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Clause 5. — (the Board's Reports.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Prices and Incomes Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th August 1966.

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Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe 12:00 am, 9th August 1966

I support the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) recalled that in the middle of the night in our deliberations in Committee upstairs the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary had made some soothing noises on this subject, as a result of which he had felt rather satisfied at the time. I am sure that my hon. Friend is not the first to have been affected in that way. Indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has referred to historic events on an earlier Amendment, might also have referred to Antony and Cleopatra on this Amendment.

In the modern competitive world in which we live there is more and more industrial espionage. We read about it all the time. Our industries are having to compete with those of other countries and it is, therefore, only fair that the Government should not, by this Measure, give our international competitors a greater advantage than we have over them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) made a valid point when he said that if information which is sought is later to be made available to the public, it is likely that that information will not be supplied to the Board. Hon. Members who are also members of the Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee know that it is the custom that when witnesses are called to give evidence which is of a special kind, they have the option of having their evidence starred and not published if the Chairman of the Committee agrees.

Since the Government obviously do not wish to hinder British industry, I trust that they will accept the principle of the Amendment so that industrialists giving information to the Board may be assured that the facts they give will not be made available to their competitors. It is not good enough to say that the Board will administer this in a responsible way. It will be the sole arbiter in these matters and the Government should have the courtesy to ensure that industrial information that should not be circulated is kept private.