HC Deb 10 July 1935 vol 304 cc339-75


Considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]




Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £200,632 (including a Supplementary sum of £7,226), 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, 1936, for the Salaries and other Expenses in the Department of His Majesty's Treasury and Subordinate Departments, and the Salary of a Minister without Portfolio.

[NOTE.—£140,000 has been voted on account.]

3.32 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I move this reduction in order to call attention to various matters in connection with the Ministry for which the Prime Minister is primarily responsible. The first question I would like to put to him is one that I asked a few days ago, and which, as I understood him, he was not able to understand clearly. I think that the right hon. Gentleman understands now because I have put it in writing. The point I tried to make across the Table was that, so far as we have been able to gather from conversations with one another in the House, a certain number of the Ministers who are now serving under the Prime Minister have not had any personal or written communications with him on the subject of their appointments. My argument was, and is, that the Ministry from top to bottom is to-day a new one and that each member must receive his appointment from the present Prime Minister. That is laid down in Todd's Parliamentary Government on page 283 as follows: It is the first Minister alone who can advise changes in an administration and recommend to the Sovereign persons to fill vacancies therein. If he himself should vacate his office by death or resignation or dismissal, the ministry is ipso facto dissolved. Individual Ministers may retain their offices if permitted by the Sovereign, and may form part of a fresh combination with another head, but this would be a new ministry, and as colleagues of the incoming premier they must make a fresh agreement with him. On page 205 Todd says: They all resign when the Cabinet retires or is dismissed, and their offices are placed at the disposal of the statesman who is nominated by the Sovereign as the head of the new Ministry. The simple question I ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether those Ministers who continued pending the present Prime Minister taking over, and whose offices were not changed, have been appointed by him to the positions they now hold? We are in the position in which a new Prime Minister has been appointed by His Majesty and he has chosen a new Government, some of whom were members of the previous Government and some of whom are new to the fold. When there were changes in the combination that was formed after the General Election, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was permitted to broadcast, and we certainly had some statement in the House as to what had taken place, and whenever there is a new Prime Minister I think it is usual for him to come to the House of Commons and make a declaration of his policy. In this instance, the day after the completion of the Cabinet—it was the day after so far as the public knows—the right hon. Gentleman went down into the country and made a speech, of which, of course, none of us complain, except as to the substance of the speech; he went into the country and made a declaration of policy. It may very well be that the Government are well assured of the backing of their supporters in the House—and last night proved that, as most Divisions prove it—but there are such things as the dignity and the rights of the House of Commons, irrespective of any majority, however large. I want to claim on behalf of the House of Commons, not on behalf of the Opposition, that the first place where the right hon. Gentleman should have made a declaration of policy as head of the present Government was from that Box in order that it might be discussed. That was not done. We have no idea whether the policy of the Government remains the same nor have we any explanation from the Government. We may get it to-day, but I maintain that we ought to have had it before to-day.

I think the right hon. Gentleman should have led off to-day with a statement explaining why the Cabinet has been enlarged and what are the actual duties of the Ministers without portfolio and other Ministers. The House of Commons and the country are entitled to know why the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary has left the Foreign Office. I am sure that the Home Office is not a sinecure, but somehow the right hon. Gentleman is now to combine the office of Leader of the House of Commons with that of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. No one has been told a word why that change has been made. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, quite straightly, whether he agrees with those who say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) has proved himself the worst Foreign Secretary of modern times, and whether that is the reason. I do not know whether he has been shifted up or down. We are entitled to know why that change has been made. It cannot be on the ground of health, and it cannot be on the score that there is no one else who could be appointed deputy leader to the right hon. Gentleman.

Next we should like to be told why Lord Sankey has been given the sack. When Lord Sankey left the Labour party to join the combination, he informed us that he was staying on in order to help forward the work of the India Committees and the consultations that were taking place. He has been "sacked" in the middle of the discussion of the India Bill in the House of Lords, and we should like to know why. Does he disagree with the policy of the present Government? Has there been any change which has caused him voluntarily to relinquish the position, or has he been, like an ordinary workman, just "sacked"? I do not know whether I ought to commiserate with him, but it does add one more pension to the big list of pensions given to ex-Lord Chancellors.

Then we should like to know why Lord Londonderry has been shifted. We understand that Lord Londonderry is an ex-airman, that he knows all about the Air Force, and, speaking without any sort of feeling on the subject, I personally think that he was a very efficient Minister for Air. But he did happen to make speeches in the House of Lords on the question of air armaments in which he appeared to take a different point of view from that of other spokesmen of the Government. He gloried in the fact that aeroplanes and air warfare generally—air bombing, and so on—had not been obliterated; that is to say, he considered the Air Force to be necessary as a weapon either of offence or of defence. We should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman why he has now been given the sinecure post of Lord Privy Seal in order to lead the House of Lords. I should not have thought that was a full-time job, anyhow, but we are told that is why he occupies that position.

There are two other Ministers about whom we should like to know something. So far as the late Prime Minister is concerned, we understand that ill-health has caused him to resign, and I can say quite truthfully that I know that that is a fact, and I regret that he should be in that position and hope that the rest he is getting will help him to recover. The late Home Secretary I saw in the House yesterday. As to the late Minister of Health, I am not sure whether it is on the score of bad health or why it is that he has gone out, whether he acted voluntarily or whether room had to be found for other people. With regard to the late Home Secretary, he always seemed to be in such robust health and strength that I do not know why he should be shifted and the right hon. Gentleman put into his place, but I hope the Prime Minister will tell us.

When we come to the new appointments, so far as they are younger men—perhaps I am not the person who should say this—I rejoice with the right hon. Gentleman or any other Leader of the Government that there should be more younger men at the head of affairs than has been the custom. The work of the Cabinet is infinitely harder now than it was, and, also, we need younger minds, though I am bound to say that when I listen in this place to some who are young in point of years I think their minds are very old indeed. I would point out to the Committee that on one occasion the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut. - Colonel Moore - Brabazon), speaking from behind us—and I think he also said some rather uncomplimentary things about us—warned the Government that there were enough capable people in the House outside the Government to form three or four Ministries.

We challenge the whole principle on which the Prime Minister has based his appointments to this Cabinet. We believe it is a principle which will lead to disaster in the future. Ministers are not chosen, as I understand it, because of their ability, but are chosen in sections to represent what are called the various sections which make up this combination called the National Party. On that I want to say that however my colleagues and others have described this combination since 1931 I have never accepted the proposition that party politics had been buried, and that the Government of the day were a Government representative of the nation as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman has no more title to be called the Prime Minister of a National Government than any other Prime Minister of my time, anyhow. The right hon. Gentleman certainly commands a great majority in this House, but he knows perfectly well that few as our numbers are we here represent at least one-third of those who voted at the election, and you cannot call a Government national which represents only two-thirds of the electorate. Further than that, in 1931, when this sort of slogan was invented, the right hon. Gentleman and the Liberal Party now below the Gangway on this side sat with the right hon. Gentleman, and they represent another fairly big section of the electorate.

