HC Deb 21 June 1976 vol 913 cc1095-6
31. Mr. Canavan

asked the Lord President of the Council how much public money has now been given out in official aid to Opposition parties.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

A total of £248,629 has been paid from the House of Commons Vote to Opposition parties under the terms of the Resolution of the House of 20th March 1975.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend arrange to publish in Hansard full details of the way in which this public money is spent, since it appears a bit thick that the beggars in the SNP should be claiming about £10,000 a year from the overburdened taxpayer yet, according to the Official Report, one-quarter of its allocation went last year into the coffers of a well-to-do subsidised farmer like the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt)?

Mr. Foot

I do not know what arrangements may be made about the disposition of the money by the Scottish National Party and I am not sure how possible it would be to publish these figures in the accounts. What I am responsible for is carrying out the Resolution of the House.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the Lord President accept first that the reference by the hon. Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) is uncalled for, particularly since my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) was acting as the accounting officer for the Scottish National Party Members of Parliament? Secondly, will he understand that in the Scottish Assembly, in which the Labour Party will be in a minority and from which the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire will probably be absent, it would do Labour Party Members of Parliament a lot of good if they had the resources available to prepare far better policies than they are presently pursuing?

Mr. Foot

If all uncalled-for statements were not made, this would be a much more silent Chamber than it normally is. Apparently, despite the suggestion that my hon. Friend's question was uncalled for, it seems to have called for quite a confession by the hon. Member.

Mr. Lawson

Will the Lord President say when he expects to receive the report of the Houghton Committee into the iniquitous proposal that taxpayers' money should subsidise political parties? Will he assure us that when he receives the report and it is published there will be a full debate in the House before the Government make any proposal of any kind?

Mr. Foot

I do not, of course, accept the adjectives used by the hon. Member to describe the nature of the report or of the body set up to make the inquiry. I understand that the report will be coming forward in the reasonably near future, and some request will probably be made for a debate then. Obviously, the House could not proceed to deal with what is a House of Commons matter until there had been some debate.