HL Deb 25 November 1970 vol 313 cc120-1

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they approve of any arrangement whereby Ministers, or Crown or Government servants, when still in office, enter into remunerative contracts for their memoirs to be published shortly after their relinquishment of office; and, if not, what they propose to do about it.]


My Lords, there are well-established conventions in this field, and their application in any individual case is mainly a matter of good taste and good judgment. Their voluntary acceptance by all concerned is more likely to be effective in preserving them than any arbitrary rule.


My Lords, I appreciate that reply. May I ask, nevertheless, whether the Government, who are after all, as I understand it, anxious to make a fresh start in many fields, would consider a system whereby all Ministers and civil servants should sign a paper in which they would bind themselves not to publish any memoirs or diaries based on their official activities, for a period of years after their relinquishing office, such period to be fixed after discussion in Parliament? Do not the Government think that that would be a sensible thing to do?


My Lords, I should be perfectly prepared to give careful consideration to the noble Lord's carefully prepared supplementary.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he would make representations to his colleagues in the Cabinet, asking them not to prepare individual memoirs but to collaborate in order to produce a joint memoir? This would avoid indulging in reflections upon each other and also avoid contradictions, as, for example, when the noble Earl himself the other day declared that there was no need for panic about the economic situation but at the same time the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor spoke in the gravest tones about the economic situation. How do we avoid these contradictions?


My Lords, the noble Lord has, as always, not only illuminated but lightened the scene.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that I hope he does not do anything, because I am looking forward to the memoirs of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, about the machinations to get us into the Common Market?


My Lords, what happens, unfortunately, will be in the Government.