§ LORD ADDINGTON
My Lords, I rise to ask the question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask whether His Majesty's Government are aware that Section 14 (d) of S.R. & O. 1947 No. 889 makes no provision for the imposition of a penalty upon persons who do not disclose their interest in contracts, and whether His Majesty's Government will apply the provisions of Section 76 of the Local Government Act of 1933 to all such cases.]106
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, this provision of the Local Government Act refers to local authorities and provides that members of those bodies who offend against the provision shall be liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding £50. It does not, however, extend to members of executive councils. No similar provision is included in the National Health Service Act: and there is, of course, no power to create a criminal offence by regulation. It follows that the noble Lord's wishes could only be met by further legislation.
It would, however, be possible to provide by regulation that an offending member of an executive council should be disqualified from continuing to hold office. But the number and type of contract into which an executive council might enter is extremely small compared with those in which local authorities are concerned. Executive council contracts will be limited to such matters as stationery, printing, office equipment and possibly in some cases works of adaptation to an office. It has not, therefore, so far been thought that the danger that members will fail to disclose an interest in contracts is sufficiently great to necessitate a special provision disqualifying those who fail to do so.
The matter will, of course, be kept under review, and if it should be shown in the light of experience that the regulations need strengthening, further provision could be made on these lines.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his answer. This is obviously a question of principle and it does deserve to be carefully watched so that abuses do not arise in these bodies, that are extremely similar to those for which Parliament has provided.