HC Deb 31 July 1962 vol 664 cc398-9
24. Mr. Brockway

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs on what grounds seven members of the Slough Borough Council have been refused by him dispensation to vote on matters relating to housing.

Mr. Corfield

Dispensations enabling members to vote on a matter in which they have a pecuniary interest are granted only where half or more than half the council members would otherwise be disabled from voting or where there is a possibility of the adoption of a policy to which the majority of the council are opposed.

Neither of these conditions was fulfilled in the case to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Brockway

Is it not time that the Minister reconsidered this policy? Is he aware, for example, that in Slough more than half the hocusing is on public estates and that in effect this means that on housing matters relating to those estates their representatives are disfranchised? Will he look at this matter again?

Mr. Corfield

I am sure that the House agrees that as a general rule it is undesirable for members of local authorities or committees to vote on matters in which they have a pecuniary interest. My right hon. Friend has laid down the principles on which he will allow dispensation in a circular with which I am sure the hon. Member is familiar. Dispensation to discuss is very readily given, but dispensation to vote is governed by the principles which I set forth in my original Answer.

Mr. M. Stewart

Will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend to look at this policy again? It is not a very sensible policy as it stands. After all, if it is going to make any difference, the members are allowed to vote. Surely, provided that the public in general know that members have the interest, does it greatly matter that they vote?

Mr. Corfield

I should not like to go into all the ramifications of that, but, as the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend's predecessor promised a statement on this matter. This statement is already being considered with the Law Officers, and he hopes to make it shortly.