HC Deb 25 February 1970 vol 796 cc1175-7
5. Mr. Marks

asked the President of the Board of Trade what arrangements are made by his Department for details of the donations made by companies to political parties and other organisations to be made available to the public.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Roy Mason)

Information about a company's political contributions is given in the director's report. A copy of the report is filed with the Registrar of Companies and may be inspected by any member of the public on payment of a fee of 1s.

Mr. Marks

But is my right hon. Friend aware that it need not be submitted to the annual meeting, and that, in any case, if it is, it is 10½ months before it is required to be available for inspection? Will he introduce legislation to shorten that period and give shareholders an opportunity to contract out of these contributions?

Mr. Mason

I cannot give any assurance on the latter point, but my hon. Friend is right in saying that it may be l0½ months—it could be up to a year—before the public are informed. The special facilities are available for anyone to be able to inspect and challenge the company on political affiliations, if necessary.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

If he does not already do so, could the right hon. Gentleman supply the same information with regard to the political levy on trade union funds and subscriptions from the co-operative societies?

Mr. Mason

The hon. and gallant Member must recognise that the trade unions and co-operatives have always been open and have always revealed theirs. The trouble is that many companies have not done so.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many serious drinkers believe that the increase in the cost of the pint is partly due to the financial contributions made to the Tories by the brewers? Will he also confirm that the lacy gives protection to shareholders and company directors against intimidation by the Tory Party in respect of making financial contributions?

Mr. Mason

On the first point, because it is a very serious comment, I will certainly draw it to the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Sir K. Joseph

Is the Minister aware that inertia and, perhaps, sometimes intimidation are far more influences in favour of trade union donations to the Labour Party than of shareholders' subscriptions to the Conservative Party? Is he aware that shareholders have perfect freedom to dissociate themselves from any company which contributes to either party by selling their shares?

Mr. Mason

Of course the latter point is true, weak though it is, but the right hon. Gentleman must recognise that the trade unions have always been free and have always revealed their contributions. The companies, by an Act, were forced to do so.