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I was anxious that the responsibility for choosing the Governors of the B.B.C. should be shared with Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, and two judges of the High Court. This offer was refused. Therefore, the entire responsibility was cast upon me. I am quite willing to bear it, but not to argue about it.
Mr. Speaker, may I have your guidance before I ask my supplementary? I took it that I was entitled to ask a Question in this House and that the Prime Minister was incorrect when he said he would not argue or answer that Question. If he makes that statement, am I not correct in stating that he is a poor democrat?
While expressing no opinion about the appointment of this gentleman, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is really serious in suggesting to the House when a Question is put to him on an appointment made by himself personally as the head of the Government, that he is not expected to answer the Question, and even subject himself to further interrogation on a matter of this sort?
I did answer the question—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I did answer the question but, considering the very exceptional procedure the House took in casting all this burden especially on me, I think it is a rather poor performance to barrack the umpire.
Was not the whole point of the previous discussion that these appointments should be made on Ministerial responsibility rather than by a committee? Therefore, when the Government gave way they accepted—maybe under duress, but they accepted—Ministerial responsibility. Is it a defiance —[Laughter.]—it is—of the fundamentals of British Parliamentary and constitutional practice when, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds), the Prime Minister flatly refuses in a sulky mood to accept Ministerial responsibility for his own action?
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has just said that there is no constitutional obligation upon him to argue with hon. Members about Questions which they put down. What Question No. 47 on the Order Paper asks the Prime Minister is:
what are the special qualifications possessed
and so on. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to that Question, said he refused to argue. Is not that a breach of the rule of the House that a Minister, if he answers a Question, should answer it properly and efficiently?
I do not think a point of order arises. According to the practice of the House there is no obligation on a Minister to give an answer unless he wants to. I cannot force him to give an answer and I have frequently found, on both sides of the House, that hon. Members have been dissatisfied with the answers they have received from Ministers. I cannot guarantee that that will not continue to be the case.
Does the Prime Minister think that a distinguished career in the public service, the Civil Service, is the best qualification for a post which requires complete independence of the Government of the day—and that a career in the Foreign Service in particular—is likely to make its occupant the most suitable person to interpret the wishes and views of people at home?
As the Prime Minister has accepted sole responsibility, is he unaware that many people are surprised at the appointment of a man who states that he knows nothing about broadcasting, he has never seen British television, he rarely listens to sound broadcasts and that a very poor view is taken of the point that, because he has not a television set, he should be given a free one from Broadcasting House? Is this satisfactory?