Bank of England

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme 12:00 am, 19th December 1957

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislation to make it a condition of membership of the Court of Governors of the Bank of England that other directorships and appointments must be relinquished.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

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.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

On a point of order. Question No. 27 has nothing to do with the other two Questions. It is a quite different Question. Why is it answered with the others?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Perhaps we may hear a supplementary question on the matter.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Kidderminster

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?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The Question on the Paper is in order because it does not directly concern the proceedings of the Tribunal, but I can foresee that supplementary questions could invade that sphere. I hope they will not. I am waiting to see what happens.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If time permits I will call the right hon. Gentleman to ask a supplementary question.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

Is it in order for a Minister to answer several Questions together when a Member concerned has not given his consent to his Question being answered with another?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The Answer which the Economic Secretary gave referred to a previous Answer. As I do not recollect it, I cannot say whether it is in order or not.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

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.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

This system has continued since 1685, not altogether without success.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Will my right hon. Friend resist suggestions for the introduction of legislation until we have the full Report and do nothing in panic even then?

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

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?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

Of course the question will be considered seriously.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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—

Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset

On a point of order. Have you not previously ruled on this matter, Mr. Speaker, that no reference can be made at Question Time or in debate in the House to the current inquiry procedings at Church House?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

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.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

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?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

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.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

May I ask the Economic Secretary, in reply to my original Question No. 27, whether the Government will institute an inquiry into this matter?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

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.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

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?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

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.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

But is that so when the accused are also conducting the prosecution?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is not a prosecution at all. It is an inquiry.