HC Deb 23 March 1981 vol 1 cc629-30
36. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Paymaster General if he has been satisfied with the co-ordination of Government publicity during the last month.

Mr. Pym

Yes, but we are constantly reviewing its effectiveness.

Mr. Atkins

Does my right hon. Friend think that Ministers have done enough to get over to industry the value of the cut in the minimum lending rate?

Mr. Pym

I think that industrialists are aware of it. Ministers have made every effort to get this message across, and the Confederation of British Industry has made an estimate of the value of the cut. I understand that the figure put on it was £700 million. We are doing our best in that regard.

Mr. John Silkin

Is the Paymaster General aware that the Opposition are very satisfied with the co-ordination of Government publicity during the past month, and in particular would like greater co-ordination of publicity on the more interventionist theories of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food rather than on those of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Pym

It would be ungracious not to accept the right hon. Gentleman's compliment.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend remember the well-known dictum of Lord Melbourne about Cabinet responsibility: It is not much matter which we say, but mind, we must all say the same."? Does my right hon. Friend agree with that dictum?

Mr. Pym

I have not so far cast myself in the role of conductor, but perhaps I ought to consider the possibility.

Mr. Ioan Evans

As the details of the Budget were reported in the Sunday press prior to the Budget, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that was co-ordinated or unco-ordinated publicity?

Mr. Pym

The remarkable thing about the so-called leaks was not their accuracy, but their inaccuracy.

37. Mr. Adley

asked the Paymaster General if he has any plans to amend the arrangements for disseminating Government information; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Pym

I have no plans to do so at the moment.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the co-ordination of information about the incentives that the Government have made available to small businesses? Is he aware that there is a great deal in the Budget—and, indeed, in previous policies announced by the Government—for small businesses, and that many of them are perhaps not aware of it? Will he consider ways of improving the position?

Mr. Pym

I am doing just that. With previous Budgets my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his decisions to help small businesses, and he extended that policy in his most recent Budget. It is Government policy to help small businesses and to encourage new ones to start. We shall launch a programme to make more widely known the changes that have been made to benefit those who start small businesses.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Bearing in mind the current level of public expenditure on Government publicity, and the current unpopularity of the Government, what criteria of success should we have in mind when judging the Government's publicity?

Mr. Pym

In the last analysis it is the success of Government policies that will count. The presentation of those policies is closely related to those policies. Everybody knows the difficult time that the country is going through and the depth of the world recession. We have many important decisions to take, and obviously people are hoping that we shall be reasonably successful in the reasonably near future. We have to present the policies of the Government in the light of that situation.

Mr. Marlow

When it comes to disseminating Government information, will my right hon. Friend take great care to have a major political initiative on Thursday, so that the public can have some proper political news and not be bored stiff by the posturing that is likely to take place from the Jenkinsites on that day?

Mr. Pym

It is very difficult to arrange news in such ways. Events have a habit of unfolding. However. I take note of my hon. Friend's recommendation.