asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he will take steps to abolish the posts of part-time directors of the Bank of England;
(2) what inquiries have been made into the volume of gilt edge transactions on the occasion of previous increases in the Bank Rate during the period of office of the present Government.
I will, with permission, answer Question No. 11 and Questions No. 17 and 27 together.
I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) on 12th December.
Further to that point of order. The mere fact that the Economic Secretary thinks that it is relevant is no reason why it should be answered with the other Questions, which are quite distinctive.
On a point of order. Is it in order for right hon. and hon. Members on either side to put down Questions about matters which are sub judice at the present time in the context of the Tribunal which is still continuing its bearings this day?
Questions Nos. 11 and 17 by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and me refer to the appointment of part-time directors of the Bank of England, but Question No. 27 refers to a quite different matter. If you will look at the Question, Mr. Speaker, I think you will agree. It has nothing to do with the two previous Questions.
On Question No. 17 I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, and the Economic Secretary whether it is in any way sub judice. It is a question for Parliament to decide. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that overwhelming opinion in the country, and Parliamentary opinion, should be tested on whether men should be put in a position where there is a clear conflict between their public duties and their commercial activities? Cannot we have an answer from the Government on that question, which is sub judice only in Parliament itself?
The system under which the Bank of England now works was that brought in by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they nationalised the Bank of England. It is the system which they laid down. I think very careful consideration needs to be given before it is altered. There can be no discussion of its merits until we have the Report of the Tribunal.
On Question No. 17—I am reserving my right to put a supplementary on Question No. 27, which is a different Question—may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will not agree that to have directors associated with the Court of Governors whose firms are engaged regularly in gilt-edged transactions is bound to prove a source of embarrassment to the Bank of England and the firms concerned?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was 1694? Will he look at this question seriously, because, whatever its merits, it is obvious that strong opinions are held about it?
May I put a supplementary question to the Economic Secretary on Question No. 27? Is he aware that Lord Justice Parker, in opening the proceedings of the Tribunal this morning, himself referred to the desirability of obtaining further information about gilt-edged transactions conducted by certain firms in the City of London previous to 1957, and that he mentioned the year 1951? In view of his Lordship's request for information, is it not desirable that the Government—
I think that previous questions were in order. They could be considered without reference to the Tribunal, though I think that the right hon. Member for Easington. (Mr. Shinwell), if he reflects, will understand the disadvantage of quoting in the middle of a case the sayings of a judge when the case has not yet been decided. We ought to wait until we have the full Report.
I put a Question on the Order Paper asking whether the Government would institute an inquiry. His Lordship, in opening the proceedings of the Tribunal this morning—and this is reported in the Press this afternoon—requested information on this precise subject. Therefore, am I not entitled to follow the statement made by his Lordship by asking a supplementary question in order to ascertain the Government's views?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to ask that, but this is getting very dangerous and I do not know where further questions may lead us. It is a fact that this whole troublesome episode has been sent by the House to the Tribunal to hear and inquire into, and I think that on general principles it is best to avoid anything until the Tribunal has had an opportunity to hear all the evidence and express a final opinion. I think that would be the wisest course.
The Government will supply any figures which the Tribunal thinks are relevant, and they have already supplied them. It seems to me that it really is not up to us or to the right hon. Gentleman to instruct the Tribunal on what is relevant.
On a point of order. Are we not in the difficulty that under this rather peculiar procedure the Government are the accused and have the conduct of the proceedings against themselves? Surely, therefore, cannot we as an Opposition require the Government in their capacity as the people who have the conduct of the proceedings to bring certain evidence to the notice of the House?
I do not think that the form of the inquiry or the Resolution passed by the House puts anybody in the position of being accused. The Tribunal has been asked to make an inquiry into the whole matter. Anyhow, if the Government were the accused in this matter, which I do not admit, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) knows that when a man is accused he is entitled to receive a fair trial, without any intervention by the House which might prejudice it. I hope, therefore, that he will let this matter go.