I understand from the Registrar that he received some 700 applications from various firms and trade associations and that these relate to over 400 classes of goods.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that under existing procedures the hearing of such a large amount of exemption claims may well take several years? Would he not further agree that there is some evidence here of a conspiracy, by some manufacturers at least, to defeat the purposes of the Act? Will he consider methods by which the hearing of claims can be expedited?
I do not know about evidence of conspiracy, but my hon. Friend will be aware that the Registrar is able to group goods for the purpose of references to the Court. In fact, in the 12 references already made about 300 different classes of goods are involved and, if experience under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act is any guide, of every four or five references only one goes to a full hearing.
Has priority been given to those firms which specifically requested that their applications for hearing should be dealt with first in order that the matter should be clarified for their own industry?
No, because after the consideration that was given to the matter by my right hon. Friend it was concluded—I, and I am sure most people who are involved in this, think rightly—that it should be left to the Registrar to decide, and he has decided the order of references.