydon West

Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider putting to the Commission the pronounced discrimination of the electors against the Liberal Party?

Photo of Wing Commander Edward Shackleton Wing Commander Edward Shackleton , Preston South

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now consider introducing legislation to amend the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, to bring control over the channels of distribution of news and information within the purview of the Monopolies Commission.

Photo of Wing Commander Edward Shackleton Wing Commander Edward Shackleton , Preston South

Does the Minister mean that the Monopolies Commission already has power to carry out powers under existing legislation, or does he mean that it has not that power and he is not prepared to carry out the recommendations of the Press Commission in this matter?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

The answer to that question depends on what the hon. Member means by "the channels of distribution." The existing Act would, if the conditions of the Act were satisfied, enable the Monopolies Commission to investigate the supply of goods of any description, and goods include newspapers.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham South

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Royal Commission on the Press was apprehensive about the development of Press monopolies in various ways; and is he conscious of the effect of the proposal that newspapers should take part, as programme contractors or participants in programme contractors, in commercial television? Is it not desirable that the Monopolies Commission should look into this development of monopoly permitted by Her Majesty's Government?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

What the Monopolies Commission can look into is determined by the statute, and that I have explained in answer to the previous supplementary question. If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about the influence of the recent Television Act, questions on that subject should be addressed to the Assistant Postmaster-General.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman realise that questions on that subject are extremely relevant to his responsibility in this connection, and would he look again at the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Press, which were accepted without a Division by both sides of the House; and if, as he says, the Monopolies Commission already has power to look into the situation there envisaged, will he ask it to look into this position?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

I said, "If the conditions set out in the Act were satisfied." If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence to put before me that these conditions are satisfied with regard to the industry described, I shall certainly be glad to consider it.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Lincoln

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he received the report of the Monopolies Commission on the London Building Conference.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

As I told the House on 7th July, my right hon. Friend received this report on 19th June, 1954.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Lincoln

Now that the Government have had all this time to consider it, can the Minister say when an order under the Monopolies Act is to be laid so that this racket may be ended; or is he defending these extensive restrictive practices on the part of big business?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

Any question on the action to be taken on this report is one for the Minister of Works.