§ (1) The number of Principal Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries capable of sitting and voting in the Commons House of Parliament shall be increased to five, and accordingly Section four of the Government of India Act, 1858, and Section one of the House of Commons (Vacation of Seats) Act, 1864, shall have effect as if the word " five " was substituted for the word " four " wherever that word occurs in those Sections:
§ (2) In addition to the Under-Secretary of State one of the Secretaries to the Air Council shall not by virtue of his office be incapable of being elected to or of voting in the Commons House of Parliament.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
I took the opportunity, two or three days ago, of counting the members of the Government whose names were given on the front pages of one of the daily parts of the OFFICIAL REPORT. I counted the list twice before I arrived at the correct number of Ministers at present existing, and I believe I am correct in saying that the number is ninety. Ninety members of the Government, I think, is almost enough, but by this Bill we are now going to add three; but that does not make it ninety-three, because, as I understand, the President of the Air Board, or whatever his title may be, will become, or somebody else in his place will become, President 'of the Air Council, I am not quite sure; but if he should go to some other and more exalted position, the number would still remain at ninety. If my Amendment is carried, it would add nothing to the number of ninety, and even that number is unnecessary. My hon. and gallant Friend informed us that it was proposed to appoint a Financial Secretary, though not at once. If that be so, I think he can give no valid reason for refusing my Amendment. If he is not going to exercise the power which this Sub-section would 523 give him of appointing an additional Under-Secretary, for some little time, he can always come down to the House and bring in a short Bill to give him power to appoint this additional Under-Secretary. In the ninety members of the Government, I am not including the private secretaries. It is quite impossible to add up the private secretaries, because at present every Under-Secretary has a private secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no!"]] I noticed only the other day the new Under-Secretary for the Colonies appointed my hon. Friend, one of the Members for Wolverhampton, as his private secretary, and I was under the impression that most Under-Secretaries had assistance in that way. That is rather a serious thing, because it really means that most of the Members of this House are connected with the Government in one form or another, and that consequently the real effect of the will of the electors is neutralised, because loyalty would prompt those members of the Government, Under-Secretaries and others, not to offer that sort of opposition which they might exercise if they were in an independent position. I think it is necessary that the number should not be increased. I should be the last to do anything which would in any way hinder the establishment of the Air Service Department, more especially as my Noble Friend below the Gangway (Lord Hugh Cecil) is in favour of it, for that goes a long way with me. But I cannot think that the efficiency of the Department, the construction of more aeroplanes, and the securing of more trained men is going to be advanced by having two Under-Secretaries in this House. It may be advanced by having as President, say, my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, but we do not want a number of people encumbering that bench.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Apparently not. I remember Lord Beaconsfield always insisted that all the Members of the Government should be in the House, but then he regarded the House in a way it is not always viewed by his successors. However that may be, I can only say I should not have moved this Amendment had I not seriously believed there was no necessity for an additional Under-Secretary, and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend therefore will assent to my proposal.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BILLING
I do not feel inclined to support this Amendment, and the reasons for my attitude are almost the same as those advanced by the right hon. Baronet who has proposed it. He has reminded us that we have ninety members of the Government, but, then, I would call attention to the fact that on the average we only get two Members present to pilot a Bill through, however important it may be. Possibly we should have better luck if we added to the number of members of the Government. I really should like to know how many Members there need be in the Government to ensure our being able to get a respectable attendance for measures like this. At present there are only 4 per cent. here. The people of this country are becoming utterly sick of the inefficiency of the Air Service. I am not casting any slur on the men themselves They do their part, but what I am complaining of is the indifference displayed by the Government in connection with this Service. The people of this country, to use a colloquialism, are becoming thoroughly fed up, and one of these days when it is in their power to assert their rights of free citizenship, they will give adequate expression to their feeling on the matter. Possibly by appointing another Minister we may secure a little more serious attention to a measure of this importance. This Bill will create a new organisation which will have to be leniently dealt with by critics, and that is why I am anxious to administer as much criticism as possible just now and to secure the creation of an efficient service. It will lighten my task in the future. If the right hon. Baronet's Amendment is carried it will mean that there will be only two Members representing the Air Service in this House on the Treasury Bench and there is just possibility, if rumour is true, that the head of the Council will be a Noble Lord, who will not be allowed to come into this Chamber Consequently only one of the ninety Members of the Government will be here to attend to the affairs of the Air Service. I think that is too small a proportion. We ought to have at least 2 per cent. of the Government looking after this very important Service, and much as it grieves me to oppose the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment after the very excellent and kind advice he gave me just now I feel I shall have to do so on the grounds I have stated.
