§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
, in rising to move—That it is desirable that those functions of the Executive Government which especially relate to Commerce and Agriculture should be administered by a distinct Department under the direction of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall be a Member of the Cabinet,said, it was a matter of surprise that in this, the greatest, or nearly the greatest commercial country in the world, there existed no Department specially charged with watching over and, where neces- 1920 sary, protecting the manifold interests of Commerce and Agriculture. Hence, under the present state of things, taxes had been imposed, modified, or removed, the monetary system changed, Acts of Colonial Legislatures hostile to the commerce of this country sanctioned, laws affecting the vital interest of trade had been passed, and Treaties concluded without passing under the review of any Minister or Department specially charged with the general interests of Commerce. He might say something similar with regard to Agriculture; but if, on the present occasion, he did not speak of that great and important branch of the subject, it was not because he did not feel as deep an interest in that industry, or as keen a sympathy with it in its present depression, as any hon. Member representing an agricultural constituency, but simply because it would be dealt with by his hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. M'Lagan). The question he wished to submit was this—was it desirable that such consideration as he had suggested should be devoted to commerce and agriculture, and from time to time such inquiries instituted and measures initiated as might appear calculated to promote them, by some competent Department of the Government, under the presidency of a capable Minister? He was one of those who thought that it was desirable—first, having regard to the great magnitude of the interests involved; second, the successful example of other nations who had tried it; and, third, the widely-spread belief among the commercial classes that the existing machinery of the Executive Government was not very well adapted for the accomplishment of these objects. This belief was supported by valid reasons. These two great interests—commerce and agriculture—constituted the basis of the power on which the State rested. As to the magnitude of their interests, they had a full discussion last Friday as to agriculture; but there was surely no man in or out of the Douse who doubted the enormous importance of those interests. The import and export trade of this country annually exceeded £600,000,000; whilst as to the amount embarked in agriculture, he could hardly venture to say what it amounted to, but it was some hundreds of millions sterling. In foreign countries —in France, Germany, Austria-Hun- 1921 gary, and Italy, and nearly every important civilized State, the interests of agriculture and commerce were watched over by persons whose position was equivalent to that of a Member of the Cabinet; and in the United States there was a separate Department charged with the supervision of agriculture. What was now asked for England was nothing new. It was but the re-establishment, to meet modern wants, of what was as old as the time of Cromwell, who saw the necessity for a Minister of Commerce, and established a great Council, which watched over all the interests of trade and commerce, and it was continued during the reign of Charles II.; but in 1783, in the reign of George III., a less satisfactory Board of Trade was organized for the consideration of all matters relating to trade. He had no doubt that the expression of a desire by an influential part of the agricultural population in this country for the appointment of a Minister would produce good results, especially if that desire was considered in connection with the expression of views which had come to this country from the United States of America. No one who considered the constitution of the present Board of Trade could doubt the necessity of a more complete supervision of the existing arrangements, instead of the isolated and anomalous supervision which already obtained; and this could only be properly achieved by the appointment of a Minister of Agriculture and Commerce, instead of attempting to patch up the system which had been considered sufficient in the days of our forefathers. It might be said by some that the trade and commerce of the country had prospered under the existing system, and that it was better to leave well alone; but no one who looked dispassionately at the present condition of the trade of the country could say that it was doing well. Statistics had shown that British and Irish products had very greatly declined of late years; that the number of insolvencies had increased from 11,000 in 1877 to 18,000 in 1878, with an estimated loss to creditors of £29,000,000 in one year. Many of their mills and factories were silent, many of their ships were laid up; and it was clear that, far from doing well, they were in urgent need of every possible help and facility and the removal of every impedi- 1922 ment before they could hope to hold their own with the other nations of Europe. There were many grounds on which could be based the statement that the present system was a failure. Would a Minister of Commerce, he asked, ever have allowed Indian cotton duties to be imposed, and then, after the creation of extensive interests, to be repealed? If we had a Minister of Commerce, should we pass Session after Session without being able to concentrate attention upon such important subjects relating to commerce as the reform of our Patent Laws and the Law of Partnership? He had sat in the House for six Sessions, and yet he had never heard the question of bankruptcy reform discussed—a question of no mean interest, as it involved the economical administration of enormous sums each year. Had we had an able Minister of Commerce to consult with a Minister of Justice, the Bankruptcy Laws would have been altered long ago. Again, with a Minister of Commerce, we might have secured a Treaty on fair terms with Brazil at the time when we thought right to reduce the duties on coffee, and to abolish those upon sugar. He thought that we should not now be witnessing a movement for an increase in the hours of factory labour, had we possessed at the time when the Factory Laws were under consideration a thoroughly good Minister of Commerce, who could have been consulted as to the legislation required. The class of objectors to his views said that the commercial and agricultural classes were the best judges of their own interests, and that they should accordingly be left alone. Well, if the acme of wisdom was to leave things alone, why should the Government ever interfere with any state of things? The interests of commerce and agriculture were too great to be left alone. Properly to arrange their affairs the classes to which he alluded required the careful and vigilant exercise of Government influence to secure them the information which it was imperatively necessary they should be in possession of, and which could only be obtained and rendered clearly and promptly valuable by means of a well-organized staff, under a responsible head. There was yet another reason why commerce and agriculture could not be left to themselves. Those who were engaged in them were too busy to give the attention 1923 which the importance of the subjects demanded to changes in our own laws and the action of foreign Powers. Parliament never dealt with any of the great questions affecting commerce and agriculture in any but a spasmodic matter. Now and then the cries of some distressed or aggrieved interest were loud enough to demand attention, and a Select Committee was appointed. The Committee incubated and published a Report, which was thrown into the waste paper basket as soon as read, and no one was very much the better for the publication except, perhaps, the student of political and social knowledge. They had such a Committee this Session—the Sugar Industries Committee—of which he had the honour to be a Member. That was nothing but a post-mortem investigation into the causes of the death of a once flourishing industry. What, he asked, would become of the Army and Navy, and the Law, if their interests were not harmoniously combined under one well-organized staff and responsible Chief? He respectfully claimed for the earning interests of the State that they should also receive the benefits accruing from being under an organized Department. It was said to those who shared his opinions—" Settle your policy first; we will then talk to you about the rest." To that he replied, that there could never he a distinct and definite commercial policy in England until they had a Minister of Commerce to give them one. It was also objected that there were Ministers enough already. But, surely, if the affairs of the Duchy of Lancaster required the care of a Cabinet Minister, and if room could he found in the Cabinet for the Keeper of the Privy Seal, he did not think there should he any insuperable difficulty about finding room among Her Majesty's Ministers for a Minister of Commerce and Agriculture. The question which he was bringing to the notice of the House was in no sense a Party question. He hoped that hon. Members who were willing to devote so much of their time to the interests of foreign nations—the woes of the Bulgarians, for instance, and the interests of the Greeks—would not grudge a little attention to the demands of the agricultural and commercial classes. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. M'LAGAN,
