HC Deb 21 February 1947 vol 433 cc1627-9

Select Committee appointed to examine and report on the financial position of the House of Commons Members' Fund, established under the House of Commons Members' Fund Act, 1939, and to make recommendations with a view to achieving a closer relation between the sums paid into and the payments made out of the said Fund:

Committee to consist of Eleven Members:

Mr. Nigel Birch, Mr. Daggar, Mr. Kinley, Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Peake, Mr. Wilfrid Roberts, Colonel Ropner, Mr. Viant, Mr. Octavius Willey and Mrs. Wills to be Members of the Committee:

Three to be the Quorum.—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.

1.19 p.m.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr & Bute, Northern)

As Chairman of the Members' Fund Trustees, I would like to say how glad I am that this Committee is being set up. With regard to the powers of the Committee, I would like an assurance in this regard: The House of Commons Members' Fund Act, 1939, Section 3 (7) says: So far as is consistent with the due performance of their respective functions under this Act, the trustees of the fund, the Gov eminent Actuary, the Comptroller and Auditor-General and their respective officers and servants shall treat as confidential all information relating to the making or refusal of grants in particular cases; and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, there shall not be included in any accounts or report laid before the House of Commons under the last preceding subsection any identification of the persons to whom grants have been made. I hope that under the powers which are now given to the Committee they will not ask for any information of that kind which I feel most strongly—and I am sure the House will agree with me—should be treated absolutely confidentially, in regard to people who are receiving benefit under this fund. In Erskine May, at page 593, it makes it quite clear that the Committee cannot …require an officer of a public department to produce any paper which, according to the rules and practice of the House, it is not usual for the House itself to order to be laid before it. It is unthinkable that I, as Chairman of the trustees, should be asked to give evidence before the Committee, and certainly not an officer of a public Department. I hope the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion will take steps to see that nothing will be done by this Committee to give the names of the recipients of benefits. It would be highly undesirable in every way. I never mention anyone's affairs; they are private matters. I hope steps will be taken to ensure that nothing is done in the Committee to give away any of the names of these unfortunate ex-colleagues who receive help from the fund.

1.22 p.m:

Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth): I thank the hon. and gallant Member for North Ayr and Bute (Sir C. MacAndrew) for raising this matter. I agree with him, that on these matters of very strict privacy it would be most distasteful, and in my view wrong, that the names should be made known. Therefore, I note what the hon. and gallant Member has said, and I will bring it to the attention of the chairman of the Committee.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I thank the hon. Member very much.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Michael Stewart.]