§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, in page I, line 13, to leave out Sub-section (2).
I should like to ask you, Sir Dennis, whether the Amendments to this Clause which stand on the Order Paper in my name may be taken together, as they raise very much the same point, and I think it would be generally convenient if they could be considered together. I would point out that I do not desire to move the Amendment in page 2, line 4, to leave out paragraph (c), but that I wish to move a manuscript Amendment to leave out paragraph (a).
§ The Chairman
I do not quite follow the hon. Member. His first Amendment on the Order Paper is to leave out Subsection (2), which deals with the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary. His next Amendment would be consequential on that, because it is to leave out the salary of the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not understand the hon. Member when he says that he does not desire to move the Amendment to leave out paragraph (c) but to move his manuscript Amendment to leave out paragraph (a). I must consider all the hon. Member's Amendments and make my selection.
§ Mr. Mander
The effect of that Amendment would be that the right hon. Gentleman who is to be Minister of Supply would have to go to another place almost immediately, and I do not desire to suggest that. There are two points that I am raising. First, there is the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary, and secondly, the appointment of a new paid Minister of Supply. I propose to argue that it might be dealt with by not arrogating a salary to the Minister, but by allowing him to take one of the other sinecure offices which already exist and which carry a salary.
§ The Chairman
It seems to me that the hon. Member is now raising rather a difficult point. We had better take the 1836 Amendments as they appear on the Paper and see how they work in. At the moment I call him to move his first Amendment, which is to leave out Subsection (2), and I take it that in the event of that Amendment being carried he would wish to move a consequential Amendment on the Paper, because, having got rid of the Parliamentary Secretary to the new Ministry, he would move to omit the provision providing a salary for the office.
§ Mr. Mander
Of course the salary of the Minister himself raises a separate question. I move this Amendment, not from the point of view that an Undersecretary is not desirable in certain circumstances in connection with the Ministry of Supply. We on these benches have been arguing strongly in favour of the creation of this Ministry for a very considerable time and we want the work to be carried out as effectively as possible. But I do think there is a very grave danger in adding to the paid offices under the Government. Already there are upwards of 100 Members of the House who are dependent in one way or another for their appointment on the Government of the day. It seems very undesirable, unless it be absolutely necessary, that any addition should be made to that number. Something like one-sixth of the House is in one way or another dependent on the Government. If it is proposed to appoint an Under-Secretary as and when it becomes necessary that should be done not by appointing a new Under-Secretary, but by abolishing one of the Under-Secretary ships which are redundant, and I venture to say that as long as there are three representatives of the Admiralty and three representatives of the War Office, it is not right to come to this House and ask for the appointment of a new Under-Secretary for this Department. It is a sound constitutional doctrine that every Department should have two representatives, a Minister and an Undersecretary, but in existing circumstances, in order to avoid constitutional inroads upon the rights of back-benchers who will soon be overridden by the number of members who are in the Government, it is not desirable to create a new Undersecretary at a period when there are, as I have said, six Under-Secretaries representing two Departments. I hope that the Minister will be able to make some 1837 statement with regard to these points on behalf of the Government.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
I must confess that I have a certain amount of sympathy with what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has said. There is a tendency to-day, as each new problem turns up, to create new Ministers to deal with it, without reviewing the question whether other Ministers have, in fact, full employment in their jobs. If this proposal of the Government is carried we shall have no fewer than 12 Ministers engaged in one way or another in Defence, three for the Admiralty, three for the Army, two for the Air Force, one for Co-ordination, one for Air-Raid Precautions and now two for the Ministry of Supply. It seems to me, while recognising the magnitude of the problem, that 12 Ministers are rather much to deal with it. At the same time I do feel that there are some other appointments which might now be reviewed — for example in the case of the Post Office, where we could manage with one Minister instead of two. I think the hon. Member has performed a useful service in calling attention to this matter. Whatever the desire of the Government with regard to this particular appointment, I hope that they will take an early opportunity of reviewing the whole question and see whether the total number of Ministers might not be reduced with advantage.