§ CABINET SECRETARIAT.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £30,571, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Cabinet Offices and of the Committee of Imperial Defence, including the cost of preparation of War Histories."—[NOTE: £23,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I beg to move that Item A. (Salaries, wages and allowances, £32,048) be reduced by £100.
The Vote to which I ask the attention of the Committee is confined to the Cabinet Secretariat and not to the Committee of Imperial Defence or to the War Histories, which form a part of the general Vote coming under the head of the Cabinet Secretariat. This is the first time that this most important innovation in the practices, or, rather, the usages of the Cabinet has provided an opportunity for discussion in the House. I confess that I am rather in the position of a man who is going for the first time over the course and has no personal experience of the hazards. I have never been a. member of any Cabinet, and, therefore, anything I have to say with regard to the Cabinet must be subject to necessary deduction because of my lack of experience of its operation. But I lave been for a considerable time in this House, and for a great many years I have taken a very keen interest in the Constitution and constitutional history and practice of the Houses of Parliament. With regard to the Cabinet Secretariat, and, indeed, the Cabinet itself, I am reminded of what was said by a very distinguished lecturer on medical science, when he met his students one day. He said, "Gentle- 214 men, we have now arrived at the consideration of the spleen. Nothing whatever is known about the functions of the spleen. So much for the spleen." As far as this House is concerned, nothing whatever is known about the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat, but I hope that to-day considerable information will be forthcoming with regard to it. To those, who take any interest in the Constitution of our country, it is a matter of the greatest importance that any constitutional change should be well within the knowledge and confidence of the House of Commons.
The Constitution is unwritten, except in one particular, to which, no doubt, some reference will be made later. It is the growth, not of logical principles, but of the practical knowledge and usages of public men in Parliament assembled. From generation to generation changes, subtle often but most important and vital, have been made, without due public information and adequate discussion in the House of Commons. In a very interesting and able article in "The Nineteenth Century," my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) has a striking description of the growth of the Constitution, and he speaks about its "evasive fluidity" and of its development in that kind of atmosphere. There can be no objection, therefore, to the Secretariat of the Cabinet merely on the ground that it is new. The real question we have to consider is: Is it useful? In its usages, is it in conflict with other useful, important vital parts of our Cabinet system? That is the issue, and that is the question to which I propose to address myself. Its mere newness is no objection whatever in my mind, because if our Constitution is to go on developing as it has developed in the past, there must be from time to time changes which are consistent with, and not too far in advance of, the needs of the time.
The secret of the effectiveness of the British Constitution is its almost complete fusion of the executive and legislative functions, distinguishing it very definitely from the Presidential system, at any rate as that system obtains in America. I lay this down with much respect to the House: that it is of vital importance, if we are to preserve intact the distinction between our Cabinet system and the Presidential system, we should see that 215 this House loses none of its authority, and none of its control over the Executive Departments of the State. It is of the greatest importance that the House of Commons, as the trustee of the Constitution, should examine with great carefulness any new development such as this. The Cabinet has no legal foundation at all. That, I think, is common ground among constitutional authorities. Mr. Lawrence Lowell, an American authority and one of the most distinguished writers on our Constitution, said of the Cabinet:It is an informal body, unknown to the law, whose business it is to bring about cooperation among the different forces of the State, without interfering with their legal independence.Another definition given by the same authority is:It is an informal and permanent caucus of Parliamentary chiefs of the party in power.That definition is pretty well known to us. The importance of the Cabinet being entirely and solely composed of the Parliamentary chiefs is a point to which I desire to make special reference. The responsibility of the Parliamentary chiefs to Parliament and this House is of immense, indeed of overwhelming importance. Power is passed from the King to the Commons; power is largely passed from the Commons to the Cabinet, arid power is passed from the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. In that respect we have a duty with regard to the Prime Minister of any Government, for I need not say I mean no special attack upon my right hon. Friend here. I am discharging what I think is a House of Commons duty in urging that we should examine these things because we are at a starting point. We do not know what sort of Government may take the place of the present Government, or the Government which succeeds it. It is the constitutional duty of the House of Commons to examine this matter and see where we are going. I have laid it down, and I think I have a large amount of assent to it, that the power of the Prime. Minister is rapidly and, as I think, not wisely, being increased. I say it is not right in the interests of the nation that more power should pass into the hands of the Prime Minister. Otherwise, what will happen? We shall, inevitably, be driven to an imitation of the Presidential system.
216 It is because I believe profoundly in the control of the House of Commons over the Cabinet and the Prime Minister—and we are, after all, servants of the people—that I make a definite point of this immediate question. Having, with great submission, laid that down as the basis of my remarks, I wish to examine the growth of the Secretariat. It arose, I believe, out of the War, and it may have been, for aught I know, because I have no personal experience of it, a very useful and very necessary Department to set up during the War. However, it was set up after 1916, and I think it is the special creation of the Prime Minister and his own idea of how government should be carried on in that respect. He takes sole responsibility for the innovation. What briefly is its history? The Committee will forgive me if I go into some facts and figures. The first appearance of any sum in this connection is in a Supplementary Estimate in 1917 for £3,875. That was only a proportion of the salaries of two Ministers without Portfolio, and was presented under the heading of "War Cabinet." In 1918–19 this Vote was for £10,000, representing the full salaries of the two Ministers without Portfolio and a note was appended that the salaries and expenses of officials and clerical staffs were paid out of the Vote of Credit of 1918–19. In 1919–20 the Vote was still under the heading, "War Cabinet," and it was £39,845, including the salary of one Minister without Portfolio, and for the first time there was set out in the Estimate a staff of 19, in addition to an item for allowances for clerical assistance, making altogether a total of £11,000 for clerical assistance. In 1920–21 the Vote, for the first time, was changed to "Cabinet Offices," substantially in the form in which it is presented to the Committee to-day, and was for a sum of £35,535, with a specified staff of 136 and no payment for a Minister without Portfolio. In 1921–22 the Vote was for £41,000, and the staff was 116 in number. In 1922–23, the present Estimate which we are now discussing, it is for £32,048 and a staff of 114. It will be observed that the staff has grown from 19 up to 114 in this year, and the very considerable sum of £32,048. The Committee, I am sure, would like to know as precisely as possible—I do not ask for details, but in a general and substantial sense I ask the 217 Prime Minister to the Committee today—what this Secretariat does, what functions it performs within the ambit of Cabinet duties. I have turned to the Geddes Report, and I find that they make no comment on it from the point of view of extravagance, but they say this:The Cabinet Secretariat, which constitutes the major part of the Office, now performs secretarial duties for the Cabinet itself, for Committees of the Cabinet, and for vari[...]'s Conferences, international and otherwise, in which the Cabinet is chiefly concerned. It also has certain duties in connection with the League of Nations.What I would like the Prime Minister to tell me is this: Why cannot the duties in connection with these Conferences, international and otherwise, to which the Geddes Report refers, be discharged by the Foreign Office? What reason is there for a new Department with officials very highly placed and, for aught I know, having none of the traditions or trained experience of the Foreign Office? Why should they be found handling these International Conferences? Is there any objection to the Foreign Office? What is the reason that the Foreign Office is out of the picture, so to speak, and, if it is the case, why does this Secretariat take its place? I should like an answer to those questions. Then I should like to know what relation the Secretariat bears to the Parliamentary departmental chiefs whom we have here in the House. With the exception of the Lord Privy Seal, and one or two other Ministers whom, at the moment, I cannot call to mind, who have no great permanent Civil Service with which they co-operate, the great majority of the members of the Cabinet have permanent civil servants by their side, and civil servants who, criticised as they are from time to time here—and I am sure they do not object to that—stand without equal in the world for efficiency and probity. How far does the Cabinet Secretariat cut into or take away from their duties, in the case, say, of any of the great Departments of State, such as the Ministry of Health, the Army, the Navy, the Foreign Office, and a whole range of others?
What need is there for this new Department? That is the point I want to get at. What use is it? I am not objecting to its novelty at all; I want to know what functions it discharges, what are the defects of the existing Departments which it replaces, and what is the future of this 218 Secretariat. If it is simply for carrying on or winding up what is left of the, War, it is only lingering unnecessarily on the stage, like some other remnants of the War are still lingering, but, as far as I can see by looking at the Estimate itself, it looks to me that it is intended to become a permanent part of the Cabinet work. I have no doubt the Prime Minister will give us his answer to these questions. Of course, I am making no personal reflection upon the capacity of these gentlemen at all, but I want to know if they are working as a. sort of liaison officers between the various Departments of State and the Cabinet, because that is a new departure altogether, and it must be justified in Committee of the House on its usefulness. Let us take the test of experience. We have had about three years of it. How far has the Cabinet Secretariat bettered legislation? Is our legislation any better? Is there greater co-ordination between various Departments? What improvement is there in the legislative output in quality? Anybody can turn out quantity, but what improvement is there in quality? I think the quality of the legislation put out is inferior to what we used to have. At any rate, we did not have to repeal Acts within two or three months of them getting on the Statute Book, and we have had several instances of that in quite recent times. In what respect has it improved, if this has come within the ambit of its operations, the question of finance or economy—a pretty bad record as far as the Government is concerned? Perhaps the Cabinet Secretariat has this in its favour, that without it things might have been much worse. All I can say is that it would be rather difficult to have things much worse in many respects than they are. How far has the Cabinet Secretariat bettered our operations in the field of foreign policy? I cannot say, as far as my own personal opinion is concerned, that they seem to have made any very great improvement upon the way in which foreign policy used to be handled—the old-fashioned way. I see no improvement there. I have laid before the Committee as briefly as I could some questions which T have no doubt the Prime Minister will answer, but once again I say that the importance of the discussion this afternoon cannot very easily be over-estimated. It is the duty of the House of Commons to watch 219 with the most jealous care any innovation which tends to take away from it its prime duty of maintaining absolute control over the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and all the Departments of the Civil Service. It is for that purpose that I have initiated this discussion and moved the reduction.
§ 4.0 P.M.
Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat confessed, with the modesty which is natural to him, that he was under some disadvantage, inasmuch as he had had no personal experience either of Cabinets without a Secretariat or of Cabinets with a, Secretariat. I am one of those who sat in a Cabinet under the old system, when no agenda was prepared of the business to be laid before us, and when no record was taken of anything that passed in Cabinet or of any decision that was taken by the Cabinet, except such records as might be embodied in the letter written by the Prime Minister to His Majesty and which was seen only by the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, and who has sat under the new régime when we have a Secretariat, and I say with confidence as my opening observation that no one who has had experience of both systems, and who at the same time sees the enormous addition to the work of the Cabinet which has taken place in recent years, would for one moment think of going back to the old unbusinesslike system which nothing but the comparative simplicity of the matters to be dealt with in those days rendered possible at all. My object is to answer the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me. Will he permit me this observation? He was not very certain, as he himself said, of the hazards of the course over which he was playing, but he was exceedingly anxious to "bunker" his opponent. [Laughter.] Have I got the wrong word? At any rate, the modest role which the right hon. Gentleman assumed for himself was to elicit information from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) could hereafter base the main attack. I propose to offer the information with all the impartiality of one who cannot claim to have been the prime mover in the establishment of the Secretariat, and then it will 220 be open for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley to take the floor and call up in due course my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to answer for his sins.
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles pointed to two or three possible dangers which he thought might be involved in the creation of the Cabinet Secretariat. He dwelt with reiterated emphasis on the importance of maintaining Parliamentary control over the Ministers and the heads of all Departments and over the Government as a whole. I entirely agree with him. He seemed somehow to think that Parliamentary control was impeded or impugned or impinged upon by the fact that the Cabinet had a Secretariat.
May I say that I will endeavour to inform my hon. Friend. That is the first fear that some hon. Members have, that in some way the Cabinet Secretariat will remove the Departments, or Ministers, or the. Government as a whole from Parliamentary control. I confess that my difficulty is to see how any Secretariat could do that. Is the Secretary of State for War removed from Parliamentary control because there is a permanent Under-Secretary of State and a large staff in the War Office? Is any Minister removed from Parliamentary control because he has a large staff of civil servants under him? How on earth can the control of the House of Commons over public affairs be affected adversely by the fact that a record is kept of Cabinet proceedings and that Cabinet decisions are noted and recorded, instead of being left to the individual memory of the Ministers as they leave the Cabinet Room?
Then I understand the right hon. Gentleman is anxious lest the effect of the Cabinet Secretariat should be to exalt the Prime Minister, not my right hon. Friend, but the Prime Minister of the day, into a position of pre-eminence that he has never yet occupied, and should make him, not as he has always been and as Prime Ministers have always been proud to assert that they were, primus inter pares among their colleagues, but of some different rank, and give him a control of the Cabinet which is novel, 221 unprecedented in our past experience, and, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, injurious. I can assure him that that is not the effect of the Secretariat. May I make one general observation? I was discussing the development of Cabinet procedure, in view of a Debate that was held some little time before Easter, with my Noble Friend the Lord President of the Council, and, among other things, he touched upon the position of the Prime Minister among his colleagues. My Noble Friend the Lord President observed that he had now had a considerable Parliamentary experience, and he had never known a Prime Minister who was not accused either of being a mere cipher or tool in the hands of some stronger colleague or a tyrant who dominated over the Cabinet. These are old charges.
If I may be permitted to express a personal opinion, I would say that the position of the Prime Minister has always had special weight in Cabinet deliberations, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley would be disposed to dispute it. But what his actual position is and what his influence is and his authority is, depends upon the man himself. Does anybody think that my right hon. Friend is more all-powerful in the Cabinet to-day than Mr. Gladstone was in some of his Cabinets, or than Lord Beaconsfield was in his great Cabinet, or than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley was in the Cabinet over which he presided? I do not believe that is so, though I do not want to detract from the influence which my right holy Friend has with all of us who sit in council with him, and which we readily acknowledge. But, be that as it may, how does it affect the question of a Cabinet Secretariat? What does the Cabinet Secretariat do? What is the effect of having this record of the Cabinet? May I bring before the Committee what the position is? I suppose that up to the time of the War things had not differed very much from what they were when I sat in Cabinet under the Lord President of the Council in the years 1903 to 1905. I should doubt whether in any one year there were more than, say, 40 Cabinet meetings, or one Cabinet a week.
