HC Deb 03 May 1956 vol 552 cc592-3
45. Mr. Callaghan

asked the Prime Minister if he will transfer the responsibility for answering Questions on the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to a senior Minister.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

No, Sir.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Prime Minister aware that if one wants to find out information about certain aspects of scientific matters, it is necessary to ask not only the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, but the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Health, the Lord Privy Seal, the Minister of Supply—

Mr. Stokes

And the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Callaghan

—yes, the Minister of Labour—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

And the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Callaghan

There are a whole host of others. Is the Prime Minister not aware that there is growing concern about the lack of co-ordination of our scientific effort and, indeed, that that effort is not sufficient? Does he not think that be should appoint a senior Minister to review our programme in that direction?

The Prime Minister

That is not what the hon. Member asked in his Question. He asked whether I would appoint a senior Minister to answer Questions in the House. It is a quite ordinary procedure for a junior Minister to answer Questions in the House, if there is Ministerial responsibility—even very important Questions. Indeed, I seem to remember that the hon. Member himself served the House very well in that respect.

Mr. Callaghan

I hope that the Prime Minister is not trying to get me into trouble with my constituents. Is he not aware that the D.S.I.R. is responsible for most of our civilian scientific research? When that is of such fundamental importance to Britain at the present time, should not a senior Minister be responsible for handling that matter, especially as the Lord Privy Seal is responsible for handling Questions on atomic energy?

The Prime Minister

It is quite true that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is responsible in that way. What the Question is concerned with is simply who answers Questions in the House. It is a common procedure that when a senior Member of the Cabinet is in another place, a junior Minister answers Questions in the House.