HC Deb 11 May 1971 vol 817 cc201-2
Q3. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now assume personal responsibility for the duties of the Minister responsible for trade.

The Prime Minister

Unless and until I make a statement to the contrary, the House should assume that I have not taken over, and do not propose to take over, any of my right hon. Friends' departmental responsibilities in this or any other field.

Mr. Ashton

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that, only yesterday, we had to have a personal statement from the Minister concerned because he had misled the House, and admitted misleading the House, two weeks ago? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that, since it was reported in every newspaper that he himself had not been told about the V. & G. affair until it appeared on the tapes, and that he does not know what is happening in this Department, he should take over personal responsibility for it?

The Prime Minister

It has long been a tradition of the House that, once personal statements have been made, they are not referred to by hon. Gentlemen. The Vehicle & General affair is already being dealt with by the tribunal.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are delighted to hear him say that, once personal statements are made, they are accepted by the House? Does he recall that, when the then Secretary of State for Defence made a personal statement about some reference to General de Gaulle, the right hon. Gentleman, then Leader of the Opposition, followed the most unusual practice of putting down a Private Notice Question in order to hound him further? We are delighted that he is now converted to the rules of the House.

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory, he will find that the purpose was not in the least to hound the then Secretary of State for Defence: it was in order to obtain a statement which the House should have.

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