Avoidance of Corruption.

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1939.

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Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western 12:00 am, 25th July 1939

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to facilitate the avoidance of corruption. During recent months there have been introduced into this House Bills dealing with the instalment system and with share-pushing, and everyone will admit the importance of those Bills and the serious character of the evil with which they deal; yet at the same time we must recognise that those affected by those Bills were only the sprats of the financial world, and now, it seems to me, the time has come to give some consideration to the sharks, because the sharks have been busy in the troubled waters of politics, and as a consequence of the power they have in this House and in another place they may in conceivable circumstances become very dangerous and a source of very undesirable corruption. I know that a small group in the other place have, through a series of relationships, control most of the Government Departments in this House, and that 200 relatives sitting on the other side of the House can determine the policy of this House. The book " Tory M.P." is an extraordinary revelation of what can happen, and the possibilities that exist of corruption and of a cynical attitude towards democracy and democratic institutions that can easily destroy us in a time of crisis.

To understand the nature of this financial power is to understand the character of the policy that has been in operation in this country and which brought about the betrayal of Abyssinia. When we realise the part those associated with oil played in that disastrous affair we can see how it was possible for Mussolini to get his way. If we understand the part played by the big financial houses and their representatives here we can understand the reason for the betrayal of democracy in Spain and in Czechoslovakia; it gives us an insight into why we have had such a deplorable capitulation to Japan and why there is such procrastination in the Anglo-Soviet talks in the hope that in the meantime a way will be found of handing Danzig over to Herr Hitler.

I have heard Members of this House talk very often about the character of the membership of this House immediately after the War. I have heard them talk of the "new rich" who came in here bloated with profits. They have told me, and I have heard it said in the House, that it was a terrible spectacle. But I suggest that the "new rich" never were the danger and never have the potentialities for corruption that the "old nobility" have. The "old nobility" have kept themselves firmly entrenched in power and privilege, they keep their hold on the land and in the financial houses, and they have placed in this House a stone wall against any advance in the pensions of the aged people, even while their own relatives are getting all kinds of sinecures and pensions as a result of the power possessed by the 200 relatives who sit in this House and who continually vote subsidies for themselves. This continued activity under a cloak of obscurity can have very evil consequences. Therefore, I want to introduce a short Bill that will bring out into the light before the electorate, not only the general characters, but the financial and landed interests and connections of those who stand for Parliament or those who sit in this House.

Clause 1 deals with Parliamentary candidates and imposes upon them the responsibility of disclosing the sources of their income, the number of directorships in their own hands or in the hands of their relatives, the acreage of land in their possession or in possession of their families, or whether through another member of the family they are represented in another place. There will be a Sub-section imposing the penalty of imprisonment, to which a fine will be added if they do not give full particulars. The second Clause deals with Members of this House. Members of Parliament will be called upon to make a full statement of their holdings in land, industry and finance to the Clerks at the Table. All such Members will be ruled out of discussion and prohibited from voting on any question on which they have a definite personal or family financial interest. There will be a provision that will allow an appeal to Mr. Speaker where the financial interest is negligible and is not likely to prejudice their vote. There will be a penalty also here for wrong information given under the Clause, and the penalty will be imprisonment to which a fine may be added. Clauses 3 and 4 will deal with range and name of Bill. I ask leave to bring in this Bill—a Bill that will be a real safeguard to democracy and to the cleaning up of this House.

Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

Does the Bill contain a Clause to prevent Members voting themselves 50 per cent. increase in their salaries, and pensions?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

If I have the privilege of introducing the Bill I shall be very willing to consider any suggestions on the Committee stage of the Bill.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gallacher, Mr. Kirkwood, Mr. Gordon Macdonald, Mr. Banfield, Mr. Ellis Smith, Mr. Tinker and Mr. Batey.