HC Deb 29 October 1957 vol 575 cc29-30
47. Mr. Peart

asked the Prime Minister the present duties of the Lord President of the Council.

48. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister what changes he is proposing in the departmental responsibilities of the Lord President of the Council.

The Prime Minister

The Lord President of the Council, apart from his formal duties in connection with the Privy Council, will, like his predecessor in office, be responsible for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the Nature Conservancy.

Mr. Peart

How can such a Minister combine these very important duties with outside duties as head of a political party machine? Does it not raise a very serious constitutional issue—unless, of course, he is just to be a bellringer?

The Prime Minister

I think it is in accordance with precedent. It follows the precedent of the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—I was about to say "Epping", because I knew him for so long as the hon. Member for that constituency. I remind the hon. Member that there is precedent in the Labour Party. Mr. Arthur Greenwood held office as Lord Privy Seal and, later, as Paymaster-General and Minister without Portfolio, and also, I understand, the office of Treasurer of the Labour Party. I am told that when the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was Lord President of the Council he was generally credited, in addition to his work on the Executive of the Labour Party, with playing some considerable part in party management.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no analogy here between the head of the Conservative Party Organisation and the Treasurer of the Labour Party, either then or now? Secondly, is he aware that when I was Lord President I was a member of the Labour Party Executive? I was not in control of the party organisation. The party employed, and still employs, a secretary to do such duties. It is quite untrue to say that I had any special official responsibility for the conduct of the party organisation of the Labour Party.

The Prime Minister

I did not say there was precise similarity between my noble Friend and the right hon. Gentleman. I said there was an analogy in their functions.

Mr. Thomson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now quite clear that his noble Friend is making a full-time job of being Chairman of the Tory Party? In the light of this, is it not a little undesirable that he should ask the taxpayers of this country, including Labour voters and people of no particular persuasion, to pay his salary?

The Prime Minister

My noble Friend, like his predecessors on both sides of the House, plays his full part in the Cabinet work as well as in his other special duties of his office.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not perfectly clear that the Lord President of the Council does spend a very large part of his time on purely party activities, and that it is most undesirable, when his official duties are so small, that he should be paid the full rate of salary as he is at present?

The Prime Minister

No. I think that is a quite unnecessary and rather discreditable remark.