HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc206-9
Q4. Mr. Gordon Campbell

asked the Prime Minister whether the Paymaster-General is responsible for the co-ordination of home information services.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on Thursday, 24th October to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emyrs Hughes) and the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward).—[Vol. 770, c. 366.]

Mr. Campbell

Will the Paymaster-General co-ordinate information imparted by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and the President of the Board of Trade on credit squeezes, by the Minister of Technology and other Ministers on broadcasting and by the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Governor of the Bank of England on general policy?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member, unfortunately, does not seem to have studied my Answer on 24th October. As one of her predecessors did, my right hon. Friend will in this House answer Questions on these matters of co-ordination of home information. She will not be so responsible. I have always set my face against using taxpayers' money to have anyone acting in the position of Minister of Information, which right hon. Gentlemen opposite did, for party gain.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is there any help which the Paymaster-General can give to the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Jeremy Thorpe) with his speeches? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the right hon. Member for Devon, North, protested with some violence yesterday about the action of the Press in ignoring his important speech in The Hague, and that the Press have now ignored both the speech and the protest?

The Prime Minister

I am very sorry about that. I feel with right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that the conference at The Hague was an extremely important conference, at which some extremely important speeches were made. It is not for me to offer any help to the right hon. Gentleman with his speeches. At least I welcome the fact that he writes his own speeches, which means that it does not just prove that he can read other people's speeches.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps we may now get back to the Paymaster-General.

Mr. David Howell

When the Paymaster-General answers Questions at the Dispatch Box, will the Prime Minister make sure that she tells us why the new Civil Service Department has been set up and a major change in the system of Government and executive has been initiated without the matter having been discussed in the House?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member is aware that agreement was reached in the summer that there should be a debate in the House about the Fulton Report. It had to be postponed, for a reason which I think the House understands—because of the need to debate the Rhodesian situation in the period just before Prorogation. We should have had a debate. I can tell the hon. Member that talks have been going on through the usual channels and that we may expect a debate very soon on the Fulton Report. In any case, the Order establishing the new Department, which was made a whole week before it came into effect, was subject to a negative Resolution, had the hon. Member or any other hon. Member wished to table a Prayer.

Mr. Heath

In his earlier reply in Written Answers the Prime Minister said that the Paymaster-General would be concerned with devolution and decentralisation. Exactly what will be her relations with the Commission on the Constitution when that is set up, and when will it be set up?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will find that I dealt with some of these matters in further Written Answers last week. The responsibility for the Constitutional Commission will be that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It is intended that right away consultations should begin first of all with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and as soon as the consultations are complete we propose to set up the Commission, I hope on a mutually agreed basis with all concerned. It is certainly not intended that this should simply be a Government-imposed attempt to solve these problems but that, as far as possible, it should carry consensus approval.

Mr. Heath

I fully understand that the Home Secretary will be responsible, but what, then, will the Paymaster-General be doing about decentralisation and devolution?

The Prime Minister

As I said in the debate on the Gracious Speech, the appointment of the Constitutional Commission, which will obviously take a considerable amount of time to do its work, must not be a reason why, if the Government or the House as a whole decide that action should be taken in the interim in respect of England and Wales or in respect of the very urgent problems of Northern Ireland, that action should be help up. My right hon. Friends and all those concerned will be free to join in bringing to the House urgent action which needs to be taken ahead of the report of the Constitutional Commission.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General be responsible for the establishment of a Scottish Specialist Committee and for investigation into Scottish affairs?

The Prime Minister

The appointment of Committees of this House are matters for the Leader of the House, after consultation through the usual channels and with all points of view in the House.