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Volume 887: debated on Thursday 6 March 1975

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asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Malta.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Malta.

Will my right hon. Friend make plans? Does he not realise that a massive amount of British taxpayers' money has been spent on building a hospital on a neighbouring island by people who are under police investigation at the moment? Is it not highly undesirable that in a situation like that certain of those people should occupy quite prominent positions in this House? Will my right hon. Friend undertake that if local councillors are to be surcharged for alleged misbehaviour at local level, Ministers should be surcharged for misappropriation or abuse of public money in other spheres?

No, Sir. I think that in that question my hon. Friend fell below his usual high standard. He will be aware that there is no ministerial responsibility whatever for this matter. Malta is a self-governing Government.

With regard to what I suspect—I hope I am wrong—my hon. Friend was trying to imply, he must realise that the matter is subject to legal proceedings and that it would be inappropriate to comment on his question.

But is it not a fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions has asked the Fraud Squad to cease its inquiries into the possible misuse of £1·6 million in building the hospital at Gozo? Is not that action quite remarkable, in view of the statement made by the Attorney-General on 9th November 1974 when the question which he put to himself and his audience at Oxford was whether one can go on grinding at the list of 300 names? Why is it that some people in those cases can get away with it, and yet two people on the Shrewsbury picket line and the Clay Cross 11 were made subject to a different kind of law?

I think that in the latter part of his supplementary question my hon. Friend has got a long way from Malta. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the circumstances about which he purports to know in relation to a police or any other inquiry. In view of the high regard in which my hon. Friend is held in the House—[Interruption.]—at any rate on the Government side of the House; I cannot comment on the tastes of Conservative Members—I hope he will redirect his undoubted talents and energies to those very many subjects on which he speaks with great authority, and leave this one alone.