HC Deb 11 April 1963 vol 675 cc1474-5
Q7. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Lord President of the Council at Wigan on 5th April, on the need for a reform of Parliament, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. My noble Friend made it clear in this speech that he was speculating on the need for reform.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Prime Minister aware that the noble Lord said many things which related to common sense and that there is much need for a reform of Parliament? If the right hon. Gentleman intends to give this matter consideration, surely he cannot ignore his noble Friend. Will the right hon. Gentleman take note that he must implement this policy at a fairly early date, because there is serious danger that if he does not do so he may not have the opportunity?

The Prime Minister

Questions are put down about Ministerial speeches. I think that Ministers should have the right to air large questions whether they are for immediate legislation or are general questions which are of public interest. I thought that this speech discussed a question in which many of us have taken an interest and on which there are different points of view, but it is not possible for me to say on what particular date in this Session I can try to introduce methods to deal with this large problem.

Mr. H. Wilson

On an occasion when a Minister in a public speech outside is talking sense, which does not always happen, is it not ungracious of the Prime Minister to talk about "speculating" and "airing views"? Should not this be an occasion when the Prime Minister might say that the Minister was speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government? Why is it that when Ministers talk nonsense the Prime Minister says that that is the Government's policy, but when they talk sense he tries to slide out of responsibility?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the distinction. I am very often asked whether a particular precise proposal represents the decision of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman knows the distinction between this and speeches made by Ministers and others on large subjects which do not involve precise proposals. But I will convey to my noble Friend the praise from the right hon. Gentleman which, coming from him, will I am sure be a very nice Easter gift for my noble Friend.