I consider it is what is called "cheek and impudence" on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to go masquerading around the country saying "Whatever you do, let us keep up the unity of the nation." There has been no unity politically, no unity at all, and no one knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman. He knows that on every occasion we here, few as we are, have tried to put the point of view of the nearly 7,000,000 electors whom we represent in this House, and when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends go about the country telling the electors that the day of party politics is finished they know they are talking downright rubbish, undiluted nonsense, and none of them knows it better than the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister.

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)

Why tell me?


I thought I would tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that is all. I will tell him why I tell him; I do myself the honour of reading his speeches, and I know the guff that he talks. The Government keep up this pretence, and it, is a sheer pretence. I am sorry the Lord President of the Council has gone. He and his dozen friends represent their constituencies, as I do, and as do other hon. Members, but none of the 13 has the right to claim that they represent those with whom they formerly associated, and whom they left in 1931. It requires to be said in this place that the fiction that there is any such thing as a National Labour Movement is absolutely untrue. The right hon. Gentleman and his dozen friends represent their constituents, but not a trade union in the country, a co-operative society, or a Socialist society went over with them. Nevertheless those 13 Members claim the right to have three seats in the Cabinet and two assistant ministerial posts. If they are, in the judgment of the Prime Minister, the best men, well and good, but do not let us be told that they are there because they represent Labour in this country. They represent Labour only in the same manner as does any other Member of this House. Like the right hon. Gentleman I represent a party in this House, as does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen but the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council does not represent any party in the country. Therefore, we want—I and my friends—to enter an emphatic protest against the policy of the Prime Minister in forming a Government on the assumption that it is representative of all parties in the State, and that party politics have had no existence since 1931.

I will say a word about party politics. As I understand it, party politics are excellent when they are Tory politics. They are only bad when people like myself want to secure a majority for their party. Only yesterday we heard that we took up causes and made a lot of the grievances of people, in order that we might win power. I would like to know what anybody else does in this House. I hear people here talking about their trade, the trade of their district, their business men and their localities, who want tariffs or subsidies, or some help from the Government, and that is all considered quite right. You must think we are children if you think we take any notice of what you say on these matters. I call attention to it only in the hope that some of the people whom right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench address will know, when it is said that party politics have been buried, that the speakers are talking with their tongues in their cheeks.

There is a much more serious side to this matter. Only the other day the right hon. Gentleman made a great speech on democracy, with almost every word of which I agree, when he was speaking to the meeting of the Commonwealth representatives in Westminster Hall. I should like to say to him that there is something that destroys democracy in a much quicker manner than Fascism or dictatorship or anything else, and that is any suspicion of corruption. I have had a bitter experience of this. Almost from the day when the late Will Crooks and myself entered public life as Poor Law guardians, we were pursued by a vendetta of people who charged us with every political and social crime that could be conceived. I think we have had at least half-a-dozen public inquiries into our administration and the various Presidents of the Local Government Board and Ministers of Health from the time of the late Sir James Davey, who made an exhaustive inquiry in the nineties to the present time, all of them have said that whatever charges might be levelled against us for giving money away too lavishly, no one could ever say that any of us had been guilty, directly or indirectly, of corruption. The late Charles Booth said of Will Crooks and myself that we had maintained, or rather that we had introduced, a public spirit into East London that was lifting up the administration of affairs in those parts. I beg the House to believe that I do not claim a single vestige of virtue about these things above anybody else, but when the London Municipal Reform Society issued a leaflet 10 days ago, charging my friends in the various borough councils and on the London County Council—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

I have so far given this Debate a great deal of latitude, but I am bound to hold that matters dealing with local government cannot be raised on the Prime Minister's salary.


I am using it as an argument. I am surely entitled to do so. I think if you allow me to finish you will see the point. The London Municipal Reform Society issued a leaflet charging people with using their position to get their friends jobs in various ways. I tell the right hon. Gentleman, and I would say it to the Lord President of the Council were he here, that it leaves a very ugly taste in the mouth that in this rearrangement the Lord President of the Council goes to £2,000 a year and his son, who has been in public life only for a few years, goes to a position of £5,000. I may be told that that is quite in the order of things; well, the people with whom I mix outside have said many things about this Government to me—they are more or less my political friends—but the one thing they do not understand is that. Neither do they understand how it is that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay), having been in the House a very short time, is sent, over the heads of everybody else, to become Civil Lord of the Admiralty. It all may be defended on the plea that these 13 men have the right to these seats in the Ministry. I say that that is a principle which, I believe, will destroy people's confidence in this House and in our general reputation. It will be for the right hon. Gentleman to controvert what I have just said, and which I will repeat, namely, that of all the changes which have been discussed outside, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has gone to £2,000, and his son has gone to £5,000, and that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, after only being here a very few months, becomes Civil Lord of the Admiralty, has left a very bad taste in the mouth.

I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President give excellent advice to people like myself in local government. I am perfectly certain that had a borough council taken two of its members and given them positions relatively the same as these this House would have been full of questions to the Minister of Health which would have been supported by the right hon. Gentleman. All of us in this House, or a very large large number of us, heard the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) dealing with this subject during one of the Debates on India. The point be made was that it was quite right that men should come to Parliament and legitimately hope to get a position on the Front Bench. Perhaps my colleagues will not agree with me when I say that I believe true democracy will compel this House ultimately to give one flat rate of payment to all Members, and that those who give service more than others will be satisfied with the honour of giving their service. I know that that may sound very extraordinary, but speaking for myself, I do not understand the principle which sends to this House lawyers who, after a few years, and sometimes less than a few years, find themselves on the Bench. I would prefer that no judge was appointed except from outside politics altogether. I think we should have a better administration of justice, and a much better government. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman something else. When that band of people, of whom the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Thorne) was one, started, they were very poor men, and they were all proud of giving public service. I believe that the true test of democracy will be found when many of you—for I shall not be here in the days to come—are willing to give voluntary service without any hope of being anybody in particular, and without any hope of monetary reward.

I come to the question of the Ministers without Portfolio, and I repeat what I said at the beginning, that it is a pretty tall order that I should have to raise this question before the right hon. Gentleman has given any explanation. As to the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs, we were told that there was to be a Supplementary Estimate, but I do not think that is good enough when there are two to be appointed. With regard to the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), I would like to ask, to whom is he responsible? Has he a chief? Is he under the instructions of the Foreign Secretary, or under the instructions of the Cabinet? What is his position? And has he a room at the Foreign Office where he has a secretariat, or is he just a glorified assistant or a glorified undersecretary? I think this is very important, because if he has to go about and speak for the nation, or for the Government, his status should be settled. If he is a sort of ambassador-extraordinary to the various courts which he visits, I should like to know whether that is because the present ambassadors employed by the country are not able to carry out their duties properly. We are not opposed to a Minister representing the nation on the League of Nations, but we are in disagreement about this sort of double-headed arrangement by which there is a Foreign Secretary here and a sort of deputy-Foreign Secretary not only carrying out duties at the League of Nations in Geneva, but at the various capitals also. Then I understand that there is to be a new Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and that we have just introduced a Bill for his appointment. Of course, there will be a Supplementary Estimate for him later on. To whom is he responsible? Is he part of the hierarchy at the Foreign Office?


