HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 cc189-90
29. Dr. Tony Wright

To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on the role of the Privy Council in relation to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. [6720]

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Ann Taylor)

The offices and bodies, membership of which disqualifies individuals from being Members of the House of Commons, are listed in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Amendments to the list are made by Order in Council on the advice of the Privy Council. In addition, the judicial committee of the Privy Council would consider any application that might be made to Her Majesty in Council by a person claiming that a Member of the House of Commons is disqualified by that Act.

Dr. Wright

Did my right hon. Friend notice the recent remarks of Lord Nolan, who suggested that the time had come for the House to look again at the issue of outside interests? Now that certain Conservative Members have expressed their intention of responding to the rigours of opposition by devoting themselves to making serious money outside, is it not time to examine the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 and the role of the judicial committee to see whether that is a way of dealing with the matter? Will my right hon. Friend give it urgent consideration?

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising issues that are of concern to many people. We now have a code of conduct for Members of Parliament and the new system that is supervised by the Standards and Privileges Committee. In view of that, it is somewhat early to suggest a different course of action. The Standards and Privileges Committee is working well.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Will the President consider whether the Privy Council might have a role in examining blind trusts for the financing of private offices? I have taken advice from the assistant registrar, who says that a blind trust would no longer be acceptable because when the system was last used it broke down. Perhaps the Privy Council could advise the Prime Minister whether he should publish the names of all the people who donated to his blind trust.

Mrs. Taylor

The matter was considered by the previous Standards and Privileges Committee on the advice of Sir Gordon Downey. The new Standards and Privileges Committee will inherit some of that work and make its recommendations in due course. It is right that the guidance should come from there.

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