HC Deb 07 December 1965 vol 722 cc238-9
Q5. Mr. Gibson-Watt

asked the Prime Minister what duties he has at present assigned to the Paymaster-General; and what duties he has removed from him since his statement on 12th November, 1964.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to or subtract from the Answer I gave on 12th November, 1964 to a Question by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw).

Mr. Gibson-Watt

In view of recent speculation, will the Prime Minister now tell us what the Paymaster-General does?

The Prime Minister

I am not responsible for speculation. The answer which I gave on 12th November pointed out that, traditionally, non-Departmental Ministers carry out such duties as are assigned to them by the Prime Minister, but it is not the practice, and has not been under any Government, to say what non-Departmental Ministers normally do.

Mr. Heath

Why is the Prime Minister being so coy about his right hon. Friend's duties? Has he not heavy responsibilities which he carries out for the Prime Minister in watching over the Prime Minister's colleagues in the Cabniet, their political activities and the political activities of other Members of the Government? Is it not a fact that, each morning, when the Prime Minister looks at the newspaper and sees "Watch it, Harold", he turns round and says, "Watch it, Wigg"?

The Prime Minister

That was not even funny, but, apart from that, the duties assigned by the right hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend are completely wide of the mark. Those are not his duties. Moreover, it is a fact—perhaps I was wrong in my answer to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt)—that there have been occasions when the previous Government announced the duties of non-Departmental Ministers. There were the two borne on the previous Government's payroll for looking after Tory Central Office.