HC Deb 03 July 1906 vol 159 cc1637-9
MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether his attention has been called to a whip or letter of solicitation, issued last week by an officer of the Board of Agriculture, and dated from the offices of the Board of Agriculture, to Members of this House sitting on the Grand Committee on Law, begging support for a Bill of that Depart- ment called the Fertilizers and Feeding Stuffs Bill, in which it was stated that this official was acting on the orders of Lord Carrington and expressing his wishes; whether it is in accordance with custom for officials in the public State Departments to issue whips to Members of this House; and, if not, whether he will consider the advisability of issuing a Minute directing public officials not to bring pressure to bear on Members of the House of Commons.


I do not see that there is anything coercive or that any undue interference or pressure has been exercised in the letter referred to, a copy of which I have seen. A Minister is entitled, whether by letter or by speech, to urge the importance of a departmental measure for which he is responsible. And, on the other hand, I have no doubt that those engaged in the trade of fertilisers and feeding stuffs will take such means as they think suitable for furthering their views.


Does the right hon. Gentleman think it makes no difference if the Minister is a Member of the House of Lords and the members of the Committee are Members of the House of Commons?


He does not address the Members of the House of Commons directly. He does it through his Department or through the hon. Member who represents him in this House as a rule.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, without commenting on the propriety of the step, whether it is not a. very unusual step, and whether the ordinary conditions of traditional practice are not far better and far safer for Ministers to follow?


I do not how what the right hon. Gentleman refers to as the traditional practice. I should think that a Minister might very well use such means as he has for bringing before the Members of the Committee the importance of the subject.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether I shall be in order if I address members of a Committee of the House of Lords?


Perfectly, I should say—for what it is worth.