HC Deb 25 November 1985 vol 87 cc604-5
33. Mr. Winnick

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will bring forward proposals to amend the requirements of the Register of Members' Interests so that the actual financial sums and assets are duly disclosed.

Mr. Biffen

I have no such present proposals.

Mr. Winnick

Surely, as it stands, the register's purpose is undermined by the fact that no value is given to the various directorships, consultancies and assets which feature in it. Is the Leader of the House aware—he should be, in my view—that if he looks up the interests of Labour Members who are sponsored by a trade union, he will see that every detail is given down to the last penny?

Mr. Biffen

The register's requirements have been considered by the Select Committee responsible for it. The Select Committee deemed that it would not be appropriate to have the disclosure required by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Alton

Why is the Leader of the House opposed to penalties being imposed upon hon. Members who refuse to sign the Register of Interests? Does he believe that there is also an argument that lobbyists should be included on the register?

Mr. Biffen

The first point made by the hon. Gentleman is a matter for the House, not for me. As to his second point, I said to the House in the summer Adjournment debate on 24 July that I thought we might have the chance to consider this matter a little later. Plainly that must now be in the reasonably near future.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Should not these matters, which are of legitimate public interest, be debated? The Leader of the House should give time to the Select Committee report on Members' interests, which was published in July this year and which still has not been debated by the House. Why does not the Leader of the House give us time to debate those matters, because we shall then resolve them on the Floor, to everyone's satisfaction?

Mr. Biffen

I have just said to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) that I had hoped we could be debating the subject of lobbyists, as set out by the Select Committee, in the reasonably near future.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that this matter will be debated soon? He gave me an assurance during the debate to which he referred that we would have an early debate. Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the early-day motion referring to the way in which Tory Members swan around the House with Miss World every year? I have tabled an amendment to that motion calling on the hon. Members concerned to give the House the exact figure that they are paid by Mecca for performing this undesirable service.

Mr. Biffen

I have before me the very words that I used in the summer Adjournment debate. They were characteristically cautious, but I am happy to say again that I hope we shall be debating the matter in the near future. It will be a matter for the discretion and generosity of the Chair whether the debate extends to Miss World.