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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) .- In reply to the Minister for Snipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) I think I can do no better than quote from a book called " The Restrictive Practices Court" by R. B. Stevens and B. S. Yamey, published this year. On page 143 the following appears -

Such a fundamental weakness has meant that the other virtues claimed for the judicial solution at the time of the passing of the 1936 Act have not become apparent. Advocates of the judicial solution insisted that its unique feature was the establishment of legal precedents and doctrines which led to certainty, predictability and consistency. After the first few decisions of the Court it did look as if such precedents and doctrines were growing up; one adverse decision appeared to have the effect of driving other similar agreements off the register. But as the 'jury' approach has become increasingly accepted, the value of any one case as a precedent has rapidly declined. None of the recent decisions appears to have had the effect of causing any but closely related agreements to be abandoned. Some standards, for example the idea of ' the reasonable price ', have, it is true, been evolved by the judges. But these developments, without a framework ot traditional legal principles, have done little to justify the claims for certainty and predictability. Nor is it even possible to talk of consistency in the Court's decisions: the concept of consistency is scarcely relevant once the Court has insisted that its basic task is the evaluation of the facts and particularly the peculiarities of each particular industry. Another virtue claimed in 1956 was speed. It was said that this would distinguish the Court from its predecessor the Monopolies Commission. But even this has become increasingly less obvious. None of the recent cases has lasted for less than thirty days. This means not only heavy expenses, but, inevitably, that very few cases can be disposed of. In 1962 there were three decisions; in 1963 there were six. The wheel has come full circle, for the Monopolies Commission, at its peak, was capable of producing almost the same number of reports.

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