in seconding the Resolution, said, he wished to address the House especially in the interests of agriculture, and as to the necessity of having a Minister who should exercise a general superintendence over all the branches of the subject. To show the anomalies of the present state of things, he might observe that if any hon. Member should wish to elicit any information about drainage he would have, perhaps to his surprise, to resort to the right hon. Gentleman to whom was intrusted the management of crime and the police. If information was required about cattle disease, information had to be sought from the Minister who watched over the interests of education. If an hon. Member should want certain agricultural statistics, he would find himself referred to a Department which was mainly connected with ships and railways. If he wished to put a question about roads, bridges, and highways, he would, perhaps, be surprised to hear that the President of the Local Government Board, to whose care was committed the interests of paupers, was the proper person to inquire of about roads. It would be in the recollection of the House that about three years ago, when a very important measure relating to the interests of agriculturists—namely, the Agricultural Holdings Act—was discussed, it was carried through the House under the charge of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Now, they had probably all heard of " horse marines " in connection with that Department; but he imagined that very few of them had ever heard of an experimental farm being carried on on the deck of a man-of-war. At present, the affairs of agriculture were distributed over so many Governmental Departments, that it was impossible to get the information they wanted without a great deal of inconvenience and the waste of a great deal of time. Now, he and others who supported this Motion were anxious to have all these matters concentrated in one Department, so that as little time might be lost as possible in dealing with them. It had often been maintained, as a reason for upholding the existence of the Privy Seal Office, that if any Department of the State was overburdened with business, a part of it could be undertaken by the Lord Privy Seal, who was to be a kind of Betsy Baker, or maid-of-all-work. So was it 1925 with agriculture. Agriculture seemed to be the business of every Member of the Government, and, as was always the case when a thing was everybody's business, it too frequently proved to be nobody's business. The work was very badly done at present, and they always found that anything connected with agriculture was invariably left lagging be- hind. They had still further objections to that distribution of business. The Home Secretary, the Vice President of the Privy Council, the President of the Board of Trade, and the President of the Local Government Board, had all of them sufficient work, and, in fact, more than sufficient work to do in their own Departments; and yet those were the gentlemen who were intrusted with the supervision of the interests of agriculture in all its different departments. They treated them as matters merely of extraneous growth upon their own Departments, and it was natural, under these circumstances, that mishaps should occur sometimes. He remembered a very absurd mistake occurring when the cattle plague first broke out in this country. The Orders from the Privy Council Office were showered all over the country. Every clerk of the peace got parcels of these Orders, with instructions to post them up at every police office in their district. Well, he knew a clerk of the peace in Scotland who received one of these parcels, and who found in it not the Orders of the Privy Council, but a great many copies of a form of thanksgiving by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be used in all the churches on account of the grand harvest that had just been gathered in. That was quite a natural mistake to make, because the business of religion and the arrangements with regard to the cattle plague were carried on in the same Office. He was certain nobody could contradict what he had said as to the awkwardness and inconvenience of having these agricultural matters distributed over so many Departments; but he might be asked what he wanted to be done? Well, he wanted them all to be grouped into one Department and placed under one head. They might call that head the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, or anything they pleased; but there should be one recognized authority who should have the responsibility of answering in that House Ques- 1926 tions connected with agriculture and commerce. He did not ask for such paternal government as they had in France, and he did not wish the new Minister to do all that the Minister of Agriculture did in that country; because he (Mr. M'Lagan) was inclined to leave a great deal to individual and local action. He would rather like him to follow the example, to a great extent, of the gentleman who was called the Commissioner of Agriculture in the United States—namely, that he should, from time to time, issue Reports on the agriculture of foreign countries; that he should call the attention of landholders. to new schemes, new manures, new practices, and new kinds of machinery. The function of a Minister for Agriculture should be not to be led by the public, but to lead the public, and not to lag behind the farmers. He should also be called upon to collect that valuable information which was at present stored up in Blue Books, and which was compiled from Consular Reports, and Reports from Ambassadors in foreign countries. It might be said that that could be done well enough by the present machinery. Well, if it could be done well enough by the present machinery, why did not the gentlemen in charge of that machinery do it? He maintained that it could not be done, and for the simple reason that the heads of other Departments had not the time to devote to agricultural concerns. They might ask, again, what did he propose? He would reply that he was not going to propose any new, great, or extensive changes. De wished to read what was stated to the House some years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), when that right hon. Gentleman was President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman stated, in 1869, that there were six Departments in the Board of Trade, and that the heads of these Departments numbered no fewer than 57. The Commercial Department was under 11 heads, the Railway Department under seven, the Harbour Department under seven, the Marine Department under 21, the Financial Department under 10, and the Statistics Department under one. All the officials in that Office were of opinion that some Departments might be taken from the Board of Trade to the Home 1927 Office, and from the Home Office to the Board of Trade. That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham; and all that he (Mr. M'Lagan) wanted, was that there should be an organization of the Departments. It was evident that, at that time, the Home Secretary of the day and the President of the Board of Trade had found out that so absurdly incongruous were the duties they had to perform that it was necessary to make some change or other; and they, therefore, proposed these changes from one Department to the other. Well, 10 years had passed since then, and he was not aware that any change had taken place. But, surely, if it was necessary then, it was still more necessary now. There ought to be something done. He proposed that something should be taken from the Board of Trade; that something should be taken from the Privy Council; that something should be taken from the Local Government Board; and that something should be taken from the Woods and Forests —the latter was a most important Department connected with agriculture—and that all these should be incorporated with the Inclosure Commissioners. Let the latter be the nucleus around which these other things should be placed, and then appoint a Cabinet Minister to preside over the whole. He was satisfied that agricultural affairs would be more easily and satisfactorily managed if collected into one group like that, than if scattered, as they were now, over the different Departments. That need not be an expensive operation, and need not cost more than at the present time. Those Departments to which he had referred cost about £58,000 at the present time, and it need cost nothing more under the arrangement he had suggested, because the same permanent officers would be kept on. In conclusion, he would only say how advantageous it would he at the present time if they had had a Minister of Agriculture, seeing that they were about to appoint an Inquiry of the greatest importance to agriculture, where that Minister could have been of so much use to the Commissioners in collecting and forwarding evidence, and also in giving his own valuable opinion. He begged to second the Resolution of his hon. Friend, which he hoped would be accepted by Her Majesty's Government.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is desirable that those functions of the Executive Government which especially relate to Commerce and Agriculture should be administered by a distinct Department, under the direction of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall be a Member of the Cabinet."—(Mr. Sampson Lloyd. )
§ Mr. NEWDEGATE
