§ MR. SEARS
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been drawn to the practice which has grown up on the part of the Board of Inland Revenue of refusing to give information to this House relating to the work of their department, on the alleged grounds that such information would take considerable time and trouble to prepare and is not of sufficient public interest; is he aware that 1180 information is refused when actually in the possession of the Board and when it has a bearing on subjects of importance, as for instance the assessment and collection of taxes, and is intended to show the unsatisfactory nature of the present system and the need for reform, and when such information is regarded by the Board itself as of sufficient importance to be collected for their own use; can he explain the reluctance of the Board to give information to this House concerning the work of their department; and will he take steps to secure that such information shall not be withheld when it is desired in the public interest, and necessary for the use of Members sent to this House to enable them properly to discharge their responsibilities.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am not aware of any case in which information asked for by the House has been refused. If my hon. friend is referring to replies given by Ministers to Questions asked by individual Members, I can only say that, for my own part, I regard it as my duty, where such inquiries will involve expenditure of time and labour in a department for which I am responsible, to consider, before agreeing to obtain the information, whether the facts which it is desired to elicit are of sufficient public interest to justify the investigation being undertaken. When I am satisfied that this is the case, I should never sanction the withholding of information.