Orders of the Day — Commission for Industry and Manpower Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1970.

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Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

I am not surprised that my description of the purposes and content of the Bill exasperates the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls).

As I was saying, apparently the Opposition want to set up a registrar of monopolies who would investigate the need for an investigation. The reasons for this suggestion are as obscure as other aspects of the Opposition's policy, but no doubt we shall get some clarification when the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) speaks. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make clear what the purpose of this move would be. He may argue that he wants to decide whether a reference to the Commission should be made out of what he would call the arbitrary hands of Ministers.

Does this mean that references would be automatically the ones which the registrar had found provided prima facie cases? Or would the final decision rest with the Government? If the latter, have we got rid of arbitrariness? Our attitude to the proposal would be very much conditioned by what effect it was intended to have. Is it the right hon. Gentleman's idea to strengthen the operation of a competition policy? In that case, his obvious course is to support the Bill today and move an Amendment in Committee.

If, however, the Opposition are determined to vote against the Second Reading, we can only deduce that the proposal is a device for duplication and delay which would make reference more difficult. I suspect that it is all part of the current confusion of their ideas, the pathetic parade of indecision over industrial policy that we have had from them and from no one more than the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, their chosen mouthpiece on this subject. Despite his bold and dashing words to the young Conservatives——