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Resale Price Maintenance (Committee)

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 7 July 1949

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asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the qualifications of the members of the committee appointed to consider resale price maintenance.

The members of the committee were chosen for the individual contributions they could make in the inquiry into resale price maintenance, and not in any representative capacity. With the hon. Member's permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of their qualifications.

When the right hon. Gentleman is considering the proposals of this committee, will he bear in mind the strong Left-wing bias of some of the principal members of this committee and the fact that one of its members was so biased that he felt himself free to comment on the subject of this report to the Fabian Society while he was still sitting as a member of the committee?

I am not aware of any Left-wing bias in the membership of this committee. I should be very surprised and interested to hear that the Opposition were opposed to the recommendations of this committee, which are designed to stop restrictive practices on the part of private traders.

Is it not most unfortunate, if it be the case, that while this matter was still being considered a member of the committee should publish something for the Fabian Society, because the whole matter is of the utmost importance and it is most desirable to have a strong report on this subject by a plainly unbiased committee?

Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for the House to be advised how the question of a statement by an undisclosed member of this committee to a body outside arises out of a Question on the Order Paper which is directed only to the qualifications of members?

It is not for me to say how it arises. There are insinuations and implications in these supplementary questions which I do not like very much.

Further to the point of Order. May I, with permission, say that it was only when the suggestion of lack of bias was made that I had to draw attention to the example of very clear bias?

Further to that point of Order, surely it is perfectly in Order, when a question of qualifications and bias is raised by the Minister himself, to point out that a member of the committee is writing to a Left-wing publication while the committee are considering the subject matter?

Further to that point of Order, if an hon. Member of this House wishes to get information about that sort of thing, would it not be playing more fairly with the gentleman concerned and with the House if he put that Question instead of some other Question on the Order Paper?

Is it now an understood thing that a member of an official committee is precluded from expressing his views, on a subject on which he is expert, in the public Press during the whole period in which that committee is sitting, or is it alleged that use has been made of private information in this regard? So far that has not been alleged and is not the case.

That is a little complicated. In these Questions one has to use a little moderation.

Following is the statement:

Mr. G. H. Lloyd Jacob, K.C. (Chairman): A leading counsel at the Patent Bar.

Managing Director of Stuart Advertising Agency; Founder-member of Advertising Service Guild; founder of Design Research Unit.

Alderman Mrs. L'Estrange Malone, J.P., M.A.: Member of the London County Council; former Vice-Chairman of the L.C.C. Social Welfare Public Assistance Committee.

Mr. John Ryan, C.B.E., M.C., M.A., B.Sc.: Vice-Chairman of Metal Box Co. Ltd.; Vice-Chairman of British Export Trade Research Organisation and of International Distribution Commission. Member of the Central Price Regulation Committee, of the Prices of Building Materials Committee (Ministry of Works) and of the Agricultural Marketing Committee.

Mr. H. G. Sharp, F.I.A., F.F.A.: Formerly Manager and Actuary of the Scottish Widows' Fund and Life Assurance Society.

Mr. Henry Smith, M.A.: Vice-Principal of Ruskin College, Oxford. Chairman of a Commission of Inquiry into the cost of living in Newfoundland. Author of "Retail Distribution" published in 1937; served with the Ministry of Food during the war as an economist with special knowledge of distribution.

Mr. R. E. Yeabsley, C.B.E., F.C.A., F.S.A.A.: Partner, Hill Vellacott & Co., Chartered Accountants; Accountant Advisor to the Board of Trade and to the Central Price Regulation Committee. Member of Hosiery Working Party 1945; of the Committee of Inquiry into Distribution of Building Materials and Components, 1946–48; of the Committee of Inquiry into the mineral resources of the United Kingdom, 1946; and of the Committee on High Court Procedure 1947.