The right hon. Gentleman has already called the attention of the Committee to the fact that this would need legislation. I think that that had better be discussed when the Bill is introduced. The question of other Ministers does not involve legislation.


With your permission, I will only say that, as we are discussing these new Estimates, which are quite novel, it would be to the advantage of the Committee that we should judge what their position is. That is all that I am asking the right hon. Gentleman. Then we come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings. He has been a good friendly critic of the Government. I should not have thought that he needed to do much thinking. He has talked to us a great deal, and he has also written a book which he recommended me to read to know what he thought ought to be done about employment. So that all that the Noble Lord has to do is to hand his book to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, just as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has handed in his documents, and get ahead with it. Apparently, the Noble Lord is to do thinking for the Government. Will people think that they need it? We know they think, but they think wrongly—that is all. We challenge these two appointments, not because we are not in favour of certain Ministers being appointed to plan. I was rather amused yesterday to hear the right hon. Gentleman's description about planning. I suggest that he should have a real heart to heart talk with the Noble Lord, because if there is one who believes in planning in this House it is he, and yesterday I understand the right hon. Gentleman did not think much of that much-used word.

There are three more or less sinecure appointments—the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy—and I think also I might include another to make up four, the First Commissioner of Works. When I held the last-named post I was told, and I found it was true, that I would of require all my time in that position, and that I might assist the Dominions Secretary, the then Lord Privy Seal, and the Chancellor of the Duchy in trying to discover how to deal with unemployment. Well, we all know what happened. It amuses me very much, because if there was one popular Member of the late Government it was the Secretary of State for the Dominions. He used to stand at that Box and tell us of the millennium the day after to-morrow, and the ranks behind cheered. He was the one success in the Labour Government, and that is why you have taken him over. I am told that he is the only success in this Government. Anyhow, when I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman at Question Time, he replied that he found he had a very great deal to do when he was Lord President. But he did manage to lead the House as Deputy-Leader; in fact, he was the Leader.

I really cannot believe that the office of Lord President of the Council is a fulltime job. We know that the Lord Privy Seal's is not. Everybody has admitted that. You may give him a sort of job in the House of Lords to lead it, although the House of Lords never wants any leading. I cannot help thinking that one or other Minister might have done that. As for the Chancellor of the Duchy, I have a great respect for the present holder of that office, and know that he did a great deal of work going out to India. But now that that job is finished, what is he going to do with his spare time? Why should we appoint two extra Ministers in these circumstances? These are days of economy when every penny has to be looked at. I cannot make out why the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed to all this.

I cannot understand why the holders of these offices could not carry out the duties that are being put upon the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington. I believe that in the Labour Government in 1924—I am not sure, and am open to correction—that the Lord President of the Council represented that Labour Government very largely at Geneva, and was to all intents and purposes the Minister for League of Nations Affairs; and I should have thought that, instead of swelling the Cabinet to its present size, it would have been possible to utilise those offices for this purpose. We are not opposed to the setting apart of certain Ministers to think and plan and co-ordinate the work of Departments connected with employment and trade, or to think out questions connected with foreign affairs, but we think that this continual expansion of offices, this continual piling up of Ministries, must in the end bring about the worst results to the Parliamentary system. We think that the Prime Minister, in forming this Government, has committed a great blunder. We think that he and his party should have taken advantage, not of the Lord President, but of the position created by his retirement, to recast the Ministry and make it what it is in fact—a good, straightforward Tory Government.

It is, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, politically dishonest for him to say that he and his Government represent the nation. They do nothing of the kind. He knows perfectly well that, when the General Election comes, we shall be ranged up in our different parties and fighting as partisans. Why? Not because any of us is any worse than any other, but because we believe that the particular principles which we hold are better for the future of the country than those held by the people to whom we are opposed. There is nothing wrong in party politics as party politics, but we resent very much indeed the fact that the Prime Minister has formed his Government on a sectional basis—so sectional that he himself did not understand the fractional arrangements that had been made. We are told by the Press that he sent one list along, and it had to come back to have a change made, one of his friends being left out and someone else put in. I think that that is pretty bad. I have not any hope, of course, that this reduction which we are moving will be carried, but I think the House of Commons will go away and think a good deal, not so much about what I have said, but, about the fact that we have come to the point now when men are appointed, not at all because of their allegiance to any particular faith, but because the Government of the day wishes to keep up the fiction that it is a combination of men representative of the nation, whereas it is only representative of a portion of the nation.

4.20 p.m.


My hon. Friends and I have also put down a Motion for a reduction of this Vote, but, before I give the reasons why we have done so, I should like to make a few observations on some of the points which have just been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. His speech began with the presentation of three points. The first was a constitutional one, which I confess I am still not able to understand, just as the Government were not able to understand the point when he put it across the Table a few days ago. Of course, when the Prime Minister changes, the whole Ministry changes, and it is a new Administration. But it is also, I should have thought, a matter of course that any Minister who retains the same office continues in that office.


Such people as I have consulted, and such books as I have consulted, say that each individual member of the new Ministry must make a new agreement with the new Prime Minister.


Undoubtedly, each has an understanding with the new Prime Minister, but constitutionally he does not vacate his office. In the case of a Secretary of State, the question is whether the ceremony of his installation in office has to be repeated on the new occasion. For example, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who, under the previous Prime Minister, held the same office, does not, under the new Prime Minister, surrender his seals to the King, and does not receive them again from His Majesty. Consequently, he continues in office, and there is no question of a change such as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. Indeed, the passage which he read from a constitutional authority on the subject made that perfectly clear. I caught the words in the course of that paragraph that the individual Minister who does not change his office remains in it.


No; that is not so. The paragraph says: Individual Ministers may retain their offices if permitted by the Sovereign, and may form part of a fresh combination with another head, but this would be a new Ministry, and, as colleagues of the incoming Premier, they must make a fresh agreement with him.


With him, yes, but not with His Majesty. They remain in the service of His Majesty as they were before, and do not in fact vacate their office. That is the sentence to which I referred in the quotation which the right hon. Gentleman read. His second point was that he complained that there had been no declaration of policy in the House of Commons by the new Prime Minister, and I agree that probably it would have been more proper and more in accordance with precedent for such a declaration to have been made. But I cannot profess any very great indignation at the omission. What I am more concerned about is, not the absence of a declaration, but the absence of a policy; and, since the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday showed very clearly that on the greatest domestic issue at home, namely, the question of unemployment, the Government have no policy, and since on other matters they do not show any very vigorous effort to reveal any policy at the present time, I cannot, as I say, feel particularly grieved that the Prime Minister did not come here and summon the whole House of Commons to meet him in order to exhibit a vacuum.

The third point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the discussion to-day ought properly to have been opened by a statement from the Prime Minister, and there I entirely agree with him. Here is an important proposal made to Parliament for the appointment of three additional Ministers. Two of them are provided for by this Vote, and the appointment of the third is to be dealt with in a separate Bill. I think the Prime Minister ought to have come to the House and given us at the outset of our discussions definite and clear reasons why it is necessary to make these additional appointments of officials of the State, and to impose these further charges upon the public Exchequer. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, since the War there has been a great multiplication of offices. Some hon. Members may think that this was unnecessary; most of them probably think that it was necessary; but certainly the number has been considerable.

