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Aircraft Factory, United States (Members' Visit)

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Air what assistance was given by his Department to certain hon. Members to enable them to accept an invitation to visit the Lockheed aircraft factory in the United States of America.

If as reported in the Press, a public relations organisation has stated that it obtained Parliamentary authority, does the right hon. Gentleman's Answer mean that so far as the Air Ministry is concerned that is incorrect? Does the right hon. Gentleman know what is meant by obtaining Parliamentary authority, other than from the Air Ministry?

Order. The Minister cannot be asked to explain a statement by a public relations agency for which he is not responsible.

What I want to know from the Minister is whether consent was given or authority obtained before hon. Members were invited to go to the United States to inspect the Lockheed aircraft factory?

As I said, the Air Ministry had nothing to do with this and I am, therefore, not in a position to say whether anybody else gave authority. No authority was given either by me or to me by the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If you prefer it, I can raise this matter at the end of Questions, but it seems to me that we are entitled to ask about the movements of hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is what I intend to do whether hon. Gentlemen like it or not, even if there is resentment when we inquire into their movements, particularly When the movements are unofficial in character but in some respects related to their Parliamentary duties. Are we not entitled to do that?

I do not know what is the point of order. The point of order in my mind was merely that in accordance with the rules and practice of the House an hon. Member cannot ask a Minister to comment by way of denial or otherwise on statements for which there is no Ministerial responsibility. I was not objecting to the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question after he re-framed it. I only stopped the right hon. Gentleman from asking his question in its original form. That was all.

May I thank my right hon. Friend for the authority he gave me to visit Middleton St. George and to fly in a Javelin aircraft?