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 Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

There may be a size criterion for notification, but there has never been a case which has been referred on the grounds of size. It is not surprising, because, if there is no prima facie case of monopoly power, market domination or anything like that, the only grounds can be of inquiry into efficiency.

If we are to have a general roving commission into the efficiency or behaviour of large companies, whether market dominating or not, it seems to me that that should be in an entirely separate Bill and conducted by an entirely separate organisation. I should be strongly against it, but if it has to be done, we should not dilute or pervert the Monopolies Commission for something way beyond its functions. This is my objection to the Bill and I believe it to be a serious one.

I had imagined that some more intellectual defence of this great departure would have been given by the Secretary of State. I had thought that she would say, for example, that the problem of conglomerates could not be dealt with under the present Monopolies Commission's powers. I was prepared with a long argument to explain how they could be. But she has not used that argument which I had imagined would at least have crossed her mind.

The second intellectual argument which I had imagined the right hon. Lady would produce was the argument of Professor Corwin Edwards, which I have no doubt the Minister of State knows, that market power can no longer be defined, that it has become such an impalpable could suffusing the whole business of the world that it is impossible to reduce it to a legal definition of any sort, so these wide-ranging powers have to be taken. But none of that was argued. All that was said was that, in vague terms, the Labour Government had already made industry so virile that it had to be made more virile yet and that this was a great instrument of virility. There is not a sufficient argument or defence of what I regard as a hybrid measure. Like all hybrids, we will find that it has very bad, if any, posterity.