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Hon Members (Registerof Interests)

Volume 938: debated on Thursday 10 November 1977

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On a fresh point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter concerning the Register of Members' Interests.

During the latter part of the recess, early in October, it was reported in The Guardianthat the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had entered into a contract on behalf of his party with a public relations firm, Good Relations, in order to promote the careers of three members of the Shadow Cabinet. I have been watch- ing the Register in the Library each day this week to see whether that beneficial interest had been registered. I have not been able to find an entry in the Register for the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) and the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King). The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) was mentioned, but I see that that no longer applies.

I wish to know whether this type of beneficial interest—from public funds, of course, because the Opposition receive £150,000 of public money to promote the parliamentary careers of members of the Shadow Cabinet—should be a registrable interest. I think that this is vital, and the House and the country ought to know on whose behalf members of the Shadow Cabinet are speaking. Is it on behalf of their party or on behalf of public relations firms outside this House?

I am always fascinated to learn of my various activities, but if I ever had any activity of this sort I would be a very remarkable person to have it. I cannot imagine that I ever had anything to do with it before. I know nothing about it and I cannot understand what on earth is being talked about.

Later—

May I, Mr. Speaker, return to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), which was characteristically dismissed in robust manner by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw)? It was reported in The Guardian that a firm called Good Relations had been retained by the Conservative Party to promote the parliamentary duties and activities of the three hon. Members mentioned by my hon. Friend. It may be an arrangement unknown to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, but the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) was subsequently reported as having severed his relationship with public relations agencies.

I put it to you, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that, though it might be an arrangement unknown to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, clearly it is an arrangement known to the three Members who have been named in newspaper reports and also to the company, a representative of which stated that it received copies of speeches and other matters from the three named Members and that it was the agency's task to polish them up for public consumption.

I further put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is of direct benefit to the named Members who are receiving the services of this public relations agency, and therefore I should have thought that it was a registrable interest which should be recorded in the Register of Members' Interests.

Order. It is not for me to decide on registrable interests. There is a Select Committee of the House concerned with this question. It is not for me.