HC Deb 20 April 1983 vol 41 cc284-5
47. Mr. Cryer

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on the criteria used for appointments to committees set up to advise the Government.

Mr. Hayhoe

Members of advisory committees are selected in the light of the ability, experience and knowledge required by the work of the particular advisory body concerned.

Mr. Cryer

It was widely thought that, on the Serpell committee, Mr. Alfred Goldstein was chosen because he was a chum of the Prime Minister's economic adviser, Professor Walters. Will the Minister assure the House that chums of the Prime Minister who have a direct financial interest in a subject, who are apparently able to appoint advisers from their firms with impunity to rip off the taxpayer—in this case by a sum of about £600,000—will not be appointed in future, and that there will be no question but that the chief accountant's guidelines will be rigorously enforced, without any exceptions from a Secretary of State?

Mr. Hayhoe

The hon. Gentleman has a short memory, because he should recall that about two or three months ago he raised the same absurd allegations. They were wholly repudiated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself, and I do so again today.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

Can my hon. Friend say whether the TUC and trade unions are now prepared to nominate people for Government committees when they are asked to do so, as obviously there are times when there is a great deal of advantage in getting the unions' point of view on various matters of policy? I understand that they have been refusing to serve, and this is obviously a mistake. Does this still obtain?

Mr. Hayhoe

No, I know of no blanket condemnation by the TUC or refusal to co-operate in the way that my hon. Friend has implied. He will know that I have had a close concern with various committees recently, notably the Megaw committee, on which there was a distinguished trade unionist.

Mr. Alan Williams

In the Serpell case, does the Minister recollect that there was a clear risk of a conflict of interests? Was the responsible Minister informed of this conflict of interests before the contract was placed? If not, will the Minister assure us that in future any use by such a committee of a consultancy in which a committee member has a vested interest will be referred to the Minister for approval?

Mr. Hayhoe

My right hon. Friend was fully informed of any possible conflict of interest and he judged that no such conflict was taking place and that he wanted to appoint, as he determined, the best people for the job.

Mr. Cryer: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of that unsatisfactory answer, I beg to give notice that—with your help and co-operation—I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.