said, that the state of the House at that moment was in itself an emphatic commentary upon the question raised by the Motion of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd). No one could say that at present, or from the commencement of the debate, the House was not unbecomingly thin. He was not much surprised at its thinness, for hon. Members were exhausted by struggling with the disgraceful trivialities, by the mischievously exaggerated attention to the mere detail of measures, by which their time had been occupied. While hearing the able statement of his hon. Friend, he asked himself, whence was all this confusion of Departments in relation to agricultural and commercial affairs? The reason seemed to be, that the Departments had lost what was once at their head. Ten or 15 years ago the House would not have entertained such a proposal as that which was now before it. The House would have considered, and considered rightly, that the proposal involved an invasion of its functions. When he first entered Parliament, and for years afterwards, the real head of the Public Departments was the House of Commons itself. Within the House there were two great and efficiently organized Parties. There was also a large number of thoroughly efficient independent Members. The House did not spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month in the consideration and re-consideration of the details of every measure that came before it; but devoted itself mainly to the consideration of great questions, such as that which his hon. Friend now proposed should be devolved upon the Departments. The present state of things had suggested to him grave reflections. He did not say that his hon. Friend had not a case. The fact was, that he had only too good a case; and the few hon. Members who recollected, as he (Mr. Newdegate) did, the efficiency of the unreformed Parliaments, in which they had sat, would feel 1929 with him that it was the confusion, which had overtaken the House itself, that constituted the strength of the case which his hon. Friend had presented. He had heard proposals of this sort made before, and they had been indignantly rejected by the Douse. Why? Because the House of Commons then utilized the Departments as subordinate to itself; and he feared that the inference to be drawn from the proposal of his hon. Friend was, that the House might hereafter find itself, instead of controlling them, dependent upon those Departments. As an old Member of the House, then, he ventured to warn hon. Members that they must be prepared to consider a change in the character and position of the House—if it could not control its own conduct and action—to limit the subjects to which it would confine its exertions, and avoid neglecting the great interests of this country, which ought to be considered as paramount to the mass of detail which he was sorry to see from day to day occupying the attention of the House. He spoke plainly upon this subject; but, far from deprecating the Motion of his hon. Friend, he most sincerely believed that, if the Douse wished to do its duty to the country, it must institute some organization in the Departments; but this could be safely done only on the supposition that this House would organize itself. These were matters for grave consideration. He (Mr. Newdegate) was quite certain that no commercial man would read the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth to-morrow without feeling that, having been from the first a promoter of Chambers of Commerce in this country, and having year after year presided over those bodies, the hon. Member had manifested a knowledge of his subject in its relation to commerce, an ability and a power of organization, which entitled what he said to a weight and an influence that could scarcely attach to any other unofficial Member of the House. He (Mr. Newdegate) was himself inclined, however, to differ from his hon. Friend on one point. He did not think it would be advantageous to combine in one Department the supervision of the interests of agriculture and commerce too closely. This would render the task so onerous as to produce confusion. He believed there was room, and ample room, for two heads of Departments, who should take charge of 1930 the interests of agriculture and commerce respectively. They would be associated with the Administration of the day; their action would be thus combined. Their duties might be carried on side by side; but he was of opinion that the interests of agriculture were extensive and important enough to require the appointment of some official to represent them. Nothing better could be hoped than that some official might be appointed, as able as was the late Mr. Arthur Young, who in his time rendered such eminent and lasting services to the agriculture of this country. He (Mr. Newdegate) was reading only the other day the evidence and the information which Mr. Arthur Young produced in 1814 before the Select Committee on the Corn Trade, and, in doing so, he could not help feeling that his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth had one branch of his case proved some 60 years ago. In fact, he had never yet been able to understand why the Department over which Mr. Arthur Young so ably presided had been abolished; he thought that it ought to be renewed. But if the supervision of agriculture which existed in Mr. Arthur Young's days was sufficient to occupy him, his presumption was that it would be better to have distinct Departments, though without absolute separation, for agriculture and commerce. With respect to the interests of commerce, this Motion was in itself a proof that the doctrine of what had been termed that of " laissez faire" —the doctrine which prevailed in the year 1846, and for some years afterwards until the year 1861, when the French Treaty was concluded— had completely passed away. He thought, then, that his hon. Friend had done eminent service—a service which his antecedents had admirably qualified him to perform —by bringing this subject before the House. He hoped that hon. Members would forgive him (Mr. Newdegate) for having pointed out that the House had lapsed from the functions which it had formerly discharged. His hope was that the history of the present Parliament would induce the next House of Commons to practise more self-control, insist upon more organization, and insist that the spirit of the Rules and Orders by which its authority was maintained should be respected.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the bon. Member for North Warwickshire 1931 (Mr. Newdegate) had addressed them on a subject which was being brought under their notice day by day—namely, the manner in which that House could best conduct its Business. He did not say that the remarks of the lion. Member were not deserving of consideration; but they did not concern the question under discussion, which was not how the House should conduct its Business, but how the Executive should conduct its Business. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, that the question had been brought before the Douse with great ability by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), who spoke with the confidence which his position of President of the Association of Chambers of Commerce in the United Kingdom entitled him to assume. Having been President of these Chambers for many years, he must be taken to represent their views on this subject. The hon. Member who had followed him had also addressed the House in a speech of great ability and weight. Those hon. Members had based their proposal upon two grounds—the one theoretical, and the other practical. As far as the theoretical ground was concerned, he did not think that anyone called upon to re-constitute the Government would retain the present system, which was, undoubtedly, a clumsy one. When he was Vice President of the Council he found that, in addition to education, he had to concern himself with cattle disease, though he himself could trace no connection between the two branches of Government; but then he received some compensation in finding that certain matters relating to education fell within the limits of another Department. The pauper schools were intrusted to the Poor Law Board, and the reformatory schools to the Home Office. There was, in fact, a very curious arrangement. But we had anomalies all through our system, and it was one of our great causes of pride that we managed to have good government in spite of them. But there were practical evils arising from this arrangement. On this ground he had become, though rather slowly, a convert to the proposals of his hon. Friend. Some years ago he had served as Chairman of a Committee appointed to consider the relations between the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office with regard to Commercial Treaties. That Committee reported to 1932 the effect that it was not desirable to have two Offices attending to this matter, but that it would be better to establish a Commercial Department in the Foreign Office. This was subsequently done; but he was obliged to acknowledge that he did not think the system had been successful, though a great deal was to be said for it in theory. The general political business of the Foreign Office was necessarily so absorbing that the Commercial Department almost of necessity fell into disregard. As far as commercial interests were concerned, it would be better if they possessed some champion in the Cabinet. But these remarks did not apply to the Foreign Office alone. Many important questions affecting our commerce arose, for instance, in our relations to the Colonies. The question of the Canadian Treaty was a recent instance. It would be advantageous if the commercial interests of the country felt that they had a Member of the Cabinet to whom they could go, and whose business it was to attend to their representations. Again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was obliged, in raising the Revenue, to consider the indirect effect of the taxes upon our commercial interests. That was another case in which great benefit might arise from having those interests represented in the Cabinet. Exactly the same kind of argument applied to India. Looking at the matter from another point of view, he thought it would lie an immense convenience to the Government itself to have a fresh arrangement of the duties assigned to the different Departments. There was plenty of direct work which could be given to a Minister of Commerce and Agriculture. The Home Department at present was tremendously overworked, and a good deal of its work might very properly be given to the new Minister. The patent laws were at present in the hands of the Attorney General; but it would be better if patent law reform were brought forward by a Minister of Commerce. The same remark applied to the question of bankruptcy, with reference to which an important measure was at present before Parliament. He was aware that it was much easier to talk about such a fresh arrangement than to carry it into effect; but he put it to the Government to consider whether it would not be advantageous. There were two other arguments which deserved attention. The 1933 first was furnished by the very strong feeling which existed among the commercial classes throughout the country that they ought to be represented; and the second was the advantage he felt sure would arise from having commerce and agriculture connected. What he meant was that there should be one Minister at the head of the two Departments, and a Minister of high position. The appointment of such a Minister would be advantageous both to commerce and to agriculture. That was the conclusion to which he had come, believing that both the commercial and agricultural interests ought to be represented in the Executive Government.