Oral Answers to Questions — Ministers (Press Advisers)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham 12:00 am, 3rd December 1964

asked the Prime Minister what guidance he has given to Ministers in charge of Departments on the appointment of Press advisers who are not established civil servants.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

No special guidance has been given.

Such appointments as have been made do not conflict with the rules for temporary appointments which were in force under the previous Administration.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Can the Prime Minister say what security screening is given to these outside advisers and whether they are allowed to see any classified documents without being screened? Will he advise the advisers that the contradictory briefings given last weekend about the strength of B.A.O.R. are not helpful to anyone?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Exactly the same security considerations apply here as applied with the previous Government. There has been no change whatsoever in this respect. But I would make this point, because this is a problem which faced the previous Government as well as the present one. There are difficulties about the question of information officers in all Departments, and I think that there is a general desire, which I believe was shared by the previous Government, that we must try to do something towards working out a better form of career service in this field. Of course, it will be essential all the time to keep on recruiting those with journalistic experience, and this is highly desirable. But it would be a good thing if we were able—this is what we are trying to do—to work out a system of recruiting young journalists with short journalistic experience and bring them into a career service and, on occasion, as all Governments have done, to recruit them on a short—service commission basis.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

In opposition the Prime Minister always expressed objection to these positions being filled by gentlemen who were not being paid. Is it not now the case that this is going on in his own Administration? Has he now changed his view or policy, or did not he know about this?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, I know what is going on in this connection. There has been no change in our practice compared with what was done by the previous Government, particularly concerning industrial appointments, or between what is now going on and what I have said in the past. But I recognise, and have always recognised, that where it is a question in some technical and economic Departments of bringing in industrialists to do a particular industrial job a very difficult salary problem arises. In these respects I have always felt it appropriate to bring them in under proper safeguards on a no-pay basis.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us the position concerning the Foreign Office because, as he knows, this Department of State is probably better served as far as news is concerned both at home and abroad? There are many Foreign Office spokesmen. What will the gentleman now appointed to the Foreign Office do? What are his duties?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

His duties are to assist the Chief Information Officer of the Foreign Office. This he is doing extremely well. I believe that the House as a whole feels that, despite the great distinction and diplomatic training of those who filled the post in the past, the question of Foreign Office public relations has not always been as good as it might have been.