9 AUGUST 1975, Page 12

Westminster corridors

When I designed to address you on the Business of Money and Advancement of Gain, in short on the whole Issue of Trade and Industry, I was immediately put in mind of the words of my friend, Sir Simon D'Audley, shortly before that good Knight passed away in untimely fashion some months ago.

The Man proper for this (Trade and Industry, that is), said Sir Simon, is of a sedate plain good Understanding, not apt to go out of his Way, but so behaving himself at Home that Business may come to him. Sir Simon has left behind him a most excellent Rule and couched it in very few Words, suited to the meanest Capacity. -Keep your Shop and your Shop will keep yob". he would say. Would that Master Benn had heeded tifese. words, for on all sides the clamour of the Town is heared in a single question: "How does he do it?" Or, more pertinently, -How's it done?" The answer, of course, is that he does not and it is not. For no sooner does some new disaster from the reign of Master Benn manifest itself than Ministerial colleagues rush to the Chamber of the Club to defend the prococious Whizz-kid.

Take the Ombudsman, the sage Sir Alan Marre. This wise counsellor, who no one would say is given to rash or ill-considered judgements and whose sole object in life is to defend those whom the machinery of the Executive does most 'wrong, implied in an Official Report that Master Benn had made . . . well, just conceivably could be said. um, not to put too fine a point on it . .. a balls-up. Suddenly, there at the Despatch Box in the Club was Mr Peter Shore, a so-called Secretary of State, wild of eye and long of hair, declaring in most vehement terms that Master Benn was innocent of the charge. Dealing with the arguments of the Ombudsman in a clear and sensible fashion and taking great care not to be emotional, Mr Shore insisted that if there was a muddle it was entirely on the part of Sir Alan.

"We, in this Administration," (believed to be a reference to the present Ruffian Government) Mr Shore enthused, -do not make balls-ups." The grammar might have been euncertain, but the meaning was plain. "Speak for yourself," retorted Mr Bob Mellish, the Government's Chief Whip, who just happened to be sitting on the Tory benches and was telling Mr Edward Heath, an old friend, a somewhat dubious tale about goings on in the Balls-up-pond Road.

Not satisfied with Mr Shore's explanation, the two Whig Whips (a Mr Cyril and a Mr' Smith) forced a division on the matter. came as no great surprise to some when it was discovered that in their efforts to make up something known as a quorum, Mr Mellish and Mr Heath were holding hands in both Lobbies simultaneously.

When the Speaker demanded an explanation, Mr Mellish said (somewhat petulantly) that there were such things as Laws of Libel. Besides, he added ambiguously, he spent all his time trying to get his chaps in one Lobby. "Try the other," shrieked Mr 'Ruby' Lips' 'St John-Stevas, a master of innuendo.

When the Hubbub

"In the absence of Mr Harold Wilson [a puppet] in Helsinki," she said, "I have assumed leadership of this motley band." Her next three words, "Norton, Villiers, Triumph," fell like mortars on a stunned but packed Chamber.

Someone called Mr Varley, another puppet, immediately commandeered the Despatch Box and insisted that NVT had nothing to do with Master Benn. Somewhat ungallantly, he sug,gested that the Duchess was muddled. -NVT, he went on, "is a Tory plot to blacken the name of Master Benn. It was set up by Lord HailshaM (ne Hogg) who had become so emotional that he needed a motorized bicycle."

-Filthy smear," said the Tories. -Fascist pigs," said the. Tribune Group MPs, who were wearing an especially low profile. Everyone said something; except, strangely enough, Master Benn, who just sat on the Front Bench smiling smugly at his Meccano model of an oil rig. Perhaps he'was heeding Sir Simon's words after all.

Tom Puzzle