§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill has reference to a particular matter upon which some doubt has been felt. It does not provide for the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary 829 of State for Foreign Affairs, but it removes doubts as to whether in the event of a second Under-Secretary of State being appointed he may sit and vote in Parliament. The question of the appointment of such an Under-Secretary of State was debated on the 10th July in Committee of Supply when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition raised the matter. His criticisms were answered by the Prime Minister, who said that he desired to have a team for the work which lies in front of those who are responsible for foreign affairs and for questions which may arise in connection with League of Nations affairs. There is a doubt, which I felt, as to whether or not the appointment of a second Under-Secretary of State under any principal Secretary of State is in accordance with what Parliament has always intended.
The House will observe that the Bill is drafted so as to make it plain that it is "for the avoidance of doubt." There is no statutory provision which prohibits the appointment of as many Under-Secretaries of State to any one principal Secretary of State as may be thought proper, but there have, in fact, been no cases of more than one being appointed who may speak and sit and vote in Parliament—with two exceptions. The first exception—I am not sure that it is an exception—was in 1918, when the Secretary to the Department for Overseas Trade was empowered to be appointed jointly by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Board of Trade, and it was provided that, if any appointment was made by the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the person appointed should perform the functions of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign Office and of Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. That was a special case and an Act of Parliament was passed to that effect. The second exception—and again I am not sure that it is an exception—was in 1925 when the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was first appointed. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) held the dual position of Secretary of State for the Colonies and Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, and serving in that dual capacity he had an Under-Secretary of State in respect of the 830 Colonial Office and another in respect of Dominion affairs.
It was thought then that it was not necessary to have any legislation empowering such appointments being made, and I think that that was the right decision, for, this much is plain, that a principal Secretaryship of State is only in theory divided into the different Secretaryships of State with which we are familiar. They are not different offices; there is no distinction so as to make different offices of the different Secretaryships of State. But there seems to be no doubt, if anyone has the energy to look up the legislation which has been passed in regard to Under-Secretaries of State, that Parliament intended that there should be only one Under-Secretary of State to each principal Secretary of State. I do not propose to trouble the House with a disquisition on the legal position. The most interesting statute is that of 1742, the object of which was:For further limiting or reducing the number of officers capable of sitting in the House of Commons.And it was thereupon enacted that a number of officers who were named—should not be admitted to sit in Parliament.The important Section in that Act Section 3 then follows:—Provided that nothing in this Act shall extend to the Secretaries to the Treasury, the Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretaries to the Admiralty or the Under- Secretary of State to any of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State.I could give other Acts of Parliament which seem to suggest the same doubt as to whether Parliament ever intended that any one principal Secretary of State should have more than one Under-Secretary of State who should be eligible to speak and vote and sit in Parliament. The Bill, therefore, proposes that:For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that … the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs may have two Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State, and in that case neither Parliamentary Under Secretary is disqualified by his office from being elected to, or sitting and voting in, the House of Commons.The second part of the Bill deals with a different subject matter. Under Section (2) of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919, which was passed for a particular purpose in Coalition days, it was 831 provided that a Privy Councillor who was appointed a Minister of the Crown at a salary, without any other office being assigned to him, shall not be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons. My right hon. Friend who is now known as Minister for League of Nations Affairs was appointed when the announcements were made in this form: "Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs." If he had been appointed as Minister without Portfolio, there would have been no necessity for the second part of this Bill, but having been appointed as Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs it looks uncommonly as if by that form of expression he has a new office, and if that were the right view he would be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons by reason of the Statute of Anne, which is the ancestor of all these difficult complications as to who may sit and vote in the House of Commons. The second part of the Bill merely declares, again, "for the avoidance of doubt," thatfor the purposes of Section two of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919 (which enables certain Ministers to sit in the House of Commons), a Minister who has not the charge of any public department is not to be treated as having had an office assigned to him by reason that his appointment provides for his performing, or by reason that he performs, particular duties.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The Attorney-General has explained Section 2 of the Act referred to, but he has not dealt with the proviso to that Section:Provided that not more than three Ministers to whom this Section applies shall sit as Members of that House at the same time.If the House passes this Bill will it abrogate that proviso?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I can answer that question very simply. My Noble Friend need not be afraid that this Bill will affect in the least that limitation on the number of Ministers without portfolio who may be appointed. This is merely to provide for the very limited object which I have mentioned, namely, that if a Minister, one of the three Ministers who may be appointed under that Act of Parliament, has certain duties named which he is particularly to perform, he shall not be regarded as holding a new office so as to disentitle him to speak in this House. There will be no 832 abrogation of the proviso to which my Noble Friend has referred. Some ingenious Member of the House, some Parliamentarian, or some constitutional lawyer, may say that the Government have been unduly nervous about this matter, and if so, I am the nervous person. I hope the House will think that it was the more proper course to lay the matter frankly before it in order that all possible doubts might be removed, and that we might be quite sure that the Government will proceed regularly if eventually it is decided to appoint the Under-Secretary whom the Prime Minister mentioned in the Debate the other week.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, to leave out "now", and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day three months."
This Bill is intended to facilitate the appointment of an extra Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The whole purpose of it, as we have been told by the Prime Minister, is to complete his Foreign Office team. The Bill, therefore, raises a point of policy. I do not understand why it should be left to one of the Law Officers of the Crown to introduce a Bill of this kind and to deal purely with a number of technicalities on an issue raised in this House as a very large one of policy—the question of the appointment of additional Ministers—without some explanation as to why it is necessary at this juncture to have four Ministers for Foreign Affairs, and also why it is necessary to provide for other new Ministers. If one wanted to give a short title to this Bill one would describe it as "Viscount Cranborne (No. 2) Bill." It is a very exceptional thing, but it is true that the Noble Lord has had two Acts of Parliament solely concerned with himself.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
One Act and one Bill. That is extremely rare. I say at once that the first was a purely technical matter which arose out of something concerned with the Post Office, and this House passed the necessary legislation to take away from the Noble Lord any disabilities that he might suffer through the purely inadvertent act of someone else. This Bill is not opposed by us on the 833 ground of any objection to the personality of the Minister whom it is proposed to appoint. Quite the contrary. I think everyone will agree that we are all glad to see the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) promoted to the Ministry. What we have to consider is why it is necessary to introduce legislation of this kind and to swell the already pretty heavy list of places in the Government. The learned Attorney-General did not mention the real purpose of those eighteenth century Statutes. They were passed in order to prevent the House of Commons being dominated by the place-men of the Crown. This House ought to be very jealous in seeing that it has not an excessive proportion of Members bound hand and foot to the Government.
