HC Deb 29 June 1967 vol 749 cc741-2
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether he has yet decided to extend the responsibility of the Paymaster-General for answering Questions in the House.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

No such decision is at present contemplated, Sir.

Mr. Marten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a very surprising Answer? Is he further aware that the Paymaster-General is now playing no part in the Parliamentary life of this House?[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to hear the rest of the supplementary question.

Mr. Marten

Without jogging backwards, can the Prime Minister say what on earth the Paymaster-General is doing which could not be done by a party official?

The Prime Minister

It is perhaps fortunate for the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General does not deal with his Questions. I sometimes wish that I could hand them over to him. It is the traditional practice that the duties assigned to non-Departmental Ministers are not normally announced. Unlike certain non-Departmental Ministers up to October, 1964, my right hon. Friend is not engaged in party duties, as the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Since the exploration of the mud on the ocean floor was looking for a responsible Minister last week, does not the Prime Minister think that the Paymaster-General might take it on?

The Prime Minister

The question of seabed technology, on which we had an interesting exchange last week, is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, as I made plain.

Mr. Bellenger

Has my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General any specific duties involving security matters?

The Prime Minister

I have pointed out that it is not customary to indicate the duties assigned to non-Departmental Ministers. The responsibility for security, apart from my own overriding responsibility and the specialised responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, is, in each Department, for the Departmental Minister concerned.