HC Deb 25 April 1972 vol 835 cc1269-70
Q3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister on what grounds he has appointed an additional Minister to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Prime Minister

Because of additional work in the Department.

Mr. Hamilton

Which Department—the Tory Central Office? Is not this the third time that a Tory Prime Minister has sought to finance a party political appointment out of public funds, the other two occasions being the appointment of Mr. John Hare, as he then was, and the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes)? Is it not a gross abuse to use public money predominantly for party political services, and will not the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food spend a disproportionate amount of his time, financed out of public money, on party political matters?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will carry out all his duties. We are in a period of intensive preparation for entry into the European Community, and that is why the number of Ministers in the Department has been increased from two to three. That is one less than the number of Ministers in that Department in the last Labour Administration when the Department had no European responsibilities whatever. I find extraordinary the view that members of a Government are not allowed to take part in political activities. There is no abuse here, any more than there was abuse when the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was at the same time Treasurer of the Labour Party and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recall that during that period of office of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) the £ was devalued and the Labour Party went bankrupt?

Mr. Callaghan

Is not one of the major differences that this is a personal appointment by the Prime Minister, whereas the officers of the Labour Party are appointed by election at the annual conference and not as a piece of personal patronage? Subject to that, may I say to my hon. Friends that surely we should not complain too much. Is it not appropriate that the Prime Minister should appoint someone who, when he was questioned about the increase in food prices and what the Prime Minister had said about it, as a first attempt at propaganda, said that no housewife could have been expected to believe what the Prime Minister had to say on the subject?

The Prime Minister

I see no difference in the way in which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite take part in politics, whether it is on their own initiative, by appointment or by a form of election. In any case, there is no abuse under our system.