Yes, I said before the War. I am contrasting before the War, not with during the War, because that is an interlude with which we are not concerned for this particular purpose, but with after the War. Before the War, I suppose, 40 Cabinets a year was about the normal number—one a week during the Session, none during the early part of the Recess when Ministers were accustomed to take a holiday, and then further meetings for the purpose of preparing at leisure the legislation of the next Session. Contrast that with what has happened within the last two years. During the War, the War Cabinet, or the War Council which, under various names preceded the establishment of the War Cabinet as such and which effectively directed the War, met, I suppose, practically every day. But look at what the Cabinet has had to do since the War. In 1920 there were 82 Cabinet meetings in 1921 there were 93, and in the first five months of the present year there have been 32. In addition to that, there are the Conferences of Ministers, in effect Cabinet Committees, the Home Affairs Committee which is now a Standing Committee of the Cabinet, to which a large amount of business is relegated, a Finance Committee, and various Sub-Committees of the Cabinet. Excluding the Sub-Committees, there were something like 200 meetings in 1920, over 160–170 I think—in 1921, and some 60 in the first five months of the present year.
Those are Cabinet meetings and important Committees, like the Home Affairs Committee, or Committees dealing, say, with Ireland. I think the Sub-Committees in the main are on minor matters. I am not quite certain how that is divided up. Taking the Cabinet Conferences, and Committees of all kinds, there were 332 in 1920, 339 in the next year, and 190 in the first five months of this year. We are forced by the amount of business to devolve a great deal more work on Committees. How are you to co-ordinate the work of these Committees? How is the Cabinet itself to keep any control over them unless a record be taken of the work of the Committees and unless that record be avail- 223 able with the decisions of the Committees for the consideration by the Cabinet? So far from the effect of having this record taken being to increase the power of any individual Minister, be it the Prime Minister himself, it is an essential feature for the preservation of control by the Cabinet as a whole over the general affairs of the nation. The Cabinet Secretariat has no executive function, has no administrative function, displaces no other Department and does the work of no other Department. Its business is to act as a Secretariat, to bring the business of the Cabinet before the Cabinet in proper form, to take such notes of discussions in Cabinet, or Cabinet Committees, as the Cabinet may require, to record the decisions of the Cabinet, and to see that those decisions are communicated to the Departments which have to execute them. If a decision is taken upon a question of military policy—I will say of military administration rather than policy, because military policy would be very probably drafted in the Committee of Imperial Defence—of military administration, it is the business of the Secretariat to see that that Cabinet decision is communicated to the War Office.
The Minister is present, but instead of it being left, as it was in the old days, to each individual Minister to carry away his own interpretation of the decision to which the Cabinet had come, and then to instruct the Department, there is now sent to the Minister himself the recorded decision of the Cabinet for execution in his Department. It is a much more precise, and much more businesslike form, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley will, I think, have in mind cases where the system of trusting to the memories of individual Members broke down, and, but for the existence of the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, might have led to grave consequences in our history. At, any rate, in the first place, the decision is not made, or taken, or executed, by the Cabinet Secretariat. That is no part of their functions, but it is their business to see that the decision is properly recorded, and that as so recorded it is communicated to the Minister of the Department concerned. That has, incidentally, a great advantage. When the decisions of 224 the Cabinet have to be recorded, the decisions have to be clear. I have known Cabinets break up under the impression that they had settled something, and every Minister going away asking his neighbour what was the decision to which they had come. The institution of a Secretariat makes that impossible, because the decision must be recorded, and, if not clear, the Secretary has to ask, "What have I to record?" That is of more consequence than some of those who have not sat in Cabinets would be led to suppose.
What relation, the right hon. Gentleman asks, does the Secretariat bear to other Departments? It is in the main recruited from other Departments by officers who are seconded from other Departments to the Cabinet Secretariat. For instance, when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I secured that there should be permanently attached to the Secretariat an official of the Treasury, not always the same official, but that there always should be one official of the Treasury whose business it would be to see that financial questions were not brought before the Cabinet, or before a Cabinet Committee, until the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an opportunity of considering them. Similarly, in regard to the League of Nations, the whole of the League of Nations' work is under the charge of an official of the Foreign Office, seconded from the Foreign Office to the Cabinet Secretariat for that particular purpose. My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles asks, "Why did you put the League of Nations' work under the Secretariat at all? Why did you not leave it entirely to the Foreign Office?" It is a very natural question to ask, but I think the Committee will agree that there is a very good answer. In the first place, the League of Nations intimately concerns the Dominions, and the Dominions prefer to correspond with the Cabinet Office. More than that, the League of Nations is not merely a Foreign Office concern. An immense part—I am not sure even the larger part—is concerned directly and immediately with other Departments than the Foreign Office. We had to consider what was the best receiving and distributing channel for this new business. We settled that the Cabinet Secretariat was the best Department for the League to correspond with. The Cabinet Secretariat, then, is responsible for sending the communications received to the Departments concerned, 225 for obtaining the reply which those Departments would advise should be sent, and for seeing, before those replies are sent, that the reply of one Department is properly co-ordinated with that of another, and that you do not get contradictory answers from two Departments in one Government. That, again, I venture to say, is a very common-sense and convenient arrangement.
The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Has this Cabinet Secretariat bettered legislation?" It is not its business to better legislation. "Has it bettered finance?" It is not its business to better finance. The business of legislation is the business of Ministers; the business of finance is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury and Ministers at large. "Has it bettered foreign affairs?" It is not its business to deal with foreign affairs. That is the business of the Secretary of State and the Foreign Office. Those questions are based on a misconception of what the duties of the Cabinet Secretariat are. Its duties are to receive from Ministers or Departments notification of questions on which Cabinet decisions are required; to see that the papers which the Cabinet has to have before it, before it takes those decisions, are properly presented; to record so much of the discussions as from time to time they may be directed to record; to take note of the decisions, and to communicate them to those who have to execute them. But they are not themselves authorised to take the initiative in any matter of administration, in any matter of legislation, or in any matter of executive action. I think I have pretty well covered the ground—I hope I have—raised by the right hon. Member for Peebles. Let me just add that the same staff which serves the Cabinet Secretariat serves the Committee of Imperial Defence, and that is really not an accident. When the Committee of Imperial Defence was founded, it was obvious at once that it must have a Secretariat, that it must have records if it was to perform the tasks which it was intended to perform. During the War, the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence served not merely the War Cabinet as constituted in 1916, but it served those various Committees of the Cabinet of my right hon. Friend which, under various names, did, in fact, direct 226 the daily conduct of the War so long as the right hon. Member for Paisley was Prime Minister, and now an extension of that Secretariat is applying the same method, with, I venture to say, the same beneficial results, to the business of the Cabinet as a whole.
As my last word, I do want to impress upon the Committee the immense development of Cabinet work in the course of the last few years. The task of government has become much more complicated. The number of international, as well as of national, conferences, have become much more numerous. It would be quite impossible, by the old form of verbal communication and report at a weekly Cabinet meeting, to keep the Cabinet in any sort of touch with the mass of material which now passes before Ministers in Committees and in Council, unless you had adopted a businesslike secretarial system. There is only one other thing I want to say. I am not sure it is necessary, but some words slipped from the right hon. Member for Peebles which make me feel I cannot conclude without saying them. Of Sir Maurice Hankey, as Secretary both of the Committee of Imperial Defence and of the War Cabinet, I need not speak. He is known by reputation, at any rate, to this House, which has accorded him its thanks for the great services which he rendered during the War, and to which testimony has been borne both by my right hon. Friend opposite and the Prime Minister—the Member most intimately associated with him. Of the rest of the staff, I only desire to say that they are the same kind of men as those who discharge responsible positions in the Civil Service, imbued with the same high sense of duty, the same strict attention to the obligations of secrecy and confidence, and that I count myself fortunate, as one of the Ministers who has the advantage of their services, in having men who will work with such devotion under any pressure, for any length of time, at any hour of the day or night, which the exigencies of the Ministers may require.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I need hardly say that I associate myself with every word my right hon. Friend opposite has said in the concluding part of his speech as to the character and the efficiency of the eminent State servants—military, civil 227 and naval—who are members of this Cabinet Secretariat, and, in particular, no one has more reason than I have to join in any tribute—and no tribute can be too high—to the eminent services which Sir Maurice Hankey has rendered this country during the War and since. I think we were singularly fortunate in finding such a man in such a position at such a time. My right hon. Friend started his speech by suggesting a Machiavelian compact between my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate and myself—some elaborate pre-distribution of parts with some sinister and malignant object for the discredit of the Government. He is quite mistaken. I have had a larger and a longer experience than anybody else now sitting in the House in Cabinet Government. My sole interest in the matter is not that I object to necessary changes, for I quite agree there must be innovations and developments in the constitution and the Cabinet system, but I am endeavouring to discuss impartially and dispassionately whether the case has been made out for the addition of a new Department, consisting, as we are now told, of 114 persons.
May I interrupt to say that in that number are included charwomen and others. You are not considering only the actual Secretariat.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The figures are here in the Paper I hold in my hand. It is true that there are 14 charwomen—though I am not for the moment discriminating—but the total cost is something like £32,000. I want the Committee to look at the matter dispassionately, to take its mind back, leaving out the war conditions, and the subsequent peace conditions, and going back to normal conditions. I want the Committee to go back for a while. I have sat in the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers. I myself, when I succeeded to the office, held it for a longer continuous term than any of my predecessors over the past century. My first chief was Mr. Gladstone—a man of unrivalled experience and knowledge of public administration. I am perfectly certain that the practice pursued by Mr. Gladstone, inherited by him from Lord Palmerston and Sir Robert Peel, and adopted, as I have every reason to believe, by Lord Salisbury and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the practice that prevailed for certainly 60 or 70 years 228 in regard to Cabinet Government, was approved by the knowledge and experience of all these illustrious men. What was its essence? Its essence was this. Corporate Cabinet responsibility maintained, not as a despot, or even as a master, by the Prime Minister, though inevitably he was the central and most authoritative figure. In practice all the heads of the great Departments of State once or twice a week, and always once, met the Cabinet in Council, contributing their share of information and advice, and so, after discussion, decisions were come to. The essence of the whole thing was mutual confidence, and not only that, but absolute secrecy. The secrecy was so well maintained, in theory at any rate, and I think in fact also, that I believe in practice no one ever opened the door of the chamber except a Cabinet Minister. There were no messengers. No note was kept of the proceedings by anybody except the Prime Minister. There were occasions when a furtive kind of note was taken, Members taking an independent note of their own, but that was always regarded as a breach of the unwritten law, and the Prime Minister of the time had more than once in my time to exercise the very invidious function of admonishing, privately of course, the peccant Minister for his breach of that unwritten rule.
I only mention this to show that the whole thing was treated absolutely as a confidential council by responsible Ministers of the Crown. The result was, as my right hon. Friend has said, that the only record of what took place was the record made by the Prime Minister himself, and his duty, as I think is well known, was to write in his own handwriting a letter to the King describing exactly what had taken place and what resolutions had been come to. I do not know that that record was ever wrong. A copy of that message sent by the Prime Minister was made by the private secretary to the Prime Minister and was kept in the archives and is there now for purposes of history. That was the only kind of authentic record of what took place. That may seem to my right hon. Friend unbusinesslike. It worked very well. It worked well enough for Mr. Gladstone, for Lord Beaconsfield, for Lord Salisbury, and for their degenerate successors! I 229 do not believe I have ever known a serious instance, during the whole of my long experience of public affairs, in which there was any serious subsequent difference of opinion as to what had taken place at the Cabinet. I am perfectly certain, if T may venture to say so—for I have not had experience of the new system—that Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield would have shuddered in their graves at the thought of an outsider being present and taking notes of what was going on. They would have considered it a breach of the fundamental practice of the Constitution. I am not at all sure, having seen these gentlemen—and know them to be very competent people —I am not at all sure that they send any more accurate record than in the old days when it was written more informally under the system to which I have referred. That was the system which prevailed up to the outbreak of the War.
Side by side—and that was the essence of Cabinet Government—side by side with this system of Cabinet deliberations which resulted in the determination of the ultimate policy of the Government, both in legislation and administration, we have allowed during the last 25 years to grow up, I think very wisely, an institution created mainly by the effort of that distinguished statesman, my predecessor, now unfortunately removed by the mischances of fortune to another atmosphere, the Earl of Balfour—side by side there has grown up the Committee of Imperial Defence, which, I think, quite rightly adopted a different system. The Committee of Imperial Defence had no executive powers, absolutely none. Everything it did was subject to the ultimate approval or disapproval of the Cabinet of the day.
In the course of the complexity of European diplomacy and the international situation, and the increasing importance which rightly attached to the co-ordination of the Naval and Military Councils the Committee of Imperial Defence was brought into existence as an informal body. It was presided over and selected by the Prime Minister of the day. Some Members of the Cabinet are always members of the Committee—and the Committee had the advantage of the co-operation of eminent naval and.military men. My hon. and gallant Friend 230 the Member for North Down (Field-Marshal Sir H. Wilson) and I spent many pleasant hours together there. We had the heads of the Army and the Navy, the Foreign Office, and other Departments present, and when the Dominion Premiers came over here we always made it a point for them to sit with us. Sitting there as a co-ordinated body, we came to decisions of very great importance. They were recorded by the Secretariat, and in due course were circulated to Members of the Cabinet
I believe that that was a system which worked very well. It preserved ultimate Cabinet responsibility in all matters either of policy or of administration, and at the same time a careful record was kept of what had taken place at the Committee of Imperial Defence, so that the Cabinet might be informed constantly and kept informed of the kind of problems upon which they ultimately had to decide. It is desirable to have clearly before us the system which prevailed up to the outbreak of the War, and, indeed, after the War—but I will say something about that in a moment. I do not believe any of my illustrious predecessors would dissent from the opinion which T now express, as a result of experience, for it is about 30 years since I first entered the Cabinet. The system was not slovenly nor unbusinesslike, nor, in practice, did it lead to misapprehension or confusion. That was the way under the party system, whatever party might be in power. We all knew of course, when the War came, that some changes, necessary and important, might be needed in procedure. We established the War Committee at a very early stage—I think almost immediately after the outbreak—which took over to a large extent the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Experts were present, and we always had the leading representatives of the Army and Navy present, and a record was kept of their proceedings. If you consult the writings of any historian who deals with the history of the War you will find in the records of that Committee a complete record almost day by day of all the military and naval decisions, and I think that was a very necessary step, because you could net constantly be referring these matters to the Cabinet. Cabinet responsibility, Cabinet conferences, and the right of the 231 Cabinet in all cases to take ultimate decisions was never impaired.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am speaking of what normally happens, and that is what happened during the War. I am not criticising the bringing into existence of this Secretariat during the remaining years of the War, but the question which the Committee has now to consider is, does it now serve any useful purpose commensurate with its numbers and its cost? I would like to ask what is the reason why we should not revert to the normal conditions of the system which served us so well in days gone by. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has minimised the functions of the Secretariat to an almost undue extent. As he has presented the case to the Committee, they are really reduced to the functions of a conduit pipe simply conveying and communicating decisions taken.