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, he did not rise to detain the House for any length of time; he merely wished to mention a few points which he thought would tell strongly in favour of the appointment of a Minister who should have the care of commerce and agriculture as his special business. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), in the course of his observations, expressed his regret at the present depressed state of agriculture throughout the country, and he was glad to see that there was now a larger attendance in the Douse than there was some short time since, although he was sorry hon. Members were not present in large numbers to hear the very able and valuable remarks of the Mover of the Resolution. The hon. Member laid the question before the House in various aspects, and treated it with the utmost impartiality, both with reference to commerce and agriculture. With reference to the suggestion that the Minister could attend to both subjects there could be no doubt; and to the agriculturists the result of this rearrangement would be, that they would be placed in possession of more reliable information and more reliable statistics. They had at the present time statistics furnished to the House; but they were of the most imperfect character, and little reliance could be placed in them. In fact, a great many farmers almost ignored the papers that were sent them; but if they felt that the information they received was accurate, they would be prepared themselves to give better information. Then there was the point, that if a Minister was appointed these returns would not only be more reliable, but they would be tabulated so as to 1934 make them readable and intelligible to the public generally. No doubt in these records very valuable information was given; but owing to the number of Blue Books in which it was contained, and the short time people had for reading them, the information was lost, and people were left in ignorance of the real facts. Take, for instance, a year like the present. He believed a Minister would be able to tell them what they could best do with their produce. He could tell them what was likely to be the yield of corn, with some degree of accuracy, in America, in Egypt, on the Continent of Europe, and in India, and that would enable the farmer to do better than he could now with his land. Then, again, there was the production of cheese; and if they knew what was likely to come from abroad he was sure, speaking as one who lived in a country where that was a particular product, very much better results would be achieved. Considering that so many were interested in this industry, he could not conceive anything more valuable to it than a Department of Agriculture from which the best information could be obtained as to the probable yield from other countries. Again, they wanted to know how so much wool was leaving this country for Germany, instead of being manufactured here. They also wanted to know something more about the probable importation of cattle from America, which, they understood, had almost an inexhaustible supply; and unless they had a Department specially charged with these matters, it was impossible to obtain accurate information on behalf of a class who were interested to the extent of hundreds of millions in the soil of the country.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
thought a change of system was necessitated by the vast and rapid growth of the commerce of the country. Our exports and imports amounted, in the aggregate, to about £600,000,000 a-year, and the value of our agricultural produce was about £300,000,000 a-year; and interests to the extent of £900,000,000 a-year were surely of sufficient importance to command the best abilities of the finest statesman who could be brought to take charge of them. As matters at present stood, we knew little or nothing about the resources of other countries, or of the changes which were effected in America with regard to pasturage and the trans- 1935 port of thousands of acres of grain. From his own experience, he was astonished at the amount of information on agriculture which was available, but which never came under the notice of the agricultural classes at all. The reason of this was that there was no one to procure the facts; for, although commercial reports were sent home by our Consuls, it was like picking a grain of wheat out of a bushel of chaff to get from them the information which was required, not because of any want of zeal or intelligence on the part of the authors, but because they did not receive the necessary instructions as to what it was desirable they should furnish. Too often legislation was opposed to the development of manufactures and commerce. There was the patent law, which might be described as a law for the discouragement of inventions, and yet it remained unaltered because there was no one in the Cabinet to press the matter forward, and there were no means of bringing the question, from a commercial point of view, under the consideration of the Government. The same remark applied to the amendment of the bankruptcy laws. The Americans knew what they wanted, and what they were at; but we seemed to be entirely ignorant. If we only had concentrated responsibility in the hands of one Minister, we could obtain all we wanted. Believing that if effect were given to such a proposal as that before the Douse it would result in great benefit to the country, he should give it his cordial support.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
thought it was a very curious fact that there should be a Minister of Commerce in every country in Europe except England, which was the most commercial of all. We were dependent on the prosperity of commerce and manufactures. He entirely concurred with his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) in the opinion that it was a mistake to suppose that agriculture and commerce were antagonistic. The fact was, the two were correlative. Ministers had to attend to that House and to their correspondence. He believed it was utterly impossible for them to discharge the duties which were allotted to them, and that was an additional reason for creating a separate Department for commerce and agriculture. In fact, he thought the time was not far distant 1936 when a second Colonial. Minister would have to be nominated.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
assured his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) that he, in common with the rest of the House, had listened with great pleasure to his statement. Nothing could be clearer or more business-like. And he must frankly own that many of the arguments which his hon. Friend adduced appeared to be well worthy of careful consideration. At the same time, he must also say that the difficulties which had in former days suggested themselves to him when he had considered this matter had by no means been removed by the discussion which had been held. While he sympathized with the main object, at alt events, which his hon. Friend and others had in view, he was by no means sure that his hon. Friend had suggested the right remedy for the difficulties in which we found ourselves. De admitted it might appear strange that in most European Governments they found there was a Minister bearing the title of Minister of Commerce; while in this, the greatest commercial country in the world, they did not find a Minister with a similar designation. He thought there was some reason for supposing that the commercial greatness of this country was owing not a little to its being without too much State protection; and that private enter-prize, which had been developed under our system, had had a great deal to do with the greatness which we had confessedly attained. He did not say that it was not right that the Government should provide those facilities which commerce required, or that Government had no duties to discharge towards the great commercial and agricultural interests of this country. He hoped, in whatever they might do, they might not be led into the grave error of substituting Government management and protection fir those great institutions by which the trading interests of the country managed to carry on their own business. He thought it was the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) who spoke on the Board of Agriculture in the days of Arthur Young. The hon. Member said that if it was desirable to have a Board in those days fully engaged in attending to the concerns of agriculture, how much more was a Board wanted in the present time, when agri- 1937 culture had taken so large a development? He must remind the hon. Member that in the days of Arthur Young there were no such societies as existed now. Similarly, with regard to commerce. The great development of such bodies as the Association which his hon. Friend Mr. Sampson Lloyd) represented, and the great services they had rendered, had done a great deal to develop commerce and give it the great extension which it had. It was said that there ought to be assistance given by the State to commerce and agriculture. With that he entirely agreed. There were, no doubt, many