Oral Answers to Questions — Patronage

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 5th December 1968

asked the Prime Minister if he will set up an independent committee of inquiry into the question of the exercise of patronage by Ministers with instructions to make proposals for its curtailment.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Does my right hon. Friend realise that Answers to recent Questions of mine have revealed that the statutory patronage available to seven Ministers has increased numerically from

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

My hon. Friend will be aware of the Answer which I gave to him. As for statutory appointments at 10, Downing Street, he will recognise that of the 14 increase from 1958, seven were additional judges and one was the Parliamentary Commissioner. I hope that my hon. Friend would not feel that that was excessive. If he studies the others in detail, I think that he will find that they all relate to appointments approved by the House and, I should have thought, in the main fairly unanimously approved by the House.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the increase in patronage demand comes mostly politically or otherwise?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the hon. Gentleman means demand for individual appointments rather than a philosophical desire that there should be more patronage, I am not aware of a very strong demand. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that as a result of a decision taken in 1965, the old political patronage system which we inherited has been abolished.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Will the Prime Minister reconsider this, and consider the advisability of having an independent chairman such as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That is rather hypothetical because I do not think—I apologise for this throat—I do not think an inquiry is needed. If one were to be set up I would consider all possible applications for the job.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Hamilton

Is the Prime Minister aware that jobbery and privilege have always been very severely condemned in Scotland, and that any increase in them can only add to the unpopularity of the Government? Would the Prime Minister not agree that if he wants to keep a few Labour seats in Scotland at the next election he should made sure that the jobs on public boards are filled by persons with detailed knowledge of the subjects of which they will be in charge instead of giving out appointments as political rewards, as they so often are?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am charmed by the hon. Lady's new-found interest in the holding of Labour seats in Scotland and I certainly take note of what she has said in this respect, but as I understand her own policy, the policy of separatism, it would mean that the very large number of distinguished Scots who come from north of the Border to fill many of these posts would be kept in Scotland, doubtless to the greater benefit of Scotland, but there would then be more jobs for the English and Welsh south of the Border.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Hamilton

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply by the Prime Minister I give notice that I shall raise the matter again.