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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 Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South 12:00 am, 9th August 1966

I assure the House that I do not approach this matter in any mood of complacency. I must at once correct a grave misconception of the whole status of the Board's functions. It is not an instrument of the Government but a wholly impartial body. With respect to the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) I resent any imputation that it is anything other than an impartial body, holding the ring between the interests whose affairs it may have to consider with a view to giving advice in its reports about the conclusion which it thinks is in the public interest. It is wholly misconceived to regard the Board as a party to the matters or issues which it is considering. It operates in a position and from a standpoint of impartiality.

Another of the basic errors of the criticism by the hon. Member for Barry was in seeking to distinguish between the Board and the Monopolies Commission because the former is temporary and the latter permanent. We are here dealing with Part I of the Bill which, in conjunction with Part III, sets up permanent machinery. It is to be part of the permanent machinery of the economy. Therefore, we are not dealing with transient individuals, unaccountable, who flit overnight from their positions of responsibility. They are, and I must repeat, very responsible public men who—and I put it in this interrogatory way—surely would not unnecessarily disclose the private affairs of any person, unless it was absolutely necessary to make sense of their report.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) tempted me to enter into the realms of mythology, but, despite the temptations, I shall resist that. He asked whether the Board would get the information it needed, because the parties concerned might be affeared by this kind of provision. The House will know that paragraph 14 of Schedule 1 invests the Board with statutory power to require the attendance of persons and the production of documents in their possession or control, so I do not think that there will be any difficulty in getting the information.