asked the President of the Board of Trade when the Monopolies Commission's report on the process of calico printing will be published; and if he will make a statement about the contents of the report.
The Report was published today. The Commission have found that conditions to which the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948, applies prevail as respects the process of calico printing. Over 98 per cent, of the cloth printed on commission in the United Kingdom by this process is printed by members of the Federation of Calico Printers, who so conduct their affairs as to restrict competition; and nearly 50 per cent, is printed by one of the members— the Calico Printers' Association Ltd.The principal arrangements found to restrict competition are:
The Calico Printers Association have additionally a private agreement with the Bradford Dyers Association Ltd. and Bleachers Association Ltd. providing for similar restrictions.
The Commission's principal conclusions and recommendations about the effect of these practices and conditions on the public interest are as follow:
(a) The minimum price and P.Q. schemes, although formally distinct, are, in practice, interdependent and must be considered together.
The Commission believe that these schemes hamper the ability of merchants to compete in overseas markets: that they are bound in some degree to lessen the printer's incentive to reduce his costs and that they limit the opportunity for the low cost printer to reduce his costs still further by increasing his turnover. They note especially that on entering the P.Q. scheme in 1949 printers were required to renounce their freedom of action in regard to prices and other important terms of trading for a period of ten years ahead.
They consider that these arrangements may be expected to operate against the public interest and they recommend that the minimum price arrangements should be discontinued and the P.Q. scheme abolished. They see no harm, however, in the Federation's issuing a list of recommended minimum prices not enforceable by sanctions, provided that this list is published and freely available to all.