Clause 6. — (General Provisions About Mergers.)

Orders of the Day — Monopolies and Mergers Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd August 1965.

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Lords Amendment No. 2: In page 10, line 47, at end insert: ( ) The Board of Trade may by order made by statutory instrument provide that the value mentioned in subsection (1)(b)(ii) above shall be varied, or, if a previous order has been made under this subsection, further varied, by such amount as may be specified in the order, but, where an order under this subsection is made after the reference of a matter to the Commission, then, in the case of that reference, in determining under subsection (2) above whether subsection (1)(b) above is satisfied, the variation made by the order shall be disregarded.A statutory instrument containing an order under this subsection shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment, which follows one moved in another place by the Opposition, relates to the £5 million criterion for the size of assets test for the reference of a merger to the Monopolies Commission. What we now propose is that the Board of Trade should have power to amend the figure of £5 million either upwards or downwards. I think that it would be advantageous to have some flexibility. It was suggested by the Opposition in another place that it should be variable only upwards. After some discussion, my noble Friend in another place moved this Amendment, which was accepted by the Opposition.

We never argued that there was anything absolutely sacrosanct about the £5 million test. It seemed to us that if we had to have some test this was probably the most appropriate figure. But we would certainly agree that after experience and in the light of the further working of the Act it might conceivably be desirable, with the consent of this House, of course, to alter the figure either upwards or downwards, and that is what we now propose.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that we had a great deal of discussion about this in Committee and on Report and that the general feeling, probably on both sides, was that £5 million was a rather low figure in modern conditions and that it should be higher. I am a little surprised that the Government have decided to take powers to move the figure up or down but nevertheless I am certain that they will use it in the way in which we think they will do so and we welcome the Amendment.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

The President of the Board of Trade said that this would be left to the House. What procedure will be used for amending the figure?

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

It will be by negative Order of both Houses.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment No. 3: In page 11, line 15, leave out "and".

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

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Since this Amendment is a paving Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 4, perhaps it would be convenient to consider them both together.

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

This Amendment was also moved by the Opposition in another place, and is one which we are pleased to accept. It is a relatively small matter, but it might turn out to have some importance. Amendment No. 4 would give the Board of Trade discretion whether or not to lay before Parliament and, therefore, the public a merger report where the Monopolies Commission's findings show that the legal tests for reference were not satisfied. The Government find the Amendment reasonable and helpful and are happy to commend it.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment No. 5: In page 11, line 33, leave out "six months" and insert "period so specified".

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

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment is necessary to make a correction in the Bill following the acceptance of Opposition Amendments on Report in this House. During the Report stage, we accepted Opposition Amendments which had the effect of providing that the period during which the Commission must report on a merger inquiry was to be such a period, not exceeding six months, as the Board of Trade specified in the reference to the Commission. Previously the initial period provided by the Board of Trade was six months. The Amendments were incomplete because the reference to six months in line 33 should have been correspondingly changed. We now take this opportunity to agree to the Lords Amendment and make the change.

Question put and agreed to.