HC Deb 06 May 1965 vol 711 cc1558-9
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what are the instructions given to Ministers about taking part in public processions and demonstrations of a controversial nature.

The Prime Minister

In these and similar matters Ministers are guided by the principle that they must so order their affairs that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their private interests and their public duties.

Mr. Marten

Is the Prime Minister aware that before Easter I asked the Home Secretary whether he would give an assurance that no Minister would be taking part in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he could give no such assurance? Is he further aware that another of his junior Ministers took part in the demonstration outside South Africa House? Would it not be more becoming to Her Majesty's Ministers if the Prime Minister could give an assurance that they would not take part in these demonstrations?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's question to my right hon. and learned Friend arose out of a main Question dealing with police arrangements. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not suggest that it is the duty of the Home Secretary to order his police arrangements in such a way as to inquire into the intentions of Ministers in carrying out the requirements of the statement I have made—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the Question."]—The first half of the question related to the hon. Member's supplementary question of 25th March. I had to make clear the circumstances in which that question was put, for the benefit of hon. Members who may not recall the precise supplementary question.

The general position of Ministers, junior or senior, is as I have said. There is this general rule about no conflict between private interests and public duties. That rule is being followed. If the hon. Member has any idea where he thinks that it is not being followed, perhaps he will bring it to my attention, and I will look into it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these marches are about the healthiest form of political activity in which Members of Parliament can take part in these days? Will he use his influence on the Leader of the Opposition to lead a "Hands off Steel" march from London to Ebbw Vale?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman would like to vacate his seat for so long. It is not for me to give advice to my hon. Friend on the question of marching and exercise, but I should like to say to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten)—and we share his regret at having been frogmarched from the Front Bench to the back benches—that he could, perhaps, show his enthusiasm in some suitable case involving human liberty by himself joining in one of these demonstrations.

Mr. Ramsden

Does it not constitute something of a record for the Government to have got both the nuclear disarmament people and the aircraft workers out on the march this year?