The explanation we have had so far from the Minister with regard to this appointment is that he wants a strong team. He said that he wanted to promote the Noble Lord in order to play with the team. I do not know what game it is that is to be played. Evidently it is a four-handed game of some kind. Why have four on one side and not three? The next point that arises is, why it is necessary to have a team of four to conduct the foreign affairs of this country? It is an entire innovation. Formerly we were perfectly content with one Minister for Foreign Affairs and an Under-Secretary to answer for him as a rule in the House in which he did not happen to have a seat. In all the difficulties of the nineteenth century, where the possibility of getting into touch with our representatives abroad was far more difficult for the Foreign Office than it is to-day, we managed all right with one Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Now, although there are the telephone and the telegraph, although our Ministers for Foreign Affairs spend almost as much time in the air as on the ground and they can in a few hours reach any capital to see anyone, we are told that we must have a team of four persons. Apparently the team is to be divided into two pairs, a home pair and a travelling pair.
I have mentioned that the Minister said he wanted a strong team. I thought perhaps it was a game of bridge that was to be played. Then we have the peripatetic Minister. We have had him for some time, and we are all agreed as to 834 the importance of having a Minister present at Geneva. But why do the Government want another peripatetic Minister? Is he to run about all the various capitals of Europe We have had no explanation as to what this fourth Member of the team is going to do. We do not know whether he is a full back or a half-back, a three-quarter or a forward, or what his particular place is in the team. For the sake of argument let us grant that the Prime Minister is right, that foreign affairs are in such a difficult situation that the Government must have a strong team. Why cannot the Prime Minister make up a strong team from his existing resources? Let us have a look at what he has got.
He has a Lord President of the Council, an ex-Foreign Secretary with nothing whatever to do. Why could not he be part of the strong team? Why could not he make the fourth We have the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal. He was considered a suitable person for months on end to represent this country at the Disarmament Conference at Geneva. Why is he left out of the team altogether? There are a couple for you. Then we have a third Minister who might lend a hand, the Chancellor of the Duchy. He is available, a man of great experience, used to dealing with principalities and powers. I cannot see in the least why he should not form part of the team. There is another Minister who has a fairly light burden in normal times, and that is the Dominions Secretary, used to diplomacy, accustomed in the last four years to the handling of difficult relations with the great new nations which form part of the British Commonwealth—Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Newfoundland, and so forth. Why should not he have taken his place in the team? And there is really another Minister who is already in the Foreign Office team, and that is the Secretary for Overseas Trade. He is a man who serves two masters; he is under the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office. We have this galaxy of talent. Why is it not being used for foreign affairs? We have to go outside them in a crowded Session and seek special Parliamentary powers in order to bring in someone else. I ask what the Lord President of the Council is doing that he cannot help in this great work. I ask what the Lord Privy Seal is doing. Are they passengers 835 or patients that they cannot take part in this work of foreign affairs?
We are told that this is a temporary arrangement, that the Prime Minister cannot speak for the next Government and that he has decided in this way to meet particular difficulties. But I want to know how this team is going to function. It is rather a new thing to have to imagine that foreign affairs cannot be conducted by a Secretary of State in this country acting through his proper representatives, the Ambassadors in all the foreign capitals. I want to know what has happened to the Ambassadors. They seem to be mere post offices to-day. They are allowed to take part in functions, but when any business has to be done a peripatetic Minister has to fly over. I agree that we want some authority at Geneva for League of Nations affairs, but if you have a Secretary of State here with Ambassadors in foreign capitals, and if you have a Minister for League of Nations Affairs at Geneva, why do you want another one running around? I should have thought that, however many foreign policies the Government are pursuing at the same time, they might manage to carry them all on through the same channels. I cannot understand this extra fourth member for the Foreign Office.
A further point arises, a serious matter, and that is the constant increase of Ministers. I do not think there is any doubt that there are too many Ministers in certain Departments. I do not want in the least to attack any individual, but just look at the staffing of some of our Ministries. We have eight Ministers for the fighting Services. I do not believe that eight are needed. I have been one of them myself for a time, and I am sure that my colleagues could have done my work. There are eight defence Ministers. There are six Ministers for dealing with the British Empire—two for the Colonies, two for the Dominions and two for India. The Government are allowed to have four Members for foreign affairs, leaving out of account the Secretary for Overseas Trade. In addition, they have four holders of sinecures. In every Ministry there is one Minister and one only who can take responsibility. The others should be his representatives and his assistants. I think a very anomalous position is set up by having a Secretary 836 of State for Foreign Affairs and a Minister for League of Nations Affairs. I dare say the present occupants of those offices will get on perfectly well together but it may not always be so and it must always be difficult to define where the authority of the one begins and where the authority of the other begins. The phraseology of this Bill strikes me as rather curious. It states thatthe Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs may have two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State.So he has. He has really got the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs. They are both "his" Under-Secretaries of State but I do not know that that phraseology is all right. I thought they were His Majesty's Under-Secretaries of State but perhaps I am wrong in that view. In any case, I thought that the fourth in the team was going to be designated, to run in double harness with the Minister for League of Nations Affairs but under this Bill he becomes one of the combination in which the leading force is the Foreign Secretary.
Really, this Bill is not the right way of dealing with the matter. The Prime Minister in his speech pointed out the numerous anomalies which existed. Would it not have been far better in a Bill like this to have removed some of the old regulations which divide Ministers into watertight compartments and make arrangements that this Minister must sit in this House and that Minister in the other House and so forth. While granting what the Attorney-General said about the mystical properties of a Secretary of State, in effect, in a modern Government all these heads of principal Ministries should be practically on the level. I think this patching of the machine is very undesirable—a patchwork based not on principles but on persons. Instead of thinking how to make an effective machine, all that is thought of is how to work in certain persons. That is entirely wrong.
