Central Policy Review Staff

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th April 1974.

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Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Angus South 12:00 am, 30th April 1974

asked the Prime Minister if he will define the responsibilities of the Central Policy Review Staff on the one hand and of the Policy Group under Dr. Donoughue on the other; and what is the aggregate annual cost to public funds of the latter body.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The tasks of the Central Policy Review Staff continue to be those set out in Cmnd 4506, carrying out policy analysis for Ministers collectively. The unit under Dr. Donoughue, who has been appointed as a senior policy adviser at 10 Downing Street, advises me, concentrating in particular on shorter-term questions mainly of domestic policy. The total annual cost of the unit is some £50,000 excluding the cost of accommodation.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Angus South

Now that it has become apparent that the political hatchet men have been recruited, not as a single spy but in battalions, would it not be more seemly that they should be paid by Transport House or, better still, by the Labour Party's union bosses, so that there should be no dubiety about where their allegiance lies?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. Gentleman forgets that the previous Government—in my view, quite rightly—brought a lot of people into No. 10 and the Cabinet Office. Whether they were paid by the Conservative Central Office or, as in some cases, by the taxpayers makes no difference. They had full facilities and full access to documents. We have followed the report of the Fulton Committee in this regard. When the hon. Gentleman refers to single spies, as I think he did —a good Shakespearean quotation—I should say that we have not put a single spy into the CPRS, as was done by the appointment of the Tory Central Office man into the CPRS. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Mr. Horam. [Interruption.] Order. I have called Mr. Horam.

Photo of John Horam John Horam , Gateshead West

Is not a policy group of this kind very much better than heavy and excessive reliance on the Head of the Civil Service, and is it not strange for the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) to criticise this arrangement, which may lead to a more consistent political approach?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

This is a matter to which a good deal of thought has been given. I agree with the Fulton Committee. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did. We have followed it, apart from the argument about payment. I could not understand what my hon. Friend had in mind when he referred to the Head of the Civil Service, who carried the confidence of successive Governments up to 1970, after 1970, and up to the present time. I very much resent some of the ill-informed, illiterate and ignorant criticism of his recent appointment.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that this question raises the point about those to whom access to confidential Government information is given? This point is particularly important at the present time in view of the allegations—I know not how well founded—that red boxes, under his previous administration, received a somewhat odd circulation.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman is getting hard up for information if he relies on Private Eye. The story is entirely untrue. No red box, blue box, black box or green box moved as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think. Perhaps he will check his facts and get in touch with me, instead of lowering what was once a moderately distinguished ministerial career by allegations of that kind.