asked the Minister of Health what consultations he has had with representatives of the dental goods industry following the publication of the annual report on the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act.
None, Sir; but consultations will take place from time to time as necessary to ensure that the criticisms of the Monopolies Commission are met.
Is the hon. Lady not aware that consultations are promised on this subject in the annual report of the Board of Trade? Is she further aware that the Board of Trade shows that by December the industry had not yet fulfilled the undertakings which it gave as long ago as last July?
The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that many of the Commission's criticisms were left, as the Commission recommended, to be dealt with by the industry itself, and the Association of Dental Manufacturers and Traders has undertaken to make a comprehensive revision of the rules and regulations, which is in course of being done for this purpose. Meanwhile a number of price reductions have already been made by manufacturers since the publication of the report in lines of goods which, in the Commission's view, yielded an undue share of profit. Throughout these negotiations the Department has been in consultation on the revision of these rules, and so far as the Board of Trade is concerned in this matter, it has been kept in the discussions.
Will the hon. Lady convey to her right hon. Friend that the vigour or otherwise with which he pursues this matter will be regarded as a test of the seriousness of the promises which the present Government gave to the electorate to strengthen the Monopolies Commission.
The hon. Lady mentioned that price reductions had taken place. I am a dental surgeon, and I do not think that the dentists have noticed any substantial reductions at all.
I think that if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the items he will find that there has been a reduction, among others, in acrilic materials and teeth. He will find, too, that a minor restrictive agreement concerning burs, and operated by one firm, was brought to an immediate end on the publication of the report.