Since 1914, the following new ministerial offices have been created: a Minister for Air; a Minister of Labour; a Minister for the Dominions; a Minister of Transport; a Minister of Pensions; a Minister of Mines; a Secretary for Overseas Trade; an Under-Secretary for the Dominions; a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour; and a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. Ten new offices have been created. On the other hand, there have disappeared from our Constitution the two Irish offices of Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary, so there has been a net addition of eight. Now we are to have three more, bringing the total of the additional offices up to 11. Besides all these, there are, of course, the unpaid posts of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, all of them meaning that individual members of Parliament, mostly in the House of Commons—some may be in the House of Lords—are attached to Ministers, and, while they have certain useful if not very conspicuous functions to perform, they have one very definite duty, and that is to give to the Government of the day on all occasions an unwavering, unquestioning, and even unreasoning support.

Here, therefore, we have 11 Ministers and 11 private secretaries, or 22 in all, mostly Members of the House of Commons, who are now attached to the Administration or are members of it. That is a matter of no small importance. Since the functions of the State are continually growing, and new duties are imposed upon the Executive, it is no doubt necessary to make special provision and to create a number of new ministries, but the fact that that necessity arises and has to be recognised is not a reason for going on to create other new ministries which may not have the same justification. On the contrary, the fact that certain new ministries are necessary is all the more reason for regarding with a very careful and scrupulous eye any further proposals for making new appointments. It is also recognised as very desirable that there should be some ministers, in the present immense complexity of public affairs both at home and abroad, who should have the leisure at their command to frame policies, perhaps to carry on propaganda, and certainly to devote themselves to special questions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), among his proposals, has suggested that there should be created a special Cabinet—he suggests of five members—for dealing with some of the difficult problems of the day without the continuous pressure of Departmental duties. But that is not what the Government are now proposing; it is not part of their present proposals.

In any case, the chief point that I wish to make to-day is that there are already four offices which we have inherited from times past, which have no specific Departmental duties, and which ought to be used for purposes such as these. There was a Select Committee of the House in 1920 which considered the question of the remuneration of Ministers, and in the report of that Committee there is mentioned the fact that there are four practically sinecure offices, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Those four offices exist precisely for this very purpose. The First Lord of the Treasury is also Prime Minister, and, although he has no Department of his own, of course, he has the chief duty of being the plan-maker for the Government and dealing with large questions of policy and framing the general course of administration. The Lord President of the Council has practically no Departmental duties. I was surprised to hear the present Prime Minister say a few days ago that when he held the office of the Lord President of the Council it was the heaviest job he had ever had. He has held the offices of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, President of the Board of Trade, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister, and to suggest that the office of Lord President of the Council is comparable to those can only have been a figure of speech. No doubt he may have had, as Deputy Leader of the House in the absence of the then Prime Minister through ill-health for long periods, to act as Premier both in the House and in the Cabinet. The Lord President of the Council has some duties to perform in connection with the Department of Industrial and Scientific Research and a few duties of that kind, but they are small and light.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman in error? Did not the Prime Minister say he had never worked so hard for so little money?


I think my version of what the right hon. Gentleman said is correct. As to the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I have twice had the honour of holding that office myself, and I know that there is about two hours work a week for an able-bodied man. The office is always given to persons who are expected to perform other functions or whom it is desired to have in the Cabinet and for whom there may be no Departmental office vacant at the moment. The Lord Privy Seal is an office which is entirely a sinecure. Why is it that those offices have not been used on this occasion for providing posts for those persons whom it was desired to have in the Ministry to perform non-departmental work? The reason, I suggest, is that the present Prime Minister, when he reconstructed the Ministry, had a very difficult task. He had to fit in a number of different pieces. He was not free, as he was free when he formed his Government in 1924, to pick whomever he thought the best man to fill the post. He had to consider the claims of the various groups that participate in the present combination. He had to keep up the symmetry of the facade of the present Government and to provide not only for the central block but also for the two wings. Therefore, not being able simply to pick persons to fill the posts, he had to create posts to suit the persons. And that is, in my view, the real reason why these three posts are being created, that there was such a pressure for office from so many quarters that he has had to expand the Ministry to meet it.

Take, for example, the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs? I do not think there is a Member of the House in any quarter who does not rejoice that the present occupant of that office should be a Member of the Government and a Member of the Cabinet. We should be sorry indeed if anything were said to indicate a different opinion. But why should he not have continued in the office which he already held as Lord Privy Seal? That is precisely the kind of office which was intended for work of that character. Is it intended to create, as part of the Constitution, a permanent Minister for League of Nations Affairs? We have never heard of that suggestion before. I do not know that it has ever been proposed in any quarter. Has any other nation created such a post? Is it intended that all the members of the League of Nations should create Ministries of that character? If not, why should this country alone assume a kind of special ownership of the League of Nations by being the only Government to create a Minister for League of Nations Affairs? Then, again, an Under-Secretary is proposed for that Ministry, although what functions he will have to perform no one can yet foresee. Here again it is intended, apparently, that the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranbourne) should be the incumbent of that office, and the only justification I know for the creation of the office would be the suitability of the Noble Lord who is intended to fill it. The post is created for the person and not the person appointed to fill the post. Further, with regard to the Noble Lord who is to be Minister without Portfolio without further title, why should not he have been given the office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster unless it was that purely personal considerations intervened?

If further compression of the Ministry was desired, or combinations of offices, in order to make room for some other Ministers, again and again we have found the Dominions and the Colonial Office combined under one head and, as far as I am aware, the arrangement has worked exceedingly well. In various Cabinets recently we have had the Foreign Secretary and a Dominions-plus-Colonial Office Secretary and one Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and two at the Dominions and Colonial Offices. Now in place of that number of Ministers we are to have two Cabinet Ministers for the Foreign Office, we are to have two Cabinet Ministers for the Dominions and Colonies, and no fewer than four Under-Secretaries.

With respect to the Minister without portfolio, in the first place I should like to challenge that title. Why "Minister without Portfolio?" Why the introduction of this Continental term not known to the British Constitution? It does not distinguish the Minister from any of his colleagues because, as far as I know, no Minister in this country has a portfolio. If he had been called "Minister without a despatch box," or "Minister without red tape," or "Minister without pigeonholes," that would indeed be very distinctive. Why this negative title at all? Has there been devised a new ceremony of installation? Secretaries of State receive their Seals. The Lord Chancellor receives the Great Seal from His Majesty. How does the Minister without portfolio not receive a portfolio? Is there a red leather portfolio stamped with the Royal Arms in gold on the table at the Privy Council? The Minister, I presume, presents himself to His Majesty. The King would take from the Clerk to the Council the red leather portfolio, extend it to the Minister, and withdraw it, and it would be put back in a drawer and the Minister would leave the presence backwards with extended, empty hands.