functions which the State ought to exercise, and did now exercise, with regard to commerce and agriculture; and he was far from saying that those functions were exercised in the best possible manner, or that no improvement could be effected in their administration. But the particular proposal of his hon. Friend was that they should be collected together and administered by a distinct Department under a Secretary of State, who should be a Member of the Cabinet. What were the duties to be put together under this new Department? There was the administration of roads, questions of agricultural holdings, factory labour, foreign tariffs and Treaties, duties to be imposed in India and the Colonies, cattle diseases, new inventions, statistics—whether general, or confined to commerce and agriculture had not been specified—banking, patents, enclosures, and he presumed it was intended to retain the functions which belonged to the present Board of Trade, and that the new department would look after railways, weights and measures, and copyright. To these things from foreign countries were added technical education, museums, and other subjects of that kind. He ventured to say, if they were to constitute a Department to deal with all these questions they would soon find it overburdened, and that they would not get out of their difficulty without getting into others quite as great. The whole question of the re-organization of the Civil Service was raised by this Motion. As to the question of statistics, it was very desirable that whoever was connected with that Department should be well acquainted with the principles of statistical science. Such a Minister would have to be responsible for all statistics respecting education, crime, 1938 population, and many other questions, which would involve great difficulty whenever any scheme of re-organization was considered. He quite agreed that they ought, as much as possible, to endeavour so to adjust their business as to make the Department as nearly as possible symmetrical, and to bring the cognate subjects together. The matter, however, was something like re-arranging a library; they might adopt any system of classification, and still find that they had some incongruities—such as the Education Department and the control of the regulations of cattle diseases under one Minister. In reference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) on this subject, he would point out that it was only by an accident that these two functions happened to be under the control of one Office. The right hon. Gentleman was not the Education Minister, but the Vice President of the Privy Council, and the Privy Council was a body which had charge of many different kinds of work. In that Department the real business was done by several permanent officials, who had practical knowledge, and were in charge of the different branches of the business which came under the general head of the affairs attached to the Privy Council Office. The President of the Council was responsible for the general conduct of the business of his Department; but the business in the various branches was entirely independent the one from the other. He thought there was much to be said in favour of reforming the present system, especially as far as communications in relation to commercial matters with foreign countries were concerned; but, at the same time, it must not be forgotten that communications of the kind lost much of their weight unless they were made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. At the same time, he thought there were strong grounds in favour of making the Board of Trade the vehicle of communication between the Foreign Office and foreign countries on matters of this kind, leaving the Foreign Office responsible for whatever might be done. The Motion of his hon. Friend referred only to agriculture and commerce; but he presumed there would be an equally strong reason for dealing with other great interests, and to cover the whole ground would necessitate the construc- 1939 tion of a very extensive Department, which would absorb a great deal of the internal business of the country, and would, he feared, find itself overloaded with work. It was, no doubt, a great temptation to Ministers to throw some of their work on some other Department; but if this new Office were set up, all the other administrative Offices would be thrown out of gear. The Government, at present, did everything in its power to facilitate all the great industrial interests of the country. He was sorry to oppose the Motion of his hon. Friend, because he admitted that the present arrangements fell short of what they might be ' expected to do. His hon. Friend's proposal could not be expected to remain where he left it. The Department would not only have to take charge of commerce and agriculture, but it would have to assume control over mines, manufactures, railways, and shipping, and, he must say, he was not prepared to enter upon so large an undertaking. Communications were now going on between himself and his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and he hoped they would result in arrangements which would facilitate agricultural and commercial operations. He should be glad to take advantage of the discussion that had occurred; and hoped the Government, in their consideration of the arrangements that might be made for improving the Departments in question, would not be hampered by a vote of the Douse binding them to a particular course. De could not himself be a party to such a vote; and trusted that his hon. Friend would not think it necessary to place such a vote upon the Records of Parliament. If the lion. Member would be content with the assurance that he had given him—namely, that the Government were alive to the importance of the subject, and prepared to consider any practical measures for the better development of this part of the Business of the Government—he could again promise him that the question should receive every consideration. If, however, the Motion should be pressed to a vote, it would not be in the power of the Government to accept it.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
said, it was most desirable, in connection with the making of Commercial Treaties, that there should be a Minister of Commerce. In 1846, when England inaugurated a Free Trade policy, we were in the hope that other 1940 countries would follow our example. France did so in 1860. He, however, regretted to say that since that time there had been no advance—in fact, we were retrograding. We had to fight with hostile tariffs, not only of other countries, but of our own Colonies; and, therefore, it was most desirable that, in negotiating Commercial Treaties, we should have a Minister of Commerce and Agriculture. Last year, for instance, in negotiating a Treaty with France, we sent a Commission to Paris. There were selected a Member of the Foreign Office, a Member of the Indian Office, and an hon. Member of this House; but after these Representatives had met the French Commission and talked the matter over —but without succeeding in their mission—their duties came to an end, and, so far as he knew, we had no one to look after our interests in connection with the proposed French Treaty. In 1851, England, undoubtedly, occupied the first place as a manufacturing nation; but since then other countries had made rapid progress. We bad not stood still, we had progressed; but, relatively, our position was not now so much in advance of other countries as it was in 1851. Of late years our exports of worsted goods had been steadily declining; but our imports had been increasing to a very large extent. Of the wool received from Australia and elsewhere, a larger proportion year after year was being sent to the Continent, and a smaller proportion was being worked up in this country. It was extremely desirable that we should have a Minister of Commerce to look into these matters and inquire into the cause of the changes which had taken place in some of our leading industries. Other countries were paying great attention to technical education; and the schools in which this kind of education was imparted were, as a rule, under the control, and aided by, the respective Governments of the countries in which they were situated. If there were a Minister of Commerce and Agriculture in England, he would, no doubt, turn his attention to this particular branch of education. Little or no information was given with regard to textile manufactures; such Returns as we possessed were given at the instance of private Members of this House; and, consequently, they were collected at irregular periods, and were not made out in a 1941 regular or systematic manner. There were Returns in 1850, moved for by Mr. Pilkington; another Return in 1859, moved for by Mr. Baines; and another in 1862; but not two of these Returns were alike. One man took up a particular idea as to the information to be given; the succeeding Return was probably on a different basis; and the consequence was that, for purposes of comparison, these Returns were almost useless. Now, if we had a Minister of Commerce, he ventured to say he would have tabulated, year after year, a mass of valuable information with regard to our own country; and not only so, but we should have definite information with regard to the progress of other countries. At the present moment it appeared to him that every Department of the Executive was overwrought; and he thought it most desirable that those Departments should have their labours lightened by having a Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, to whom should be referred questions peculiar to his Office. He did not think there would he any great difficulty in defining what the duties of the Office should be. De did not see the difficulties that presented themselves to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; because he did not think it necessary that they should deal with questions outside of those connected with commerce and agriculture.
