Oral Answers to Questions — Parliamentary Candidates (Departmental Information)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13 December 1973.

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Photo of Mr George Cunningham Mr George Cunningham , Islington South West 12:00, 13 December 1973

asked the Prime Minister if he will issue instructions that Ministers are not to make available to Conservative candidates decisions and correspondence to which such candidates are not parties.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

No instructions are necessary. It is not the practice to make information available to those outside the Government service who have no need to know it. This applies to prospective Conservative candidates.

Photo of Mr George Cunningham Mr George Cunningham , Islington South West

Does not the Prime Minister think it deplorable that a copy of a letter from a Minister to the official leader of a local authority should be sent to a Conservative candidate who had no council position at all and, worse, that he should receive his copy before the leader of the council got his? This is not the first time that this kind of thing has happened in my area. If I give him the details, will he make inquiries? If this is to be the practice of the present Government, succeeding Governments are likely to copy it.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I have already made detailed inquiries into the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman. I understand that there are two cases of which he complains. The Conservative candidate concerned had raised with the council the matter of the listing of houses and the development of the City Road basin. As he had also raised it with the Department and asked for its views, it was quite natural that the Department should let him have its views, in the same way as it lets any other member of the public have its views. Two other members of the public were concerned with the listing of houses and wanted the Government to take action, which they did.

Both letters were sent at the same time in order to reach the recipients before the public meeting. Neither of them reached the recipients before the public meeting. The Conservative candidate rang the Department and asked why he had not had a reply, and a reply was sent round to him because he was told that the letter was on the way.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Is the Prime Minister aware that only yesterday afternoon a Minister gave me a very welcome answer to a question on a purely constituency matter? Immediately after leaving the Chamber he telephoned the Conservative Party office in my constituency and gave the information in rather greater detail, so that it rather than the Member of Parliament could relay it to the local Press? Will the Prime Minister be quite straight on this issue and assert that it is Government policy that Members of this House, regardless of party, are treated as the representatives of their constituents?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

That is how they are treated. If the hon. Gentleman will send me details of the matter I shall inquire into it. But where members of the public, officials of organisations outside local and central government, or candidates of any party are concerned with any matter and ask for the Department's views, it has long been customary for them to be given.