With regard to paragraph (b) in Clause 1 that, I understand, is mainly intended to deal with the unfortunate fact that on the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) the Government went so far as to mention the duties 837 which he was to perform, whereas when they appointed the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) they did not mention any duties at all—unless thinking is a duty. I understand that as soon as we pass this Bill the Noble Lord will be able to receive a designation but just because we have mentioned that he is to be concerned with thought, he will not be held to have charge of any public department, there being, in fact, no public department dealing with thought. I gather that because we have mentioned the League of Nations it will be all right with regard, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, but, after all, this is opening a very wide door for Ministers to enter. Now it will be possible to appoint Ministers here and Ministers there and there will be no obligation to define any of their functions.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
This only applies to three, and we shall possibly have another short Bill when somebody else has to have a job, and they will change the three into four. Paragraph (b) refers to Section 2 of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919. That Section was amended by the Act of 1926 and perhaps whoever replies will make clear the effect of that amendment of the 1919 Act. Paragraph (b) deals with the disqualification of persons for re-election to this House, but the Act of 1926 altered and widened the Act of 1919. I am moving that this Bill be read upon this day three months because this is a sloppy way of dealing with Government business. It is not an attempt to reorganise the machinery of government—a reorganisation which we need very badly. It is not an attempt to delimit functions but it is an attempt to fit a certain number of persons into the framework.
I think this House ought to register an emphatic protest against new Ministers being appointed in these circumstances. There are persons occupying positions in the Ministry about whose work we know absolutely nothing. If we wanted an extra person to complete this team I am sure we should all welcome the appointment of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset to one of the existing Ministries without Portfolio. But 838 absolutely nothing has been put forward in support of this Second Reading, and I would emphasise that it is, in my view, insulting to the House of Commons that a Bill such as this, dealing with a matter of high policy, should be introduced by a Law Officer of the Crown who is not responsible for policy and who bases his argument purely on technicalities.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I share the surprise expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that a Measure of this kind should have been introduced by the Attorney-General in a most interesting disquisition on the legal points involved, but without any reference whatever to the wide questions of principle and public policy which it raises. I approach this Bill with mixed feelings. At first blush it might appear that it was a proposal to increase in the Government the influence of the League of Nations, since it is proposed to place in this office one who is noted for his work in that connection. If that were the only issue, one would welcome the Bill enthusiastically but wider questions of public policy are involved. In passing may I ask whether this is to be the last new Under-Secretaryship under this arrangement 7 Is it proposed that the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) should now, or later on when he gets busy, have the assistance of an Under-Secretary? I understand that there is no reason in law why he should not have one and perhaps the Minister who replies will give us some information on that point. But when one considers this question in a wider way one realises that there are all sorts of objections. The multiplication of officers and the necessary increase of expense are considerations that cannot be overlooked. I believe that since the War no fewer than 15 new offices have been created, and, as two, Irish offices have been abolished, there are now 13 more Government offices than there were before the War.
There seems to be no justification for the existing state of affairs. I took the trouble to count up the number of Members of this House who owe their positions in one way or another to support of the Government, either that they are Members of the Government or have been elected to their positions, or nominated by 839 the Government. The number is 59. A large number of these will have Parliamentary Private Secretaries and, I imagine, therefore, that there are in this House at the present time something approaching 100 Members, supporters of the Government, all of whom in some way or other owe daily allegiance to the Ministry. That seems a very undesirable state of affairs and one that ought not to be allowed to grow. It increases the power of the Executive over the House of Commons, and every opportunity such as this should be taken to oppose it.
It seems to me that the Government's reasons for bringing in this Measure are on these lines. It was well known for months, if not for years past, that certain members of the Government ought, in the public interest, to leave their positions but because there was a danger that by them removing then the whole structure of the National Government might be brought down, nothing was done at first. I think what I am saying is well known. However, a situation arose in May when that state of things could not be tolerated any longer and these changes had to be made. How did the Government face the position? They seemed to have adopted three courses. In some cases they had recourse to the method of sending the Minister concerned to another place as a suitable and appropriate reward for long service. In other cases, they adopted what I think was the really shameful course of turning the Minister out and giving him no reward at all—unless those Ministers have been given postdated cheques of some kind, and that later on some kind of office or promotion awaits them. But it is very sad to think that some had to go apparently without any recognition whatever.
Then in cases where neither of these courses could be adopted—because, I suppose, they would not be accepted by the victims—it was necessary to think of something fresh and so the Government in desperation said "Let us create new offices in the Government for the very purpose of making these people think that they have been given real first-class jobs, that they are greatly appreciated, and much wanted by the Government and the country. I do not say that this has happened directly but it has had repercussions further along the line in the way that Ministers have been put into these 840 positions. I submit that the Government have taken the line "When in doubt what to do with an unwanted Minister, create a fresh job and put him into it." That is how we have been driven towards the Measure with which we are now dealing, and although there is no question that the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) would be an admirable member of any Ministry and our opposition is not personal in any way, yet we are bound to enter our objection to that procedure.
Reference has been made to a Minister without Portfolio, for League of Nations Affairs. Obviously, that is a wholly contradictory description which is now recognised by the Government as without meaning and nonsensical. In certain circumstances there is a good deal to be said for having a Minister in charge of League of Nations Affairs, and in the situation at the moment I believe it will work well. It would have been extremely useful when the Disarmament Conference was sitting had there been a Minister for Disarmament who could have stayed at Geneva for weeks and even months at a time, and come back and formed contact occasionally with opinion here, instead of what actually happened. As it was, we had a Minister going out for a few days without any particular knowledge of or interest in disarmament, and coming back again and leaving chaos behind him. That was what happened on a number of occasions. I believe however there are far too many offices at the present time and that this Bill is the wrong way to deal with the difficulty which has arisen.
There is another way out, already mentioned by my right hon. Friend and that is by reducing the representation of certain Ministries in the House at the present time. It is wrong that there should be three representatives of the Admiralty, three of the War Office and two of the Air Ministry. I do not know why the Air Ministry is so modest. Perhaps it has come late into the field, and now that we are to have an enormous air fleet proposals will be made for three representatives of the Air Ministry in this House. At present, however, we have eight representatives of the Fighting Services. I suggest that six is ample and that the Fighting Services at the present time are represented out of proportion to the importance they occupy in the country and in the world under existing 841 conditions. I agree that in the past they have been exceedingly important, but now I look upon our Fighting Services to a large, and I hope a growing, extent as doing police work for the British Empire—which is what the Army does to a great extent now—and as potential contingents for an international police force for the preservation of world order, as in the recent example of the Saar. It is in that sense that I attended with such pride and satisfaction the Royal Military Review and shall attend the review of the Fleet to-morrow.
