HC Deb 21 January 1965 vol 705 cc395-6
Q3. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Prime Minister what are the executive, as distinct from the advisory, functions of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I would refer the hon. Member to my Statement of 26th November last which set out the executive functions to be transferred to my right hon. Friend in addition to his main responsibility for the establishment of a Land Commission and for future policy relating to the availability of land.

These will be set out in detail in a transfer of functions order which will shortly be laid before the House.

Mr. Hill

Whilst thanking the Prime Minister for that Answer and appreciating that the main purpose of the new Ministry is to put through some rather controversial nationalisation measures, may I ask him two questions? First, is it really in accord with the conception of modern, efficient and streamlined Government to establish a Ministry with such incomplete responsibilities, such as land without planning, water supplies without rivers, and other natural resources generally without coal, gas, oil, iron ore, sand, gravel or even the chalk or whitewash? Secondly, in so far as the Minister has co-ordinating functions, is it realistic to expect a Minister of non-Cabinet rank, however able, to co-ordinate and perhaps resolve the conflicting interests of Departments headed by Ministers of full Cabinet rank?

The Prime Minister

If my right hon. Friend had all the duties the hon. Gentleman wants to give him, he would have to be a Minister of super Cabinet rank to co-ordinate everything mentioned in the supplementary question. The hon. Gentleman, first, is wrong in saying that the main function of the Ministry is a particular piece of legislation. It is not, and if the hon. Gentleman will study the great concern felt all over the country due to the fact that these functions have not been centralised in one Ministry, I think he will recognise the case for establishing this Ministry.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the Prime Minister explain how his right hon. Friend can be effectively responsible for the use of land, when, as he himself told us just before Christmas, he has no responsibility for the planning decisions which actually regulate land use?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is correct: this is a very difficult point. It was a very difficult question to decide—I agree with that. After going into it very thoroughly indeed one has got to recognise that in the responsibility of the Minister of Housing for dealing with local authorities, especially on individual housing matters, the question of land is so integral to the work of local authorities that it was not thought right to separate these individual decisions from the work of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

Mr. Kershaw

Is the Prime Minister aware that he said yesterday that the new Minister would take a leading part in major projects to do with water? There is a constituency problem in Stroud. It is due to the Severn flooding. To whom should Questions about that now be tabled—to the new Minister, to the Minister of Agriculture, to the Minister of Transport, or to the Minister of Housing and Local Government? Surely the position is very confused. Can he clear it up?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have details of his flooding problem, I will tell him to which Minister it should be sent.