Monopolies Commission

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1955.

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Photo of Mr Roger Cooke Mr Roger Cooke , Twickenham 12:00 am, 5th April 1955

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he is aware that the national newspapers practise a restriction on competition by price maintenance, as is instanced by their joint action in raising prices simultaneously on 7th May, 1951; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission;

(2) if he is aware of the activities of the Joint Committee of newspaper proprietors and newsagents in collectively refusing supplies of newspapers to newsagents who do not conform to their joint requirements and, in particular, refusing supplies to Co-operative societies and other wholesalers; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission;

(3) if he is aware that the newspaper industry generally practises resale price maintenance by preventing small retail customers obtaining newspapers at a discount; and if he will refer this matter to the Monopolies Commission under Section 15 of the 1948 Act.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

The Monopolies Commission's existing inquiry under Section 15 of the 1948 Act has a close bearing on these matters, and it is advisable to await its report.

Photo of Mr Roger Cooke Mr Roger Cooke , Twickenham

Does the Parliamentary Secretary consider that the simultaneous raising of prices, refusal of supplies to potential newsagents, and price fixing of newspapers at standard prices, can be described as a wicked price ring, Star Chamber, or a vicious system of price maintenance, as was eloquently condemned in the columns of the" Daily Express "?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

That is a matter of opinion.

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

Is the Parliamentary Secretary of the opinion that motor traders who live in glasshouses ought not to throw stones?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Bishop Auckland

May I ask why the President of the Board of Trade does not answer his own Questions, instead of leaving them to the Minister of State and the Parliamentary Secretary?

Photo of Mr Frank Bishop Mr Frank Bishop , Harrow Central

Is my hon. Friend aware that full particulars of these arrangements in the newspaper industry were furnished to the Monopolies Commission by the Newspapers Proprietors' Association a long time ago?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

I have little doubt that the Commission was given the assistance it required in its existing inquiry under Section 15 of the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act, 1948.

Photo of Mr George Darling Mr George Darling , Sheffield, Hillsborough

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the fact that, following on the report of the Monopolies Commission, the electric lamp manufacturers have given him an undertaking to revoke their trading ban on retailers who offer deferred dividends on sales, if he will seek similar undertakings from all other manufacturers and traders who resort to this ban, and whose activities thus come within the scope of the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act, 1948.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

The undertaking given to my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Supply followed the Report of the Monopolies Commission into the supply of electric lamps. The Commission is now considering the general effect of such practices on the public interest, and we await its report.

Photo of Mr George Darling Mr George Darling , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Is it necessary to wait for the report if the President of the Board of Trade can do a useful job of work without waiting for the report? Can he not approach manufacturers other than the electric lamp manufacturers who resort to this practice and ask them to behave themselves?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

No, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken about the effect of the Act. The Commission's recommendation on the supply of particular goods does not enable action to be taken on a similar practice applying to goods into which the Commission has not conducted an investigation. But the present examination which it is making under Section 15 of the Act may deal with the practice generally.

Photo of Mr William Williams Mr William Williams , Droylsden

Will not the Parliamentary Secretary seek from manufacturers some kind of assurance similar to that given by electric lamp manufacturers? When he gets those replies, could he not let the House know so that the House may know what kind of practices have been operated? There is no need to wait for the report of the Commission to do that.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich South

The hon. Gentleman cannot have understood my answer to his hon. Friend. It cannot be deduced, from the fact that the Commission has made a particular finding in any one inquiry, that it would necessarily think that the same applied in relation to the supply of different goods.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

On a point of order. May I ask why the President of the Board of Trade is not answering his own Questions? Has he already lost his job and gone to a different Department?

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

That has nothing to do with order or with me.