Is there anybody who suggests that if we were to adopt the proposals made by many hon. Members and had a Ministry of Defence we should come down and ask to be represented by eight Ministers? It seems ludicrous. Three would be adequate. At any rate, it does seem that there are too many, and that six should be a maximum. There is the further disadvantage that the over-representation of the Fighting Services has, and has had, a lamentable and unfortunate influence on the whole of our disarmament policy, not through any wickedness of the persons concerned, but simply through the very natural feelings that are roused in them by the Departments they represent.
§ Mr. MANDER
I was just trying to introduce an argument which I admit has strayed rather far from the actual Measure before us. My right hon. Friend also pointed out the remarkable circumstances that in this extraordinary hierarchy at the Foreign Office, the two Under-Secretaries are to be Under-Secretaries to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I thought the idea was that the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs was to be assisted and supported, as he has been for some years in another capacity, by the Noble Lord, but apparently the Under-Secretary is not to be attached to him, and he is to run errands for the Foreign Secretary in this House just as the Noble Lord does in another House. Perhaps we can have some information as to exactly how these duties are to be allocated.
The real point is that it is not a question of passing a Measure of this kind. 842 It is a question of redistribution of offices, and you could quite well find all the vacancies necessary if you were to make the changes that everybody who looks carefully into the matter would admit to be necessary. I would suggest for the consideration of the Government whether the best course even now, in view perhaps of other criticisms that may be made in the course of the Debate, would not be to withdraw this Measure and to appoint an all-party committee to see how far agreement can be reached in the formation, let us say, of the next Government, for a reduction in the large number of redundant offices which now exist. I think it would be well worth consideration from a non-party point of view. We on these benches feel obliged to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, because we believe it is the wrong way to find a position for one who would be well fitted to occupy any position in a Government.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not think it would be right, even though we are discussing this matter in the dinner hour, that the rather serious charges implicit in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman from the Front Bench opposite and the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, who spoke with all the authority of the Liberal party, or that portion of the Liberal party to which he belongs, with his leader sitting by his side, should go unanswered. Therefore, although I have the greatest objection to speaking in the dinner hour, because after 30 years in the House I think one ought to look after the gastric juices and have dinner at a reasonable time, I should like to say a few words in answer. I am in agreement with them to this extent, that I think it is highly desirable that there should be a Bill brought in. I put this before my right hon. Friend who represents the Leader of the House for his consideration. At the commencement of the next Parliament if the Government are still in office—or if they are not, I hope the Labour party will consider the same—a Bill should be brought in to alter the whole position of offices. There are some Ministers who are receiving £2,000 for doing work which is harder than that for which other Ministers receive £5,000. There are far too many Under-Secretaries or minor offices in certain. Departments. I have never yet 843 been able to understand why the Admiralty thinks it necessary to have three representatives.
But none of these points affect the issue in this case. It is, of course, open to the right hon. Gentleman, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to urge, as he did, that the Government should have taken the opportunity which has occurred over this matter to bring in an omnibus Bill, but with his knowledge of the House, he would agree that it would be a somewhat difficult thing to do at this period of the Session, and all sorts of questions would arise over it. While I sympathise with the point of view which has been put, and which is held largely on the back benches, that there should be a readjustment of the whole question of offices, I do not think that matter arises over this particular Bill. I think the Government were wise to attempt to achieve this particular object in the way that they have done. Let me come to the question of the object itself. I must confess that I was very surprised to hear the criticism of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander). Somebody outside the House said the other day that there were only two hon. Members who believed in collective security, and one of them was the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I have not permission to mention his name. It was he who told me the story. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton has always taken a most prominent part in support of the League of Nations. He has been foremost in representing the claims of the League, and foremost in urging the necessity for a whole-hearted belief in collective seourity. I do not quite understand, therefore, why he objects to the appointment to a new office of a Minister who is going to assist that question of the League of Nations. He said it would have been better two years ago to have appointed a Minister of Disarmament. He has forgotten the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Henderson). He is the head of the Disarmament Commission, and this House and the taxpayers of this country, quite properly, contribute their quota towards the right hon. Gentleman's salary.
§ Mr. MANDER
Of course, the President of the Disarmament Conference does not in any way represent this country or this Government.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I regard the proposal that there should have been a special Minister of Disarmament as rather startling. We have never heard of it before. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton made no such suggestion in the days when the Disarmament Conference was more active than it is now. I cannot see, therefore, the hon. Gentleman's point of view or the point of view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I can see no reason for objection to the creation of an office for League of Nations Affairs.
§ Mr. MANDER
My point of view is that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should be conducting the foreign affairs of this country through the League of Nations.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is an arguable point of view. He has also to deal with those nations, and they are very important ones, who are not in the League of Nations—the United States of America, Japan and Germany. It might be reasonably argued that with these three great nations out of the League of Nations, due to their having resigned their membership within the last three or four years, it is ever more necessary to have a Minister to deal with League of Nations affairs in order to avoid other nations following their example. I should have thought that that would have received the most vociferous support from the Liberal and Labour Benches. Underlying the hon. Gentleman's speech—I take no objection to it; it was done with perfect courtesy and within Parliamentary form—there were some suggestions which I found rather unpleasant. It was that this office and that for the Minister of League of Nations Affairs were being created simply to fit certain people into certain jobs. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton went so far as to say that what was done was to create a fresh job for an unwanted Minister. At the same time he said that he would have been pleased to have seen the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) a member of the Government.
§ Mr. MANDER
Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I was referring in general terms to jobs for unwanted Ministers. I said quite clearly that I was not referring to this particular case, but they all reacted one on another.
§ Earl WINTERTON
What is a job for an unwanted Minister? They are meaningless words. Surely heads of Governments do not put into office Ministers they do not want? There may be something sinister about that, and that is why I referred to it. Perhaps there is nothing sinister in what the hon. Gentleman said. Probably that is the explanation of the speech. I could have understood it if he had said that a job had been found for a personal friend or someone else for whom the Leader of the Government wanted to find a position.
§ Mr. MANDER
What I meant was that certain members of the Government were really not wanted by the Prime Minister, but he was too kind hearted to dismiss them, and therefore, to allow them to be appointed, in certain cases he transferred them to other offices.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am really mystified, because the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset was not a member of the late Government. I should have thought that no one could have said that that Minister for League of Nations Affairs was an unwanted Minister. There is general opinion in the House that the Minister would be an ornament to any Government. I really do not understand this charge. We are discussing whether or not the Government should have power to appoint another Under-Secretary, in fact an Under-Secretary to this new Ministry that has been created. I do not see that there is any objection to appointing some one to assist him. Hon. Members may recollect the old song "A sister to assist her" which was at one time a popular music hall song. The avowed and only object of this Bill is a temporary one.