I imagine that he will be the Minister to do the thinking for the Government. We have been told repeatedly on official authority that that is to be his function. He is to be the Minister who has to think out policies for the Government, and very necessary the duty is. I assume that he will have an office, or at least a cell. He will retire from the Sessions of Parliament for what Shakespeare calls "the sessions of sweet silent thought." Why should not he have some title indicating his functions—Minister for Quiet Cogitation or some other title of the kind? I am sure that in the long annals of the Chinese Empire a great many such titles could be found. Is he to have an escutcheon on his notepaper—a coat of arms? If so, I would suggest four blank quarterings in order to indicate an open and receptive mind. The colour green would indicate simplicity and vernal productiveness. The badge ought to be a reproduction of Rodin's Thinker and the motto Descartes' famous phrase, Cogito ergo sum—I think; therefore I am.

I know that this term, Minister without Portfolio, is to be found, by those who are curious enough to make research, in the year 1915, and it was my own chief, Mr. Asquith, in whose Ministry such an office is to be found. It was Lord Lansdowne in the Coalition Government of 1915 who, without salary, was appointed and who was described in the List of Ministers as Minister without Portfolio, but not in the Statute. There was a Statute passed a year or two later dealing with various new appointments to the Ministry of 1917 and the only title that was given to this Minister was "a person appointed to be a Minister of the Crown at a salary without any other office being assigned to him," and the side note of the Statute was, "Right of certain Ministers to sit in Parliament." That was an evasion. The draftsmen in those days did not know what title to give. The index to the Volume of Statutes, but not the Statute itself, uses the term "Minister without Portfolio" and it reappears in the Supplementary Estimate that we are considering to-day. My point is, first, whether it is necessary to have any Minister of that type at all, seeing that you have these ancient offices, and secondly, whether, if there is to be such, some better title could not be devised more in consonance with our traditions. Since we have such great names as First Lord of the Treasury, Lord President of the Council, Lord Privy Seal, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, names which are redolent of centuries of British history, why should we introduce this new title which merely brings with it an aroma of Continental politicians.

4.43 p.m.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I do not know whether it is the hot weather or the approaching end of the Session, but I do not seem able to do anything right to-day. I do not know whether I owe the House an apology for not having opened the Debate. I certainly understood that the Leader of the Opposition was willing to begin and, knowing the number of points that were going to be raised, I thought it would be simpler, certainly for me and possibly for the House, if I did what I had to do in one speech rather than in two. I should certainly have had to make a second speech to meet the points that had been raised. I will, first of all, deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and a number of points that he raised, with most of which I can deal, though with some I do not think that I can. There was one charge that I never like to have made against me, and that is want of respect in my treatment of the House. I should like to assure him that, in not making any particular statement when I assumed office as head of the Government, I was strictly following recent precedents. There was no statement when Mr. Asquith succeeded Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. I was in the House at the time. There was no statement made when I succeeded Mr. Bonar Law in 1923. I would just observe that there was no malice prepense in my making a political speech at Himley the day after I became Prime Minister. That had been arranged months before. It was a curious and happy coincidence for me that it happened to be near my own home country. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to imagine what sort of a speech he might make in Bow and Bromley supposing he had just become Prime Minister.

I must say a few words about the question which the right hon. Gentleman raised two or three weeks ago. I apologised to him, and I apologised to the House for my inability to apprehend his point at that moment. I confess that it seemed to be so remote in fact that I did not grasp it until I realised that it was based upon that passage in Mr. Todd's book which he read to-day. That passage in Mr. Todd's book I do not think is as clear as it might be, but what is contained in that passage is not consistent with practice, not at all. I have had all these cases looked up in the Privy Council Office, which is the office responsible for the swearing in of all Ministers when they take office, and there are precedents for the resignation of a Prime Minister without the other Members of the Administration vacating office going back at least as far as 1761, when the elder Pitt retired without his retirement involving the downfall of the rest of the Cabinet. When Lord Goderich, afterwards Lord Ripon, formed a Government after the death of George Canning in 1827 a number of the members of the Cabinet retained their offices and were not re-appointed or re-sworn, and further examples occurred when Lord Russell in 1865 succeeded Lord Palmerston, in 1902 when Mr. Balfour succeeded Lord Salisbury, in 1908 when Mr. Asquith succeeded Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and in 1923 when I succeeded Mr. Bonar Law.

What happens in fact is that when a Prime Minister resigns the King, if he accepts the resignation, immediately sends for someone to carry on the Government. Everyone places his resignation formally in the hands of whoever is to form the Government, so as to give him a free hand to make any changes he may think desirable, but until any one or all of those resignations are accepted the office goes on without any break at all, and no Minister receives a seal afresh or is sworn in those circumstances, unless a change is involved by a resignation having been accepted and someone else taking office. That is a summary of the constitutional position which has been the practice certainly, as I said, for about 150 years or more. It applies right through the Government and to all Ministers.

I think it only fair to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to let them know the sequence of events, because he made it a matter of complaint that lists of Ministers were not issued with the rapidity with which he thought they might have been. The late Prime Minister tendered his resignation on the Friday. I was invited to become Prime Minister. I accepted, and kissed hands. I was able to make such changes as were necessary in the Cabinet very speedily, and the list, if I remember aright, appeared the next morning. Such changes as I thought necessary with regard to the Under-Secretaries were kept over until after the holidays, and every one, of course, carried on. No resignations had been accepted. They were made with all speed when I returned to London, and the appointments were announced as soon as made. There was one made by itself. The Comptroller of His Majesty's Household was made singly, and announced singly.

There is one other point just here. The right hon. Gentleman pressed me for some time as to why the changes were made, and that is a matter, with profound respect to the House, which I do not feel at liberty to discuss. It is a matter for which the Prime Minister is responsible, and I will only say that one or two theories which have been put forward are, as theories often are, very wide from the facts. The freedom of choice of a Prime Minister in a democratic system is to my mind one of the most important and valuable privileges and prerogatives that we have—absolute and complete freedom to recommend to His Majesty whomever he may think fit. There is one observation I should like to make because it was touched upon by both right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, and I must say a word about it. The experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) of Coalitions, of course, is small. It is confined to what I hope was not to him an unhappy twelve months.


No, 1915.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. When I became a coalitionist I remember that for some reason or other he had gone, but I never asked him the reason.


I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's reference. I resigned with Mr. Asquith and the whole of that Government.


I am much obliged. That does not really affect my argument or what I am going to say. Of course, there are obvious difficulties in any Government which consists of members of more than one party. Everyone knows that. I heard with great regret some of the observations that the right hon. Gentleman opposite made, but, with regard to the point that he made, this is my reply. It may be true, much of what he said, about the relation of my colleagues who were in the last Labour Ministry and the Labour party in the country, but that is not the point. The point that I have to judge is this. We, that is the Government, had an enormous majority at the last election. That majority was attained on national grounds, as we put them forward, and our majority was undoubtedly far larger than it would have been owing to the help that was brought to the combination of parties by those who had been members of the Labour party, and, there can be no doubt, by the speeches of my right hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary, and I think perhaps as much as anything the broadcasts of Lord Snowden. When the Government was formed, as was made clear to the country at that time, having obtained that majority, certain proportions were observed in the formation of the Government which accorded, I think, not unfairly—and no one thought them unfair at the time—with the proportions that ought to have been observed in the Government. Can any Member of this House, looking at it impartially, imagine me, called in to advise His Majesty in what must be the last months, whether it be six or twelve, of the present Government, going back on what we did and what we arranged at that time? It may be that none of us represent to-day the voting strength that we did then. That will be decided before too long. But I regard the mandate that was given us at the last election to be a mandate that holds until the dissolution, and the arrangements that were made after that last election are the arrangements which should hold until the election.


