HC Deb 06 April 1965 vol 710 cc216-8
22. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Power to what extent he is prepared to exercise his statutory power of requiring information from the National Coal Board so as to give information in answer to Parliamentary Questions on pit closures and the numbers being made redundant as a consequence.

28. Mr. Urwin

asked the Minister of Power to what extent he is prepared to alter his practice so as to exercise his statutory power to require information from nationalised industries so as to give information in answer to Parliamentary Questions on the administration and policies of those industries.

Mr. Frederick Lee

I have no present intention of departing from previous practice in this respect.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that under the Act he is empowered to direct the Board on matters of general policy? Is not this matter of closure of pits one not only of general, but of national, policy? What is the sense of referring hon. Members to the National Coal Board in matters of this kind when we receive only stereotyped and valueless replies?

Mr. Lee

I am answering according to the rules which the House has laid down and the arrangements, which will continue to be operated, as announced in the House on 31st July, 1963, by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about answering Questions seeking statistical information on a national basis about a nationalised industry.

Mr. Urwin

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that there appears to have grown up in the last two years a kind of restrictive practice with regard to a answering questions on the policy of the nationalised industries? Will he also take note of the fact that when I tried to put down a simple Question on the provision of a coal-fired power station in the County of Durham I was advised that it was not in order? It appears to be the case that in the past Ministers have been sheltered from hon. Members" questions.

Mr. Lee

This is not a question for my Ministry but a matter of the way in which the House decided, in years gone by, how we should answer Questions on the nationalised industries. I am not trying to reduce the extent of that obligation. I am merely conforming to the previous procedure.

Mr. Shinwell

My right hon. Friend is placing far too rigid an interpretation on what was declared then. When I was Minister of Fuel and Power, I was responsible for this Act going through the House, and I answered Questions on matters of this sort.

Mr. Lee

There is not the slightest effort on the part of my Ministry to reduce the number of Questions we answer. We are simply carrying out the procedure which the House has accepted for many years.

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