HC Deb 11 March 1971 vol 813 cc583-4
Q5. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish an account of all the offices, positions and other responsibilities he holds in his capacity as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

The duties and responsibilities of the Prime Minister are described in a number of standard works of reference, including page 41 of "Britain 1971", an Official Handbook published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, obtainable through any bookseller at one pound and sixty-two and a half pence, and available for consultation in the Library of the House of Commons.

Mr. Carter

Will the Prime Minister consider adding to the direct responsi- bilities contained in those works responsibilities for great national issues such as the present tragic circumstances of Rolls-Royce? Should he not, therefore, stop hiding behind the skirts of a non-Cabinet Minister, come out into the open, take part in the debate today, and declare himself to be the architect of the mess which this Government have created?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary questions usually bear absolutely no relationship to the facts, and this one is no exception. Matters of national policy are matters for the Cabinet as a whole, and it is well know in all Administrations that when the departmental Minister responsible is not a member of the Cabinet he attends the Cabinet when matters affecting his responsibility are discussed. This has always been the case. I have complete confidence in the departmental Minister.

Mr. Harold Wilson.

We on this side do not share that confidence, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he does not wish to speak in the debate today, or in any other debate, that must be a matter for him. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will be speaking in the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]

But will the Prime Minister give further consideration to our proposal that a Select Committee should be appointed, after the negotiations are complete, so that all aspects of responsibility of Ministers in both successive Governments can be properly probed by the House? If the right hon. Gentleman will not do that, will he consider the suggestion that a committee of Privy Councillors be appointed, if secrecy is in question? He may recall that when he proposed that course to me on one occasion I agreed within minutes to what he had proposed.

The Prime Minister

That is a typical example of instant response. It has already been announced that the Government will publish a White Paper, which can then be fully debated by the House if the House so chooses; and that there will be a recommendation to the shareholders of the old company that a full Department of Trade and Industry inquiry shall be held. That is the proper way to deal with the matter.