Was this arrangement entered into before the election took place?


We will wait and see; that does not come on this Estimate. The next point which the right hon. Gentleman raised, and I think perhaps it is the main question to be raised—and as it was raised also by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I hope that I may be able to make a few observations upon it without getting out of order with the Chair—is the question: that he asked about the relations of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for League of Nations work. Now here I take the House completely into my confidence. This is a temporary arrangement, and by that I mean that I cannot speak for the next Government, which I decided to make after a very mature consideration to meet the very special circumstances that exist now and which I think will exist for another 12 months. It may be more, I do not know. But there never has been a time when there have been more matters of the utmost gravity for this country, for Europe and for the world as exists today in foreign affairs. I wanted to get into that office not only certainly the best men for it, but II wanted to get as strong a team as we could find in this country for the work that lies ahead.

I hope that the experiment will succeed, and, if it fails, I shall have to try something else, but both Ministers are Cabinet Ministers, and therefore equal. Difficulties, of course, may arise, but, if there are serious differences of opinion on matters of policy, then undoubtedly the Prime Minister as head of the Government will have to take whatever steps he considers necessary to alter that state of things. But at present the concert is close between those Ministers and myself, and those Ministers and the Cabinet, and this is a time when the closest concert between every Member of the Government on foreign affairs is necessary. We have some appallingly difficult problems to meet, and in whatever way those problems are approached they are going to be appallingly difficult problems whatever policy is adopted. I did this deliberately to strengthen the department which I believed needed to be as strong a department to-day as we could possibly devise.

It would be out of order, I think, to say anything about the new Secretary—he will have a Vote of his own—butand I hope that I shall not be out of order in this—I regard the presence of the second Under-Secretary as completing the team for this work which lies in front of us. I made the choice with great care. The Minister for League of Nations affairs, and the Noble Lord whom I proposed for this office have worked together with great sympathy and great success in Europe now for a long time past. They thoroughly understand each others ways of working, and I think that they will be an extremely strong pair for the work that lies before us, and I have every confidence, if the House sanctions these arrangements, that their work will be of benefit to the country.

There was an observation which the right hon. Gentleman made, the point of which really was that it brought out once more the discrepancy in Cabinet Ministers' salaries, and I should like to say a word about that. I have suggested for the Minister without Portfolio a salary of £3,000. If I remember aright, the last time that £5,000 was suggested for that office there was a motion for reduction. I put it down at £3,000 for this reason, that I hoped it might draw the attention of the House to the absurd discrepancy in the rates of pay in the Cabinet. The day of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke when we shall all be content to work for nothing, or next to nothing, will be a great day, if it ever occurs, but it is not coming yet, and we have to pay the servants of the State, and any system I think is quite indefensible under which two or three of the hardest worked Ministers, in the most difficult offices, are only paid £2,000 a year while others are paid £5,000. The Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture are two cases in point. Two committees have sat within recent years on this subject and have made recommendations, but no Government has yet taken the matter up. I hope that some day that may be put right.

To come to the Minister without Portfolio, I assume that the quotation that was made by the right hon. Member for Darwen was from the Haldane Report. He said something about a report on Ministerial offices.


It was the report of a Select Committee of the House of Commons.


There was the Haldane Report, which came out in December, 1918, and I thought the right hon. Gentleman was quoting from that. There have been reports of various committees on this subject. I might say, in passing, that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's observations about the name of the Minister without Portfolio. I took it from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). That was the title that he gave to Ministers who were appointed during and after the War. It is an interesting fact to remember, and the House may not be familiar with it, that there are many precedents in the course of the last century for appointing Ministers without any office at all. They were not called Ministers without Portfolio. That phrase only came in at the time of the War. I have long held the view, and I am sure the whole House will agree with this, that some Ministers without Departments are necessary and invaluable in a modern Cabinet.

Just a word on the work of the Cabinet. Everyone admits—the right hon. Gentleman opposite admitted—that the work of the modern Cabinet is infinitely greater than that of Cabinets certainly during the greater part of the last century. I remember when Lord Balfour became Lord President of the Council in 1925, on the death of Lord Curzon, he told me that in his view the work of the Cabinet was three or four times what it was when he first took office in the middle eighties of the last century. I am sure that every word that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs employed in justifying the appointments that he made, particularly after the War, are as true to-day as they were when he uttered them. There is no relief in the work of the Government. Indeed, the problems become greater with the years, and they seem to come with increasing rapidity one after another.

The right hon. Member for Darwen suggested that we could get all the help that we wanted from what he called the sinecure offices. The office of First Commissioner of Works is not a sinecure.


I did not mention it.


No, it was not the right hon. Gentleman; it was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. It is not a sinecure, although it is one of the offices that does leave the Minister more time to devote to general Cabinet work than any of the big Departments. With regard to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, we cannot discuss his conduct in the House, because his salary is not paid by Parliament. If the Chancellor of the Duchy does his work, he has quite a responsible task before him, because he is responsible for the management of the Duchy estates. I know that very often Ministers do treat that office as a sinecure, but, if the Minister looks after the things himself, with the aid of his officers, then he cannot give full time even if he were a Member of the Cabinet to the work that has to be done. To be a member of the Cabinet and Leader of the House of Lords takes up a good deal of time, and I felt that it was essential to have a Minister entirely free from departmental duties who could help us in all the investigations and work of the nature that come constantly before a modern Government, in addition to all those appalling problems of foreign affairs, defence, India, and questions that arise all over the world.

I particularly wanted the help of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), with his trained and clear mind, to help me and to help the Cabinet in the consideration of many questions, particularly relating to social services and unemployment. I am sure that he will be of great assistance to his colleagues, and I do not think that anybody need think that the Government and the House will not get full value for the modest salary for which I have asked.

The right hon. Gentleman put questions to me as to the qualifications of my various colleagues. Again, for certain reasons, I do not feel prepared to enter upon any discussion of that question in this House or anywhere else. I have tried to deal with the points that have been raised, and I hope very much that the House will give us the Vote. There are some important matters to be debated later, and at whatever time the Committee may think fit to bring this Vote to an end we will proceed with the subject that was selected for debate, on which many hon. Members are anxious to speak.

5.9 p.m.