On the general question of the position of offices I have already expressed my sympathy with the views put forward by the Opposition. It, would disingenuous if I did not add that I am also in sympathy with the views they put forward—although I do not believe the question arises under this Bill, or only 846 to a small extent—in regard to the tendency which has been growing up since the War on the part of all Governments, to make a growing proportion of Members of this House in some way or another connected with the Government. When I first got into the House of Commons over 30 years ago it was an unusual thing for an Under-Secretary to have a Parliamentary private secretary. In those days for an Under-Secretary to have a Parliamentary private secretary was looked upon as a sign of conceit. Now every Minister must have a Parliamentary private secretary, with the result that the figures are swollen. I have sufficient faith in the integrity and capacity of individual Members and in the integrity of the House as a whole to know that that does not have any serious effect; yet it does to some extent give a bad impression, and I think the Government might, if they are making a survey, cut down some of the offices. That will have the effect of cutting down the number of people directly connected with the Cabinet. In every Government now we see not only a solid phalanx on the Government Front Bench, but a solid phalanx on the bench behind it. Those who sit on that bench are useful to the Government, because they are often almost the only people to supply the Government with cheers. It was so in the late Labour Government, and it is so in the present Government. Apart from the good they may do in their offices, they perform a most valuable office in that direction. I assure my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that there is no need for him to have a claque when he is on the Front Bench because he supplies it. While I support this Bill, I think that the whole question of offices might well be considered.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I am not going to enter into the question of cheers. I so rarely find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) that I want to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the fact that I find myself in that unusual position to-night. It has been said on all sides of the House, with, I think, general agreement, that the powers and numbers of Ministers have increased and are increasing and most certainly ought to be diminished. I am not going to 847 develop that side of the question, but I want to devote a few words to the specific thing with which this Bill deals. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse said that the Foreign Office team has a team of four. Perhaps he has had inside information which I have not had, but I do not see why he should have said it was a team of four. To my mind it will be a team of five, because the Lord President of the Council will not long allow himself to be left out of that conclave. The other day I put down a question to the Foreign Secretary which was, unhappily for me, answered by the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs. I asked how many visits had been paid to foreign countries by representatives of the Foreign Office during the last six years. I was told that there had been no fewer than 15, and I am afraid that my right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs thought that I was casting aspersions on him, but that was very far from my thoughts. I put down the question to the Foreign Secretary because he was one of the people who had never been out of the country. In putting that question down and in my remarks to-day, I want to make it clear that no personal matters enter into my consideration. I have the greatest respect for all five of those gentlemen in their proper spheres.
Various Ministers have been sent 15 times out of the country, and during those 15 visits they have not visited only one capital or two, but very often half-a-dozen. Those 15 journeys represented, perhaps, 30 or 40 visits to foreign diplomats and ministers. What can be the result of those visits but to make our expert diplomats, the people at the Foreign Office, feel, "What does it matter whether we get on with our job or not? Whenever there is anything spectacular to be done, we are not sent to do it, but some Member of the House of Commons or House of Lords is sent out to do it." It is most unfortunate from that point of view, but it is also unfortunate from another point of view. When a Minister from this House goes abroad to do a certain job the eyes of the Press and the world are on him. For instance, he goes to see Mussolini in Rome and makes a suggestion, which is 848 a proper or an improper one according to the way we feel about it. If that suggestion had been made by an ambassador and turned down, it would not have mattered at all and nobody would have known about it. He would have told the Foreign Secretary and not a word would have been said. When a Minister goes abroad, however, the thing is bandied about over the whole world. I have the greatest respect for the Ministers who do these things, but they have not had the experience and training, and they have not the intimate knowledge which fits them for carrying out these close diplomatic approaches.
When the League of Nations was first started after the War one of the main objects that Appealed to everybody was that it was a chance for the foreign secretaries of the various countries to meet from time to time, to get to know one another personally, and to discuss their points of view in a more or less informal way. If we are to have a Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs, will he go to Geneva instead of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary? It may be said that we do not know how long there will be a League of Nations at all, but we hope that it will pull through the present crisis, and that, if it does, my right hon. Friend himself will not get out of touch with foreign Ministers, but will use the League meetings, as they should be used, as a means of finding out what foreign Ministers are thinking. I hope that he will go back from that vicious policy which was first initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who many years ago went off and had a celebrated golf match which brought down the French Government. I hope my right hon. Friend will go back from that policy, which has done very little good, which has achieved very little, and which has brought some definite disadvantages in its train. I hope that he will not let the fact that he is appointing another Minister lead him to send more politicians abroad, but that it will lead him, on the other hand, to trust to his own diplomats and to leave expert work in expert hands.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Samuel Hoare)
A number of wide questions have 849 been raised in the course of this short Debate. Some of them, I should have thought, were not strictly relevant to this modest little Bill. All of them, I am sure, were raised the other day in the Debate on the Treasury Vote. None the less, I will in a sentence or two deal with each of them. A word of warning has been addressed to the Government from more than one side of the House as to the danger of increasing the number of placemen in the House of Commons. I have spent three-quarters of my career in this House as a private Member, and I am in no way out of sympathy with the word of warning that has been addressed to the Government in that respect. If there, is to be any increase in the number of Ministers, the increase must be regarded as an exceptional action on the part of the Government, and the Government of the day, whatever may be their views, must justify the particular increase. In the course of my few observations I am going to justify this particular increase.
Secondly, there have been a, number of references to the duties of particular Ministers and the reasons that prompted the Prime Minister in selecting this particular Government. It would be improper for me to trespass upon that delicate field. It is essentially the preserve of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, no matter to what party he belongs, should be given unfettered power to appoint his Government and to select the Members of that Government in the way he thinks fit. The Prime Minister made the position quite clear in the Debate the other day, and I am not going to be drawn into a discussion as to whether this or that Minister has more work than some other Minister, or why a particular Minister was given a particular post or was not given a particular post. What, however, I will do is to say that for some years past I have taken the view that the time is overdue for a general survey of Ministerial posts and Ministerial salaries. I was myself a member of a three-party Select Committee which went into this question some years ago, and I expressed the view then, and I express it now, that it is altogether anomalous that Ministers at the head of what we call the first class offices, those of the greatest importance, should be receiving different salaries and should have at their disposal different types of assistants. 850 I expressed the view then that Ministers should be graded and Ministers of this or that class receive uniform salaries and uniform treatment in the Cabinet. But that is a wide question and obviously outside the scope of this particular Bill. I felt, however, that I ought to make that observation in view of the comments which have been made, particularly by my Noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). He and I, so far as I can judge, are in full agreement on that matter.
