HC Deb 12 December 1963 vol 686 cc560-1
Q1. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Prime Minister to what extent it is his intention to make statements of Government policy at regular Press conferences.

The Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

I intend that statements of Government policy should continue to be made in Parliament when Parliament is sitting.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I appreciate that answer, Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the rights of elected Members of Parliament is the right to interrogate Ministers and that it is a longstanding Parliamentary practice that all Government statements should be made in this House? Do I understand that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to continue that practice?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the Leader of the Opposition has Press conferences, that Ministers have Press conferences, that Members of Parliament could have Press conferences, but that it seems that only the Prime Minister cannot have Press conferences? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if during a Parliamentary Recess he felt it incumbent to have a Press conference to express Government policy, he should not be put off by the criticism of hon. Members opposite?

The Prime Minister

I did say in reply to the Question from the hon. Member "when Parliament is sitting" statements would be made here. Whether or not I hold Press conferences at any time, I should do nothing to impair the primacy of this House.

Mr. Callaghan

I am sure that everyone will be glad to hear the last remarks of the Prime Minister. Will he also take into account the fact that there is sometimes a thin dividing line between Government policy and party statement? In view of the difficulty of judging that, is he aware that it would probably be wise to err on the side of not too many conferences? If he does give them, is he aware that it will be expected that the Opposition should have the same right to comment as the Prime Minister has to make his statement?

The Prime Minister

I think I can choose the number of conferences I have and the hon. Gentleman can choose what comments he makes on them.