HC Deb 26 June 1963 vol 679 cc1340-6

3.37 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to compel companies to publish details of all gifts to political parties. I am sure that my proposed Bill will command the support of the whole House. Hon. Members opposite very frequently advise members of the public to invest in companies; it might, indeed, be said that they advocate a shareholding democracy. That being so, it is quite intolerable that directors of companies, who stand in much the same position as do trustees in respect of the money given into their charge, should spend their shareholders' money in gifts to political parties, something of which many of their shareholders would not approve if the matter were made public.

In these days of complicated relationships between business firms and Government, and between businesses and the employees that the firms employ, it is quite right and proper that the wishes of employees should be taken into consideration.

Some hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Chamber advocate profit sharing, so that interest in what the directors of a company do with their shareholders' money is very wide indeed, and it is quite intolerable that directors of companies should please themselves how they use their shareholders' money in relation to political parties.

My Bill would ask only that information should be published so that the shareholders and employees should know what is going on. This is a small matter, but it is a very proper subject for a private Member to introduce. Indeed, on Fridays we hear the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) and his "Friday men" advocate that Private Members' Bills should be subject to great scrutiny in the House. If it is right and proper that such Bills should be subject to this scrutiny, surely it is right and proper that when companies are using money for political purposes their shareholders and employees should know what is happening.

This is a narrow point of justice for the people who invest money, but behind it there is a very much more important general political point. This House is very proud of how, over the years, in a practical way, it has grafted democracy on to existing institutions. Many of us from time to time take visitors round the House. We draw their attention to some of the glorious events in the history of the House when people stood for principles and great principles were established, such as the 1832 Reform Act, from which a long succession of reforms were brought about, bringing the vote to the ordinary people.

It is not much use the ordinary citizen merely having a vote unless he has access to the fullest amount of information about what the parties stand for. My Bill would do something to show the connection between certain companies and certain parties and the actions which follow from certain payments. Last night, in the House, several of my hon. Friends developed this point at length in relation to certain companies. I only make the point of principle that the ordinary citizen, in these days of mass information media, has great difficulty in ascertaining the true facts about what political parties stand for and what political actions they propose to take. My Bill would do something to uncover a subject which was described last night as murky and dark.

During the last few years, especially, there has been great apprehension among the public about the powers which certain individuals have over the forming of public opinion. The Pilkington Report deplores that newspaper magnates should have too much power over public opinion-forming in newspapers and on television and advised that steps be taken to diffuse the power of public opinion-forming so that no man should have too much power. Yet in the ordinary commercial field nobody knows how much of the shareholder's money is used to create a climate of opinion which will produce certain political actions. It is no use a man having a vote if another man has newspapers and television and shouts so loud that the little man's voice is drowned.

Not only is there a voice behind the scenes, but nobody, not even the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), is in a position to know exactly what goes on. I should have thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be the keenest supporter of the Measure so that he might know exactly where the money comes from and so that justice might be done.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

The right hon. and learned Member does not want to know.

Mr. Boyden

There is a widespread opinion that those working behind the scenes, the faceless men, should not have too much influence. My Bill would merely ask that the public should know, in this House, if a man has an interest he must declare it. This practice runs right through public life. In local government, when a council's housing policy is being discussed, a councillor who is a tenant of the council declares his interest.

I have always thought it peculiar that such a fuss should be made about a council house, and about such a man having a vote, when the rent is raised by Is., when, at the same time, there can be on the council a building contractor who may not be immediately concerned with that issue, but is concerned with the broader issue of building perhaps 300 houses and may subsequently have a contract. If he is concerned with a particular contract he declares an interest, of course.

The Bill would attempt to bring order into this chaos. Henry VII had an effective way of dealing with over-mighty subjects. He either put them in the Tower or chopped their heads off. In these days an over-mighty subject uses his shareholders' money to influence decisions in favour of his company and then finds himself in the House of Lords. There may be no connection at all between these things. It may be an accident that money given to a particular political objective is rewarded in this way, but at least the public are entitled to know how the money goes. I should have thought that every reputable company would be anxious to support my Bill so that it could clear its own name.

3.39 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)

I should like to suggest to the House, with great respect, that the speech to which we have just listened is a lot of nonsense. We debated this question twice last night.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

The hon. and gallant Member did not.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

The hon. Member may be right. I did not debate it, but I was here and I interrupted. We debated this question twice last night and, therefore, we have not only been listen-

ing to a lot of balderdash, but also wasting our time. I oppose the Motion.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business): —

The House divided: Ayes 147, Noes 186.