It would not have been necessary for any supporter of the Government to have continued the Debate after the speech made by the Prime Minister in reply to the Leaders of the Oppositions, but for the fact that the Leader of the Labour Opposition made a particularly vehement attack upon the group to which I belong, and it seems to me that there should be a brief answer to the views that he put forward. We quite understand his disappointment that the Government should have been changed without a change of policy and without a change in its national complexion. We understand, of course, that he wishes to return to pure party politics. He realises perfectly well that the chances of his party returning to office will be very much increased if he can dissociate from the Conservative party those representatives of Liberalism and Labour who in 1931 supported the combined forces. Naturally, he wishes to pretend that the present Government is a purely Conservative one in order that he may get back to that ancient conflict on party lines through which he hopes to return to office. That is a perfectly plain and lucid manoeuvre that we can understand, but I do regret that in the course of his speech he descended to an insinuation that was really unworthy of one who has the affection of the whole House.

He talked of corruption, and in association with corruption he mentioned specifically the fact that the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Colonies were now in receipt of £2,000 and £5,000 respectively, whereas before they were in receipt of £5,000 and, I think, £1,200. He tried in connection with the argument about corruption to insinuate that there was something ignoble about this change, and that it was a device that had been prompted by sordid if not corrupt motives. That may be believed in the party opposite; if so it really shows a depth of misunderstanding of character and of motive that I should certainly not have expected from the Leader of the Opposition.

We have known the Secretary of State for the Colonies as a member of the party opposite and of the present combination. He had a creditable opening to his political career in the Labour Parliament of 1929–31. He has distinguished himself in office, and the whole House knows that if there was a young member of the Government who deserved promotion it was the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Whether in this House or in travels in the Dominions or at Ottawa, he has made his mark both by lucidity of thought and by his great capacity of getting on with those with whom he has to negotiate. His promotion I have always believed was retarded by his relationship with his father. Had he been purely on his own legs, with the initial start which his association with his father gave him, he would have been in his present position earlier rather than later. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is a question of the judgment of personality. That hon. Members opposite should regard that transaction as an instance of corruption and that the Leader of the Opposition should lend his great weight to making a charge of that kind, which will be echoed in his own Press in the country, is something of a degradation of our political life.

Let me turn from that rather unsavoury subject to the question whether we desire to get back to party politics, whether the Prime Minister was justified in continuing the national character of the Government, and whether or not it is a sham. There is no one who can pretend that the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs are not as competent representatives of Labour thought as anyone in this country. My earliest recollection of my right hon. Friend goes back to the last century at a meeting in Toynbee Hall, when I listened to him urging the necessity of creating A Labour party; a Labour party not then begun but just in its beginnings. He was more than anyone else the architect of the Labour party in those days, and what he does not know about Labour thought is not worth knowing. Does anyone deny that the Secretary of State for the Dominions in his time has done as much valuable work for the trade union movement as any person living? He toiled long and successfully for his railway men, and his work for them, I will not say is the greatest, but is as great as any you can find in the history of the trade union movement. What he, too, does not know about trade unions is not worth knowing.

There is an advantage in this national co-operation, the bringing together of different points of view, which you could not get in a purely Conservative Government. Only the other day the Leader of the Opposition was complaining that one of the Measures which the Government were bringing forward was a purely Labour measure—the Bill dealing with the extension of transport around London. He accused us of having stolen Labour clothes. He knows, as do all Members of the House, that in the legislation of the late Government there has been a supply of thought from each of its sections which has built up the sum of its legislation and administration. There has been a community of purpose and a co-operation of ideas. This will continue in the new Government. No doubt the time may come when we can fruitfully get back to pure party politics. I have had some experience of party Governments and of coalitions. I entered the House in 1910 as a devoted servant of the Liberal Government. During the War we had a Coalition. I know something of the strength and weaknesses of the two forms of Government. Party Government, no doubt, brings issues into clarity and makes for lucidity of policy. Co-operation means far fewer words and much more action. We saw that during the War, when great measures of statesmanship were passed by a Coalition Government which would have taken years of party fighting to secure. We had women's franchise, adult suffrage and the great Education Act of 1918. In the past four years we have seen an equally magnificent crop of legislation resulting from co-operative effort. The time may come, as I have said, when we can fruitfully return to party politics, but we who belong to the National Labour party are conscious of representing what we represented in 1931, a large body of persons who are not highly organised but who are determined to do their best to continue this co-operative effort as long as it is for the good of the country.

5.20 p.m.


I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) into all the points he has raised. He has told us that he has been since 1910 in various governments, national, coalition and party. He was a colleague of mine from 1929 to 1031. The difference between the hon. Member and myself is this. I have been attached to one party for the last 20 years, the Labour party, and when this National Government has finished, the hon. Member for Central Leeds will try to find a place in the new Government which will get into power. I remember another organisation, somewhat similar to the National Labour party, an organisation called the British Workers' League, formed shortly after the War to support the Coalition. In 1918 certain members of the British Workers' League were in this House, rather more in numbers than the numbers in the National Labour party now. Most of them were disgruntled with the trade union movement, they had not the confidence of the people in the trade unions and they joined the British Workers' League because it had some money at its disposal. Before 1922 I said that none of them would come back at the next election, and none of them did.

I give the hon. Member for Central Leeds a word of warning. In the evolution of politics that will occur again, I tell him quite frankly that if I know the psychology of the Labour party he will find no resting-place there whatever may happen in Central Leeds. I do not blame the hon. Member for his adherence to the National Labour party. I remember the crisis of 1931 and the particular Sunday when the National Government was formed. Like many more loyal members of the Labour party, I gave the situation very serious consideration before making up my mind what to do. After considering all the pros and cons, I decided to remain with the party with which I had been associated since I was 21 years of age. I do not regret it.


Was that after the hon. Member had been to Transport House?


The hon. and gallant Member is talking through his hat. I had been a Member of the House since 1922 representing Pontefract in three Parliaments. Up to that time I had never been near Transport House in my life, and whether the hon. and gallant Member believes it or not, I as a miners' representative have never been dictated to by Transport House or by the Miners' Federation. I am a member of the Miners' Federation and the Labour party and I pay them this tribute, that neither of them has ever attempted to dictate to me what I should do. I make up my mind as to what I should do, as I did in 1931. Like the hon. Member for Central Leeds I recognised in 1931 that there was a crisis, but I disagreed with the Lord President of the Council and sided with the Labour party. I was defeated in 1931. I fought as clean a fight in that election as any hon. Member. I faced the issue. I would rather fight and lose for what I believe to be right than win and give away what I know to be the right thing. The hon. Member for Central Leeds chose his own way, and he has a perfect right to do so.

