HC Deb 03 June 1937 vol 324 cc1169-70
56. Sir N. Grattan-Doyle

asked the Minister of Transport whether, since they deal with a matter of direct interest to shareholders, ratepayers, and consumers, he will make available to the public the proposals marked "Confidential" which have been circulated to electricity supply organisations?

Mr. Burgin

I cannot at present add to the full statement which I made on this subject yesterday.

Sir N. Grattan-Doyle

Can the Minister say whether there is any particular reason why this profound secrecy should be maintained?

Mr. Burgin

I explained to the House yesterday that certain negotiations of a confidential character were pending, and that it was a little difficult half-way through those negotiations to alter the character and terms on which they had been commenced. I asked the House to give me an opportunity of looking into the matter.

Mr. Attlee

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer represent to the Prime Minister that this puts this House in a ridiculous position, because this document, which is supposed to be confidential, is in the Press, and Members of this House are being invited to attend conferences and discuss it, and yet the House is kept in ignorance of it?

Sir J. Simon

I noticed this when the question was raised yesterday, and I had intended to call the Prime Minister's attention to it, and I will do so. I agree that the position is anomalous, but when negotiations are pending I must not be rash and make an announcement until I know exactly what is involved.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of prosecuting those who have published a document which is marked "Confidential" and which is Crown copyright?

Sir J. Simon

That is a question which should be addressed to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Muff

On a point of Order. Is this not a question for you, Mr. Speaker, to invite these people to come to the Bar of the House on a matter of Privilege?