HC Deb 14 October 1968 vol 770 cc11-2
12. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Minister of Technology to what extent he has made available information to the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation about industries for which he is responsible, including the structure and individual companies in these industries, and in what form; and if he will list the industries and companies within these industries which have been referred to the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.

Mr. Benn

There is a constant interchange of general information between my Department and the Corporation covering all the major sectors of the engineering industry. As I explained in my reply to the hon. Member on 24th June, care is taken in these exchanges to maintain the security of information given to the Corporation and to us by industry.—[Vol. 767, c. 31–2.]

Mr. Osborn

Is it not a fact that since I last asked a Question on this much more information, some of it confidential, has been amassed by his Ministry? Is it not also true that officials in his Ministry are prepared to make available this information to the I.R.C.? Does the right hon. Gentleman condemn, condone, or even welcome, this state of affairs? Will he clarify the position?

Mr. Benn

Unless the hon. Gentleman has evidence which he wants to bring forward that confidentiality is being broken in any case, of which I am not aware, I can tell him that the relationship between us and the I.R.C. is on a treble basis, namely, confidentiality, inde- pendence of operation, and full consultation over the whole area. This is a perfectly workable arrangement, and to the best of my knowledge no problems have arisen as a result of it.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Surely the right hon. Gentleman's procedure in referring the question of the nuclear boiler construction industry to the I.R.C. does not fall within the definition given by the right hon. Gentleman in answer to the original Question?

Mr. Benn

It does, because it was provided in the Act that we are able to refer things to the I.R.C. But in this case the I.R.C. conducted the negotiations, and the information it received was given to it by the companies. In this case the basic policy having been decided by the Government, as was right, there was no breach of confidentiality on any of these issues.