Then it was suggested, at the opening of this Debate, that it was almost an act of discourtesy on the part of the Government that the Attorney-General should have introduced this Bill and should have justified it upon legal and constitutional grounds rather than that I or some other Minister should have justified it on the wider grounds on which the Debate has subsequently turned. I do not agree with that criticism. This is a Bill with a very narrow issue. It was accurately described by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. So far as the wide issues are concerned, they were dealt with, and very faithfully dealt with, on the Treasury Vote. But let me say a word or two about the object of the Bill, apart from the more technical, legal and constitutional aspects of it. The Bill is for a very simple object. It is to give the Foreign Secretary of the day, whatever may happen in future Governments, rather more assistance than he has at present. Hitherto there have been three Ministers dealing with foreign affairs—the Secretary of State in the last Government, the Lord Privy Seal and the Under-Secretary of State in another place. The sole object of the Bill is to increase the number of Under-Secretaries by one and to enable my right hon. Friend and myself to have what we think essential for the proper exercise of our duties, namely, an Under-Secretary in this House. I can assure hon. Members that even in my short experience at the Foreign Office the weight of work has been so great that I have realised the difficulty, for instance, of dealing with questions in this House, which, as hon. Members will have noticed, are now addressed to the Foreign Secretary not on one or two particular days in the week but on every day without having an Under-Secretary in this House. The main object, again let me say, is to give my 851 right hon. Friend and myself that assistance in this House.
It is perfectly true that the new Under-Secretary, if he is appointed, will be specially interested in League of Nations Affairs. None the less he will be an Under-Secretary of State of the Foreign Office, and he will deal with these other matters, such as answering questions from day to day and giving my right hon. Friend and myself general assistance in our normal work. It is essential now that foreign affairs are filling everyone's mind, as they do at the present moment, that there should be an Under-Secretary of State in another place. That being so, it is necessary for us to have another Under-Secretary of State in this House. That is the sole object of this Bill. It is not intended as an outward and visible sign of a divided responsibility, or of the Foreign Office being segregated into two watertight compartments. My right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs made it quite clear at the end of the Debate last Thursday that there is no divided responsibility at the Foreign Office, that the Department is single, whole and indivisible, and that there is no risk, such as that suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who for the last three years has had dyarchy on the brain, of dyarchy being introduced into the Foreign Office.
Let my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) take note of this observation. There is no intention, if we have this extra assistance so urgently needed by both of us, that we are going to increase the habit of Ministers travelling about the Continent from one capital to another. I am very conservative in my outlook in that respect. I share with him the view that we must make the fullest possible use of our expert Ambassadors and Ministers, and that the greater the responsibility that is given to them the more effective will be their work in the various capitals where they are; but with the world as it is to-day, and he himself admitted the fact, it is necessary for one or other of us to attend the meetings of the Assembly and the Council of the League. In the necessary course of events there will have to be many days when my right hon. Friend will be absent 852 in Geneva. Upon those occasions I am sure it will be of great value to the Government to have a Minister at home. I will tell the House of my own experience. I have now been in several Governments, and on more than one occasion it has been very difficult, when the only available Minister has been at Geneva dealing with very complicated negotiations and there has been left in London and in the Cabinet no other Minister closely in contact with the particular problem.
I am quite sure that it is a good plan that, normally, there should be one Minister in Geneva—no doubt in nine cases out of 10 the Minister for League of Nations Affairs—and that there should be left in London, to represent the position of the Cabinet, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I believe further that it will be a help to both of us to have this additional Under-Secretary, and particularly when the Noble Lord, to whom reference has been made by more than one speaker in the Debate, is, I should have thought, the very Member who can best help my right hon. Friend in Geneva and myself in London upon League of Nations affairs. I hope that I have said enough to the House to show that we are embarking upon no new régime or objectionable principle in making this appointment, that there is no question of dividing the responsibility of the Cabinet, and that all that we are doing is dealing, in the best way we can, with a great strain of work by a proposal which, we think, will work harmoniously and will add to the efficiency of the Foreign Office and to the effectiveness of our foreign policy.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said that the time has, no doubt, come for a general review of the allocation of offices, and the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said the same thing. They, no doubt, would wish the House of Commons to think that they are adopting a reasonable attitude, and that they are prepared to consider all the most cogent arguments that have been advanced against the expansion of Ministries. They are quite ready to take into account the opinions that have been expressed; meanwhile, the House must give sanction to the Bill that is now 853 before it. That is a doctrine not to be accepted. It is mere evasion to say that some day or other, and some how or other, they will consider the objections that have been taken to the expansion of the Ministry, and that this Bill is entirely without prejudice to such a reconsideration. That is not the issue before the House now. Similarly the right hon. Gentleman and also the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham thought that it was a very serious matter that a Ministry should be so largely expanded and that more and more Members of this House should become Members of or attached to the Government of the day. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham was indeed quite emphatic on the point. He saw real peril; meanwhile, he was proposing to show his sense of the seriousness of that situation by to-day adding yet one more Member to the present Ministry.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I really did not say that it was a peril. The words used were that I had sufficient confidence in the integrity of the individuals and of the House as a whole—I used those words—that it did not make any material difference, but it made a, bad impression outside. That is a very different thing.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The Noble Lord thinks either that it is a bad thing to have the Ministry constantly expanding, or that it is a good thing; or he may think that it does not matter one way or the other. I really should like to know which it is. Apparently it is a bad thing, but it ought to be done. Or it may be that it is a bad thing in principle which ought to be done in practice. I am reminded of an observation made by Prince Bismarck to the effect that when a Minister says he agrees with something in principle it means that he has no intention of carrying that particular principle into practice. Apparently that is the Noble Lord's view. He thinks that ministries ought not to be expanded, but in practice they should.