§ MR. GILES,
in supporting the Motion, remarked, that the very important subject to which it related well deserved the attention of the House and the Government. He saw considerable difficulty in the working out of the arrangement, and that difficulty would be somewhat increased by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the difficulty being in the appointment of only one Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, not because their interests were antagonistic, but because there would be work enough for two Ministers. They had been called a nation of shopkeepers, and they felt they had nobody to mind the shop. They asked the Government, in the face of lessening returns, and profits " small by degrees and beautifully less," to give them a Minister whose special province it should be to preside over the interests of commerce and agriculture, represented by an annual turnover of something like £1,000,000,000.
§ MR. JAMES STEWART
said, the hon. Member who had brought this 1942 question forward deserved the thanks of the House. The difficulties had been pointed out which would accrue in regard to the organization of the Department; but he thought the present way in which the commercial affairs of the nation were looked after was not one to give us the advantages which we might properly derive from information on the statistics and operations in trade of other countries. The Foreign Office was the medium by which all commercial transactions between this country and other countries were carried on; and we had only to look at the state of things during last year, when the Eastern Question was so much under the consideration of the Foreign Office, to see that it was impossible, if a matter of commercial importance came before the Office, to expect that it would receive the attention to which it was entitled. He ventured to say that the question with regard to the bounties on sugar was at that moment in a critical position; and that the possibility of an arrangement satisfactory to the interests of the country was within, he might say, the reach of the Government. To nothing but the superior excitement which Eastern questions and Berlin Treaties produced could he attribute the fact that that question was allowed to get into the condition in which it now stood. De did not wish to impute any blame to the noble Marquess at the head of the Foreign Office; but he did think it was only human nature to expect that, in the midst of the excitements of Berlin Treaties and matters of that kind, the prosaic and dull interests of questions such as the bounties on sugar were likely to be overlooked. Now, he thought, and it was unquestionable, that any Minister of Commerce appointed would require to work in conjunction with the Foreign Office; and he should like to point out an instance in which he thought it was perfectly clear that the interests of this country would not have been so advantageously promoted had the negotiations been left entirely to the Foreign Office—namely, when the Commercial Treaty with France was negotiated. At the time, Lord Cowley was Ambassador at Paris; and if he had not been a man of more than ordinary common sense he would have been jealous of the interference of that distinguished man who went to negotiate the Treaty with France, Mr. Cobden. If he had attempted to carry out that negotiation 1943 single-handed, he would have failed—at least, comparatively failed—and the negotiation could not have been carried out in the short time in which it was done by Mr. Cobden. There was only one other matter, and that was that with a Minister of Commerce his voice would he heard loudly in the interests of peace in the Cabinet—those interests which tended, most of all, to the advantage of this country. There was another thing that might be gained by the organization of such a Department. Strikes and lock-outs, which we so often suffered from in this country, might be dealt with at their commencement if there was a Minister of Commerce. He did think that it very often happened that those deplorable events were brought about because there was no medium by which employers and employed who were in strife could be brought together to arrange their differences, and that might be provided for in the Office of a Minister of Commerce.
§ MR. PELL
said, he did not think he could vote for the establishment of a new Department to which all the functions of the Executive Government especially relating to commerce and agriculture should be committed. Ho did not see that any distinct advantage was likely to be secured to agriculture, at all events, by such an important change. But if the hon. Member for Plymouth meant that those functions of the Executive Government which especially related to commerce and agriculture should be administered by a special Department, not necessarily being a new one, and that it should not deal only with those functions which technically related to agriculture and commerce, he should be inclined to support that view. The Prime Minister some years ago said that the subject of a re-distribution of official duties in the Public Departments, in order to obtain greater efficiency, was one which must always engage the attention of the Government. A subject, however, which was always engaging such general attention was not very likely to receive the particular attention at a specific time which was necessary to attain a good result. No doubt other questions of very great importance had been occupying the time of the country, and that might be a sufficient excuse for this matter not having been dealt with as it deserved to be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in his opening remarks, admitted a 1944 great part of the case when he spoke of the difficulty in which they had found themselves, and told them it was an accident only which brought the questions relating to cattle and to education into the same Department. Now, the accident which had brought them there still kept them there. He thought that a re-arrangement might be made. The Government had already given to the House some assurance that they might expect the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider the prospects of agriculture; and perhaps it would be well for his hon. Friend to wait until some evidence was taken by the Commission upon this point. He hoped his hon. Friend would not deem it to be his duty to divide the House to-night. If, however, the Resolution were pressed he should vote in favour of it; in order that it might go forth to the country that, in the opinion of the House, the Government ought to take up the question, and to give effect to some, if not most, of the ideas expressed by those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken in favour of the Resolution.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
pointed out that as far as the debate had gone it had been nearly, if not absolutely, one-sided. This being the case, he asked whether any mischief could result from the House voting in favour of the Resolution? In his opinion, no possible harm could result from the Douse accepting the Resolution which had been submitted to its consideration.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, that when he was first returned to Parliament he, with the little experience which he possessed, brought forward a Motion on part of the subject; and upon that occasion his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), after telling a story about a lady who felt so very well that she expected something was about to happen, advised the agriculturists that, as they were doing so well, they had better leave well alone, and not ask the Government to do anything for them. He could not expect that there was very much to be gained from the Government in the way of assistance to agriculture. We should see what came from the Royal Commission, which, if its inquiries were searching, would be satisfactory, if it only tended to make those interested in agriculture understand where their true interest lay. What 1945 was really wanted was that the local institutions of the country should be strengthened. All those connected with land in this country suffered, because the Minister who had charge of the municipal institutions of the country was not in a position to secure sufficient attention to their interests. While he believed there were many subjects connected with the occupation of those who cultivated the soil which certainly required the attention of Parliament, he could not, however, see the necessity of making an entirely new Department to fish, as it were, for occupation. He thought that some hon. Members, in speaking of the Privy Council, had forgotten that it was that body which was called upon to take up new questions and bring them gradually into shape, until they became ready to be handed over to some distinct Department. It might be that it was time that all questions connected with the importation and health of animals should be handed over to some other Department than the Privy Council; but he wished to remind hon. Members that the late Government had, to a very great extent, carried out that organization, which took from the Home Office many subjects which were now much more properly placed in the hands of Local Government Boards; and that appeared to him to be the true direction in which Government action could be beneficially employed in agriculture. He hoped the hon. Member for Plymouth would take the advice given to him from several quarters, to leave the matter in the hands of the Government.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
pointed out, in reply to the hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), that the Resolution contained nothing about a new Department. It simply said that it was desirable that the functions of the Executive Government which related to commerce and agriculture should be conducted by one distinct Department—not necessarily a new one. All he was asking for was that those Departments which were anomalous and unsystematic should be properly, vigorously, and systematically administered. The Resolution did not pledge the Government to make the change within any specified time, nor did it pledge them to any details as to the manner in which such change should be effected. He felt it his duty to go to a division.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
