HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1205-6
Q5. Mr. Milne

asked the Prime Minister if he will set up a tribunal of inquiry to examine the cases of corruption arising from the Poulson trial and associated matters.

Mr. Edward Short

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. Specific allegations of corruption are a matter for the police. In his statement on 29th April my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced his intention to recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Standards of Conduct in Public Life.

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a Royal Commission does not go far enough and that a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act is imperative in the light of recent court decisions? Is he aware, further, that those of us in the North-East find his reply disappointing, especially as it comes from one of our colleagues in that area? Does he recollect that Mr. Justice Waller at Leeds Crown Court made reference to an army of paid lieutenants in the town halls of the North-East? Does not that in itself warrant consideration under the Act of 1921?

Mr. Short

Certainly it warrants consideration by the police. But the point is that tribunals of inquiry under the 1921 Act are confined by the statute to definite matters of urgent public importance. [Interruption.] We consider that the inquiry now proposed should review a much wider area than it would be appropriate to entrust to a tribunal of inquiry. Therefore we take the view that a Royal Commission is the right way of proceeding.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that whatever inquiries are made into this matter will include inquiries into the illegal or corrupt claiming of election expenses in by-elections in the North-East—and make it retrospective?

Mr. Short

Without notice, I do not know whether that will come under the terms of reference of the Royal Commission.

Mr. Milne

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of those replies, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Hamilton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I too intend to try to raise the same matter.