asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the indulgence by Ministers in the practice of addressing unofficial committees or meetings of Members within the precincts of the House during the time the House is sitting; and whether, having regard to the fact that such meetings seriously deplete the attendance at other important business in the Chamber and provide sections of Members, such as, for example, the Conservative Air Committee, with information not vouchsafed to the whole House, he will recommend Ministers to avoid this practice?
I think it is well known that many meetings are held in committee rooms upstairs while the House is in session, and, so far as I am aware, such meetings are not confined to Members of any one party in the House. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air informs me that, in addressing a meeting upstairs recently he did not do more than amplify and explain information which has been given in Parliamentary Debates. The main purpose of these meetings is to enable Members to keep themselves informed on various aspects of public affairs, and I do not propose to take any step to interfere with the discretion of those hon. Members who call these meetings in asking whoever they consider most qualified to address them. I am sure that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air would welcome an opportunity of addressing Members of the Opposition if the hon. Gentleman would make the necessary arrangements.
While appreciating the remarks which the Prime Minister has just made, may I ask whether he has observed the strange contrast between the reluctance of the Air Ministry to give information from the Treasury Bench with the readiness of the Secretary of State for Air to give that information before unofficial meetings of Members upstairs.