HC Deb 11 April 1963 vol 675 cc1471-3
Q3 Mr. Marsh

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he will make financial aid to companies from public funds under existing legislation conditional upon their willingness to publish full details of any moneys expended by them in support of any political party or campaign;

(2) if he will introduce legislation to prevent companies in receipt of public funds under existing legislation making financial contributions to political parties or campaigns.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Marsh

Is the Prime Minister aware that tens of millions of £s of taxpayers' money is being poured into private enterprise? Does he think it impertinent that taxpayers who may disagree with such campaigns should ask to what extent their money is being spent for this purpose? Does not the Prime Minister also think that a system which enables Conservative Ministers to make grants running into tens of millions of £s to private companies, who in turn are in a position to use some of that money for political campaigns in the interests of his Ministers, is open to some abuse?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that there is any connection between the two matters. I am always being pressed, chiefly by the trade unions, councils and Members opposite, to make more money available to private enterprise.

Mr. H. Wilson

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has been pressed to do that from this side of the House. We say that where money is pumped into a company the State, like any prudent private investor, should take some share in the profits and some share in the control. The point raised in this Question, which I am sure the Prime Minister realises, is whether he is aware that it is highly undesirable that private enterprise firms should think that they can come along and get money by standing outside the Treasury with their begging bowls and then use some of that money, or some of their private resources, for supporting the Government party?

The Prime Minister

The last sentence of the right hon. Gentleman's question referred to these firms using some of that money, and then to using some of their private resources. They are not connected. The right hon. Gentleman slipped into the truth there. When the right hon. Gentleman describes what we are asked to do under the Local Employment Act as standing outside the Treasury with begging bowls, I hope that the constituents of the North-East, the North-West and Scotland will take note of that.

Mr. Wilson

Is the Prime Minister aware that, not for the first time, of course, he has tried to falsify what has happened? The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the position under the Local Employment Act and how much more we did than his Government ever thought of doing. Is he not aware that, quite outside the Local Employment Act, the Government have been handing out money to these companies and have been wasting the time of the House with the Cunard Bill, which was then treated with contempt by the Cunard Company, and the steel firms, and the rest? Is he aware that he cannot ride off on his old North-East horse here? Is he aware that the Government have been pumping money into these firms and that if these firms are spending their own resources in backing the Conservative Party that means that they have to borrow more from the Government? One cannot separate these two sums of money.

The Prime Minister

I do not want to pursue this matter for too long. I shall be interested to see what line the Opposition will take on the Fort William Pulp and Paper Mills Bill Money Resolution.