thought the House would feel much indebted to the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) for the explanation which he had just given. The Douse were now in full possession of the views of his hon. Friend, who, if he understood him rightly, did not attach the extreme importance which it had been supposed ho did attach to the creation of a principal Secretary of State. The question of the creation of a principal Secretary of State would, of course, be a very difficult one, and could not be decided off-hand. It was certainly not a question to be decided in a thin and slack Douse; and he, therefore, welcomed the statement of his hon. Friend, that he did not attach much importance to that part of his Resolution. De ventured to say that the whole position of the question would alter in consequence of that statement. On behalf of the Government, he wished to express their warm and deep sympathy with any exertions to alleviate the feelings which naturally existed, in these bad times, with regard to trade and agriculture. It was most natural that hon. Members should look about for remedies for the state of things which existed; and he hoped that if the Government did not at once agree to the remedies proposed, it would not be attributed to any want of feeling on their part. But they did not always feel that they ought to jump at every proposed remedy. He thought, however, it was not impossible that the proposal which he was about to make would meet the general feeling of the House; but, before making his suggestion, he wished to point out that the House was bound to consider that the Government were pledged to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of the agricultural interest: and that, of course, one question which would be brought before that Commission would be as to the importance of concentrating certain different functions connected with agriculture in the hands of a Department of Agriculture. It was important, therefore, that they should not encroach upon the functions of the Commission. What he would venture to suggest was, that the Government would be prepared to accept a declaration—That it is desirable that the functions of the Executive Government which especially relate to Commerce and agriculture should, as far as 1947 possible, be administered by a distinct Department.He had put in "as far as possible" advisedly; because it would be impossible to take away from the Foreign Office the duties which it now discharged in connection with commerce, which would suffer very grievously from too hasty an interference with the action of the Foreign Office. The Government, in introducing these words, only wished to get a categorical statement on the part of the House that it was desirable that the functions in question should, as far as possible, be administered by one Department. The attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already been called to the subject; and he need hardly say that he (Viscount Sandon) was aware of its importance. De thought hon. Members would see that it was practically impossible for him, unless from sheer necessity, to avoid speaking of matters which somewhat affected his position as President of the Board of Trade. By the adoption of his suggestion, he thought they would avoid committing themselves in a very serious way; while they would gain the object in view, of securing that the two great interests of the country—commerce and agriculture—should be properly and seriously considered, and more systematically dealt with in future than they had been formerly. He hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Motion, and accept that which he had suggested in its stead.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
regretted that he must abide by his original Motion. The proposal of his noble Friend did not convey that the Minister should be a Cabinet Minister.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
could not help thinking it would create a wrong impression if the Douse divided upon this question. The Douse seemed to be of opinion that commerce and trade should, as far as possible, be attended to by one Minister responsible to Parliament. The hon. Member for Plymouth had said that the Amendment proposed by his noble Friend did not convey that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be presided over by a Minister. But it was perfectly well known that no other person than a responsible Minister of the Crown could possibly have qualifications for dealing with these interests. It was, as had 1948 been pointed out by his noble Friend, absolutely impossible that in a small and slack House like the present a Resolution should be passed to add to the Government a new Secretary of State. The Office was one of the most important that could be held, and such a matter had never been so lightly entertained. He ventured to say that, in no period of history, had it ever been proposed on a Motion of this kind that the House should come to the conclusion that a new Secretary of State should he appointed. That the Minister should be a responsible Minister, and, perhaps, a Member of the Cabinet, he did not for a moment deny; but that was very different from the proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Plymouth. He could not help feeling that a great number of hon. Gentlemen would be placed in an awkward position if the hon. Member chose to divide, in order to show that there might be some difference of opinion when, practically, there was none. They were agreed that there should be some responsible Minister charged with the duties relating to commerce and agriculture. He could not imagine that his hon. Friend would put his own Friends or hon. Members opposite in the false position which they would occupy if they were supposed to vote against that which all desired—namely, that there should be some person charged with looking after the interests of commerce and agriculture.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade had carefully abstained from endorsing the view that the proposed Minister should be a Member of the Cabinet. This subject was one in which the manufacturing and commercial interests were very deeply concerned. He ventured to say, on behalf of the hon. Member for Plymouth, that when he spoke of a Secretary of State he was not absolutely insisting upon having an officer bearing that title to preside over the Department of Commerce and Agriculture; but that what he insisted on, and what many hon. Members were aiming at, was that some pledge should be given by Government that the Minister who was to have charge of this Department should be a member of the Cabinet. The Postmaster General was a member of the Cabinet; and surely the interests of trade and agriculture were as important as 1949 the administration of the Post Office. He had no desire to embarrass the Government but unless they gave an assurance that they were willing to carry out the spirit of the Resolution in this respect, he thought the House ought to go to a division.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
urged that it would be very inexpedient for the House to pledge future Governments that the interests of trade and agriculture should be represented in the Cabinet. Whether the Minister in charge of them should be in the Cabinet or not must depend upon the circumstances of the day. The Government were perfectly prepared to admit that those functions of the Executive Government which especially related to commerce and agriculture should be administered by a special Department. But was it desirable that the House should affirm that there should be an additional Secretary of State, and that the functions now discharged by a Department of the Government should be assigned to him? The Government were moat desirous of recognizing the true interests of trade and agriculture; but it was not a sound position to assume that they required the assistance of a Secretary of State, and that they suffered severely because the President of the Board of Trade was not called a Secretary of State. With the view of testing the question, he begged to move the omission from the Resolution of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) of the words, " under the direction of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall be a Member of the Cabinet."
To leave out the words "under the direction Of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall be a Member of the Cabinet."— (Mr. William Henry Smith. )
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD ELCHO
was entirely in sympathy with the hon. Gentleman by whom the Motion had been brought forward; but did not think it necessary, for the purpose which he had in view, to advocate that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be under the direction of a Secretary of State. He understood that the Government agreed that it was desirable that those mat- 1950 ters relating to commerce and agriculture should be collected and put under the administration of a Minister of a Department of the State; but that they did not think it desirable that for that purpose a special Secretary of State should he appointed and a special Department created. He had seen a Secretary of State created for the War Department; but many people were of opinion that the Army was much better administered before than after the creation of that Minister. He thought it would be sufficient if the Government gave a distinct assurance that they were prepared to subject to one Minister all matters connected with commerce and agriculture; and, therefore, if the Douse went to a division, he should vote for the Government proposal.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
did not imagine that his hon. Friend cared about the particular name of the Minister. The President of the Board of Trade might have his duties so far enlarged as to occupy this position; and, although there was not much in a word, it would be, on the whole, desirable that the name "President of the Board of Trade" should be changed into some other. But he thought it of importance that the House should give its opinion that this Minister should be a Member of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) thought this would pledge all future Parliaments with regard to this matter; but he (Mr. W. E. Forster) did not understand that would in any way be the case. It would merely be an expression of opinion on the part of this Parliament, at a particular Sitting, that it was considered advisable that this Minister should be a member of the Cabinet. He could not see that any evil could result from such a Resolution being recorded on the Minutes of the House; and, therefore, if the hon. Member for Plymouth went to a division, he should vote for the Resolution. But he wished to be understood to vote that commerce and agriculture should be administered by a distinct Department, and that it should be under a Minister who should be a Member of the Cabinet. If the Government would assent to that, he strongly advised his hon. Friend to allow the words "principal Secretary of State " to be omitted; but he could not advise him to omit the words "Member of the Cabinet."
