Clause 7. — (Provision for Reconsideration of Cases Decided by Court.)

Orders of the Day — Resale Prices Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th May 1964.

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Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton 12:00 am, 13th May 1964

I beg to move Amendment No. 41, in page 7, line 8, at the beginning to insert: The Restrictive Practices Court may upon application made in accordance with this section at any time after the expiration of the period mentioned in section 6(2) of this Act, make such an order as is described in section 5(1) of this Act in respect of goods of any class, being goods in respect of which no notice claiming registration was given under the said section 6 within that period.(2)". I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss, at the same time, Amendment No. 42 and Amendment No. 43.

Photo of Mr Edward Du Cann Mr Edward Du Cann , Taunton

Amendment No. 41 enables the Restrictive Practices Court to consider an application for the exemption of goods where notice has not been given to the Registrar of Restrictive Trading Agreements under Clause 6 within thre months of the commencement of Section 6. Amendment No. 43 sets out the circumstances in which the Court may consider a "late" application. It also deletes the requirement that the Court shall not review its decisions more often than once in two years.

The introduction of a procedure to enable the Court to consider "late" applications for an exemption order fulfils an undertaking which I gave in Committee. I do not know whether the House would wish me to go into greater detail. We had a very substantial discussion on the matter in Committee. If I am not presuming too much, I think that the House will think that this is an entirely appropriate way to deal with the matter. Amendment No. 42 results from an Amendment which was moved in Committee and which led us to look at the Clause again. A defect was brought to our notice and this Amendment remedies that defect.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

We are grateful to the Minister for his explanation. As I understand it, the position now is that an applicant may apply outside the period of three months from the beginning of the operation of the Measure and that, if he does so, the reference may be entertained, although the applicant requires leave in such a case and, in addition, must produce prima facie evidence to justify that one of the gateways apply. This seems to my right hon. and hon. Friends and to me to be an appropriate and reasonable way of dealing with the matter. It may be—this is a small point which needs mentioning—that as a consequence of this change the rubric, which reads, Provision for reconsideration of cases decided by Court", will need amending, because the Clause would appear to have a wider effect than that rubric suggests. We welcome the Amendment and if we had the privilege of indicating a lacuna which Amendment 42 is designed to fill, then we particularly welcome it.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State for meeting the real anxieties of many hon. Members in regard to what might happen in the case of entirely new lines of goods which may be introduced. He has gone a long way towards meeting these anxieties.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

I, too, add my thanks to my hon. Friend for moving the Amendment. However, there are two questions I would like answered. First, I was not entirely clear from his explanation that this provision will apply, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) indicated, to new lines of goods on which it was sought to introduce r.p.m. Remembering that these goods would be an innovation, as it were, how far would they be affected by the Clause in its amended form?

I got the impression that my hon. Friend was envisaging the sort of case in which someone had overlooked the fact that someone or something should have complied with the Clause, but had not. I got the impression that a person who had not complied in such circumstances would have his case overlooked if he could show that good reasons existed why he should not comply.

My second question follows from what I have said on seevral occasions: that people should not be continuously placed in jeopardy. I am delighted to learn, if this is to be the practice, that people will not be placed in jeopardy for at least two years. Does the amended Clause mean that in the absence of a change in material circumstances a person will not be placed in jeopardy? In other words, a person, firm or type of goods will remain free of investigation for at least two years? If so, will this apply to all goods and will this period of two years apply irrespective of a change in circumstances, or will such a change be taken into account?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) for their remarks about the Amendments. The hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill is right in referring to the rubric. That will be adapted to suit the Clause as amended.

In answer to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), the Amendment will apply to all goods. It means that there will be an opportunity to bring a matter before the Court in the terms of the Amendment. That will give an opportunity to manufacturers who are prepared to see r.p.m. abandoned and then to see the effects of doing that. It will enable them to come back to the Court it they wish. This is a valuable part of the Clause.

This means that we are now relying on the material change of circumstance. We think that that is a substantial safeguard in dealing with this matter. I appreciate that some people have expressed doubts about the approach of the Registrar to this issue, but there is an additional safeguard here. There is the possibility that he will have to pay the costs, for the costs could fall on him. This is an additional safeguard to the material change of circumstance coming before the Court. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will accept that we are using the material change of circumstances as being the main factor governing those circumstances. This is a rational approach.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

I appreciate what my right hon. Friend is saying, but suppose the Registrar himself felt secure in the knowledge that there was a change of circumstance within the two-year period. Could he, for the class or description of goods brought forward, take action within the two years? In other words, will he be able to do anything within this period or will the period be regarded as a sort of golden one during which nothing will happen?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

He could, if the Court agreed that there was a material change of circumstances. In such circumstances it could come before the Court again.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 7, line 15, at end insert: or has previously discharged such an order".

In line 20, leave out from "section" to end of line 27 and insert: except with the leave of the Court; and such leave shall not be granted—

  1. (a) in the case of an application under subsection (1) of this section, except upon prima facie evidence of facts upon which an order could be made in accordance with section 5(2) of this Act in respect of the goods in question, or could be so made if any detriment to the public resulting from the maintenance of minimum resale prices were disregarded;
  2. (b) in the case of an application under subsection (2) of this section, except upon prima facie evidence of a material change in the relevant circumstances since the last decision of the Court in respect of the goods in question under the said section 5 or subsection (1) or (2) of this section".—[Mr. Heath.]

In line 28, after "5(2)" insert "and (2A)".—[Mr. du Cann.]