The hon. Member made some reference to what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said about corruption. I am sorry that the Lord President of the Council is not at the moment in his place, because I have a reluctance to say behind his back what I want to say to his face. I should like him to hear what I have to say. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to his association with the Poor Law in Bow and Bromley, and said that his opponents; used to charge him and his colleagues with being too generous to the poor people who came before them, and rather suggested that it was a bribe to the electors which should be regarded as a kind of corruption. I had 10 years in Poor Law administration as the youngest man in public life in Sheffield. I went on to the Sheffield Board of Guardians completely ignorant of the administration of the Poor Law, but I went there believing that I could do some good for poor people. I was in a minority. The happiest days of my public life were when I was one out of 30. I could hold my own party meeting and pass my own resolutions. One of the chief things which used to be said against me was that I rather allowed my heart to run away with me in deciding what should be given to applicants, and that I paid too little regard to the ratepayers' interests.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in trying to show that we were charged with giving bribes to the electors illustrated the point by referring to what had occurred in the case of the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I have sat at the feet of the Lord President of the Council. In my early days I saturated myself with almost everything he said and wrote. I remember taking the collection on more than one occasion when there was not sufficient to pay his travelling expenses and having to put my last shilling in the bag. I had a great respect for what the Lord President wrote and preached. I remember a phrase which he used on one occasion, which did me more good than anything else that I I have heard or read. It was in the days when Victor Grayson was rather prominent, and the Lord President coming to Attercliffe on one occasion told us young people that what we had to do was to build ourselves in the Labour party on the model and pattern of its principles. He urged us to frame our conduct through life on a fairly high plane, and as a raw youth, with a mind capable of taking in impressions, I learned a good deal from what the right hon. Gentleman then told us. In my public life I have tried to carry out what I then more or less subconsciously took in. I have always tried to conduct myself so that nobody could charge me in my public life with using my position as an elected representative to benefit myself as an individual or the members of my family.

It seems rather strange that here you have the late Prime Minister relinquishing that office and taking up a post with a smaller salary, and allowing his son, however able he may be, to rise from the position of an Under-Secretary to the Colonial Secretaryship. I want to address a few words to the Prime Minister. There is one thing I like about the right hon. Gentleman. If he makes a mistake he is the first to correct it. He tries to speak as much as possible with strict accuracy and from his heart. The right hon. Gentleman told us it was his duty as Prime Minister to select certain people for certain posts. The right hon. Gentlement has one pet phrase—that rumour is usually a lying jade. It is rather remarkable, and it may be unpalatable to some, that days before, the new Cabinet was announced there were insistent rumours in this House that one of the prices that the late Prime Minister was going to demand in the reconstruction of the Government was a post for his son.


That is not true.


Days before the reconstruction took place that rumour was insistent. There are hon. Members in this House who would not deny that many of them said to me, what did I think about the rumour of So-and-So being made Secretary of State for the Colonies? What my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) had in mind was not so much corruption in its ordinary definition, but the mere fact that here you have a Prime Minister coming down from Prime Minister to Lord President, and his son going up. It leaves rather a nasty taste with the electors outside.


There is no truth at all in that rumour. One thing that I confess I do not understand is this: The hon. Member speaks as though the one post was higher than the other. Of course, theoretically all Cabinet posts are equal, but after that of the Prime Minister the Lord President's post is the highest post in this country. It is a post that I took with great pride. It is a most dignified position, and a long way above a mere Secretaryship of State.


I am not disputing that. I know the Prime Minister well enough to realise that he would take pride in any post that he had, whether lowly paid or highly paid, and I go further and say that he tried to make the best of his post as Lord President. But I think he is a little bit prouder in being Prime Minister now than he was before. Whether rightly or wrongly, people outside think it is a little humiliating for the late Prime Minister to leave that post and to become Lord President. But my point is that rumour, however she may lie, spoke with a good deal of truth on that occasion. Some of the rumours for three or four days before the new names were known turned out to be remarkably accurate. It may be that we have some skilled prophets in this House. The only thing that I am trying to emphasise is this: The mere fact that the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has become a Cabinet Minister has left a rather bad taste with large numbers of the electors. I am the last person in the world to try to discuss the abilities of the new Secretary for the Colonies. I have my own opinion about him, but perhaps this is not the place to express it. I do say, however, because I believe it, that there is a belief on this side that the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary for the Colonies would not have been in that post were he not the son of his father. Whether hon. Members opposite agree with that statement or not I do not know, but I believe it is true. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies cares to consult the miners in Bassetlaw he will find that I am interpreting quite rightly what their opinion is.

With regard to the Ministers without Portfolio, there are one or two things that need to be said. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman who is Minister for League of Nations Affairs, whatever my party may think I hold that that is a post which ought to have been created long ago. The manifold duties affecting foreign affairs and League of Nations affairs demand the entire thought and concentration of someone, and I think the Prime Minister was quite right in that respect. But when we come to the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings Lord E. Percy), is it not rather astonishing how things change? The Prime Minister, as he usually does, paid a very fine tribute to a colleague. He talked about the ability and clarity of thought of the Noble Lord. I remember the Noble Lord a few weeks ago making a most vicious and vile speech on Ministers, making a most vicious criticism of the Government and using words that are not in my vocabulary. There was not much clarity of thought in that, though there may have been a good deal of sound tactics in it. It was a most vicious attack on the Government. And then when rumour said that the Noble Lord was likely to have a post in the reconstructed Government he changed the tone of his speeches. I can suggest no better punishment for the Noble Lord during the Recess than that he should read and contrast his speeches and reflect on them. When the Noble Lord knew that he was going to be in the Government he altered his tactics, or his speeches rather suggested that.

My experience in Standing Committees is that the only way to get concessions from the Government is to attack them. If you change your tone and apologise afterwards that is another thing. As long as you are a loyal supporter of the Government you get nothing, but if you come to play with the team and then "rat" they will go out of the way to make concessions to you. While I think the Prime Minister's action is justified in the case of the appointment of a Minister to deal with League of Nations affairs, we are doubtful as to whether the other Minister without Portfolio is necessary. As to whether he has to work two hours a day or not I am not concerned, because I recognise that it is not the man who works hardest and longest who always gets the best results. It may be that in a post where there is not much administrative work to do, or work for only an hour or two a day, you may have a man who by sheer concentration and because he is not submerged in administrative difficulties can turn his mind into channels that will be beneficial to the Government which he supports. On the whole I contend that two or three of these positions are unwarranted. I think the duties could have been carried out by other Ministers who have little to do, and that the salaries could have been saved. The Leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in what he said, and he need not apologise for anything that he has said.

5.38 p.m.


I am sure the Committee will not expect me to enter into the controversy between the two last speakers upon the history of various personalities and movements in the Labour party. In my detached position the less said about that by me the better. With regard to the other matters mentioned in the Debate, as far as I am personally concerned I feel quite certain that the Prime Minister would not have appointed the present Secretary of State for the Colonies unless he believed him to be entirely competent and equipped with the necessary ability and energy for the post. With reference to the post which has been created again, that of Minister without Portfolio, to which the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has been appointed, I wish to take this, the very first opportunity that is afforded to any of his friends, to say that I am sure that the views he expressed in this House were never in the slightest degree affected either by the hope of appointment or the fear of criticism. The Noble Lord is one of the most sincere men I know, and I am perfectly certain that he would not descend to any such tactics.

But I have no reason to take part in that controversy. Indeed I should not have risen to speak but for a remark made by the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend referred to the inequality of the salaries of various Ministers. He mentioned particularly the cases of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour; but he entirely omitted to mention a much more flagrant case than either of those. I refer to the case of the Secretary of State for Scotland. This office was converted from an ordinary Ministry into that of a Secretary of State at a time when everyone supposed that the salary would ultimately be made commensurate with the high dignity of the title. There is not one of us who did not imagine that the Secretary of State for Scotland would get the salary of £5,000 a year which is given to the most important Ministries.

Whereupon the GENTLEMAN USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

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