Under these circumstances, why should this very substantial staff be maintained. It was a thing entirely unknown before the War, and there is no such thing wanted during peace. We are now under peace conditions, and are we to be told that for the mere purpose of making quite certain that a member of the Cabinet who has been present at a consultation with his colleagues has not misunderstood, through haste or through stupidity, the decision arrived at that you must have this enormous staff, because it really is an enormous staff, to make quite certain that true records are kept. The thing does not admit of argument. lf, of course, you are going to assign to the Secretariat some functions other than that of a mere pipe for the clarifying and conveying of decisions already arrived at, then I say it is a usurpation of the functions which have hitherto been discharged so well by our most competent Civil Service. Although I am not in the least degree wedded to old ways to such an extent that I would not gladly accept any administrative innovation which I thought was a real improvement, I cannot see that any case has been made out, either in the arguments of the Lord Privy Seal or in our actual experience 232 during the last three years of the working of the Departments of State, to suppose that we have got any value for the money we have been asked to spend in this connection.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I intervene in this Debate through no desire to indulge in any wanton criticism of an institution, which has certainly served a very useful purpose. I do not quarrel with the existence of some machinery for preparing agendas and reporting the decision of the Cabinet, and I am not sure that I regard the secrecy of the Cabinet and the exclusion from the Cabinet of all outside persons as essential or necessary. I want to approach this question only from the point of view of whether the Cabinet Secretariat at the present moment is a sound piece of administration and whether it works in with the rest of the Government proceedings, or whether it is not fundamentally a confusion which leads to this Secretariat doing an enormous amount of harm, not due to the inefficiency of its members—I join my humble tribute to everything that has been said as to their efficiency and the way they have performed their almost overwhelming task during the last few years—but owing to the fact that they are in a fundamentally anomalous position as part of the machinery of government.
The Lord Privy Seal assured us that this Secretariat had no executive duties, that it acted only as a co-ordinating agent, and was merely a channel of instruction, but, surely, that is not the case. I grant that it has no executive machinery, but, unfortunately, it has executive functions. The Lord Privy Seal admitted this, because he said that the Secretariat had been used by the Cabinet as a co-ordinating medium in matters in which the Dominions were concerned. What does that involve? If the Cabinet Secretariat be the sole channel of communication between the Government and the Secretariat of the League of Nations, what happens in a case like that of the Opium Convention? That subject was deliberated upon many times before the War and in the case of this Convention, the Foreign Office obtained the view of the India Office and other Departments before the instructions of the Government were given to the delegates at that Conference. Now, when the League of Nations considers 233 the Opium Question, the Cabinet Secretariat corresponds with the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Board of Trade, and secures the views of those Departments.
On a question like the instructions to be given to our delegates at the Conference on the opium question, does that question go before the Cabinet, and are the instructions drafted by the whole Cabinet in Committee? Surely not! Who drafts them? Who is the Minister to whom the Cabinet Secretariat is responsible? Is it responsible to any one Minister? It is said that in regard to matters connected with the League of Nations the Lord President of the Council is responsible, but I would like to ask what executive authority is conferred upon the President of the Council? Again he has no executive department, and if he does anything it must be done through the Secretariat. He approves the instructions finally drafted by the Secretariat of the Cabinet and dispatched by them to the Government delegates, and any necessary correspondence with the Secretariat of the League of Nations is also carried through by the Secretariat of the Government. That is an executive function, and you cannot get away from it.
I have taken a minor instance as an illustration, but I could give larger instances. I have taken this case in order to show that, in regard to a question upon which there is no controversy, this Secretariat has taken over executive functions from the Foreign Office. The question is whether the discharge of such functions by the Secretariat of the Cabinet is a good thing or a bad thing. The Lord Privy Seal says quite rightly that the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat are recording functions and not executive. The Cabinet Secretariat grew up from the Committee of Imperial Defence which was essentially a deliberative body and not an executive body. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) mentioned his own War Committee in the early stages of the War, and he said that it took over the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I think that is not perhaps quite correct from this point of view. After all, there are two distinctive kinds of co-ordination essential in time of war and even in time of peace. There has to be a co-ordination of plans, but there is a totally different question involved when it comes to the co-ordina- 234 tion of executive action. It was because of your War Committee control of executive action that you had all the evils that attach to the absence of unity of command. In order to get real coordination of executive action you must have concentration of responsibility and unity of command, and the gross failures of our foreign policy in the early stages of the War were due to the fact that the Foreign Secretary of that day neither had nor desired to have any prime responsibility, still less sole responsibility, for our foreign policy abroad, and our foreign policy was at every step considered in Committee and no decision was arrived at. On this point I am afraid that I cannot agree, with my small experience of Government action, with the view on this point which has been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley.
The present Prime Minister set up the Cabinet Secretariat for the purpose of remedying the incapability of the Cabinet to co-ordinate executive action. I think the setting up of the Cabinet Secretariat was a fundamental mistake, is as much as it did not touch the root of the error, but, in fact, confirmed and intensified it. I do not regard the Secretariat so much from the point of view of the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), as being a creature of the Prime Minister, but it is a very grave question whether you are not carrying Committee Government by the Cabinet to such a length that you either come to no decision at all or leave the Secretariat to come to a decision for you. That is the danger. What happened when this Secretariat was set up? At first the Secretariat did not assume any direct executive function. It confined itself to somewhat haphazard interference with the work of other bodies, but later on it was forced to take direct executive responsibility. When you come to executive action you must concentrate the responsiblity somewhere. You did not concentrate the responsibility for foreign policy in the Foreign Office but you concentrated it in the Cabinet Secretariat. I remember when, at Christmas, 1917, I had to enquire into the exact position in regard to matters in Palestine. I found there was no one at the Foreign Office in whom the responsibility was vested, and I had to go to Whitehall Gardens to consult a 235 late Member of this House, well known to and highly respected by the Members of this House (Sir Mark Sykes). I would not for one moment venture to criticise his work, but that hon. Member was managing the whole policy of the Government in Palestine, and was responsible to no Minister at all. He was responsible to no individual and, at most, he was responsible to a Committee.
That kind of thing still continues. It operated in a tremendous degree at the Peace Conference. I am not blaming anyone for it. At the Peace Conference a very large part of the action of the Government was carried out by the Cabinet Secretariat direct. I think the Prime Minister will admit that. Take, for instance, the moment at which the Hungarian revolution was in full swing. We had to deal, and deal rapidly, with the Rumanian and Hungarian Governments, and we had to take quick decisions. The instructions and communications from the Council of Four that went to these Governments went, not through the Foreign Office or through our representatives at their respective capitals, but were sent direct by wireless to those Governments, and the Prime Minister may remember the somewhat strange result when the Rumanian Government, having received the wireless message, made no reply at all. When, subsequently, our Minister there communicated with it, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Government was able to make the convenient excuse that the message had never been received. That indicates the danger to which such informal methods of foreign policy are exposed. I am not criticising, but anything I am saying in this direction could be duplicated a dozen times.
The Cabinet Secretariat are in an impossibly anomalous position. They have no executive machinery, but often on matters of foreign policy they have to take executive action on questions on which they are not well informed, and they have to take it in such haste that they have no time in which to consult the Departments most concerned. I would like to repeat a question which I asked the Prime Minister some six months ago in regard to the case of Upper Silesia, which was referred to the League of Nations. It was so referred at a meeting of the Cabinet Secretariat 236 and there was considerable doubt as to the exact position of Great Britain and France in relation to it, because in one case both the British and French votes would have been required for a unanimous decision and in the other case they would not have been so required. As a matter of fact the question was referred to the League of Nations without any reference to any particular article of the Covenant, without any indication as to what the terms of reference were, and also without any indication of the legal position of Great Britain and France under the terms of the Covenant. Is it conceivable that any Department really equipped to be an executive Department, working under an executive Minister responsible to the Cabinet and to this House, would have so bungled that very difficult and important question as to refer it to the League of Nations without these vital particulars? But this is the kind of thing which is happening day after day in matters of foreign policy. You will never get a sound foreign policy until you concentrate the responsibility for it. I care not one jot whether you concentrate the responsibility for your foreign policy in your Foreign Office or in some new Department under the Lord President of the Council created under the Committee of Imperial Defence. I make no criticism whatever of the Cabinet Secretariat. I am not here to praise or to blame. I am here simply with the idea of insuring that the administrative machinery of the Government shall be sound, and, to secure that, I say you must concentrate your responsibility. You cannot go on cutting your foreign policy into lengths and allowing the Foreign Secretary to deal with the question up to a certain point and then finding it disappear from his grasp in the same way as the Irishman on his way to market with a pig found it constantly disappearing into a public-house.
§ Lord E. PERCY
There is no offence intended either to the Irishman or to the pig. What I am protesting against is the constant chopping and changing in the locus of your responsibility. I want to guard Departments of the Government so that they may not suffer from the intervention of the Cabinet Secretariat on behalf of the Cabinet on some question with which they are dealing. With re- 237 gard to the question of recording Cabinet decisions, of course, it is true that the adoption of that policy makes it much more difficult for the Cabinet to rise without having come to any decision. At least, the Cabinet will come to some decision, although I have known many instances in which Cabinet decisions drafted by Cabinet Secretariats have subsequently been altered by subordinate Departments. There may be a distinct advantage in thus recording decisions of the Cabinet, but think, on the other hand, of the disadvantages of the system. We all know that minutes of Conferences are only of real use to those persons who are present at the Conferences. They do not constitute a sufficient guide to people who have not been present. These Cabinet minutes go to the Department as formulated, instead of, as in the old days, the Foreign Minister going back to his Department charged with the opinions of his colleagues, knowing their views and the reasons why they came to a particular decision, and consequently having a larger discretion and more flexibility of action than can possibly be the case when he is tied within the four corners of a formula taken down by the Cabinet Secretariat. I say that is a very grave disadvantage which tends to delay and hamper executive action at the moment when swift action is most essential. So much for what is done by the Cabinet Secretariat.
But what of the things which that Secretariat does not record? You have now less record in matters of foreign policy than you had under the old régime. You have many more conversations taken part in by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister of which no record is kept than you had in the old days. The Prime Minister will remember what happened in relation to the case of the Island of Yap. There is a Minute taken in relation to that but if a decision was come to it certainly was not recorded as such, and the Minute led to endless disagreement as to what had actually been decided upon. The same thing has occurred in reference to many other matters of foreign policy as to which no record has been kept.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That was recorded, and therefore I am giving it as an instance 238 of a record made of a meeting of the Council by the Secretariat; but, because it was made as a Minute, and that was thought to be sufficient, endless disputes arose as to its actual meaning. If I were asked to give an instance of an unrecorded decision overriding the executive Department, I think I might mention, without indiscretion, the arrangement between the Prime Minister and M. Clemenceau at the end of 1918 with reference to Mosul. I think that no record of that ever reached any executive Department of the Government. No record of it existed in the Foreign Office. I would ask if that does not amount to a usurpation, whether wilful or not, of the functions of the executive Department by this Cabinet Secretariat? That is inevitable so long as the Cabinet attempts to discharge corporately as a Committee so many duties, and to keep so tight a control over the discretion of individual Departments. As I have said, I am not making these observations in any carping spirit, but I wish I could induce the Government, which I follow, to understand a little the feelings of some of us who do support it, and who have an ideal of a dignified, regular and systematic foreign policy; who have an ideal of this country as the fountain-head of policy for the healing of Europe, but who believe that those waters should flow in fixed and known channels; who believe that the Government's mistakes, for which they are criticised so often, are not mistakes in the conception of policy, and that the Government's aims are essentially right; but who believe that in one way or another the administrative and executive execution is muddled and weakened and divided and distributed between multifarious agencies. That is the gravamen of our complaint, and of our appeal to the Government that they will not be led astray by the idea, which I am sure is entirely false, that this Secretariat represents a great co-ordinating machine by which the whole policy of the Government may be made consistent and be made to harmonise. On the contrary, it is the addition of another Department, a semi-executive Department, a Department which to a large extent is utterly unco-ordinated with other Departments. It is the addition of a fifth wheel to a coach which has been driving very heavily through the sands of difficult roads, and 239 which is in danger of sticking altogether unless it is properly reconstructed.
It has occurred to me that somehow we were able to dispense with this considerable Department before the War. Apparently we could do without it at a time when we were a rich country, but, now that we are a poor country, not merely are we to have this Department at the present time, but it is to be fastened upon us permanently. I rather gathered, before this discussion commenced, that it was simply a temporary expedient, but, from the statement that has been made by the Lord Privy Seal, it looks as though it is to be a permanent Department, and the right hon. Gentleman's speech took the form of a justification of that. I know that a case can be made out for the retention of any one of these officials, and, indeed, for the retention of all of them; but is there any one official for the continuance of whose office some brief could not be presented, particularly when the brief was probably prepared by the official himself? I want to call attention to the number of officers here involved. There are no less than 114, and they are summarised by the Geddes Committee as 11 administrative, 47 clerical, 22 typists, 20 messengers and 14 charwomen. So far as the charwomen are concerned, I think their services might very well be retained, for I have no doubt that there is sufficient débris and trouble to be cleared up, so that, perhaps, a better case could be made for them than for the many others who are included. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), I have had the opportunity of reading the illuminating contribution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) in the current "Nineteenth Century" review. He has made it clear that we are concerned here with one of the gravest innovations which has been made in recent years. It is a little difficult for us to understand how great the change is. My submission is that, if there is to be a grave constitutional innovation, it should be made, not in a fit of absence of mind, not casually, not simply by the appointment of a number of officials whose salaries are put down for consideration, but that such an important change should be adopted 240 deliberately and advisedly and as a result of careful discussion in the House of Commons.
