HC Deb 11 March 1958 vol 584 cc226-8
45. Mr. Cronin

asked the Prime Minister if he will take steps to relieve the Paymaster-General of some of his burdens, having regard to the circumstance that he is continuously occupied to a major extent with matters appertaining to the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Power.

47. Mr. Mulley

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements he proposes to make to fill the vacancy of Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in view of the increasing and necessary absences of the Paymaster-General from the House and the increasing volume of financial business.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

The present arrangements are working well and are, I believe, to the advantage of this House. I am not at present, therefore, proposing that an appointment should be made to the office of Economic Secretary to the Treasury. But arrangements of this sort have to be kept under constant review and an appointment can be made at any time if the need should arise.

Mr. Cronin

Are not the multitudinous preoccupations of the Paymaster-General likely to prejudice the success of the European Free Trade Area negotiations, having regard to the fact that those negotiations are proceeding rather badly for the United Kingdom as it is?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think the Paymaster-General has managed this affair with extreme skill and with the general approval of his colleagues in all countries. It is an advantage that in this matter he should be so closely connected with the Treasury. He has been able to carry out his other duties to the general advantage of the House.

Mr. Mulley

While appreciating the work done by the Paymaster-General in connection with the Free Trade Area, may I ask whether the Prime Minister does not think that it would be of more advantage if the Paymaster-General did not have to concern himself with routine Treasury matters? May I, further, ask whether the reluctance to appoint an Economic Secretary is due to lack of suitable candidates on the Government side of the House or to the fact that the Prime Minister is afraid that such a candidate might lead to another batch of Treasury resignations?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member misunderstands the working of the Treasury system. The Economic Secretary does not deal with routine matters, which are dealt with by the Financial Secretary. He deals with the larger questions of economic policy, with which this matter of the Free Trade Area is very closely allied.