HC Deb 13 May 1963 vol 677 cc923-4
6. Mr. Milne

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what steps the Lord President is taking in regard to his Department's tardiness in replying to correspondence in connection with North-East matters.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

My noble Friend is unaware of any correspondence to which this criticism applies. He apologises for any instances which may have escaped his notice. If the hon. Member has some specific case in mind, perhaps he will send me the particulars.

Mr. Milne

I am rather surprised. Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that I wrote to his noble Friend on 26th March about a proposed interview with the Northumberland miners and that, although I have subsequently written again, I have received no reply? Does he not agree that the correspondence with his Department reveals that there is an unnecessary duplication of correspondence which, in many ways, renders the appointment as unnecessary? We are already troubled enough in dealing with Government Departments concerned with unemployment, and this unnecessary duplication is delaying matters considerably. Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that I will let him have details of the correspondence which I have in mind?

Mr. Freeth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his promise to let me have details of the case he has in mind. In many of the instances when correspondence is addressed to my noble Friend a number of Government Departments and even local authorities have to be consulted, and this sometimes means an inevitable delay before my noble Friend is able to reply to the Member in question.

Mr. Wiley

But as the Parliamentary Secretary's noble Friend disclaims any responsibility and claims only to act as a post-box, will he arrange, when he next goes to the North-East, to take the responsible Ministers with him so that decisions can be taken?

Mr. Freeth

I think the hon. Gentleman is under-estimating the close concert in which the Tory Government work together.

Mr. Milne

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter later.