HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc874-5
6. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Common wealth Affairs why it is not the practice to publish figures for attendance of all- party Parliamentary delegations to inter national conferences such as Western European Union and the Council of Europe; and whether he will change this practice and make the information avail able to Members of Parliament on request.

Mr. Whitlock

The procedures of both the Western European Union and Council of Europe Assemblies provide for representation by either delegates or their alternates. There is, therefore, no special significance in the attendance of individual delegates, and I see no reason to change the present position.

7. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Common wealth Affairs what were the actual rates of travelling, hotel and subsistence allowances paid at the approved rates claimed for and paid to delegates attending the Western European Union Assembly on Tuesday, 15th October. 1968; and if he will give an assurance that no claims were made or paid to delegates who were not in attendance.

Mr. Whitlock

Delegates travelled either tourist class by air or first-class by sea and rail. Hotel expenses were at the rate of £6 15s. 0d. for each night in Paris, with subsistence of £4 2s. 8d. for each 24 hours of their stay.

As my hon. Friend knows, expenses on this basis are paid to delegates and substitutes attending the Assembly as a whole and not according to attendance or non-attendance at specific debates.—[Vol. 770, c. 353–54.]

Mr. Lewis

Is my hon. Friend aware that it was widely reported in the Press that, on the occasion of an important vote connected with the Common Market, it was alleged that none of the delegates were present and no quorum could be formed to take the vote, so that it had to be postponed to another day? If one cannot find the information about who should or should not be there—the Department will not give it and neither will the Library—how can one check whether they were there or not to draw their fees?

Mr. Whitlock

As has been often said in the House, we are not responsible for Press reports. My hon. Friend has already been told once in the House that on the occasion to which he refers the British delegation had full representation.

Mr. Peel

The Minister has referred to the rates payable to our delegates. Will he bear in mind that more and more, particularly since devaluation, the rates compare unfavourably with those paid to all other delegations to both the Council of Europe and W.E.U., and will he look into it again?

Mr. Whitlock

That is not my impression. The subsistence allowances paid to members of the British delegation are reasonable, and, while being no higher than many others, they are at an average level compared with those paid to delegations from other countries.

Mr. Shinwell

But is it not true that all delegates from the House sent to this Assembly have been sent because they are specially selected as being in favour of British entry into the Common Market? Is not that what it is all about? Is not that the significance if it? Are we now to understand that we are converting these amateur pro-Common marketeers into professionals?

Why not answer the question? Do not run away. What is my hon. Friend afraid of?