That is my main point of criticism. A new Department is being established, involving an expenditure of as much as £32,000 in the course of the year, a Department comprising over 100 people in more or less important positions; and that has been done, not as a result of a deliberate resolution, but casually, and, I think, thoughtlessly. The danger in this country is that the bureaucracy is becoming stronger and stronger, and at the same time the House of Commons is becoming smaller and smaller; and the question that is being put, I think, very generally, is: When is this expenditure to decrease; when is it to vanish? Is there any necessity for us to go on year after year spending something like £32,000 upon a work which is only justified on the grounds stated by the Lord Privy Seal, who explained that the duties of this new Department were, (1) to bring notifications from the Department concerned to the Cabinet; (2) to see that the papers were properly prepared and presented; (3) to see the the proceedings were properly recorded; and (4) to take a note and communicate that note to those who have to execute the instructions? Although the Lord Privy Seal was expressly urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles to explain what the work of this Department was, I think that that was all he could state. I wonder what the taxpayer would have to say about it if he were presented with these four headings, comprising the duties of this new Department, and told that there is to be spent, in those four directions, no less than £32,000 in the course of the year? Is there anything in that explanation that will lessen the taxpayer's grievance against the House of Commons, as the trustee of the public purse, and against the Government? I should like to know the total expenditure since the Armistice in this direction, not merely as far as salaries are concerned, but in special allowances and in the provision of offices and office accommodation. I think the Committee would be a little disturbed, and I am sure the country would be, if they knew all that has been spent in this direction since the Armistice. I would ask the Committee to have some consideration for the unfortunate man who at the present time is harassed in his business and who has to find somehow or 241 other the money to meet the demands of the tax collector. It means that thousands of people in this country have somehow to stint themselves and deprive themselves in order to meet the needs of a Department the justification of which has certainly not been established to-day. It means that the small taxpayer has to deny himself in some way or other—
§ The CHAIRMAN
These remarks might be made on every item of expenditure. The hon. Member must really confine himself to the Secretariat itself.
I accept your direction, Sir. My object is simply to call attention to this expenditure of £32,000, and to ask that, in any further explanation that may be given this afternoon, we may have explained to us in fuller detail what is the business of this Department which involves the country in so heavy an expenditure. I believe that there is a growing indignation against increasing expenditure, and I would ask the Government, who have been professing economy for so long, to exercise that economy in this direction.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I sympathise with the opinions of the hon. Member who has just sat down, but I think we have to discuss to-day something rather more definite and rather more important even than the very important matter of saving this £32,000 a year. I was deeply interested by the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) with regard to the difficulties that have arisen from this new Secretariat in the very difficult and troubled waters of foreign policy. The Noble Lord, however, seemed to me rather disposed to treat lightly certain other difficulties, and to condone certain other aspects of this Secretariat, which I venture to think are fraught constitutionally with the very greatest dangers. We have had a most interesting Debate mainly, from the Front Benches, in which we have had the personal experiences of two of our most notable Members of the Cabinet. The experiences of both have been abundant, and I am certain that both were anxious to give us a reflection of those experiences as true as possible to life. But what an extraordinary thing it is that these two Cabinet Ministers, recalling to the Committee their own experiences, are in such absolute disagreement with regard to the main 242 features of the transactions in question. This is really a matter which I think the Committee will judge to be of very vital importance, and, while quite admitting the impartiality, the frankness and the openness of the statement of the Lord Privy Seal, I cannot say that in my mind his arguments availed in the slightest degree to remove my objections to this new Department. What were the reasons that he gave? The first was that, which we have had reiterated almost to satiety, of the enormous increase of Government business. Are we not really getting to the end of this continual repetition, with vehemence and emphasis, by every Minister in every year that passes? I suppose that from the time when Noah came out of the Ark, the passions of men, their fights, their aims, their objects, their occupations, their desires, their longings for peace, their preparations for war, have been just about as numerous as they are even in the present advanced age. The difficulties of government cannot be very slight at any time, and, if they have become increased in complexity, are we quite sure that that is not sometimes due to the interference of government in spheres where it would be far better to leave the ordinary citizen to manage matters for himself; that they do not add to their work by ceaselessly finding out some new contrivance by which they can interfere with trade and regulate our lives and remodel the world. Let the Government try to pursue the aim of a little simplicity. When I listened to this defence by the Leader of the House. I was tempted to ask why is it, after we have gone on for generations on a certain system, they suddenly find in the year 1919 that there has been such an increase of work as to necessitate a fundamental alteration in the plans by which they are going to carry on the government, and suddenly find that the vital business of the country cannot be carried on unless they establish a new and altogether unheard-of Department of the State? We all, and no one more than I, admire, respect and appreciate very highly the value to the nation of the great Civil Service. It is not likely that I am going to run it down. But the Civil Service has definite functions beyond which it ought not to be allowed to go. The Civil Service can administer great administrative Departments of the State, because we know that nine-tenths 243 of its work is not political at all, and does not vary according to policy. Let them beware that they do not take the Civil Service out of its proper function into the domain of politics.
I want to ask one or two questions which are of fundamental importance with regard to this new Cabinet Secretariat. We have never discussed it. We have never really had any full explanation of it, and I do not think we had any very lucid explanation of it from the Lord Privy Seal. Is this Cabinet Secretariat, now admitted for the first time into the secrecy of the Cabinet, drafting the Minutes of the Cabinet—and that is no slight business and will put no slight power into their hands—to be continuous or is it only to be temporary? Is the Cabinet Secretariat, which has presumably been linked in sympathy with one Cabinet, which has been present at the most intimate discussions of that Cabinet, which has heard the various phases of shifting opinion, the compromises probably suggested, the yielding on the part of one Minister to the urgency of another—all those little touches which when you are present at an intimate conference really give character and colour to that conference—is this Secretariat, conversant with all these domestic troubles of one Cabinet, to go on to the next Cabinet and perform the same duties? We were not told. Why are we not told? The dilemma is insuperable. If they are to go on I think, if they are possessed of a sardonic temperament, they will find some amusing experiences in comparing the talks and the discussions of those fleeting beings who will pass across their vision like the slides of a magic lantern: here to-day, away to-morrow.
More than that, what about their minutes? Are these minutes to be for the use of the Cabinet as it exists only, or are they to be saved and carried on for their successors? I want to know that. We have never been told, and not even to-day have we found any enlightenment on the point. It is very important. But I say, value your civil servants, and trust their fidelity. They have been anxious in the past to play the game, and to maintain the highest rules of honour. But you must not put into their hands matters that do not properly belong to them. The business of the Civil Service is administration and not policy, and if you create a 244 Secretariat which is to be the repository of intimate fundamental political decisions, and which is to be permanent, and you hand these on from time to time, is is not perfectly certain that the interpretation of these principles will rest with the Secretariat? Anyone who has been at the head of a Department can tell you that, without seeking it, by almost spontaneous and irresistible force, he contrives generally to guide the policy of his Department. He does so, of course, subject to the superior control of his political chief, but I am betraying no secret when I say that everyone with experience knows that he must really hold the reins very largely in his own hands. But it is a very different thing when you make him the confidential repository and the interpreter of the deepest secrets of policy, going down to the very roots of that policy.
I distrust fundamentally this attempt to run into the grooves of routine and transmitted Minutes the free and untrammelled political principles which have been guided, not by civil servants, but by the leaders of the nation in the Cabinet and those who represent the spirit of this House. It is those leaders of the Cabinet, who derive authority from this House, who are immediately responsible to this House, who must direct the main policy of this country. You require Minutes, the Leader of the House tells us, because Cabinet Ministers cannot be trusted to remember what they have decided from day to day. It was an almost pitiful picture that the Leader of the House drew of his colleagues in the Cabinet who left the Cabinet and came back to it perfectly uncertain what they had decided. I have sat on many Committees and governing bodies, but I never found it was very difficult to know what decision, whether it was in my favour or against me, my colleagues gave and I have not found that my colleagues on these various bodies were so feeble in memory or so inaccurate that they really did not retain an impression of the decisions come to. I do not see why a Cabinet, composed as I have always believed—a belief I shall cherish to my dying day—of the leading intellects and leading powers, not only in this House, but in the country, cannot possibly come to a clear decision, remember that decision and agree with one another as to what that decision is without having recourse to a Cabinet Secretariat. In the old days secretaries 245 to the Privy Council were mere servants. They became the heads of the great Departments of State because they were the conduit pipes through which orders were conveyed.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Very well. Here we are now entrusting the most important principles of our constitutional growth—vital principles of policy—into the hands of what after all will be a new Civil Service Department. They are to interpret them and to convey to the other Departments the decision which the Cabinet Ministers, we understand from the Leader of the House, find themselves incapable, from defects of memory or other reason, conveying to their own Departments. Do you think that that body, with its political head, who must be the Prime Minister, will not exercise an authority over all the other Departments of the State? I think this new movement is one to curtail the independent responsibility of Cabinet Ministers. It is one to put into the harness of administrative machinery the free principles which have hitherto prevailed in our Constitution, and which have been the very first virtue of that Constitution. It is to impose a hard and fast line of administrative routine in place of that personal element which has given us all our great leaders in the nation, all those who have guided us throughout the various phases of our history, those who have known how to extricate out of difficult and perplexing deliberations the real point which is of importance, and which they have held up as a star to guide them. I do not think that a Cabinet Secretariat which will crib, cabin, and confine that policy according to the rules of written minutes will be a good substitute for our past Constitutional practice and elastic advancement. It is the letter that killed, but the spirit that keeps alive, and I think this destroys the spirit of the Constitution that keeps us alive. I think you are doing a great deal by this Secretariat to kill the spirit and to make the letter dominant in our Constitution.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My right hon. Friend who has just spoken has made a very interesting speech. On this subject he speaks with a great deal of authority, 246 being, as we all know, a student of our Constitution of great eminence. I am not sure that I do not think he takes a little too serious a view of the constitutional aspects of this question. He drew a picture of the Secretary to the Cabinet gradually arrogating to himself more and more powers until he displaces the present Constitutional authorities of this country, in much the same way as the Secretaries of State, who originally were simply Secretaries, and the Lord Chancellor, who, I believe, was originally merely a Secretary, have gradually arrogated to themselves the very great administrative and executive powers which they possess. No one can tell what will happen in the long future, but I do not think that in the immediate future we need fear the despotism of Sir Maurice Hankey. I am not sure that it would not be a very good form of Government, for I am one of those who share to the full the admiration that has been expressed from both Front Benches for the ability and devotion of that distinguished public servant. I do believe, however, that this development is one which ought to be watched with great care, and I am rather disposed to think that it has already gone further than is of advantage to the Constitution of the country.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal represented the Secretariat as merely a means of recording the decisions of the Cabinet and of the Committees and Conferences which take place with increasing and bewildering frequency nowadays, and as having no power beyond that. My experience of Cabinet Government is very small, almost insignificant I am afraid compared with that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). Therefore I express with diffidence a view which differs from his on a matter regarding the old system of Cabinet Government; but I must in honesty say that my very short experience of Cabinet Government under the old system, which was only about a year, led me to the conclusion that some record of the decisions of the Cabinet is a desirable thing. I do not quite share the view of my hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal that it constantly happened that Ministers went away without knowing what they had decided; but I think it did sometimes happen that the discussions went on until it was very late and 247 then the Cabinet broke up without coming to any very definite conclusion. That may have happened sometimes. The fact that there is somebody there to put on record what has been done or to record the fact that no decision was come to, does in itself help to clarity and definiteness of decision. I should not, therefore, be disposed to blame very severely a system by which the actual decisions of the Cabinet were recorded, but I would not have it go any further than that. Unless I am very greatly misinformed, it is the practice, not only to record the decisions of the Cabinet, but to record the views expressed by various Members of the Cabinet in the course of the discussion. I shall be corrected if I am wrong in that statement. That is what, I understand, happens. To that I have the strongest objection. A Cabinet discussion ought to be absolutely free, and any attempt to record the expressions of one Cabinet Minister is, I am convinced, deleterious and not advantageous. It has also a number of subsidiary disadvantages, into which I need not go, one of which is that certain Cabinet Ministers probably find greater pleasure in seeing their opinions recorded than other Cabinet Ministers, and consequently the greater part of the discussion may be carried on by one or two Members of the Cabinet of the day. I would not have any record of the discussions, but I would have a record of the decisions of the Cabinet. Of course, that would have to be approved not only by the Prime Minister, but by other Members of the Cabinet who took part in the decision.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I am coming to that. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument. I want to say what I think is good in the system. I understood from the Lord Privy Seal—it was my own experience, and I think I am entitled to say that—that it is the practice of the Secretariat to settle the agenda of the Cabinet. That seems to me a function which should be carried out with the greatest possible caution. It is a very dangerous function to entrust to anybody, and I am inclined to think that it ought not to he done except by the Prime Minister himself, who should dic- 248 tate to the Secretariat what he desires to be put upon the agenda, if you are going to have any agenda at all, particularly now that so many matters come before the Cabinet, and such constant meetings of the Cabinet take place. My right hon. Friend rather terrified me by enumerating the great number of meetings of the Cabinet which have taken place during the past year. I do not think that is a good thing in itself. I think it is a bad thing. It means that the Cabinet are deciding more and more what ought primarily to be left to the Departments to decide, subject, of course, to review, if the matter was thought to be of sufficient importance to require review. If you have some agenda, it, is evident that the position which a particular matter may have on the agenda may make the difference between getting a decision or not getting a decision. If it is low down on the agenda, and other matters take a long time, it will not he reached. It is too large a responsibility to leave to any permanent officials to say—if that is done; I do not know whether it is done—what should be the order of the matters which are to come before the Cabinet.
My right hon. Friend, in an interruption, said very truly that 80, 90, or 100 officials were not necessary merely to record the decisions of the 'Cabinet. Anyone who has followed affairs closely and has listened to this Debate must have arrived at the conclusion that the Cabinet. Secretariat does a great deal more now than merely record the decisions of the Cabinet. My right hon. Friend enumerated not only the Cabinet meetings, but the various Committees. There is the Home Affairs Committee, which sits constantly, and is a kind of secondary Cabinet, and there are a very large number of international Conferences. All these are apparently, I will not say guided by the Secretariat, because that would be going too far, but apparently the secretarial work of all these bodies is done by the Cabinet Secretariat. What inevitably happens is that, say, a Committee is appointed to deal with a particular subject. At the end of the first discussion it is suggested that a decision on particular lines might be taken. The Secretariat is then asked, I suggest, to draw up a report. That is a great deal more than recording a decision. It is suggesting a decision. That becomes a very important matter. 249 It may be a matter dealing with home affairs or foreign affairs. That report ought not to be drawn up except by the Department which has to carry it out, and if it is drawn up by any external body, however highly skilled—I quite admit everything which has been said in favour of the Secretariat—it will end in confusion unless it is drawn up under the supervision of the Department which is to carry it out.
