HC Deb 19 October 1966 vol 734 cc211-2
37. Mr. Dickens

asked the Lord President of the Council what proposals he has for ensuring that the annual reports and accounts of public corporations are debated more frequently in the House.

Mr. Crossman

Three days each Session are allocated to debates on nationalised industries. I cannot promise extra opportunities in Government time.

Mr. Dickens

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that notwithstanding that reply this House has not debated the annual reports and accounts of many important public corporations for many years. For example, the annual report and accounts of the National Coal Board have not been discussed since 1961. Will he further pay particular attention to the need to debate the annual report and accounts of the Bank of England—a public corporation—which have not been debated since 1951?

Mr. Crossman

I will pay attention to all those claims. There are many claims on Parliamentary time, over which the Government have the initiative. I think that on the whole our priorities are about right. I would also add that we measure the question, to a certain extent, by the attendance at these debates.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend give this matter further consideration? He is no doubt aware that we are not allowed to ask Questions relating to the every-day administration of these public corporations. Members are frustrated because of that restriction. Will he therefore give the matter further consideration?

Mr. Crossman

I certainly will. Indeed, I am most anxious to see that we get really full attention paid, for instance, to the work of our specialised Committee on Nationalised Industries. All I say is that when these debates are staged, one way in which we judge demand is by the number of Members who attend and the number who speak. I would like to see greater enthusiasm when such debates are staged.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the fact that some years ago the nationalised industries were told that they had to operate their business on commercial lines? Is it not extraordinary that these enormous industries, with no shareholders' meetings, go for year after year without being debated in this House, when we represent the shareholders? Will he look into the matter?

Mr. Crossman

It is not true to say that these matters are not debated in this House year after year, as is shown by the three days devoted to them.

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