Honours System and Ministerial Patronage

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1970.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 24th March 1970

asked the Prime Minister what further steps he intends to take to limit the Honours system and to reduce the scope of Ministerial patronage.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Both the Honours system and the practice as regards appointments made by Ministers are kept under continuous review.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of producing statistics comparing the situation in 1964 with the present situation, which is causing some disturbance in all parts of the House? Will he consider the advisability of having a public register giving the names of people who are benefiting from this patronage and also giving the salaries, so that the public might judge the situation?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I take full responsibility for the recommendations made in reference to the Honours system. With regard to Government appointments, statutory legislation lays the duty on various of my right hon. Friends, although, of course, they consult me before a final decision is made. I am prepared to defend our record in this matter, not least—what I believe to have been right, though it has caused a good deal of feeling on the benches behind me—the abolition of the political Honours system. I believe that the appointments made both in respect to top appointments, whether in the diplomatic or home service or in the nationalised industries, and also recommendations made to Her Majesty in respect of Honours, will stand comparison with the record of any previous Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

Would the Prime Minister not agree that the number of direct Ministerial appointments, both paid and unpaid, outside the Civil Service has now risen to a figure of over 50,000? Does he think that is right?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have seen many different figures, and a very large figure was true when the hon. Gentleman was himself a Minister under the previous Government. I will certainly justify the appointments for which I have been responsible, and will justify them on nonparty or all-party grounds since a considerable number of former Conservative Ministers have been appointed to some of these posts, each on merit and nothing to do with politics, as well as a number of my right hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Would the Prime Minister consider, in looking into this matter, whether there is any way in which people who desert this country in order to avoid taxation or who support the rebel government in Rhodesia could have their Honours withdrawn?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think that there has already been a statement made in another place on one particular individual, if that is the person my right hon. Friend has in mind.