Oral Answers to Questions — Information Services (Ministerial Responsibility)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 1962.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 13th February 1962

asked the Prime Minister what directions he gave, when assigning additional responsibilities in connection with Government Information to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, as to the division of his time between his Treasury and other official duties.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the new duties he has recently allotted to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, he will define the responsibilities of individual Ministers concerned with the home and overseas information services.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Each Minister is responsible for the information and public relations work of his own Department. But there are frequently activities in which several Departments are involved and there is thus a need for co-ordination. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, assisted by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary, is responsible for the co-ordination of the home information services and my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation is responsible for the co-ordination of the overseas information services.

I am satisfied that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is able to apportion his time between his various activities himself.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

Is the Prime Minister aware that in some quarters this is regarded as the opening shot in the next General Election campaign? In the midst of an economic crisis, is it not deplorable that a Minister should be taken from an important Department in order to prop up the fortunes of a tottering Government? Is he also aware that this shows a lamentable lack of faith in the ability of Colman, Prentis and Varley to pull an election out of the bag? Finally, has Mr. Colin Hurry been consulted on this appointment?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

The hon. Gentleman has got off all his points, but none of them is worth answering.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Is the Prime Minister aware that there are now far too many Ministers responsible in this field, including, according to the Answer he has just given, three Ministers responsible for the co-ordination of Government information? is he planning to have one Minister responsible for co-ordinating the co-ordinating Ministers? Has there been any occasion on which senior Ministers have been successfully co-ordinated by junior Ministers according to this arrangement?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I think that this is a good arrangement. There is a very natural division between the foreign services and home problems.