HC Deb 03 June 1937 vol 324 cc1230-1

6.13 p.m.

Sir J. Simon

I beg to move, in page 3, line 25, to leave out "or Part III."

I am moving this Amendment and the following Amendment in order to meet a criticism which was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) and also by hon. Members below the Gangway when the Bill was considered in Committee. It was pointed out that the language of Clause 3, Sub-section (3), might almost seem to be encouraging an enlargement of the Cabinet, in that if the officers referred to in that Sub-section are counted up, they come to as many as nine. The Ministers of the Crown named in Part II are four in number; the Minister mentioned in Part III —the Minister of Pensions—and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster bring the number to six, and there might conceivably be three Ministers under Section 2 of the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919. I think I state correctly the point made by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith when I say that he pointed out that if we were, in Subsection (3) of this Clause, to refer to another nine Ministers as though they were also in the rota, as it were, to be brought within the Cabinet, it would rather seem to encourage the view that the Cabinet should be larger still.

I would say for myself that I think that would not be a happy development, and I dare say it will have been observed by hon. Members that the number of the present Cabinet is 21, whereas the previous Cabinet consisted of 22. I tried to see how I could meet the difficulty in this case, and I now suggest to the House that it can best be met by leaving out the reference to the Minister of Pensions. It seems to me that unless we have some other disaster similar to that which resulted in the creation of the Ministry of Pensions 20 years ago, it is difficult to see how that post can gain in importance. Consequently I feel that it should be left out of this provision.

In the same way I suggest that we should leave out the reference to the Re-election of Ministers Act, 1919, because if ever an appointment were made under that Act, of course the conditions of the appointment would have to be settled at the time. These changes would have the effect of reducing the number of cases mentioned in the Subsection from nine to five. I am glad to be able to make that proposal because I recollect that my hon. and learned Friend opposite said that to reduce the number to three would be too drastic, and that he considered that four or five would be a reasonable number. That is the nature of the Amendment. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite and also hon. Members below the Gangway may be disposed to agree with it and to make this change in the Bill—which I think will be to its advantage—without much discussion.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Pritt

I willingly accept what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said upon this Amendment and I think he has met the point which I raised. May I say, however, that I think the right hon. Gentleman inadvertently used language which would suggest that we were dealing here with something which limited the size of the Cabinet? We are dealing with something which might indirectly achieve that end, but what we are actually doing is to limit the number of people in the Cabinet who are to receive salaries of a certain figure.

Sir J. Simon

That is correct and I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman has pointed it out. I only mentioned that aspect of the matter, because I think some objection was raised to the original proposal on that ground.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 27, leave out from the beginning to "if" in line 28.—[Sir J. Simon.]