§ Major BAIRD
I gladly acknowledge the assistance which the right hon. Baronet has given me and I regret I am unable to accept his Amendment. The whole object of this Bill is to make the organisation which is to deal with the Air Service equal in all respects with the established organisations associated with the Navy and the Army. But it is not contemplated to appoint the Financial Secretary until the Under-Secretary is so over-worked that it will be necessary to give him assistance. We think, however, the proposal should be part and parcel of this Bill, and that we should not be under the necessity to come down to this House later on and ask for powers to make the appointment. I trust my right hon. Friend will extend his kindness a little bit further and not press his Amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend, but I will not withdraw the Amendment, as I would prefer to have it negatived. We are told it is not proposed to appoint this additional Under-Secretary, although power is asked to make the appointment, and that the reason for asking it is to be found in the wish to place the Department on a similar basis to the Admiralty or the Army. I do not think that that is a good reason. I have found during the last few weeks, since I have been a member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, that that is the reason usually put forward by officials for demanding high salaries. They say " this is a Department which ought to be equal to another Department; in that Department certain salaries are paid and we cannot consent to our Department being on a lower grade." The result is that whether or not the work justifies it and solely because of the desire to put the Department on an equality with another Department which is more highly paid, the officials demand and succeed in getting salaries in excess of those which they ought to receive.
§ Major BAIRD
I have said there is no idea of appointing this Financial Secretary until the Under-Secretary is completely overworked.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to be the Under-Secretary I should be the last man to wish him to be overworked, but I venture to suggest that the idea of appointing someone only when something occurs is really an admission that it is not necessary to have this Under-Secretary at 526 the moment. I do not want to press the matter further, but as I think an important principle is involved rather than withdraw the Amendment I would consent to have it negatived.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (3), leave out the word " the " [" in addition to the "], and insert instead thereof the word " an." — [Major Baird.]
§ The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Sir F. BANBURY: At the end of Sub-section (2), insert the following new sub-section:
§ " (3) The number of persons holding offices of profit under the Crown, as defined in Schedule Eight of the Representation of the People Act of 1867, as amended by subsequent Acts, and Secretaries and Under-Secretaries capable of sitting and voting in the Commons House of Parliament shall not, during the continuance of the present War and for six months thereafter, exceed the number of such Ministers on the first day of November, nineteen hundred and seventeen, and Section three of the Vacating of Seats (House of Commons) Act, 1864, shall apply accordingly."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the next Amendment, standing in the name of the right hon. Baronet, is beyond the scope of the Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I submit humbly arguments to show that it is not beyond the scope of the Bill. Clause 11 amends Section 4 of the Government of India Act, 1858, and it amends it in a certain direction. I submit that if it is possible to amend that Act in one direction it should be equally possible to amend it in another. The object of my Amendment is to limit the number of Ministers to the number of Ministers existing on the 1st November of this year, so that for the future we shall have to be content with ninety. The result of that will be that they will have to take a Minister who is not doing very much and put him in the Air Service. You hold, Mr. Whitley, that this is beyond the scope of the present Bill. Let me read from the Government of India Act, 1858. The title of that Act is "An Act for the better government of India," and Clause 4 is as follows:
"After the commencement of this Act any four of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State for the time being, and any four of the Under-Secretaries 527 for the time being under Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, may sit and vote as Members of the House of Commons, but not more than four such Principal Secretaries, and not more than four such Under-Secretaries, shall sit as Members of the House at the same time."
I read that to show that although the title of that Bill was in Act for the better government of India, that particularly Clause did limit not the number of Secretaries of State or Under-Secretaries of State for the Government of India, but the whole of the Secretaries of State and the Under-Secretaries of State in the Government of that time. If that was not beyond the scope of the title to do that then, it is not beyond the scope of the title of this Bill to do exactly the same thing, in my opinion, especially as in this Bill that particular Clause is amended. My point, put shortly, is that if with the title of the Bill as a Bill for the better government of India you can pass a Clause that limits the whole Secretaries of State for India, for the Army, for the Navy, or anything else, you can certainly do it in this Bill which amends that particular Section, and the title of which is the Air Board Bill, which is not more comprehensive than the title of the Bill for the better government of India.
§ The CHAIRMAN
And I cannot say what the Rules pertaining to the Chairman's duties were at that time. But I am quite clear that, as it stands here, this does go beyond the scope of this Bill, because it deals with the Ministers in general. If the hon. Baronet, as I pointed out to him earlier in the day, had in his proposal limited it to the effect on this Bill, as a substitute for the Motion we have just defeated to leave out Sub-section (2), then I think he would have brought it within the proper scope.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am much obliged for your suggestion, Mr. Whitley, but it does not meet my point, which is to limit the number of Ministers to ninety for everything. I thought I should be in order in doing so, inasmuch as some other vigilant Member of Parliament in 1858, in 528 a Bill which only dealt with the Government of India, did limit the numbers of Secretaries of State.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid there were not so many talkers in the House in 1858, and that in consequence the Chairman may not have taken so strict a view.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.