HC Deb 23 April 1964 vol 693 cc1503-5
Q4. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if he will ask all Ministers to report to him on the extent to which companies in which their Departments have, or are responsible for, shareholdings are known by them to be contributing to party political funds; and if he will arrange for the publication of a statement on the subject.

The Prime Minister

I cannot answer for the parties opposite. But no companies in which shares are held directly and in an official capacity by either Ministers or Government servants are making contributions to the funds of my party.

In addition to direct holdings, stocks of a wide range of companies are held by Ministers or officials as trustees. It would not be appropriate for a trustee to examine the political activities of companies in which trust funds were invested.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Prime Minister saying that he can categorically deny that where there is any public money invested in companies for which Ministers are responsible to the House any contributions are being made by those companies to party political funds? Secondly, is the Prime Minister saying that it is desirable that when Ministers have a responsibility for trust funds invested in firms such as that recently mentioned, Allied Iron Founders Ltd.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—in view of the noise from the other side of the House, no complaint can be made to me about delay at Question Time. May I ask the Prime Minister whether he is saying that it is desirable that, while Ministers are responsible for trust funds in public companies, those companies should make contributions to Conservative Party funds?

The Prime Minister

Answering the last part of the supplementary question, I am not suggesting that those companies in which the Government hold shares are not subscribing to a political party. I am saying that they are not. That is a straight answer to the hon. Member's Question. No shares are held directly in those companies which do contribute. As for the second part of the question, it is not the business of a trustee, whether he is a Minister or not, to look into what boards of directors do with their funds.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister saying that it is not the business of a trustee to find out to what use the profits of a company are being put in which he has a large shareholding?

The Prime Minister

In many cases a Minister is a trustee, let us say, for Oxford or Cambridge colleges or technical colleges or something of this sort. [Interruption.] They are, and this has always happened. They are responsible for seeing that the investment is safe and secure.

Mr. Jay

Suppose the company were paying out funds to political parties at the expense of the shareholders, would not that be the business of the trustees?

The Prime Minister

The function of a trustee is surely to see that in all the circumstances the money for which he is responsible, and which he has invested on behalf of the college or whatever it may be, is secure and safe.