HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc204-6
Q3. Mr. Onslow

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has to reduce the size of his Administration.

The Prime Minister

The number of Ministerial appointments will be kept as low as is consistent with the Government's programme to reform and modernise our institutions, and guide the restructuring of the economy.

Mr. Onslow

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the whole national effort to earn a living is prejudiced when favoured minorities are headlined in successful attempts not to earn their keep, as he said at Guildhall last night? Since that is so, would he accept that his own Administration is the most overpaid, the least popular and the least disciplined minority in British history?

The Prime Minister

Considering the amount of time which the hon. Member devoted to thinking out that crack, I do not think that it was half as good as that of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in the debate on the Address in 1964. He did it far better. The increase in the—

Sir G. Nabarro

What was it?

The Prime Minister

It is in HANSARD; the hon. Gentleman can look it up.

The size of the Cabinet is exactly the same as it was under the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. With regard to the Administration as a whole, the increase of 16 compared with those days is partly accounted for by the fact that, with the general good will of the House, I think, there are no longer any unpaid Assistant Whips. It was agreed that all Whips should be paid, including the Opposition Chief Whip. That is a very good step forward as well, and he certainly earns his keep.

Mr. Rippon

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that he now has the largest Government in the world? Will he explain his motivation in appointing a Minister for Planning and Land, having, only a few months ago, abolished the Department of Land and Natural Resources?

The Prime Minister

The Departments were amalgamated at that time and, in view of the very heavy load which will fall on my right hon. Friend's Department in relation to the Maud Report and the long-deferred reform of local government, which hon. Gentlemen opposite were content to leave on the basis of the 1888 and 1894 Acts, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will feel, I think, that it is right that that Department should be adequately manned for the tasks which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite failed to do.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there would be no complaints from this side if he included another 250 in his Administration? Is he also aware that there may be some imbalance? Would he compare the number of Ministers, for example, at the Ministry of Power, with those at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

The Prime Minister

I take note of my hon. Friend's first question and do not necessarily disagree with it. He will be aware that we have, of course, amalgamated not only two very important Departments of State, but three—the Colonial Office, the Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office. My hon. Friend will be in no doubt, therefore, about the heavy load falling on Ministers there. As to the Ministry of Power, I think that the staffing there is right in relation to the load which they have to carry.

Mr. Peyton

Surely not even the Prime Minister can believe that so swollen an Administration is justified, but does he not realise that this Question it altogether too modest and that, for most of us, the reduction of the Administration would be nothing like sufficient until their total elimination has relieved the odium in which they are held?

The Prime Minister

Not even the Prime Minister could believe that any Administration, however large or small, could ever have contained, as one did, the hon. Member.

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