HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc198-200
Q3. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish details of the number of Cabinet Committees which he has established.

Q8. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Prime Minister what Cabinet Committees are at present in operation.

The Prime Minister

It has long been the practice not to disclose details of the arrangements within the Government for the discussion of public business.

Mr. Fraser

The Department of Employment has said in Parliamentary Answers that increases in wages must be significantly lower in the next year. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is a Cabinet Committee considering the level of wages, how significantly lower increases must be in the forthcoming year, and what means the Cabinet intends to employ to effect decreases in wage claims?

The Prime Minister

As I said in my Answer, it has long been the practice not to disclose these details.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the Prime Minister aware that, following his Answer, no Questions can be tabled asking for details of Cabinet Committees for the rest of this Parliament? That is the rule of the House. Does he not realise that the time has come when this absurd secrecy must go? If decisions are being made, we should know the names of the people making them.

The Prime Minister

It has been the practice, not only in this Parliament but in many previous Parliaments, not to reveal these matters. I have not been able to find any occasion on which details of Cabinet Committees have been publicly revealed. Ministers are responsible for their own Departments and the decisions affecting them.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I could let him have one or two precedents? Nevertheless, I feel that it is right that this should be a decision for the Prime Minister of the day and that there should not be general disclosure, certainly of the personnel of Committees or, in some cases, of their existence. However, I think that it would be right for the right hon. Gentleman to look at each case on its merits and that when he feels there is advantage in giving details, he should give them.

The Prime Minister

I think that what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to is the fact that on previous occasions—and perhaps on future occasions—there have been unofficial disclosures of the Cabinet Committee structure.

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