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
would like to know the number of times this question was before the House when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) was in Office, and how often he had impressed upon the House that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be presided over by a Member of the Cabinet? During that long period, he had never heard the right lion. Gentleman suggest for a moment that the Minister should be a Secretary of State, or that there should be one person who should perform both the functions in question. He was, therefore, a little surprised to find such new-born zeal on the part of the right hon. Gentleman as he had just displayed for the creation of a new Member of the Cabinet. But he would ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. Had there ever, to his knowledge, been brought forward, and carried by the House, a Motion affirming that it should be dictated to any future Prime Minister who should be a Member of his Cabinet? He did not believe that any such precedent could be produced.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not consider there was any dictation in the Motion; and with regard to the surprise felt by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, surely he was not in a position different from that of other Members of the House whose experience induced them to change their opinion.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that he was quite certain his lion. Friend the Member for Plymouth would never think that the House ought to dictate ho w many Secretaries of State there should be. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was one of those who wished that, as far as possible, all that related to commerce and agriculture should be collected in one Office. But that was what the Government had promised; and, therefore, he thought his hon. Friend would do well to accept that offer. If lie accepted it, he would have a pledge from the Government; but if, on the other hand, he went to a division, it might be that lie would get nothing whatever.
hoped the hon. Member for Plymouth would not withdraw the words "under the direction of a principal Secretary of State." De agreed entirely with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in saying that the 1952 House ought not to dictate to the Prime Minister who should be in his Cabinet. But it rested with the Prime Minister under the Crown to decide whom he should appoint to the office of principal Secretary of State. It was desirable that agriculture and commerce should be under the direction of a principal Secretary of State, and it rested with the Prime Minister to say whom he would appoint. He hoped that the sense of the Douse, which had been clearly expressed, that the Minister should, at all events, be a Member of the Cabinet, would be taken by a division.
understood the Government to agree that it was desirable that the functions of the Government, especially relating to commerce and agriculture, should be administered in a distinct Department, but that they declined to agree that the Department should be under a Secretary of State. The Departments of Finance and of the Army, the Navy, and the Colonies, were all under Secretaries of State. If, therefore, the Government proposal were accepted, it would be as much as to say that the interests of commerce and agriculture were inferior to the interests of the other Departments which he had named. He did not think that was a proper position for those interests to occupy. It was quite true that it rested entirely with the Prime Minister to appoint the Members of his Cabinet, and no one would for a moment wish to interfere with his freedom in this respect; but it was perfectly competent to the House of Commons to express an opinion that the industries of commerce and agriculture were of such importance that they ought to be administered by a separate Department, under the control of a principal Secretary of State, and it was desirable that it should do so, because the House knew perfectly well that Departments so administered had much greater recognition by the Government than those which were nit under such control. All that the House of Commons would express, by voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd), would be that it considered the interests of commerce and agriculture were of such importance that they ought to be administered by a Department in no respect inferior to the other Departments of the State.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the hon. Member who has just sat down says that the insertion of these words—Under the direction of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall be a Member of the Cabinet,would not be taken as any dictation to the Minister of the day, but as an expression of opinion on the part of the House that it was desirable that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be in no respect inferior to the other Departments of the State, and that is the view he takes of the whole Resolution. According to that construction, the whole Resolution amounts to nothing more than a vague expression of opinion. Now, I believe, in consenting to accept the first lines of the Resolution, we did so with the view of endeavouring to give it effect. But I must again point out to the House that the re-arrangement of the functions of Government is not to be done in a hurry, but with considerable care, and at the cost of considerable re-organization of Departments. Still, I admit the change is desirable, and ought to be made. But if we are called upon to say this is to be done in a particular manner, under the direction of a principal Secretary of State, and that he should be a Member of the Cabinet, the matter would be considerably complicated. The hon. Member for Mid - Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) suggested just now that all the Members of the Cabinet are Secretaries of State. But it has to be remembered that, at different periods, there are reasons why sometimes the Representative of one Department should be taken into the Cabinet and sometimes another, as in the case of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or of the President of the Local Government Board. There ought not to be any such rule laid down as would hamper the Minister of the day in framing his Cabinet. It is, no doubt, convenient that the functions of agriculture and commerce should be, as far as possible, brought together; but to accept these lines at the end of the Resolution of the hon. Member, which would either be meaningless, or dictative to the Minister as to how he should form his Cabinet, is what ought not, in my opinion, to be asked of the Government. I shall, therefore, feel it 1954 my duty to vote against the insertion of these words.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, it appeared to him that the carrying out of the Motion of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Sampson Lloyd) would be attended, in any case, with considerable difficulty to the Government; and, therefore, he proposed to leave the matter in their hands. He should support the course suggested by the Government, with the sincere desire of giving effect to the wishes of the hon. Gentleman.
said, by dividing the House the hon. Member for Plymouth would place a great many hon. Members below the Gangway on his side of the House in an awkward predicament. Ho felt obliged to support the Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Plymouth, for this reason. The Colonies were represented by a Member for the Cabinet, and, under existing circumstances, he thought it was quite time to affirm that the great productive interests of this country should be equally represented. The affirmation of that principle would, he believed, have a very wholesome effect upon the Colonies; and it was, in his opinion, nothing more than the great interests of agriculture and commerce had a right to demand.
§ MR. STORER
hoped, after the substantial assurance given by the Government, the hon. Member for Plymouth would withdraw his Motion in favour of the Government proposal.
§ MR. SAMPSON LLOYD
said, the essence of his Resolution was that the Minister in charge of the Department should be one of those persons whom the Prime Minister selected to be a Member of the Cabinet. He could not give up this point.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 65: Majority 6.—(Div. List, No. 154.)1955
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member was precluded by the Rules of the House from moving this Amendment.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 76; Noes 56: Majority 20.—(Div. List. No. 155.)
§ Resolved, That it is desirable that those functions of the Executive Government which especially relate to Commerce and Agriculture should be administered by a distinct Department, under the direction of a Principal Secretary of State, who shall he a Member of the Cabinet."