HC Deb 15 November 1976 vol 919 cc925-6
42. Mr. Hooley

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will personally take part in forthcoming negotiations with the IMF about the proposed loan to the United Kingdom.

Mr. William Price

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been keeping close touch with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the progress of the negotiations.

Mr. Hooley

My right hon. Friend was courteous enough to inform me that ministerial duties in Washington would prevent him from answering Questions in person this afternoon, and I am grateful for that information.

Will my hon. Friend pass on to our right hon. Friend the substance of my supplementary question, which is to ask what initiative he or the Government will he taking about the present chaos in the Eurocurrency markets and also about initiating discussions to move away from the disasters of floating exchange rates to a more fixed system?

Mr. Price

I shall most certainly pass that supplementary question on to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Ridley

Will the hon. Gentleman give the House an absolute assurance that his right hon. Friend is not trying to borrow still more money, apart from what his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to borrow?

Mr. Price

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can answer for himself in this House, and will do so.

Mr. Lawson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a man who feels that the solution to every problem is to borrow more, he would be doing far less damage if he were here answering Questions instead going round Washington with a begging bowl?

Mr. Price

If I have to rely on the judgment of my right hon. Friend or that of the hon. Gentleman, I am in no doubt about where my loyalty in this matter lies.

Mr. Whitelaw

Is the hon. Gentleman really entitled to treat the House of Commons in this disgraceful way? After all, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is supposed to be answering Questions in this House. There may be good reasons why the right hon. Gentleman is in Washington, which we have not been told. Even if there are good reasons, they do not justify the hon. Gentleman's cavalier treatment of the House of Commons.

Mr. Price

If I may say so, my answers were no more cavalier than were the questions. I thought I had made it absolutely clear that my right hon. Friend was in Washington talking to members of the Administration there. He is not negotiating; he is talking to them. He is informing them and having discussions with them. It goes no further than that.

Mr. Ridley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman said that he had been asked to reply on behalf of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. When I asked what the Chancellor was doing, the hon. Gentleman replied that his right hon. Friend could answer for himself on another occasion. The hon. Gentleman told me earlier that he was answering for his right hon. Friend. We cannot have both the hon. Gentleman answering for the Chancellor and the Chancellor answering for himself. This is surely an abuse of the question and answer procedure.

Mr. Speaker

I am not responsible for ministerial replies.