May I give an example of what I mean from the Department of the Foreign Office, to which the hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has referred, The Noble Lord instanced the Versailles Conference. Let us take the Genoa Conference. We were told that there were 91 members of the British Delegation, and three or four of them came from the Foreign Office. The Secretariat, who had to do the whole business of putting into form what was done at that Conference, came, not from the Foreign Office, but from the Cabinet Secretariat. I cannot think that that separation of foreign affairs, that direction of foreign affairs, that administration of foreign affairs, can possibly succeed. As I understand it now, our foreign affairs are managed by three Cabinet Ministers. There is the Foreign Secretary, who manages a certain number of things, with the Foreign Office. At least, I suppose he does. There is the Prime Minister, who deals with all the International Conferences himself, and he is assisted in dealing with them, not by the Foreign Office, not; by any Parliamentary Chief of the Foreign Office—no Parliamentary Chief of the Foreign Office was at Genoa at all. That was due to accident—but assisted mainly by the Secretariat. Then there is the League of Nations, which so far as this Government is concerned, is under the Lord President of the Council, with one seconded member of the Foreign Office, who has nothing to do with the Foreign Office now, but has been seconded from the Foreign Office in order to assist the Lord President of the Council. The whole of the rest of the departmental duties are discharged by the Cabinet Secretariat, at least, so I understand.
My right hon. Friend has said that the League of Nations has to deal with a number of matters which are not connected with the Foreign Office. Of course that is true, but all these matters, 250 sooner or later, come round to the Department of Foreign Policy. My Noble Friend the Member for Hastings gave the instance of the Opium Convention. We can take others. When you are dealing with matters affecting other nations, sooner or later you have to deal with the Governments of those nations. The moment you have to deal with those nations you come to deal with foreign policy. It is vital that these matters, like the Opium Convention, or matters of much more direct concern, as for instance the discussions on Albania or Upper Silesia, should be dealt with through the Foreign Office, even if they are dealt with by the League of Nations. It is almost impossible to defend a system by which you have foreign affairs split up between three Cabinet Ministers.
I cannot believe that it will work well. I cannot see that it has been of advantage in the direction of foreign policy in this country. Not only have we the difficulty alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik), but it seems to me that there is a real danger in this system of the diminution of Departmental responsibility. You have more and more this government by Committee and Ministers, with a kind of Department of the Secretariat to discharge so much of the administrative duties as are necessarily discharged by a Secretariat. The result is that when we ask in this House who is responsible for a particular policy, you find it increasingly difficult to put a finger upon the Minister who is responsible, and find an increasing tendency to evade the control of this House and of public opinion, because we are not able to assign definite responsibility to a definite Minister, and we see that in a number of ways.
Naturally, having so little official experience as I have had in foreign affairs, I take my example from foreign policy, but take the extraordinary amount of secrecy in foreign affairs so far as this House is concerned. It was the usual practice before the War in any important foreign matter after a few months to present Papers to the House giving a full account of the correspondence. Not only the actual decisions which had been arrived at, not only any formal agreements, but the full correspondence, and the correspondence meant 251 a great deal, because it meant a record of a great part of all the conversations that had taken place between the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador, despatches by the Foreign Minister to his representative at the Court in question, and the consequential despatches from the Ambassador giving the purport of what had occurred in the discussions. Now we get very, very little. I think that one of the reasons is that you have now got that elaborate system of recording the minutes of these conversations by the Secretariat, which are vital matters and which are very difficult to present in their entirety to the House, because constantly they consist, as has been stated quite recently, of confidential matters.
One of the worst defects of the present system is the tendency of the Secretariat to take over the duties or some of the duties of the different Departments. It is inevitable that that should be so. You cannot avoid it. There again you have this system of committees dealing with all these multifarious activities in the country, and the Secretariat dealing with the Committees. It is inevitable that the Committee will rely on the Secretariat for such assistance as ought really to come from one of the Departments. The Secretariat in consequence take over that Department. That has happened constantly in certain Departments for foreign affairs and with an unfortunate effect. I do not believe in the exclusion of the Secretariat. It developed very naturally from the events of the War. The right hon. Member for Paisley described how it has developed. I dare say that it was desirable from some points of view during the War. I see no objection to the mere record of the decisions of the Cabinet being kept. I think that that may be of advantage. But to go further than that, to extend it to the degree to which it has been extended, still more to assign to it definite departmental duties is, I am sure, a most unfortunate departure in our constitutional system, and if it proceeds further it will lead, I am afraid, to grave confusion in the public service.
In the defence of the Cabinet Secretariat to which we have listened, I think that the Lord Privy Seal very much minimised the importance of its function. The very size of this Vote shows surely that this body 252 performs far more important work than merely recording the decisions of the Cabinet, and it seems to me rather to be a machine whereby the Prime Minister has brought about, partly under the stress of War necessities, and partly by following the line of least resistance, what amounts to a revolution in our system of government, a revolution involving a great breach in our Parliamentary traditions arid a very great blow at our historical safeguards. By means of this system the Prime Minister, and to a lesser degree the Departments, have come to be far less under the control of the House of Commons than they used to be before the War. The position of the Prime Minister, in foreign affairs at least, closely resembles the position of the President of the United States much more closely than it resembles the position of the Prime Minister under the British Constitution before the War. The chief engine in this revolution has been undoubtedly the Cabinet Secretariat. By its means the Prime Minister has been able to take over the administration of foreign affairs to a great extent from the Foreign Office and to impose his own personal views.
The foreign policy of a Government is the least suitable for the handling of ignorant amateurs, however brilliant they may be, and it is notorious that the most glaring of our mistakes in foreign policy, as for instance the Near Eastern impasse caused by our encouragement of Greece in claims which were not merely unjust but were far beyond her capacity to enforce, are really due to the unwillingness of the Prime Minister to listen to the Foreign Office, and his reliance on guidance which necessarily will be a reflection of his own views. In domestic policy as in foreign policy this Presidential system ignores all pre-existing conditions and all the traditions of our public Departments, and has brought about the most disastrous turns of policy, and greatly impaired the responsibility of Ministers for their own Departments. After all Civil Service traditions count for something. They may be tied up sometimes with red tape, but experience in these complicated matters of Government cannot lightly be entirely disregarded.
As to the constitution of this Secretariat, I do not know whom it consists of at the present time. I know that they were originally all amateurs out of touch 253 with the Departments. Yon might have picked out men who had great departmental knowledge, and got liaison in that way between your recording body and the Departments, but you have at its head a soldier, a very brilliant soldier, whose services we all recognise. You had as his assistants a paymaster from the Navy responsible for the naval side, a shipping expert with no civil service experience whatever, responsible for shipping, and a university professor responsible for labour and home affairs. You had a soldier, again, a very brilliant soldier no doubt, but a man with no political experience, responsible for Indian administration, and you had three very capable Members of this House responsible for foreign policy. I do not know whether now we have got a different kind of personnel. But by taking people from outside, as has been done, you will find that they are out of touch with public Departments. The Lord Privy Seal told us this afternoon that this Secretariat have got no executive function. Strictly speaking, he may be accurate, but surely the very fact that they do interfere, necessarily, to impose the decision of only a small section in the Cabinet must to a great extent reduce executive responsibility on the part of the Departments. Formerly these Departments were the repository of executive responsibility, and in effect now you have two channels of executive action. You have, on the one hand, the Department, and on the other hand the Prime Minister working practically through an executive of his own, acting in some cases parallel to, and in other cases above, the Department.
We do not know nowadays who is responsible. I do not suppose that anybody in this House, except the Prime Minister and one or two others on the Government Bench, can tell us who is responsible for instructions to the Reparation Commission. Perhaps we shall be told that this afternoon. It is because of this new system that the definite responsibility is slipping away from the cognizance of this House. The League of Nations business goes on parallel with other Departments directly under the control of the Secretariat. Certainly until recently, the decisions nominally of the Cabinet have really been arrived at by a small section of its Members. From what we heard this 254 afternoon, Cabinet responsibility is now largely exercised by small sub-committees and their decisions are imposed on the Departments without any Cabinet decisions whatever in the old sense. We had a very startling picture this afternoon from the Leader of the House. He told us how Cabinet Ministers used to walk away really not knowing what had been decided, and asking each other what had been settled, and what decisions had to be carried out by the Departments. You have got out of this trouble apparently by leaving decisions to the Secretariat. Surely that must reduce Cabinet responsibility, and the direct responsibility of Ministers at the head of the great Departments. There are 114 of these officials, or 100 if you leave out the charwomen. It is perfectly well known that they prepare the ground for the Cabinet. They work out the reports, and in that way they must inevitably largely cut into the old responsibility which used to be carried out by Government Departments.
It seems to me that the Cabinet Secretariat has so multiplied the power of the Prime Minister that he now dominates the Cabinet in a way that not even his great vitality and energy could have achieved under the old system. I cannot believe that it is in the public interest in this way to detract from the status and responsibility of departmental Ministers. I do not object to personal government because of the present repository of that system. If we are to have a dictator, no doubt the Prime Minister, by his quickness, is more capable of dealing with all these questions than perhaps anyone else. But I do hold that the system is bad, and that the best government of this country can he achieved only by many people working together under a. system of clear and definite Cabinet responsibility. The Leader of the House told us that the scope of Government has now so grown that Cabinet Ministers are physically incapable of attending to the general business on the Cabinet in the way that they used to do, and they are unable to keep in touch with what goes on, in addition to running their own Departments. If that be so, surely the remedy is not to alter our system of Government to suit an overgrown bureaucracy, but to cut down that bureaucracy so that it will fit into the old frame of Cabinet responsibility. I believe that many of our present discontents are due to this system of 255 personal Government, which has displaced collective Cabinet responsibility. I believe that the system has been able to grow up only by means of this Cabinet Secretariat, and that the abolition of that body would bring about advantages far beyond the actual money which might be saved.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Unlike a number of those who have taken part in the Debate, we on the Labour Benches, with the exception of a very small number, have no experience either of the old system or the new. Therefore, I approach the question from the point of view rather of an outsider looking at a plain business proposition. I recognise that I am to a considerable extent stripping it of all that historic and sentimental interest with which the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) so eloquently clothed it. Not withstanding his eloquent plea for the continuance of the old system and my own sentimental regard for the traditions and customs of the past, I am glad that this change has been made in our Parliamentary system. I hope that it will become a permanent part of our constitutional development. A system that provides for no agenda of business and no record of business done, and no co-ordination, in my opinion, and in the opinion of my colleagues, is not in keeping with the spirit of the times. No man or body of men, however good their memories, can depend absolutely on their memories when dealing with big national and international questions. None of our national institutions of any size or importance conducts its business on those lines. Take, for example, any of our public bodies or public companies, or our poltical parties and our trade unions. They have their agenda of business and they have a record taken of the business done. That is done for the purpose of enabling them to co-ordinate their business to a far greater extent than would otherwise be the case. Trusting to the memory of the individual Minister is a most unbusinesslike proceeding.
This change is, indeed, a step in the right direction. I do not think it will even lessen to any degree the sense of Ministerial responsibility. The keeping of a correct record of the proceedings of the Cabinet will in no sense lessen the individual responsibility of various Ministers. The Noble Lord the Member 256 for Hitchin (Lord R Cecil) said that the system would lead to some Members of the Cabinet getting their ideas placed in the Minutes of the Cabinet to a larger extent than others, and consequently they might have a greater share in the history of their time. I would remind the Noble Lord that Minutes are not kept for the purpose of giving expression to the ideas even of the Prime Minister, much as the present Prime Minister may dominate his other colleagues. If we are to take some of the statements made this afternoon as expressing the situation, the Prime Minister does dominate his colleagues to an extraordinary degree.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Minutes are kept for the purpose of recording the decisions of the Cabinet as a whole and not for recording the opinions of the Prime Minister. The step taken since 1916 is a step in the right direction. At the same time we think that the machinery set up for the purpose of recording the decisions of the Cabinet and passing it on to other Departments for co-ordination, is too elaborate and extravagant. We do not think it necessary to spend so huge a sum as £32,000. In certain cases too high salaries are being paid. We would like the Government to give particular attention to that phase of the matter. So strongly do we feel that too much money is being spent at a time when the country can ill afford it, that if a division be taken we shall go into the Lobby to register our protest against the expenditure. At the same time, as far as the system is concerned, we approve of the system.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I think that my right hon. Friend who has just spoken came to a somewhat impotent conclusion. I do not, however, propose to follow either his conclusion or his arguments, because I think he showed pretty clearly that he had no very firm apprehension of the spirit which has hitherto dominated the working of a Constitution, which is unique, and especially unique in its flexibility amongst the Constitutions of the world. Many of us en this side of the Committee are grateful to my right. hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), not for the first time, for bringing the subject before the attention of the Com- 257 mittee. No more important subject has been discussed in connection with our current Estimates. There are very few opportunities given to the House—at any rate I have known of very few—by which the light of Parliamentary Debate is thrown on the working of the mysterious machinery of the Constitution. I say "mysterious," though I have been amazed at the acquaintance which many non-official Members of the House have shown to-day with the inner working of that Constitution. I have said "mysterious;" I might have said non-existent, for the greatest of French publicists declared in a famous passage that the peculiarity of the English Constitution was that it did not exist. However, whether mysterious or non-existent, I am very glad that light should be thrown upon it.