Since the War, the tendency to expand the number of ministerial posts has become very serious. I referred to it the other day, and I refer to it again only to say that I was in error about the expansion that has taken place since the War. The figures which had been 854 supplied to me indicated that the new offices numbered 10; as a matter of fact, they number 12. I was under the mark because two posts had been omitted, the Under-Secretaryship for Air and the Under-Secretaryship for Scotland. To that 12 we are to have three more added, which makes 15 new posts, bringing the total number of Members of the Government in this House, or Members appointed by the House, namely the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman, to no less than 60. My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) gave the figures. Then there are Parliamentary Private Secretaries. The number of Members of the House who are in the Government or attached to it, now reach a total of about 100. That is a very serious matter, which ought to be referred to on every occasion when it is intended to expand the Government further.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham took my hon. Friend to task for opposing the creation of this office of Under-Secretary for League of Nations Affairs when he is so keen an advocate of the League of Nations, and always is an upholder in this House of its cause. All of us here are keen advocates of the principles of the League of Nations, but because you believe in a principle is no reason why you should appoint a new Minister in order to advocate it and promote it. If we were to do that, we should constantly have new Ministers of all kinds appointed in this House in order to promote causes in which we are particularly interested. The fact that we are opposing the Bill to-day does not in any degree indicate that we are remiss in our devotion to the League of Nations or in any way fail in our eagerness to promote its interest.
Then my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that he would not enter into the question of whether the Prime Minister was right or not to fill these offices in this way. He said that the Prime Minister of the day had an absolute right to select whatever Ministers he thought fit; certainly he has, to fill existing posts, but he has not an absolute right at his own discretion so to frame his new Government as to involve this House in the creation of three additional offices and the payment of three additional salaries. That is not a matter 855 within his discretion, but is a matter which this House has a right to criticise, and the Minister who defends this action aught to give reasons why it has to be accepted. When my hon. Friend beside me said that this position had been created in order to find jobs for unwanted Ministers, he did not intend to say that the actual persons who are to fill these three new posts, the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne), are individually persons to whose presence in the Government any of us would desire to object. Far from it. His meaning, as I think was apparent to the House, and his argument, were that the Prime Minister had added three more to the total cadre of the Government, including in it the Ministers we wished to obtain while at the same time retaining in it Ministers whom we did not want. There are various Ministers who ought to have resigned their offices in order to make room for those who have now been brought in, and whose presence as individuals all of us cordially welcome.
The Foreign Secretary made his strongest point when he said that the real purpose of the Bill was to enable the Foreign Office to have an Under-Secretary in this House in order to assist the Foreign Secretary, whose duties were extremely arduous. What has been the history of this matter? There was an Under-Secretary in this House, together with a Secretary of State. The Secretary of State was my right hon. Friend who is now Home Secretary, and the Under-Secretary of State was the Minister who is now the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs. Objection was taken in the other House to the fact that there was no official representative of the Foreign Office in that House, and that any answers on behalf of the Foreign Office had to be given by a junior Minister who was not connected with that Department. That was considered to be a reasonable objection, and, therefore, a Member of the other House was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In this House it was realised, as my right hon. Friend has said to-day, that the Foreign Secretary ought not to be left 856 alone here to deal with these matters, to represent his Department and to answer questions, particularly as it might from time to time be necessary for him to be abroad on Government business at Geneva or elsewhere. For that reason, therefore, another Minister was brought into the Foreign Office, namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, who was given the post of Lord Privy Seal in order to meet the exact point which the Foreign Secretary has made to-day. But, now that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has been elevated to Cabinet rank, he apparently disappears as regards fulfilling the requirement of a second Minister in the House of Commons, and we are told that we must have yet a third.
I fail to see the necessity for a third. I do not see why the team of two who were in this House a few years ago, both in the Foreign Office, should not have remained as a team of two, able to assist one another in dealing with these questions. If it is essential to have a junior Minister to deal with the less important questions here in this House, there is one already attached to the Foreign Office. The Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade is appointed both by the Foreign Secretary and by the President of the Board of Trade, and there is no reason why in any emergency he should not answer questions here in this House on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, as he now answers questions on behalf of the President of the Board of Trade, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Consequently, it seems to me that this argument has no force, although at first sight it did appear, as stated by the Foreign Secretary, to be cogent.
Lastly, with regard to Clause 2 of the Bill, the Attorney-General has pointed out the reason why it has been inserted, namely, because, if the Minister without Portfolio were really a Minister without Portfolio, having no departmental functions, he would have been already covered by the provision in Section 2 of the Act of 1919, and no difficulty would have arisen. But here we have the double anomaly that we have a Minister without Portfolio who has a portfolio. If he had been a Minister without Portfolio, he would have been covered by the Act and nothing need have been done; but, because he 857 is the Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs, and, therefore, has a portfolio, special provision has to be made, since he is outside the provisions of the Act of 1919, which dealt only with Ministers without Portfolio. Surely, this title "Minister without Portfolio" becomes doubly ridiculous, and is contradicted in itself, almost in terms, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington is described as "Minister without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs." If he is to have an Under-Secretary, what is the Under-Secretary to be called? Is he to be called "Minister without Portoctavo," or "Minister without Portduodecimo"? This ridiculous title "Portfolio" is now to be further elaborated and refined. I hope the Attorney-General or somebody else will tell us how the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset, when this Bill passes and he takes his seat on the Treasury Bench, is to be addressed. Is he to be addressed as the Under-Secretary without Portfolio for League of Nations Affairs, or what other designation is to be attached to his office? The simplest means of avoiding this and all other difficulties is not to pass the Bill, and, if the Noble Lord is to be appointed to some office, to appoint him to some existing office, concentrating this ever-expanding Ministry into a somewhat smaller compass, and at the same time avoiding this constant multiplication of offices and these constant increases in the charges on the Exchequer.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I did not want to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but I am sure he will allow me to correct one statement that he made. He said that the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Deputy-Chairman were appointed by the Government. He will forgive me for correcting him. They are appointed solely by the House of Commons, it is true on a Motion of the Leader of the House, immediately on the Assembly of the new Parliament. It would be very undesirable that it should go forth that the appointment of the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Deputy-Chairman is an appointment of the Government; it is not.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Of course, I knew that, and perhaps it was not a very exact expression that I used, but the fact remains that these officers of the House are 858 appointed on the nomination of the Government of the day, and in recent years have, I think, always been appointed from the party which has come into power.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I think with two exceptions—[HON. MEMBERS: "One exception."] With one exception. Almost invariably they have been appointed on the nomination of the Government of the day, and although, once they have been appointed, they have undoubtedly maintained an attitude of complete impartiality, and have withdrawn from all participation in party affairs, still the fact remains that these posts have become generally recognized as part of what used to be called Government patronage, that is to say, they are posts which are in effect within the disposal of the Government.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. OSWALD LEWIS
