Oral Answers to Questions — Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st March 1977.

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Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , Thanet East 12:00 am, 31st March 1977

asked the Prime Minister if he will list the responsibilities of the Patronage Secretary.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) on 29th March.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , Thanet East

Is the right hon. Gentleman not now feeling a little sorry for his Patronage Secretary, who, like everyone else, seems to have been taken for a complete ride by the increasingly dubious nature of the Lib-Lab alliance?

Is he aware that he himself has been had for a mug by one of the first fruits of this deal with the Liberals—namely, the document submitted to him by the Liberals which is the Liberal terms over devolution and which has today been discovered not to have been written by the Liberal Party at all? Did he know when he received this document from the Liberal leader that it was, in fact, a photocopy of a memorandum written by a pressure group known as the Outer Circle? Just who is kidding whom over this latest Liberal cock-up involving political plagiarism?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I think that the hon. Gentleman must have overlooked the reply that I gave on this matter earlier this week.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman begin again? He was speaking during the noise.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I can appreciate the outcry. Do not the indignation and the anxiety expressed by Conservative Members about the arrangement made by my right hon. Friend with the Liberals indicate that it is very seriously damaging to them, and that, therefore, this is a powerful argument for continuing it, at any rate on a temporary basis?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Is the Prime Minister aware that his answers this afternoon are simply not good enough? Will he now at least answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken)?

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are not surprised that the Patronage Secretary has become somewhat confused because in Liverpool, for example, the Liberals seem to be much more concerned with an alliance with the Conservative Party against the Labour Party whereas in this House they seem to be more concerned about an agreement with the Labour Party against the Conservative Party? Perhaps one day my right hon. Friend may get a really clear answer as to where the Liberals stand.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

All that may be the truth, but I do not propose to discuss inter-party relationships in this House.

Hon. Members:

Answer the question.