HC Deb 24 June 1965 vol 714 cc1937-8
Q2. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister if he will give details of the dispositions has made to keep himself informed about security risks.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 18th May to a similar Question by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison).

Mr. Fisher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that although many of us on this side of the House have nothing against the Paymaster-General [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—except perhaps that he is not very good at answering Parliamentary Questions—nevertheless we feel that his status and responsibility in this field is not very clear to the House of Commons and that Parliament is entitled to know where exactly responsibility lies and to what extent? The Prime Minister himself has delegated his authority in this very important field.

The Prime Minister

I have delegated no authority in this important field. I have made it clear to the House on a number of occasions that a Prime Minister must not be put in the position of not being informed of everything going on in this field. I have taken steps to ensure that I shall be fully informed. I did not notice in the Question anything about my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, who is better at knowing the answers to the questions than some hon. Members are at knowing the questions to the answers. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join in the tribute paid by Mr. Macmillan to my right hon. Friend for all he did in the field of security in some very difficult issues two years ago.

Mr. Kershaw

Quite apart from the view that some of us hold about the Paymaster-General, does not the Prime Minister realise that when a party Minister meddles in security matters this is bound to raise anxieties in the country? Even if the Prime Minister has residual responsibility in this matter, many of us are not content that there should be a party Minister, and this Minister in particular, with the responsibility for security.

The Prime Minister

I thought that for a very long time in our constitutional history all Ministers have in fact been members of parties. While I am not myself concerned about the interest hon. Members take in my right hon. Friend, which seems a matter more for a psychiatrist than for any other kind of professional, I should have thought that we would all agree that in the past there have been occasions when there was a feeling that the Prime Minister was not kept sufficiently in touch with security matters, and this is what we want to put right.