HC Deb 11 February 1991 vol 185 cc607-8
31. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much time he has spent on official duties since his appointment.

Mr. Chris Patten

Up to a quarter of my time is spent carrying out my duties as Chancellor of the Duchy.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Chancellor agree that the official duties get in the way of his other duties as chairman of the Tory party? Is it true that he has told the civil servants for that tiny little job he has got that in this election year they must clear the decks for April, May and June? Is it also correct that he has told them to leave things open for a possible date in October and that his official duties will be in inverse proportion to the way in which the Tory Government are able to fiddle interest rates and the other economic indicators?

Mr. Patten

I should like to be the first and perhaps the only Member to wish the hon. Gentleman a happy birthday—although not, I hope he will understand, many happy returns.

I am a very modest fellow, but I hope that, as Chancellor of the Duchy, I make some small contribution to the continuing success of the Government and that I shall continue to do so for many months and years ahead. As for the general election, there are more than 70 Thursdays between now and the time at which we shall have to go to the country. Whichever of those Thursdays is chosen for the next general election, I am sure that we shall win it.

Mr. Mans

During his official duties, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to meet the Labour leader of Lancashire county council and ask her why she leaked to the press, before it was published in full detail, a report about Blackpool's beaches which has caused great worry to the tourist trade and to the economy of Blackpool generally?

Mr. Patten

A meeting with the Labour leader of Lancashire county council is not my first ambition in life, but were I to meet her I should draw her attention to the £3 billion which will be invested over the next few years under this Government in cleaning up our beaches and bathing waters. The only threat to that continuing programme would be the election of a Labour Government dedicated to the renationalisation of the water industry.

Forward to