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I wish to oppose the Amendment. When a Minister was appointed for the Co-ordination of Defence one of the complaints that we felt it necessary constantly to make on this side was that although the Minister had such an immense task laid upon him, his staff for the purpose of that task was completely inadequate. In the present case we are appointing a Minister of Supply, who also is to have an enormous task, a task which, if he exercises certain powers conferred upon him by this Bill, will steadily grow and grow. In these circumstances I think it would be wrong of the House to deny him the assistance of a Parliamentary Secretary. I notice that in the Explanatory Memorandum of the Bill, in the summary on finance, it is stated that the expenditure on salaries and allowances for the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and the staff, are 1838 estimated at £30,000 per annum. I have seen a very interesting calculation that the machinery of Supply as it exists now —I am not speaking of supplies themselves —ost something like £8,000,000 per annum; and the Minister is himself, by this Bill, taking over supplies to the extent of £100,000,000 sterling per annum. In these circumstances I am bound to say that I think the financial provision for Ministers and staff, having relation to the difficulties of their task, is certainly on the moderate side. It would not be right to ask the Minister to perform the duties without the assistance of a Parliamentary Secretary. For these reasons I trust the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment made it clear at the beginning of his speech that we recognise the necessity for the new Minister of Supply to have some assistant to represent him in the House and to help him in his manifold duties; but the reason for the Amendment is a larger one, namely, the multiplication of offices under the Crown. It is true that there has been a great expansion of duties in the creation of new Ministries and new Departments, but it is becoming a serious danger for the House of Commons when a very large percentage of its Members in some way or another are holding offices of profit under the Crown. There was a time in the good old days when a Minister on appointment had to seek re-election, had to go through the ordeal of a by-election. That arrangement was in existence before the War, and it was only after the War, comparatively recently, that the change was made. The origin of that custom was undoubtedly the feeling of Parliament that the business of the House of Commons was to control Ministers, that the House of Commons should be independent of the Executive and the Crown. Therefore, once a man had taken an office of profit he had to go back to his electors and get fresh authority from them.
§ Sir P. Harris
I quite agree, but the principle still remains the same. The House of Commons has to exercise the great duty of controlling and criticising 1839 and being independent of the Executive. Now we have all these new offices, each with a new Minister, each with an Undersecretary, each Minister with a Parliamentary private secretary, each secretary with a Parliamentary private secretary, and in every new Department there are four Members of the House, two paid and two unpaid, who are in office largely through losing their independence. Whatever their opinions, in a general way they have to subordinate their views and become a part of the Government of the day. That is an effect that we wish to check at the present time. I see sitting on the Government Front Bench one of the three representatives of the Admiralty. I have even heard him "tipped" as a possible occupant of the new office of Parliamentary Secretary which we are debating. I have no doubt that he would occupy it with great charm because of a very pleasing personality. It is about time that some of these posts were considered superfluous and that the number of people holding office under the Crown was reduced. We had a very practical and common-sense method of getting over that difficulty in the case of Civil Defence. There we have in that job a Minister holding another post, that of Lord Privy Seal. He has not got an Under-Secretary, but he has the very capable assistance of the Chancellor of the Duchy. That is an excellent way of getting over this difficulty. Now that we are creating post after post and Department after Department, it is about time that the whole position was reviewed. Before we part with this Clause I think we ought to have some undertaking from the Government that they are considering the position, and that if we do pass the Clause either the position of Under-Secretary should be duplicated with that of some honorary post, ar some post which is now superfluous should be abolished.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Sir H. Williams
The speech to which we have just listened is a speech against a Ministry of Supply.
§ Sir H. Williams
Yes, it is. I was one of those who were doubtful, and I still am doubtful, about the establishment of the new Ministry; but quite clearly if you are to have a Ministry of Supply, from the point of view of day-to-day administra- 1840 tion a Parliamentary Secretary is absolutely essential.
§ Sir P. Harris
In my opening remarks I made it clear that I thought it necessary for the Minister of Supply to have some assistance.