We are asked to vote over £32,000 for this Cabinet Secretariat. We have been told that it consists of 114 persons. I take it that the question which the Committee has to decide is whether that money is being well and legitimately spent, and whether the new development, which undoubtedly it represents, is one to which the House ought to give its sanction. As the House is well aware, I am always averse to spending one penny of the public money more than I can help. I am also very strongly averse to any innovation which might have the effect of upsetting the delicate equipoise of our Constitutional machinery, and more particularly that part of it which controls the executive Departments. As the right hon. Member for Peebles said, the hinge of that machinery centres in the Cabinet. At this stage I shall not, as he did, enter upon a discussion of the principles which underly the working of that machinery. It must suffice to call the attention of the Committee to two of these principles which are of very great importance in the present connection. The first is the principle of Departmental responsibility, and the second is the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility. I suggest that it is on that apparently contradictory foundation that the whole Cabinet system rests. The question for the Committee to decide is whether that foundation is really threatened by the growth of the Cabinet Secretariat. Undoubtedly, this is a very serious innovation. It is common 258 ground with all who have taken part in this Debate, that it is a serious innovation, but the question for the Committee to determine is whether or not the innovation is justified. I suppose it is generally admitted that even before the War the existing machinery of Government was ominously creaking; at any rate, that was the deliberate opinion of one or two of those who have had most experience of the working of our Cabinet system. I remember Lord Lansdowne, speaking in another place in June, 1918, said:We have a right to regard the old Cabinet system as being so to speak the very 'hub' of the political machine. … but oven before the War the machinery had begun to creak.On the same occasion another Noble Lord, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said with even greater emphasis:I do not think anybody will deny that the old Cabinet system had irretrievably broken down both as a war machine and as a peace machine.He described in terms very much the same as those employed by the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon the way in which the Cabinet system in his opinion had broken down—how there was no order of business, no agenda, and no record of decisions arrived at. He said:The Cabinet often had the very haziest notion as to what its decisions were; and I appeal not only to my own experience but to the experience of every Cabinet Minister who sits in this House and to the records contained in the memoirs of half-a-dozen Prime Ministers in the past, that cases frequently arose when the matter was left so much in doubt that a Minister went away and acted on what he thought was a decision which subsequently turned out to be no decision at all or was repudiated by his colleagues. … Ministers found the utmost difficulty in securing a decision because the Cabinet was always congested with business.I think it right for an unofficial Member to quote that testimony to show that at any rate he approaches this question with an open mind. Then came an experiment during the War, and it was known as the War Cabinet system. I may point out that by an innovation which many of us who are constitutional students welcomed, two Reports of the War Cabinet Committee were submitted to this House. I am not going into the history of that very interesting experiment, but I will call attention to a prediction made in another place by my 259 Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, He said:I doubt whether it will be possible to dispense with the assistance of a secretary in future. …. I think that a record and minutes of the proceedings will have to be kept. Lastly, I hope for a very considerable development of the system of devolution and decentralisation of Government work which I have described.I have already said that it is common ground that the new departure which we are discussing is one of very grave significance, and I submit to the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister that the House is entitled to know in some detail the methods by which the business of the State is to be carried on under the new departure which they are now recommending to us. I venture to put to the Prime Minister one or two specific questions. We have heard from the Lord Privy Seal that regular minutes of the proceedings of the Cabinet are now taken by persons who are not members of the Cabinet. The first point on which I desire enlightenment, and on which I hope we may have an assurance, is: What is the character of these minutes? That minutes should be taken may be a reasonable proposal, but do the minutes record anything further than the ultimate decisions at which the Cabinet arrives? Do they or do they not record the means by which the decisions are arrived at, and, in particular, do they or do they not record the opinions of individual Members of the Cabinet? That is the first specific point on which I, like the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), would like an assurance from the Prime Minister. The second question is: Who has access to these minutes? The third question is one which was raised with very great propriety by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir Henry Craik). Are these minutes to be handed down from Cabinet to Cabinet, are they to become part of the public records of the country, or are they to be regarded as merely personal minutes of the existing Cabinet, to be destroyed when that Cabinet goes out of office?
Then there is a question as to the position of the staff. Are we to assume that the staff, for whom the Committee desires to make provision this afternoon, consists of permanent civil servants? Are the Members of the Cabinet Secretariat 260 permanently on the Civil Service establishment? That is a question to which I hope we shall have a specific answer. That point also was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities, either in his speech or in his article, and the Committee will desire to know if the individual officials for whom they are asked to make provision will remain as permanent officials of a permanent Department or if they are personal to the administration which they serve? That is a constitutional point of very grave significance. The Committee will probably desire information on another matter, and that is as to the relations of the Cabinet Secretariat with the regular administrative Departments. I gathered from the speech of the Lord Privy Seal that the decisions of the Cabinet in regard to a particular Department—say the India Office or the Foreign Office—are communicated to that Department by the Secretariat.
The language I used may possibly have been misleading, but the fact now is, that the decision of the Cabinet is communicated to the Minister of the Department which that decision concerns.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
That is to say, it is communicated to a Minister who is himself a member of the Cabinet and who, one would imagine, should be able to carry away that decision by his own unaided capacity. He is reminded of the conclusion at which the Cabinet has arrived, and he is reminded of it through the Secretariat. If that be the case, it is surely obvious that a wholly new conception of the relations of the Cabinet with the Departments is insinuating itself by this means into the arcana of the Constitution, and I submit respectfully that this new system can hardly fail to react upon the relations between the Prime Minister and his colleagues. I need hardly remark that in what I am saying I make no reference whatever to the present occupant of what is now called the "office" of Prime Minister, though that in itself is entirely a new term, as far as I know. I am discussing the matter purely in the dry light of the abstract. It can hardly fail to be the case that this new Secretariat will, as I have said, react on the relations between the Prime Minister and his colleagues, and for this reason. For the 261 first time in our history the Prime Minister has become the head of a Department. That is the real significance of this new departure. Of course, we have had Prime Ministers before who were heads of Departments, but they were not heads of Departments as Prime Minister. Lord Salisbury, for example, was at one time head of the Foreign Office while Prime Minister, and Mr. Gladstone was head of the Treasury. They have been heads of Departments, but never heads of Departments qua their office of Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is the titular First Lord of the Treasury. You would have astonished Mr. Gladstone very greatly if you had told him he was not the head of a Department.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I need hardly say that I am perfectly familiar with the fact that not only Mr. Gladstone, but many other Prime Ministers, including the present Prime Minister, have been First Lords of the Treasury, but that is not my point. Does anybody pretend—does my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal really pretend—that Mr. Gladstone, as First Lord of the Treasury, was the political head of a Department?
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I am very much surprised that my right hon. Friend should make that point. Of course, Mr. Gladstone was head of the Treasury when he coupled the offices of Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer; of course, Lord Salisbury was the head of a Department when he coupled the offices of Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, but I suggest that neither Mr. Gladstone nor Lord Salisbury was head of a Department by virtue of his office of Prime Minister. I think that is a substantial point, but if the Committee approve of this Cabinet Secretariat, then we shall in future have a Prime Minister who is a Departmental chief by virtue of his Premiership. I am very far from saying that that may not be a right and a proper development, but it is a new and an exceedingly important development, in regard to which the House of Commons, I submit, is entitled to the fullest information. Speaking, of course, only for myself, I want to say this, that if a Divi- 262 sion takes place this afternoon—I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is going to press his Amendment to a Division or not—but my own vote in that Division will depend entirely upon the amount and upon the nature of the information vouchsafed to the Committee in the course of the Debate. I am not at all prepared to say that it may not be right that a new Department should be set up, but I am perfectly clear about this, that this Department—for it is a Department—must stand to other Departments in a wholly new relation, one which so far has been entirely foreign and alien to the spirit and to the working of our Constitution.
Judging from the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, we should be led to suppose that this new Secretariat was merely a. Secretariat in the very narrowest-sense of the term, but a medium of communication is very apt to pass into the machinery of control, and the Committee will decide whether it is proper to interpose between the Cabinet and the administrative Departments this new machinery of control. We have had the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, speaking with something of inside experience of these matters, and we have had very pertinent questions raised—for example, as to the control of the question of reparations. We want to know in whose hands that important question is at the present time. Ls it in the hands of the Cabinet Secretariat, is it in the hands of the Foreign Office, or is it in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Committee is perfectly at sea as to the responsibility which is to attach to any particular Minister in that relation, and, of course, that is only an illustration of many other points. The Lord Privy Seal has attempted to assure the Committee that we are making a mountain out of a molehill, and that the functions of this new Cabinet Secretariat are perfectly modest, perfectly simple, and unimportant. That is how things always start in our unwritten and flexible Constitution, but there is an old, well-worn proverb which in this connection I recall: "Obsta principiis." I do not say that we ought to obstruct that new development, but I do say that the price of our abstention must be an understanding of the principles to which we are now asked 263 to assent. So far, I am unconvinced by the speech of the Lord Privy Seal, and I say frankly that my own vote will depend on the nature and the amount of the information vouchsafed to us by the Prime Minister.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott) has put a very serious responsibility upon me by saying that his vote depends upon my improving upon the admirable speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am afraid I cannot promise to do that. My right hon. Friend has given us a very lucid explanation of the Cabinet Secretariat, to which I have nothing to add, but I will answer specific questions which have been put by my hon. Friend, and if, perhaps, my answers satisfy him, we may have him in the Lobby with us to-night. I am very glad that we have had this discussion. It is the first time, I think, we have had a discussion upon what is a very important departure. I do not like to call it a Constitutional departure, but it is to a certain extent a departure in the mechanism of the Constitution, and its ordinary working—an interesting one and, I venture to say, one that will not be departed from. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen not to be in too great a hurry to criticise this, because, although there may he no record of speeches in the Cabinet, there are records of speeches delivered here in this Committee, and criticisms which they direct against this machine may he quoted against them. If and when they are called upon to discharge the responsibilities of Government, I venture to make the prediction here to-day that they will continue this machine, and will be very glad to utilise its services to the full, without any change, except to the extent that the change may be an improvement and an addition to it.
As to my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) having had a longer experience, I must challenge him. I think, on the whole, I have had a longer experience than he of Cabinet responsibility. However, his experience has been quite long enough. I have had 17 years of it. I have been in four of these Administrations, 264 and I have no hesitation in saying that whenever there be a change of Government, the next Administration will be glad to utilise the services of the Cabinet Secretariat, that they will continue them more or less in their present form, and not only that, but that if they were to do otherwise, they would soon find that they had committed a fatal error, and would be glad to revert to the practice which we have initiated.
It has been assumed by some speakers that this Secretariat has got some mysterious functions, that they are the means of—what shall I say?—of developing a new system of personal Government, of usurping the functions of Departments, of enabling the Prime Minister, by means of an improvised Department, to override the decisions of the old and established Departments. No man who knew anything at all about it could possibly talk like that. They are a. recording Department, they are a communicating Department, they are a means of transmitting to Departments the decisions, not merely of the Cabinet, but of the very considerable number of Cabinet Committees which have always been set up in every Administration but which, of course, have been multiplied considerably since the War, because of the greater complexity of the problems that have arisen in this and in every other land. Beyond that, they have no other functions.
As for writing reports, the reports of these Committees are not written by the Cabinet Secretariat. They are written as a rule by the Departments which are most specifically concerned in the questions under discussion. The Cabinet Secretariat simply transmit. They copy, and that involves the addition to the staff. You talk about 114, but it means that there is a considerable copying staff, and if they did not do the work of copying, it would have to be done in the Departments. There would be no saving; you would simply disperse the work if you scattered this Department altogether. There is no business concern throughout the world which could be run except with a Secretariat of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly: "Well. Mr. Gladstone did without it; Lord Beaconsfield did without it." Of course, it is very difficult to answer that without appearing to say: "Well, we know better." But that is really not a fair position in which to put anyone who is 265 defending an innovation. Were he to go back, he would find that there were no telephones, no telegraphs—none of the means of communication which we have now. It is no use saying that these things were good enough for Chatham, and that therefore we ought to go along in the same way, because the great men of the past were able to do their work much better than we are without the addition of these artificial means of expediting and transmitting reports with lightning rapidity.
Questions have been put to me by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, first of all, with regard to the record of the discussions. There is no record of any individual speeches—none. The record is purely a record of the fact that there is a discussion, the time of the discussion, and then the decision arrived at. But there is no individual opinion recorded at all. In fact, I should say it is the kind of record that would have been sent in the old days by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) to the King after a Cabinet was over.
Another question is this: "Who has access to the minutes?" The Minister concerned, of Course, has access, and any Minister has access to those minutes, but outside that nobody has any access to them at all. The other question is as to whether the minutes will be transmitted. I am not sure that any decision has been taken upon that matter, but I should have thought that the argument was certainly in favour of their being transmitted, because they are treated as confidential documents. They could not be published, and I think it is desirable that the next Administration should know exactly what happened in respect of certain discussions and decisions at some period in the past. It would also help to preserve the continuity of policy, which is very vital in the administration of a great country like ours. I think the balance of argument is in favour of transmission, and against destroying, the records when a Government goes out of office. The third point is whether those who are engaged in the work of this Secretariat are the personal servants of the existing Administration, or whether they will continue afterwards. That depends upon the next Administration. Our idea is 266 that they are in the position of civil servants. They are not political officers; they are civil servants. They are Government servants, and our view is that, just as Sir Maurice Hankey represented us on the Committee of Imperial Defence under Lord Balfour, afterwards under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and then under my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, and as he still continued to be secretary when I became Prime Minister, the same thing would apply to the Cabinet Secretariat. That is the view we take, and that is the answer. I think I have answered the four questions put by my hon. Friend, and I hope satisfactorily.
I will now reply to a few of the criticisms which have been directed against this experiment. With regard to the expense, the matter was looked into by the Geddes Committee. Hon. Members will see from the Report that the Committee came to the conclusion, after hearing what the Treasury had said, that they did not recommend any interference in the matter. The Treasury had constantly, reported upon it, and I am perfectly certain of this, from what. I know of the way in which they worked—it is a very hard working Department—that, they could not carry out their work efficiently unless they were staffed to the extent to which they are staffed at the present moment, and that if any attempt were made to cut down expenditure, there it would only be an interference with the efficiency of the Secretariat. It may be said, "Have no Secretariat at all"; but there is nothing to be said for having an inefficient Secretariat. At the present moment it is a very efficient Secretariat, very helpful to the work of the Cabinet; and any hon. or right hon. Friends of mine who look forward to the prospect of relieving us from our present. responsibilities and worries will find it extremely advantageous to have the Secretariat when that blissful moment arrives—blissful for both sides.