With all due deference to certain expressions which have been used this afternoon by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, it seems to me to be fair to say that we are being asked this evening to give a Second Reading to a Bill the principal purpose of which is to carry a stage further the duplication of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Secretary objected to that description, and was at pains to explain that the Foreign Office will remain one and indivisible. I think, however, that a complete answer to that statement is contained in the words used by the Prime Minister himself in this House last week. Speaking on the 10th July, he said, referring to the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for League of Nations Affairs:Both Ministers are Cabinet Ministers, and, therefore, equal.He went on to say:Difficulties, of course, will arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1935; col. 363, Vol. 304.]In my view, this proposal is a very objectionable one for many reasons. For example, there is the objection on the ground of economy. Ministries are expensive luxuries, and I submit that at the present time we are not in a position to afford additional luxuries. It may be urged that the matter is not very serious because this is only a temporary arrangement. But new Ministries have a habit 859 of digging themselves in, and I venture to say with all respect that even the present Prime Minister will find it au easier matter to create a Ministry than to demolish it. Therefore, I personally attach some weight to the argument of economy. Then there is the argument of divided responsibility which, I submit, is of even more importance than the argument of economy. The Prime Minister, in his speech last week to which I have referred, anticipated differences of opinion between these two Ministers who, he had pointed out, were equal. He went on to say that, if difficulties occurred, it would be the duty of the Prime Minister of the day to smooth them out. But why divide one post into two and so cause the difficulty to occur at all? Surely it is obvious that, if you have an ambitious, capable, energetic man as Foreign Secretary and another man of similar qualities as the Minister for League of Nation Affairs, one perhaps speaking in this House, the other perhaps negotiating matters in one of the capitals of Europe, serious differences are bound to arise between them. One will say or do something which he had not discussed perhaps fully before with his colleagues and the other will not feel that that is a matter in which he should share responsibility. The Prime Minister's position, already difficult, will be made more difficult. Differences of this kind in foreign policy are peculiarly difficult to deal with because of their repercussions in other countries. It seems to me to be inviting trouble to put two Ministers on an equality, both to deal with matters of the Foreign Office, and apparently anticipating that they will be doing so many hundreds of miles apart.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
The hon. Member forgets that the Minister for League of Nations Affairs said there would not be two Kings of Brentford, but only one.
§ Mr. STEWART
The Minister for League of Nations Affairs spoke some days afterwards and was referring to his own office and his own position. He said, "I am proud and pleased to serve under that one king." That left no doubt in my mind.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I prefer to rely on the words of the Prime Minister himself—"both Cabinet Ministers and, therefore, equal." There is no possible doubt about that. On that ground of divided responsibility it is inviting trouble to contemplate this division of the Foreign Office. Another objection is that we have at present not too few but too many Ministers. I thought the Foreign Secretary was very unconvincing in the effort to show us that, whereas one representative of the Foreign Office was sufficient for another place, three were required in this House. In my view, this is a particularly unfortunate moment to suggest an expansion in the number of. Ministers dealing with Foreign Office affairs, it is suggested on the express ground of further representation at Geneva. It is becoming daily more obvious that the League of Nations is failing in the high purpose with which it was founded. It is becoming perfectly plain that for many years to come, perhaps as long as any of us in this House can hope to live, while it may be possible to settle minor matters through the League of Nations, matters of importance touching the great Powers will be settled, if at all, by direct negotiation as before. We had an example of that the other day when the Government got tired of mere talking with regard to disarmament and went directly to Germany and arranged a treaty for the limitation of naval armaments. That being so, it is clearly not a moment for us to go out of our way to create a kind of second Foreign Office for the discussion of minor matters at Geneva.
It may be said, "Something must be done. It is clearly our duty to do everything we can up to the very last moment to support the idea of collective action at Geneva." I agree, but all that we wish to do at Geneva could be done perfectly well—I suggest even better—if we bad an ambassador to the League of Nations instead of sending a Minister intermittently to take his place. I have always been brought up to believe that one of the principal advantages of our Parliamentary system of Government was that it ensured a mixture of specialised and unspecialised minds or, if you prefer it, of professional and amateur minds. You have the unspecialised mind of the Minister at the head of a Department supported by the professional civil servants who give their life to that par 861 ticular job. That works extremely well as long as each side does his own work and does not try to do the other man's work. Just as I should object to some distinguished civil servant coming here to address us from that Box, so I object to any Minister, however highly we may all think of him, doing work which could properly be done by an ambassador. On all these grounds I am sorry that the Bill has been brought in, and I hope
§ very much that if the Government persist with it, as I imagine they will, when they have tried the experiment for a short time they will think better of it and drop it.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 202 Noes, 50.863
|Division No. 273.]||AYES.||[9.2 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Hartland, George A.||Orr Ewing, I. L.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Albery, Irving James||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pearson, William G.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Penny, Sir George|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Sir Cuthbert||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Assheton, Ralph||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Cheimsford)||Petherick, M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Potter, John|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Hornby, Frank||Pybus, Sir John|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Horsbrugh, Florence||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Blindell, James||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Jamieson, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Rickards, George William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Leith)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Burghley, Lord||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univ.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Burnett, John George||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Clarke, Frank||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Levy, Thomas||Savery, Servington|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Liddall, Walter S.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Llewellin, Major John J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Copeland, Ida||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr)||Spens, William Patrick|
|Cross, R. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stevenson, James|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw)||Stones, James|
|Drewe, Cedric||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Storey, Samuel|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Dunglass, Lord||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Elmley, Viscount||Magnay, Thomas||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Maitland, Adam||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thompson Sir Luke|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Train, John|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)|
|Graves, Marjorie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Moss, Captain H. J.||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Hales, Harold K.||North, Edward T.||Worthington, Sir John|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Nunn, William|
|Hanbury, Sir Cecil||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Mr. Stuart and Captain Hope.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R.||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Batey, Joseph||Janner, Barnett||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkins, Sir William||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Buchanan, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lewis, Oswald||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Sir Charles||Lunn, William||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James||Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Nall, Sir Joseph|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Wednesday.—[Sir G. Penny.]