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Volume 984: debated on Monday 12 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he intends to meet the Director General of Fair Trading to discuss refusal-to-supply activities.

It is for the Director General to decide whether refusal-to-supply constitutes a breach of the Resale Prices Act warranting action on behalf of the Crown in the courts. It would be improper for me to seek to influence his decision in individual cases.

When the Minister next meets the Director General of Fair Trading, will she raise with him the refusal to supply by major hi-fi and white goods manufacturers to Tesco and Argos and ask the Director General when he intends to take action to resolve that problem?

I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that I meet the Director General of Fair Trading frequently. Although we may discuss individual cases, I do not seek, as I pointed out in my earlier reply, to influence the Director General in individual cases. There are a number of ways in which action can be taken in such instances—on the part of the individuals concerned in civil proceedings, under the Resale Prices Act—which again would be a matter for the Director General of Fair Trading—or under the new, swifter and more flexible powers in the Competition Act which complement existing powers. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will welcome these new powers which will make it more difficult for the practices to which he has referred to prevail in future.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that refusal to supply is being used by newspaper wholesalers in London who are attempting to make themselves into monopolies in particular areas? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that this particular technique, which is totally against the interests of the consumer and the retailer, is brought to the attention of the Director General of Fair Trading who has said nothing about this matter up to now?

My hon. Friend has raised a matter about which I know there is considerable concern on both sides of the House. There is a registered agreement under the Restrictive Trade Practices Act in relation to the supply of newspapers which makes it impossible for certain people to obtain a supply of these newspapers if it is refused by the wholesaler. I, along with my hon. Friend, am not satisfied with this situation; and I shall discuss it with the Director General of Fair Trading.