§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Earl of KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will confirm that the drivers of the United Road Transport Union, who deliver bread, are paid a commission on the total value of the bread in the vehicle.
My Lords, I understand that it is the practice of the larger companies in the baking industry for drivers to be paid some form of commission based on sales rather than on the value of the bread in the vehicle. The form of commission varies between companies but precise details are not available as negotiators are not required to notify details of their pay settlements to the Government.
§ The Earl of KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Would the Government not agree that possibly because of the fact that a commission is paid on the amount of sales to the bakers, a monopoly of van drivers are holding the British housewife, and particularly the small bakers' shops, to ransom, and that this must be wrong particularly at a time like this? Would the Government not agree that this is monstrously wrong when economies are needed at a time of inflation?
My Lords, my right honourable friend Mr. Hattersley has indicated in another place the Government's attitude to this action; that we regret it. I do not think that it is so much the question of commission that is the concern of the drivers as their concern for possible loss of jobs if the number of outlets is reduced. I think that that is their fear, understandable though mistaken we believe it to be. Since the noble Earl has raised this matter generally, may I just indicate that my right honourable friend is this afternoon covening a meeting of all the parties concerned to examine thoroughly this vexed question.
§ Lord FERRIER
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in a broadcast this morning a bakery official pointed out that the drivers' action had been counter-productive, and that the net result had been an overall fall in the total sales of bread which he did not feel would be likely to be recovered?
My Lords, I was not aware of that, but I am not surprised with that outcome. We think that the drivers' action was mistaken, and we hope that they will be persuaded of the Tightness of my right honourable friend's legislative action.
§ Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARY-LEBONE
My Lords, the noble Lord says that the drivers' action is mistaken. Is it not a little worse than that? Does not the noble Lord agree that if it had been done by the companies it would have been a restrictive trade practice and illegal? Can the noble Lord justify the discrimination of the law in this respect?
My Lords, I agree that this is resale price maintenance by trade unions, and I personally am opposed to resale price maintenance whether it is done by unions or by any other means. I think that the legal position on this particular action we had better leave until this afternoon's meeting has been concluded.