HC Deb 25 February 1952 vol 496 cc701-3
47. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Prime Minister what regulations govern the continuation of salaried service with a private company on appointment to Ministerial office.

The Prime Minister

I have recently issued general guidance on this subject, and as the text is rather long I will circulate a copy in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the text:

  1. 1. It is a principle of public life that Ministers must so order their affairs that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their private interests and their public duties.
  2. 2. Such a conflict may arise if a Minister takes an active part in any undertaking which may have contractual or other relations with a Government Department, more particularly with his own Department. It may arise, not only if the Minister has a financial interest in such an undertaking, but also if he is actively associated with any body, even of a philanthropic character, which might have negotiations or other dealings with the Government or be involved in disputes with it. Furthermore Ministers should be free to give full attention to their official duties, and they should not engage in other activities which might be thought to distract their attention from those duties.
  3. 3. Each Minister must decide for himself how these principles apply to him. Over much of the field, as is shown below, there are established precedents; but in any case of doubt the Prime Minister of the day must be the final judge, and Ministers should submit any such case to him for his direction.
  4. 4. Where it is proper for a Minister to retain any private interest, it is the rule that he should declare that interest to his colleagues if they have to discuss public business in any way affecting it, and that he should entirely detach himself from the consideration of that business.
  5. 5. Ministers include all members of the Government except unpaid Assistant Government Whips.


6. Ministers must on assuming office resign any directorships which they may hold, whether in public or in private companies and whether the directorship carries remuneration or is honorary. The only exception to this rule is that directorships in private companies established for the maintenance of private family estates, and only incidentally concerned in trading, may be retained subject to this reservation—that if at any time the Minister feels that conflict is likely to arise between this private interest and his public duty, he should even in those cases divest himself of his directorship. Directorships or offices held in connection with philanthropic undertakings should also be resigned if there is any risk of conflict arising between the interests of the undertakings and the Government.


7. Ministers cannot be expected, on assuming office, to dispose of all their investments. But if a Minister holds a controlling interest in any company considerations arise which are not unlike those governing the holding of directorships and, if there is any danger of a conflict of interest, the right course is for the Minister to divest himself of his controlling interest in the company. There may also be exceptional cases where, even though no controlling interest is involved, the actual holding of particular shares in concerns closely associated with a Minister's own Department may create the danger of a conflict of interest. Where a Minister considers this to be the case, he should divest himself of the holding.

8. Ministers should scrupulously avoid speculative investments in securities about which they have, or may be thought to have, early or confidential information likely to affect the price of those securities.