HC Deb 09 May 1968 vol 764 cc617-8
Q3. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister which Minister now acts as deputy Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member must be well aware of the Answer I gave on 25th April to virtually the same Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).—[Vol. 763, c. 77.]

Mr. Marten

But does the Prime Minister recall that in that reply he said that there were no standing arrangements in force for this office? Is not the country entitled to know, as a matter of confidence in the Government, who acts as Prime Minister of this country when the Prime Minister himself is unable to be at his duties? Could he name somebody?

The Prime Minister

In accordance with long-standing practice, if I were out of the country on public business, I should nominate a deputy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] The House should be well aware that I should nominate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in those circumstances.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Could my right hon. Friend tell us which shadow Minister now acts as deputy Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the position of deputy Prime Minister one which is, fortunately, not known to our constitution, which provides only far an alternative Prime Minister in the person of the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is quite right, and in my Answer on 25th April I said that there was no such known office as that of deputy Prime Minister. Arrangements are made ad hoc when, for any reason, the Prime Minister is not able to be present at Cabinet and similar meetings. I leave to hon. and right hon. Members opposite questions about the Opposition.