§ Sir H. Williams
Then I do not understand the hon. Baronet at all; he objects to what he regards as essential. 1 was one of those who were very doubtful, and I am still very doubtful, whether the establishment of a Ministry of Supply is necessary or desirable, but certainly if the new Minister is to do his job, which I am certain will be one leading to a great deal of interrogation in this House, it is absolutely essential that he should have a Parliamentary Secretary to assist in the work in this House and in a Department which will be spending roughly £100,000,000 a year and is to be a very active Department. It would be an intolerable burden to impose on any Cabinet Minister to ask him to work unaided. In connection with the analogy of the Lord Privy Seal the hon. Baronet pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman had a. great deal of help from the Chancellor of the Duchy. It is quite true that my right hon. Friend had a great deal of help in the conduct of the Bill through the House, and that he is having day-today help because of the position that my right hon. Friend occupies as a colleague of the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence; but there is a limit to the capacity even of my right hon. Friend. He is charged with food defence, and in that capacity has an office somewhere down the road. He has to walk —not a great distance —to the Committee of Imperial Defence. He has to walk across to the Home Office to help the Lord Privy Seal. It is now suggested that we should ask him to go up the road to Mill bank and help my right hon. Friend in the Ministry of Supply. Apparently one thing that will be necessary will be a supply of shoe-leather to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This additional task is one which could not be conveniently or efficiently done by my right hon. Friend, having regard to his existing obligations and I do not understand the attitude of the Liberal Party which demands a Ministry of Supply, but does not want that Ministry to be efficient
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Our attitude to this Bill should be made plain at the outset. If these Amendments are pressed to a division we shall certainly vote for the retention of the Clause as it stands. Some hon. Members seem to forget that we are living in a world which demands new ideas and not in Victorian times when Departments of State were manned by a few people. What determines our attitude, is the answer to the question, "Is this necessary and will it tend to efficiency?" We know the burdens which Ministers are already bearing as the result of recent legislation. A new policy of this description demands that the people who fill these offices, should be those who will bring about the maximum amount of efficiency. We are of opinion that anybody's job is nobody's job and that in setting up a new State Department Parliament should see to it that it is staffed by men who will devote the whole of their attention to its work. The attitude of this party was plainly set out in a statement issued at the Southport Conference entitled "Labour and Defence." That statement was accepted with very few dissentients at Southport, and it summed up the party attitude in this manner:It is clear, therefore, that on the efficiency of the machinery of Supply the safety of the nation may depend.If that is correct, and we accept it, then it means that the Ministry should be adequately and efficiently staffed. The statement also says:The machinery of Supply must be efficient. It must be able to meet the needs of the fighting forces both quantitatively and qualitatively. It must be smooth and speedy in its operation and, secondly, though not less in importance, it must be economical and it must permit of planning.If those requirements are to be fulfilled the Ministry must be adequately staffed. This Bill, in our opinion, is not comprehensive enough. We are not satisfied with it in every respect. Our attitude will be one of endeavouring to improve the Bill and making it more efficient, wherever we think that can be done. We hope to produce evidence to convince the Committee of the necessity of improving the Bill and, above all, of ensuring that the Ministry will be properly manned.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
I agree with those who have said that if we are to have 1842 a Ministry of Supply it should be adequately and efficiently staffed and on that point I do not think there is any difference of opinion in the Committee. But there is another aspect of this question. We must not always assume that the efficiency of a Department is dependent on having the largest possible number of Ministers and assistant Ministers. Efficiency is built up, in the first place, by having an efficient Ministry. If there is work for an Under-Secretary to do then, of course, it is so much the better if the Minister has an efficient Undersecretary. Some of us have yet to be convinced, however, that there will be work for an Under-Secretary in this new Department. Possibly there will be. Of course hon. Members above the Gangway wish to extend the Civil Service in this country as far as possible. We understand their point of view. But there is the possibility that, at some time, a Ministry of Supply may no longer be necessary, and if you have permanently fixed in the saddle a Minister and an Under-Secretary, it will be very difficult to abolish those offices.
