HC Deb 19 December 1963 vol 686 cc1433-5
Q2. Mr. Loughlin

asked the Prime Minister if he will make it a condition of accepting Ministerial office in future that the office holder undertakes on relinquishment of office not to engage in any firm or section of industry or commerce which is in receipt of Government subsidies, grants or loans.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Loughlin

Is the Prime Minister aware that I imply no personal criticism of any Minister by this Question? However, is it not rather scandalous that Ministers of the Crown can pursue policies from which firms and industries can gain financial benefit when the same Ministers may later be employed by the firms which received the benefits of their policies? Would it not be wise to ensure that public office should not be abused in this way?

The Prime Minister

I think that this must be left to the discretion and common sense of Ministers. I should not like to deprive industries of the benefit of the advice of people who had been Ministers—not necessarily the industries with which they had been closely associated.

Mr. Ridley

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this is a ridiculous suggestion and that, if it had been adopted, Lord Robens would have been unable to undertake the chairmanship of the National Coal Board?

Mr. Lawson

Is the Prime Minister suggesting that his Ministers are more honourable than Labour councillors who happen to be local authority tenants? Will he not apply to his Ministers who happen to be benefiting from the public purse the same rule as is applied to Labour councillors who are local authority tenants?

The Prime Minister

The Question deals with what a Minister may do on the relinquishment of his office. I was saying that I did not think that there should be any rule about this and what I was saying would apply to Ministers of a Labour Government as much as to our own.

Mr. H. Wilson

While it is clear that much of this problem needs to be settled on the basis of the good sense and discretion of the individuals concerned, will not the Prime Minister at least make it clear that the most rigid rules are still enforced in respect of Ministers while in office having no connection of any kind with business undertakings? Secondly, while the Question refers to subsidies, grants or loans, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great concern expressed in the House not long ago about Ministers who, on ceasing to be Ministers, go into firms which are in receipt of very big Government contracts, especially defence contracts? Would not the Prime Minister agree that there is a case for very careful behaviour, where Government defence contracts are concerned, by Ministers immediately on resigning?

The Prime Minister

There is certainly need for great care and that is what I meant when I spoke of exercising discretion and common sense. For Ministers in office there are the most rigid rules that they must not be connected with industry.