I come to the first criticism. I think that is on the ground of secrecy. It is suggested that when you departed from the old precedent of not allowing anyone to enter the Cabinet room except Cabinet Ministers, you imperilled the secrecy of Cabinet decisions. There are many things I could say about that upon which I do not wish to dwell, but, I am perfectly certain that if Cabinet decisions have ever 267 been revealed, they have not been revealed by any member of the Secretariat. There have been Cabinet revelations, not recently, but in the past. I have heard of revelations of what happened in Cabinets before there was any Cabinet. Secretariat. These accidents will happen occasionally; but may I point out that the machinery of the Cabinet Secretariat is the machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I have been a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence for a good many years. I was a member before the War. Some of the matters which were discussed there were not merely more momentous, but a revelation of them would have been more dangerous than the revelation of the vast majority of questions that are discussed at Cabinet meetings. Matters which necessarily must be discussed by the Committee of Imperial Defence were discussed before the War—what would happen in the event of war with country A, country B, country C, and country D. They had to be discussed, but it was of most vital moment that there should be no inkling, not merely of the effect of the decisions arrived at, but that it should not even be known that these questions had been discussed, because it was full of peril to our relations with other countries that you should have discussions of that kind. Yet the Secretariat was not merely present, but took a full note of what took place. If you could trust the Secretariat with matters which involve peace and war between great nations of the world—and trust them because there has never been the slightest suggestion that anything ever left that room—I think we can trust them with regard to the hundred and one questions that come up every day for discussion inside the Cabinet.
So much for the question of secrecy. The bulk of the attack was made on the ground that it is imagined that this Secretariat is a machine to enable the Prime Minister of the day to get control over foreign policy. There never was a more futile suggestion. If the Prime Minister of the day wanted to control foreign policy, this is not the way to do it. This Secretariat has nothing whatever to do with the control of foreign policy. In his very interesting speech delivered earlier in the course of the Debate, my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) gave two or three illus- 268 trations. He was under the impression that this Secretariat, somehow or other, meddled in foreign policy, and that they took upon themselves to discharge functions which ought properly to have been discharged by the Foreign Office. The first illustration he gave was in regard to Yap. That had nothing whatever to do with the Secretariat except to the extent that the Committee of Four, in Paris, took Sir Maurice Hankey as their Recorder, and there could be no greater compliment paid to a British official. The Secretary of the Conference was a Frenchman, and both M. Clemenceau, Mr. Orlando, President Wilson, and naturally myself, took Sir Maurice Hankey, at the suggestion, I think, of M. Clemenceau, as the Recording Secretary of that Committee. I think that is a very great compliment to Sir Maurice Hankey. He took a record of the provisional decisions at which we arrived. I do not quite understand what my Noble Friend suggests. Does he suggest that the moment a provisional decision is arrived at, a document ought to be written out and signed, there and then? That would have been impossible. You could not have conducted business upon that line. There were hundreds of decisions to be taken, and you could not have adopted, and written down and signed them. You had to get the provisional decisions, then the draftsmen had to operate, and then they had to be pieced together. Then you came to your final decision.
What happened in the case of Yap? A decision was arrived at. It was recorded by Sir Maurice Hankey, and it was sent to each of the Four, including President Wilson. I think he acknowledged the receipt of it, without any protest at all; and there never was any protest, I believe, until later on, when trouble arose in America. It is unfair to Sir Maurice Hankey to say that the trouble arose through him—very unfair.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I never blamed Sir Maurice Hankey. I was merely using it as an illustration of the danger of relying too much on minutes in matters of foreign policy.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
What else could be done? Here is a record. Was no record to be kept? Is it the Nob[...] Lord's complaint that a record was kept, or that a record was kept in the form of a minute? I should like to know how it could be kept, except in the form of a 269 minute? I know the Noble Lord wishes to be fair, and I think he will see that that is rather a false point to take. I come to the second point which he took as a matter of criticism against the Secretariat. He said that the late Sir Mark Sykes—I agree with everything he said with regard to that very gifted and fascinating personality, and I remember how deeply we all felt his loss in Paris—was there representing the Secretariat dealing with the question of Palestine, and that it ought to have been dealt with by the Foreign Office. As a matter of fact, we never appointed Sir Mark Sykes for that purpose. He was appointed by Lord Grey, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which defined the boundaries of Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria—the Agreement which committed us more or less to this line of action—was an Agreement arrived at before the present Government came into power. He was appointed by Lord Grey before this Secretariat ever came into existence. He was a Foreign Office representative, and continued to be a Foreign Office representative to the end. He was never, to my recollection, on our Secretariat at all: he was in the Foreign Office then, and remained in the Foreign Office to the day of his death.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He was a Foreign Office official, appointed by the Foreign Minister; and the Foreign Minister who appointed him was Lord Grey. It. is very unfair that something which was done by Sir Mark Sykes when he was a Foreign Office official should be attributed to Sir Maurice Hankey, or to the Secretariat.
§ Mr. A. HERBERT
I do not wish to interrupt, but that is not an accurate statement. He had a room in Whitehall Gardens. I went there.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Whitehall Gardens was not in existence at the time when Sir Mark Sykes was fixing the policy in Palestine. He was appointed, I repeat, by Lord Grey; the Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed by M. Briand, the French Foreign Secretary, and, I think, by Lord Grey, as Foreign Secretary, Sir Mark Sykes acting on behalf of Lord Grey as Foreign Secretary. That had nothing 270 whatever to do with the Cabinet Secretariat.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Of course it was continued by the present Government, certainly; but the appointment was a Foreign Office appointment, and not the appointment of the Cabinet Secretariat. Whatever fault may be attributable to the Secretariat or to that policy, it was not a policy of the Cabinet Secretariat. Whatever they did, they did only under instructions from the Government to carry out the policy to which the Foreign Office had committed themselves, under the present Administration.
The other point is with regard to Silesia. My Noble Friend brought a very serious charge against the Cabinet Secretariat in regard to Silesia. He said, as I understand it, that the decision which was taken at Paris did not make it clear, first of all, under which Article of the Covenant of the League of Nations the question was to be settled. His second charge was that it was communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat to the League of Nations. Neither of those two charges was correct. I have had an opportunity, since my Noble Friend made his speech, of communicating with the Foreign Office upon this subject. In the first place the decision was arrived at with Lord Curzon and myself representing the British Government, and every expert we had was a Foreign Office expert. Sir Harold Stuart was there in regard to Silesia. The third expert I forget, but he was, I think, a Foreign Office expert. The decision was taken, upon the advice of these experts, to refer the matter to the League of Nations, the terms of the reference to be drafted by the legal experts of the Foreign Office. The expert who represented us was, I think, Sir Cecil Hurst. Sir Maurice Hankey had left Paris. So had I. It was entirely in the hands of Lord Curzon and his experts. They agreed upon their reference:It was decided on the application of Article 11, paragraph 2, of the Covenant of the League of Nations.The actual paragraph of the Covenant of the League of Nations was singled out in a reference drafted by the Foreign Office experts, and, so far from it, having been forwarded by Sir Maurice Hankey. it was forwarded by M. Briand. Sir 271 Maurice Hankey and his officials had nothing whatever to do with it from beginning to end. If there was a muddle—and I do not say there was—the Secretariat had nothing to do with it from beginning to end, and I hope my Noble Friend will see that he quite unwittingly brought a very unfair charge against the Secretariat in respect of Silesia. They had no responsibility whatever. It was done by the Foreign Office, and by the Foreign Office alone.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I only attacked the Ministry. I am not attacking the Secretariat—the permanent Civil Servants.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That really will not do. The Noble Lord's charge was, first of all, that the particular Article of the Covenant was not indicated. I have it here—Article 11, Paragraph 2. It is said that the Secretariat submitted the reference to the League of Nations, and that they bungled it. I am quoting the Noble Lord's own words. They had nothing to do with it. It was done entirely by the Foreign Office, by Foreign Office legal experts, by the Foreign Minister, and was submitted by M. Briand, and not by the Secretariat. So that my Noble Friend's facts are absolutely wrong from beginning to end, and I think it is fair to the Secretariat that that should be stated.
The other point is with regard to Reparation. I am told that one of the troubles of the Secretariat is that you do not know what Department is dealing with any particular question. There has only been one illustration given of that difficulty, and that is Reparation. I have never found any difficulty on the part of Members of the House. Whenever they put questions about Reparation, answers have invariably been given by the Treasury. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is primarily responsible for looking after that Department of Government business, and he has always answered questions with regard to it. It is perfectly true that questions have also been addressed to me, and I have answered in the course of debate, but that is on the general question of policy. The Prime Minister is not supposed to be responsible for every Department, and the partcular Department which deals with Reparation is the Treasury, as to which 272 there cannot be the slightest doubt. Of course, any communication with foreign Governments invariably goes to the Foreign Office, but it is my right hon. Friend who is primarily responsible for advising the Government upon the policy and he is in communication with the French Government and with the Reparation Commission upon that subject. There never has been any difficulty.
This, however, illustrates the difficulties of foreign policy under present conditions. There are so many questions we have under discussion with foreign countries which are really not Foreign Office questions, but primary questions. Reparation is one of the questions which disturbs the economic conditions of the world. It is one of the questions which, no doubt, from time to time imperils the peace of the world, but it is a question of finance. It is a question which could not be conducted by the Foreign Office. It could be conducted only by the Department which has financial experts at its command. Take the Conferences we have had recently. Take Washington. Washington was a Conference in reference to the question of armaments. There were other questions. There were questions that were purely Foreign Office questions, but they all depended upon an arrangement arrived at with regard to battleships, cruisers and submarines, and those were the questions which occupied most of the time of the Conference.
I say that, in those circumstances, we were properly represented there by a Minister who had experience of foreign affairs and experience of the Admiralty, and who was also responsible for the Japanese Treaty. When you come to Genoa, there were very few purely Foreign Office questions discussed. There were questions of finance, questions of property, and certain questions that involved armaments; but the ordinary questions of diplomacy were not the questions which came up in discussion. And yet there was a. large staff of Foreign Office experts there, who, whenever there were questions affecting the Foreign Office, were invariably summoned to our aid. I am only calling attention to this to show that the Secretariat have nothing to do with this matter. Take all these questions at Genoa. When you came to financial questions, there were the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his staff. When you came to trade questions, you had the Par- 273 liamentary Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade, and the Secretary of State for War to assist him. But the experts who dealt with the matter were not experts of the Cabinet Secretariat—not one. The experts were the experts of the Departments themselves.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is no use the Noble Lord shaking his head. I am telling him the facts. I was there. We always had the experts from the particular Departments concerned. There were no experts who gave us more help than those from the Foreign Office, and we relied a good deal upon them. But the Secretariat had nothing whatever to do with policy. They dealt with records. They transmitted copies of documents to us. They summoned the meetings of the experts; they summoned the meetings of the British Empire Delegation, when we wanted to have a Conference with all the representatives of the Dominions and of India; they kept records. But they had nothing to do with policy. My hon. Friend, in his speech, appeared to be afraid, not so much of what had happened, but of what they are going to do, and that they will interfere with the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the War Office. They are doing none of those things. They are quite loyally and fairly discharging their tasks within the limitations laid down. They are assisting the Government in co-ordinating the work of those Departments, when, as anyone who has had experience of office knows, half-a-dozen Departments are concerned in a subject more or less equally, it is very important that you should get some sort of communication in circumstances of that kind, and that you should have some impartial Secretariat to keep a record of the proceedings, and to report to the Cabinet. That is the position.
My hon. Friend was very severe about "amateurs" interfering in politics. I wonder what is an amateur? Every Minister is an amateur. The British Constitution is based upon the setting of amateurs at the head of Departments run by experts. Why, the very system of trial by jury, which is the greatest of our institutions, is the setting up of amateurs to judge, on the advice of experts. There are countries where they set experts at the head of Departments, 274 and I ask hon. Members who have read hooks on the War to look at the two systems on the Continent. In Germany you had the system of experts at the head of Departments. In the end, the complaint of every book I have read on the German side is that their system broke down when it came into conflict with ours. There is a good deal of nonsense talked about amateurs. When does a man cease to be an "amateur"?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No; I have seen experts who are unfit, even doctors who are quite unfit, although they pretend to be experts. That is not the point. I have had for 17 years, as part of my business, to read the Foreign Office dispatches, and to take part in every Foreign Office Debate in four Cabinets. I do not say that makes me an expert, but I should like to know when an amateur ceases to be an amateur, and becomes an expert. Does he become an expert by making speeches criticising foreign policy? Is he more expert than those who have had a close acquaintance with foreign affairs for 16 or 17 years, and for six or seven years a very intimate acquaintance? I have met on the Continent of Europe Foreign Ministers. Some of them have had fairly long experience; many of them have not, but all I would say is this: It is not a question of whether you are an amateur or an expert; it is a question of experience—experience of affairs, experience of men, experience of the world; and the question of whether you have the capacity to make the best use of that experience. If you have not, well then, 17 years does not make you an expert. On the other hand, if you have, you do not require so many years as that, with the advice of the best experts in the world.
The Noble Lord says that what he wanted was not a different policy. He approved of the aims and objects of our policy, but he yearns for the hood old dignified ways. Yes! What he calls the "dignified channels" in which we sailed so easily to the cataract of 1914. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not talking about this country, but about the methods of the world. What is the meaning of the League of Nations, except that? What is the meaning of it? 275 If we approve of the old methods, what is the point of altering them by setting up the League of Nations? It is the ease that the world wants a change from the old methods. I am making no comment upon any particular Minister or otherwise—I am simply contrasting one system with another. I am entitled to do so when there is an attack upon the present system. No! The world wants different methods.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I dare say. But we are here discussing different systems. When it is an attack upon men, we are prepared to defend ourselves. But we are now discussing rival systems. The Cabinet Secretariat has nothing whatever to do with any question of policy. It is purely a recording machine. If my Noble Friend opposite wants to raise the bigger issue as to whether there
§ ought to be different methods in the communications between nations, then, I think, he will not find many to agrees with him that we should go back to the old system which plunged the world into war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—before it knew that it was near war. An alteration in the system is one thing, and it has nothing to do with the subject which is discussed to-day.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, the Noble Lord's idea is that I should be attacked upon all these questions, and not be allowed to answer. It was irrelevant, but I did not protest against it. I was not in the least concerned about it, bat I am quite prepared to answer on the proper occasion. I say now, finally, upon the subject which is under discussion: This is a machine which is an improvement upon the past. It is a machine which, I venture to predict, no responsible Minister, when he has got the chance, will cast away.
