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Scottish Universal Investment Trust

Volume 958: debated on Monday 20 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he has had communication with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission since his referral to it of the proposed takeover of Scottish Universal Investment Trust by Lonrho Limited; and if he will make a statement.

The conduct of a murder investigation—I mean a merger investigation—is a matter for the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and neither I nor my officials have had any communication with it about the substance of this investigation. I have, however, agreed to a request from the commission to extend until 11th February 1979 the time allowed for submitting its report.

Will my hon. Friend remind the Monopolies and Mergers Commission of the concern of the trade union movement in Scotland about the possibility of thousands of jobs being taken over and controlled by a huge multinational outfit such as Lonrho, headed by Tiny Rowland, a man whose sole aim is to maximise his own profits by exploiting workers—whether in Southern Africa or in Scotland?

It has long been a tradition that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission acts on an investigation pith independence and impartiality. I would be breaking that tradition if I made any reflection on the parties concerned. If parties have evidence to offer to the commission, I hope that they will do so directly. Obviously the commission will take them into account.

Is the Minister aware that his use of the word "murder" was perhaps not so odd in relation to Lonrho as it might at first have appeared, because his right hon. Friend is doing his best to outdo the Foreign Secretary, who also has his knife into this company? When will the Government stop this mean and spiteful vendetta against someone who is merely trying to run his company properly?

There is probably no depth to which the hon. Gentleman is not capable of sinking. I made a slip of the tongue. I preserve my absolute impartiality in this matter and make no reflection on the company in the context of this reference.