HC Deb 07 February 1967 vol 740 cc1350-1
Q5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the Report of the Estimates Committee, he will give a direction to Ministers not to appoint staff or incur expenditure in advance of the enabling legislation receiving the Royal Assent.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, and I would recommend the hon. Member to study the Departmental observations on the Report which are now available to the House before making up his own mind in this matter.

Mr. Ridley

In that answer, which I have studied, the Government rejected the suggestion because the circumstances were highly exceptional and unusual. Would not the Prime Minister agree that appointing Lord Melchett at a paid salary before the Iron and Steel Bill becomes law is not a highly exceptional circumstance, and will he reconsider that?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to that case, I agree that it is not exceptional at all. There have been many cases, some within my personal knowledge, where an organising committee has been established well ahead of the legislation receiving the Royal Assent so that the necessary preliminary work could be done, and so that there was no undue delay between the Royal Assent and the organisation being set up. I could quote examples from my own personal knowledge going back to 1948, which were strongly supported by the House at the time.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on television recently that he had appointed the Decimal Currency Board, not only before legislation was introduced into this House but before the matter had even been debated, except in private Members' time, and does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in a matter of this importance it is essential that the approval of the House should be secured before these appointments are made?

The Prime Minister

It is two years since the Government made the announcement about introducing decimal currency at the date which was then announced. I am aware that there is great controversy about the particular form of the currency, but this is not a reason for not having a Decimal Currency Board, because there is a great deal of work to be done by industry, by shops, by banks and by others, and it is important that this work should be got under way.