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Political Donations And Honours

Volume 447: debated on Friday 10 February 1984

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11.16 a.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can confirm that the average contribution made in the years 1979–82 to the Conservative Party by the companies of eight directors of private companies recently granted peerages exceeds £100,000 each and if so what they infer from this.

My Lords, it is not a ministerial responsibility to answer questions about donations to the Conservative Party, but, whether or not the figure quoted by the noble Lord were confirmed, Her Majesty's Government would draw no inference relevant to the award of life peerages.

My Lords, will the noble Viscount consider that, since 1979, the top 18 contributors to the Conservative Party have received five peerages and nine knighthoods, whereas the top 18 industrial companies have done very much worse than that? Ought not the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee to take a look into this problem, especially having regard to the fact that, while the Conservative Party is filling its coffers in this manner, it is at the same time seeking to diminish the slender resources of the Labour Party?

My Lords, the noble Lord asked me whether I will consider all these matters. The short answer to him is that I will not. The reason I will not is that the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee, composed of three very prominent Members of this House, does so.

My Lords, does my noble friend recall the wise saying which he might suggest to the noble Lord opposite: pursi omnia pura—to the pure all things are pure?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for translating it for me. It always helps in my case. I am sure that I agree with him.

My Lords, would the noble Viscount agree that you would have to be very pure indeed not to draw the inference made by this Question?

My Lords, that is exactly why I have not sought to draw any inference one way or the other.

My Lords, is this not an appropriate occasion to wish many happy returns of the day to Mr. Harold Macmillan?

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his very kind remark. I always forget what you call somebody who is in limbo to the extent that Mr. Macmillan now is. But I think that he is Mr. Macmillan and I am sure that there will come a time when this House will greatly welcome him here.

My Lords, while joining with great pleasure in wishing many happy returns to Mr. Harold Macmillan, will the noble Viscount the Leader of the House suggest to his noble friend that he should not confuse purity with naïvety?

My Lords, I am very anxious never to make any suggestions to my noble friend.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the arrival of many Life Peers in this House is a source of astonishment to their friends, and even more to their acquaintances? In those circumstances, would it not be more becoming to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, if he extended the same good faith to other noble Lords as they so regularly and frequently do to him?

My Lords, I am not questioning anyone's good faith. I am questioning the system.

My Lords, perhaps it would be appropriate to leave it there. I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that he is not impugning anyone's good faith.