The Campaign for Cheaper CDs: Plain speaking in committee
Sunday 25 April 1993
After a few minutes they got up and made for the door. Seeing them go, Mr Kaufman thanked them profusely for their attendance, wished their country every prosperity - for they were tourists, not executives - and declared that although these were unusual proceedings, they had given a glimpse of the 'full majesty of Parliament'.
As the morning went on I saw what he meant. Here was big business being put on the spot in the interests of the general public. Here was democracy working.
Public concern had led to a press campaign, which led to greater public concern, which came to the attention of Parliament, which has now hauled in the people responsible.
I had gone to the Commons expecting little. I thought the industry would bluster and the MPs would end up, like the Office of Fair Trading last year, wringing their hands and saying there was nothing they could do. That may yet happen. But we are getting plain-speaking on a scale that would amaze anyone whose sole acquaintance with select committees came from seeing the Maxwell brothers on TV last year.
There has been a bit of bluster and evasion. Sir Malcolm Field, managing director of W H Smith, said he had been trying to get prices down for 18 months. But the three main witnesses so far - Sir Malcolm and the managers of Dire Straits and Simply Red - have all argued for cheaper CDs. And they have even talked figures, advocating a cut of pounds 2. It is not as much as we would like, but not to be sniffed at either.
Mr Kaufman treats witnesses with a magisterial blend of courtesy and disdain. He hails and farewells each one with a volley of gratitude, and in between he roasts them over a series of tough questions. 'I am utterly unconvinced by your explanation,' he informed Sir Malcolm after reading out a letter from a constituent who had found a CD costing 99p in a Manchester corner shop and pounds 3.99 in the Virgin Megastore, half-owned by Smith's.
Whether a price cut will come remains to be seen. The MPs cannot force one, and the people who will decide - the bosses of the big five record companies - have yet to lift their heads out of the sand. There is still only one language they speak: that of market forces. So please - don't pay full price if you can help it.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
California teacher appears to have hanged herself in her classroom
The City of the Monkey God: Archaeologists claim to have found city lost for 1,000 years in remote Honduran jungle
Ed Miliband deemed less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson by official Doncaster power list
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...