Division No. 146.] AYES [3.46 p.m.
Ainsley, William Hannan, William Oram, A. E.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Harper, Joseph Padley, W. E.
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Hart, Mrs. Judith Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Hayman, F. H. Parkin, B. T.
Barnett, Guy Healey, Denis Pavitt, Laurence
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(Rwly Regis) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Bence, Cyril Hill, J, (Midlothian) Peart, Frederick
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Holman, Percy Prentice, R. E.
Benson, Sir George Houghton, Douglas Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Blackburn, F. Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Rankin, John
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics.S.W.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Rees, Meriyn (Leeds, S.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hunter, A. E. Reynolds, G. W.
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Brockway, A. Fenner Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Ross, William
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Janner, Sir Barnett Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jones, Rt.Hn.A.Creech(Wakefield) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Kelley, Richard Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Callaghan, James Kenyon, Clifford Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Carmichael, Neil Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Snow, Jullan
Chapman, Donald King, Dr. Horace Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Collick, Percy Lawson, George Spriggs, Leslie
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Steele, Thomas
Dalyell, Tam Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Stones, William
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lipton, Marcus Stress, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Deer, George Loughlin, Charles Taverne, D.
Dempsey, James Lubbock, Eric Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Diamond, John McBride, N. Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Dodds, Norman McCann, John Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P. MacColl, James Thornton, Ernest
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. McInnes, James Thorpe, Jeremy
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McKay, John (Wallsend) Wade, Donald
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mahon, Simon Warbey, William
Fernyhough, E. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Finch, Harold Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fitch, Alan Manuel, Archie Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Eric Mapp, Charles Wigg, George
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mason, Roy Wilkins, W. A.
Forman, J. C. Mayhew, Christopher Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mendelson, J. J. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Galpern, Sir Myer Millan, Bruce Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Ginsburg, David Milne, Edward Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Gourlay, Harry Mitchison, G. R. Winterbottom, R. E.
Greenwood, Anthony Monstow, Walter Woof, Robert
Grey, Charles Moody, A. S. Wyatt, Woodrow
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Morris, John
Gunter, Ray Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Phillp(Darby,S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) O'Malley, B. K. Mr. Boyden and
Mr. William Hamilton.
Allason, James Black, Sir Cyril Cary, Sir Robert
Arbuthnot, John Bourne-Arton, A. Channon, H. P, G.
Ashton, Sir Hubert Box, Donald Chichester-Clark, R.
Balniel, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)
Barber, Anthony Braine, Bernard Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)
Barlow, Sir John Brooman-White, R.… Cleaver, Leonard
Barter, John Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Cooke, Robert
Batsford, Brian Bryan, Paul Cooper, A. E.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bullus, Wing Commander Erie Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Burden, P. A. Costain, A. P.
Bitten, John Butcher, Sir Herbert Coulson, Michael
Birch. Rt. Hon. Nigel Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)
Curran, Charles Kerr, Sir Hamilton Pym, Francis
Dalkeith, Earl of Kershaw, Anthony Ramsden, James
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kitson, Timothy Rawlinson, Sir Peter
Drayson, G. B. Leavey, J. A. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
du Cann, Edward Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)
Duncan, Sir James Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ridsdale, Julian
Eden, Sir John Linstead, Sir Hugh Robson Brown, Sir William
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Litchfield, Capt. John Russell, Ronald
Emery, Peter Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Scott-Hopkins, James
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Longbottom, Charles Sharples, Richard
Errington, Sir Eric Longden, Gilbert Shaw, M.
Farey-Jones, F. W. Loveys, Walter H. Skeet, T. H. H.
Finlay, Graeme Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Smithers, Peter
Forrest, George McAdden, Sir Stephen Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(Stafford&Stone) MacArthur, Ian Stodart, J. A.
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McLaren, Martin Storey, Sir Samuel
Freeth, Denzil McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Studholme, Sir Henry
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Maclean,SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs) Summers, Sir Spencer
Gammans, Lady Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) McMaster, Stanley R. Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Glover, sir Douglas Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Teeling, Sir William
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Maddan, Martin Temple, John M.
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Maginnis, John E. Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Goodhew, Victor Maitland, Sir John Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Gresham Cooke, R. Marshall, Sir Douglas Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Grosvenor, Lord Robert Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Harris, Reader (Heston) Mawby, Ray Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Mills, Stratton Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hastings, Stephen Montgomery, Fergus Turner, Colin
Hay, John More, Jasper (Ludlow) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Heald, nt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Vane, W. M. F.
Hendry, Forbes Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Vickers, Miss Joan
Hirst, Geoffrey Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Holland, Philip Orr, Capt, L. P. S. Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Walker, Peter
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Page, John (Harrow, West) Wall, Patrick
Hughes-Young, Michael Page, Graham (Crosby) Ward, Dame Irene
Hulbert, Sir Norman Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hurd, Sir Anthony Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Whitelaw, William
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Peel, John Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Percival, Ian Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Peyton, John Woodnutt, Mark
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pike, Miss Mervyn
Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Pilkington, Sir Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Prior-Palmer, Brig Sir Otho Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Bromley-
Davenport and Sir Gerald Wills.