§ Question put, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 111;. Noes, 205.277
|Division No. 137.]||AYES.||[7.37 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Gretton, Colonel John||Polson, Sir Thomas A.|
|Adalr, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Grundy, T. W.||Reid, D. D.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Banton, George||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Robertson, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Barnes, Major [...] (Newcastle, E.)||Hirst, G. H.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Irving, Dan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spencer, George A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnstone, Joseph||Spoor, B. G.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cairns, John||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Swan, J. E.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Kennedy, Thomas||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Craig, Captain C C. (Antrim, South)||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lunn, William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Macquisten, F. A.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Wignall, James|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Mills, John Edmund||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Mosley, Oswald||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Finney, Samuel||Murray, Hon, A. C. (Aberdeen)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Foot, Isaac||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Roes)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Murray, Hon. Gldeon (St. Rollox)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gillis, William||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Lord E. Percy and Mr. Hogge.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Ganzoni, Sir John||Neal, Arthur|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Gee, Captain Robert||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Parker, James|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Grenfell, Edward Charles||Pearce, Sir William|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hailwood, Augustine||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hamilton, Major Sir C. G. C.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Bellairs, Commander Canyon W.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Bean, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Walford)||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hinds, John||Remer, J. R.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Renwick, Sir George|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn,W.)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hopkins, John W. W.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Barwick, Major G. O.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Jephcott, A. R.||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Britton, G. B.||Jesson, C.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Simm, M. T.|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Kidd, James||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Casey, T. W.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sturrock, J. Long|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Lloyd, George Butler||Taylor, J.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Chey[...], Sir William Watson||Lorden, John William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Cope, Major William||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Waddington, R.|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Mackinder, sir H. J. (Camlachle)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Macnaghten, Sir Malcolm||Waring, Major Walter|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Dean, Commander P. T.||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Manville, Edward||Wilson, Field-Marshal Sir Henry|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Martin, A. E.||Winterton, Earl|
|Elveden, Viscount||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Wise, Frederick|
|Evans, Ernest||Middlebrook, Sir William||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Fildes, Henry||Morrison, Hugh|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||McCurdy.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to move, "That Item F (War Histories—Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £1,000."
Hon. Members will have noticed that this Vote falls under three sub-heads. There is not only the Cabinet Secretariat, 278 and the Committee of Imperial Defence, but there is a third item, War Histories. I think I shall be able to give a very good illustration of the way money is being spent quite unnecessarily at the present time. If hon. Members will look at the Paper they will observe that this Department has a staff of no less than 36 persons, and is costing over £13,000 yearly. 279 It is almost incredible that such a very large staff should be required two, three, or four years after the end of the War. I want to ask how long is this particular work on War histories going to last? I do not think we can afford a continuation of this War Histories Department. I do not say that it is not useful and it may be that these historians will turn.out histories which will be very valuable, but in all such cases as these the first question we should ask is, can the country afford this luxury at the present moment? If it cannot, that kind of expense ought to be terminated at the earliest possible moment. The whole of this Estimate has a very unsatisfactory look about it. I see that you have five messengers, and six charwomen to look after a staff of 25 other persons. What really is the output of those historians and 19 other people? Gibbon, without any help at all, turned out an admirable history of 20 volumes dealing with the whole of the Roman Empire, and I have no doubt that Gibbon's History will form a far more readable work than the histories of the War which will be turned out by those 36 persons who are now engaged upon it.
I am sorry that this business has not been left to private enterprise, and it is a great pity that a Government. Department should have undertaken to turn out a history of the War at all. It would have been much better to have given private enterprise an opportunity of seeing the documents that might be necessary, and to have afforded them all the requisite facilities for producing these histories. I think it is a great pity that this work should have been taken away from private enterprise and made a Government concern and practically an official document. I should like to ask what other countries are writing histories of the War? I very much doubt whether France, Italy and Belgium are spending anything like the same amount that we are asked to spend upon writing a history of the War. Are we quite sure that in spending this money we are not duplicating the efforts made by other countries in this connection? In the White Paper which has been issued we are not told how these historians are getting on with the work or what has been done. In any case I think there ought to be a time limit placed upon their work, and notice 280 ought to be given to the people engaged in this work that they ought to close down this Department after a certain period of time. Unless I can get some kind of promise from the Chancellor of Exchequer—
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir Robert Horne)
I really cannot reply, because I failed to hear the point put by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
That is really not my fault, and I cannot repeat what I have been saying. I wish to inform the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I shall feel bound to press my Amendment to a division unless he is able to give me an assurance that the War Histories Department is going to be closed down in a very short time, because we cannot at the present time afford to keep a staff of 36 people, costing the country over £13,000 a year. I shall press my Amendment to a division unless it can be proved that such expenditure is absolutely necessary in the interests of the country. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to assure the House that this Department is going to be closed down.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I think this Amendment ought to receive the support of everybody who is in favour of economy. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment made his point quite clear that this work could much more easily have been carried out by private enterprise and probably we shall be the only country in the world spending money producing a history of this kind. If this history had been left to a newspaper to bring out in instalments I think much more could have been effected from the point of view of economy. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look at the items on page 19 of the Estimates which deal with the War Histories section he will see that £28,000 have been spent on the preparation of these histories, and so far as the Committee knows up to the present there has been no product from that effort, and I have not even heard of any preliminary volume being published. It. may be that this is a private history being prepared for the purposes of the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Force, and it may not be meant for public consumption at all. At any rate, my right hon. Friend will be able to inform us upon this point.
281 If the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look at the number of officials, the nature of their work, and the salaries paid to them, I think he will see that some explanation is due to the Committee with regard to these individuals. The first official is called a Historian and Secretry, and he receives a salary of £800. That is an inclusive salary, and I do not know how much is for secretarial work and how much is for historical research, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us. I am inclined to think that it must be secretarial work, because the second item provides for five historians, and I should like to know something about them. One of them receives £1,000 a year, and another £800. A third gets £600, and there are two historians at £500 each. Consequently, there are five historians engaged on this epic work, which we have not seen any evidence of at all so far. In the footnote it says that the salaries of two of these historians are provided for six months only, and I would like some explanation of that. I would like to have some information about the historians who are engaged on this work. Who are those five men, and what qualifications in particular have they for this task?
There are some other items which require a little explanation. Hon. Members will notice that there is a chief clerk employed who draws £500 a year. There are also two directors of branches who are drawing £150 a year each more than the chief clerk. I would like to know what are those branches? There must be two branches, otherwise there would not be two directors. Really we have three branches, namely, the land, sea, and air forces, which were engaged in the War. I do not know whether those two branches deal with all those three services, but there are two directors of branches, and they are assisted by four senior assistants, each of them receiving a salary of £50 a year more than the chief clerk of this important Department. These five historians and their attendant satellites require five messengers, I suppose to carry messages from one historian to the other, because each historian has a messenger and each historian has also a charwoman, and apparently there is one charwoman left over.
We find the Chancellor of the Exchequer making a great Budget announce- 282 ment assuring the country that he is saving money at every point whilst in regard to this item, in a couple of years you have spent £30,000 providing five historians with five messengers and six charwomen. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot give us some idea as to what substantial economies can be effected in this Vote, obviously we must divide the Committee. I would like to ask if there is any reason why this Estimate should be pressed forward at this moment? Is it not possible to postpone this? Although the right hon. Gentleman and the Government may think it necessary there should be a history of tins kind, I would ask if it is not possible to postpone the work for the time being. After all, the more remote the writing of the history of the War is from the events that are to be described, the more valuable is the work likely to be. I think my right hon. Friend will agree with the generally accepted axiom that current history is not sound in its judgment, and that the best histories are those which are written at a period remote from the events they describe.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I think it rather regrettable that my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge), who takes such a great interest in this matter, should not, have shown an earlier appreciation of the existence of such an organisation as the War Histories Department. This Department is not a new Department. It was started by a Government of which my hon. Friend was a devoted adherent.
§ Sir R. HORNE
If I am wrong in saying that he was a devoted adherent of any Government, may I take it he is a devoted adherent of his own opinion? In 1906 the necessity for compiling appropriate history, so far as military conditions were concerned, was recognised, and there was at that time attached to the Committee of Imperial Defence an arrangement by which a history of the South African War was to be compiled. It was given the function under a Liberal Government, of which my hon. Friend was a detached or semi-detached supporter, of considering also from a military point of view the lessons of the Russo-Japanese War. In 1914, before the Great War, with which we are mainly concerned, that organisation had already succeeded 283 I[...] compiling a reasoned survey of the Russo-Japanese War. If these smaller wars were considered proper material from which lessons might be learned, how much more important in that respect the Great War through which we have just gone? Surely there are lessons to be derived from that Great War which are of much greater importance and more vitally necessary to be learned than could have been learned from preceding wars? The Department has, in fact, been dealing with a greater war than any with which the world has been previously concerned. My hon. Friend, who moved the reduction, referred to the number of people engaged in this Department. I would ask him to remember this, that in this particular organisation there have been working people who otherwise would have been engaged in the War Office or in the Admiralty. My hon. Friend must know it was incumbent upon the various commanders in the field and others to keep notes with regard to the experiences through which they passed, and these reports all had to be collated for the purpose of providing a history of the War, which would be valuable for succeeding generations. This has necessitated the employment of a certain staff of clerks and others. While the more subordinate people would undertake the work of compilation of the various documents, it necessarily required people with knowledge and skill to understand the drift of the matters with which the documents dealt, so as to give a reasoned history of the great episodes through which we had passed. My hon. Friend the Member for Fast Edinburgh was bold enough—and it is only persons who are in complete ignorance who can be so bold—as to say that nobody else in the world is doing this kind of thing to-day.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I know my hon. Friend put his remark in the form of a question, as he had more sense of responsibility than the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, who allowed himself to make a categorical statement rather than to indulge in a form of interrogation. As a matter of fact, this small British staff is doing work which in France is being done by an organisation, consisting of between 30 and 40 officers and about 70 284 clerks and typists. The real fact is that every nation involved in the War has realised the supreme importance of compiling an adequate history of the War in order that appropriate lessons may be drawn from what has taken place, and in order also that subsequent generations shall know not merely the result of the colossal events through which we have passed, but shall also learn something of the deeds of individual battalions and of various army corps, so that there shall he a record of those acts of heroism of which the nation will be proud in the cycles of time through which it will pass. My hon. Friend referred to the salaries of the historians. He pointed out that there was one official receiving £1,000 a year, another in receipt of £800 a year, another £600 a year, and two £500 a year. He asked for certain information which I can give him. The name of the gentleman employed at the salary of £800 a year is Mr. C. Ernest Fayle, and the reason why his salary is provided for six months only is that he is expected within that time to complete the work on which he is engaged. Similarly, Mr. Archibald Hurd, who is employed at a salary of £500 a. year, is expected to complete his work within six months. Sir Julian Corbett, who is engaged at a salary of £1,000 a year, is preparing the Naval History of the War, which is to be produced in five volumes, two of which have already been published. In that respect we have been really more expeditious than our contemporaries who are dealing with the military history of the War in France. I cannot say what, if any, profits are expected to be made, but we may all hope for the best in that respect. I think these are all the detailed questions which I need answer.
It cannot be anticipated that this Department will be closed down at an early period of time. How can it be suggested when we are dealing with a history of the most colossal War the world has ever seen, that it is possible to close the work down at an early date. If my hon. Friend reflects on it he will agree it is unreasonable to ask for any such assurance. Like all the other nations who were engaged in the War, we are anxious to learn what lessons we can from it. Is it going to be said we are to have a Committee of Imperial Defence which is to be entirely without any guidance with regard to the events that 285 took place in this War? Are we to ask that Committee to come to a decision with regard to future preparations for defence without having before them any history whatever of the War through which we have passed? I think my hon. Friend will recognise that that is an entirely unreasonable proposition. We have begun this history, we have carried it through so far with a much smaller staff than is engaged on similar work in France. My hon. Friend can have my assurance that we shall carry it out with the greatest possible economy, and, in view of that, I think he might well refrain from pressing his Amendment.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
My right hon. Friend has made certainly a very reasonable reply, but I am afraid I cannot withdraw my Amendment, and I will tell him why. I think, in the first place, a matter of this kind ought to have been left practically to private enterprise. No doubt it was the duty of the Department to tabulate to a certain extent the information it had, and to give every facility to bonâ fide selected persons who wished to write a history of the War. It was
§ the duty of the Department to do its best to give every such facility. But the question we have to ask ourselves is whether the country in the present state of its finances can afford this thing. I certainly feel it cannot. We are hound to save every possible penny, and therefore I am afraid I must press my Motion to a Division.
§ Mr. RHYS J. DAVIES
Before the Amendment is put, may I ask whether those who are writing up the history of the War are supplied with Government information that could not be handed over to private individuals?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I should not like to speak confidently on that question, because I am unable to reply at a moment's notice. But I feel quite certain that Sir Julian Corbett has had placed at his disposal material which could not have been put into the hands of private persons.
§ Question put, "That Item F (War Histories—Salaries, Wages and Allowances), be reduced by £1,000."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 146.287
|Division No. 138.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Galbraith, Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Ammon, Charles George||Gillis, William||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Banton, George||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Robertson, John|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Homsworth)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Spencer, George A.|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Sutton, John Edward|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Irving, Dan||Swan, J. E.|
|Cairns, John||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Johnstone, Joseph||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kennedy, Thomas||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Wignall, James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D.(Midlothlan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mills, John Edmund|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Finney, Samuel||Nield, Sir Herbert||Mr. G. Locker-Lampson and Mr.|
|Foot, Isaac||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Hogge.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Polson, Sir Thomas A.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Barrand, A. R.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Atkey, A. R.||Betterton, Henry B.||Britton, G. B.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Bigland, Alfred||Broad, Thomas Tucker|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Birchall, J. Dearman||Brown, Major D. C.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Borwick, Major G. O.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Casey, T. W.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gurbals)||Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Cautley, Henry Strother|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Breese, Major Charles E.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hurd, Percy A.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Cope, Major William||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jephcott, A. R.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Jesson, C.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Kidd, James||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lloyd, George Butler||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lorden, John William||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macnaghten, Sir Malcolm||Sugden, W. H.|
|Gee, Captain Robert||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Taylor, J.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Manville, Edward||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Middlebrook, Sir William||Waddington, R.|
|Gould, James C.||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Wallace, J.|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Neal, Arthur||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Windsor, Viscount|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Parker, James||Winterton, Earl|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Parkinson, Sir Albert L. (Blackpool)||Wise, Frederick|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Hinds, John||Purchase, H. G.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Hops, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn,W.)||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Reid, D. D.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Remer, J. R.||McCurdy.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.