Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Will the Leader of the House find time very soon for an urgent debate on the behaviour of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in relation to the report on Hollis Industries and the former Paymaster General, in view of the fact that the Secretary of State has claimed that he was not legally able to publish the contents of the report, because it was carried out under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985? Section 449, however, explicitly states that he may publish the information with the company‘s permission and that, even without that permission, he may publish it if doing so helps a public authority, designed by him, to fulfil its obligations. So what possible grounds are there for the Secretary of State to sue people who are making it clear that he held back that report and did not ask the former Paymaster General to come to the House to put the record right about the payment that he had received from Robert Maxwell? If he did not read the report and handed over the decisions to officials, what on earth is he there for?

    Mrs. Beckett: That is a disgraceful remark from the right hon. Gentleman. I have not had the chance to consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the matter, but I understand that he was advised, by the permanent secretary at the Department, that it should be dealt with by others, not by himself. Under those circumstances, it is quite disgraceful for the right hon. Gentleman to say that my right hon. Friend should have insisted on dealing with the matter himself. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman would have had much more to say about it, and done so much more fervently, if my right hon. Friend had insisted on overruling the advice of his permanent secretary.

    Private Notice Question: 22nd March 2001 (Ref: 365 c485-6)