HC Deb 19 July 1962 vol 663 cc632-3
Q11. Mr. Grimond

asked the Prime Minister what are the duties of the First Secretary of State and of the Minister without Portfolio.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State will act as Deputy Prime Minister and will retain responsibility for the Central African Office and continue to lead the Ministerial group charged with the oversight of the Common Market negotiations.

My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio will be responsible for the co-ordination of the Government information services at home and has the responsibility normally carried by a member of the Cabinet who has no Departmental duties.

Mr. Grimond

What exactly are the functions to be attached to the office of Deputy Prime Minister? Like the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I attach great importance to hearing the replies of the First Secretary. Will he answer questions addressed to him as Deputy Prime Minister? As for the Minister without Portfolio, is it simply his job to conduct Government propaganda at home and, if so, is this a suitable charge on public funds?

The Prime Minister

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, my right hon. Friend will answer Questions addressed to me in my absence. He will also deal with the special questions to which I have referred, particularly those of Central Africa. In reply to the second part of the question, successive Administrations have found it necessary to co-ordinate the Government information services, and this will be done on the home front by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lipton

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the official appointment for the first time in British consti tutional history of a Deputy Prime Minister represents a damaging admission on the Prime Minister's part of his own inadequacies?

The Prime Minister

This is not an appointment submitted to the Sovereign but is a statement of the organisation of Government. It follows a very high precedent, for it was exactly the arrangement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when Sir Anthony Eden was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr. P. Williams

Will the Prime Minister answer about the rôle of the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to his task as Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Common Market negotiations? Does that mean that he will now be answering on Common Market affairs rather than the Lord Privy Seal?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think that it would be more convenient for the Lord Privy Seal to continue, but this is a statement of the very important task which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary has undertaken for some time past.

Mr. Marsh

Can the Prime Minister hold out any hopes to the House and the country of the possible promotion of the Deputy Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

If I were not so anxious not to offend the Leader of the Liberal Party, I might say, "Wait and See."