For a great many years I have watched the gradual growth of Ministries. A new Ministry usually begins in a comparatively small way, probably for the purpose of dealing with some national emergency, at a time when the House of Commons and the nation are only too willing to give it all the support they can. Times change, and perhaps we reach a period when the new Department is no longer necessary, but by that time there is a colossal staff and it is almost impossible to reduce it. I would ask the Committee to consider the number of Ministers who are already dealing with these questions. There is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and others. Surely it should be easy to meet the demand that it is necessary to have a Minister to answer for these matters, either here or in another place. If there is really the great amount of extra work about which we have heard, there are other Ministries, such as the Ministry of Pensions—the work of which is not increasing, and we hope will never have to increase. Some of us can remember only too well the promises that were made from that Front Bench about reductions in the number of Ministries being made when it was possible to do so. At a time like the present 1843 when the question of expenditure is very important, the strongest possible case should be made out, before we consent to the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary. We should be on our guard against doing anything which may be superfluous or unnecessary.
There is another point which is purely a House of Commons point, but is, I think, of some substance. We are rapidly reaching a position in which, if there were a Government with a narrow majority, we should find that nearly 50 per cent. of the supporters of that Government were for all practical purposes either in office or getting on that way. That is not the way to encourage freedom and independence in the House of Commons. The effectiveness of the House of Commons depends very much on the freedom of a large number of its Members to express independent views. Now and then we are told that there is to be a free vote on some special issue. When we have a free vote it is never clear whether Ministers are free to vote as they like or not. But a junior Minister who is wholeheartedly wrapped up in his work, and who is loyal to his chief, will find himself in a position of great difficulty if his chief votes in one Lobby while he votes in another. That applies with even greater force perhaps to the case of Parliamentary Private Secretaries.
I think we should regard this matter, not from the point of view of handicapping the new Ministry in any way, but from the wider and more permanent Parliamentary point of view of the possible effects of this growth of Ministries which is going on at the present time, almost regardless of finance and the fact that the power of the Treasury to-day is much less than it was formerly. I think many hon. Members of the Committee will feel that it is right to make some protest on these lines and to indicate that we would prefer, if it were possible, for the Minister to say that he could get along without this suggested help. Of course, if he says he cannot do so, we must accept that. But we all know from experience that we have in the right hon. Gentleman a man of exceptional capacity and industry, who will be able to do the work of two men. Moreover, as he is a member of the Liberal wing of the Government, one presumes that he can always, if an emergency arises, rely on 1844 the Liberal party combining as one man to help him. That being the case, it seems to me that the necessity for an Under-Secretary hardly arises, and that the project might go by the board. There has been no argument for it, except that adduced by hon. Members above the Gangway, which was an unsatisfactory one from the point of view of efficiency—but we are used to that. Perhaps the Minister will secure that this Liberal Amendment is adopted.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to allow himself to be brow-beaten by his ex-associates of the Liberal party, or to be cajoled and flattered by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) into accepting this Amendment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) has said, we on these benches desire that the Bill should be an effective one and that the Ministry of Supply should be strong and comprehensive, and to that end we intend to move certain Amendments later. To us it seems inconceivable that even the powers which the Bill now proposes to confer upon the new Minister, much less the greater powers which we hope will be conferred upon him if our later Amendments are accepted, could be exercised by the Minister without the assistance of an Under-Secretary. The Liberal Amendment is in the tradition of the May Report. It proposes a pettifogging economy such as those with which the Liberal party has on many critical occasions been associated. This is trying to spoil the ship for lack of a ha'porth of tar. That is reflected in the suggestion that the Minister should be deprived of an assistant for the sake of a saving of 01 per cent., or whatever the salary of an Under-Secretary may be, relative to the total expenditure which the Minister will control.
Whatever may have been said in support of the Amendment from the Liberal benches, the point which is now before the Committee is whether or not the Minister is to have the assistance of an Under-Secretary. May I give one further reason in support of the view that he should have that assistance? I was sorry that the hon. Member for Torquay thought the arguments hitherto advanced from these benches had not been substantial. I offer one concrete argument in favour of the Minister of Supply being 1845 assisted by an Under-Secretary. If any Minister in the whole range of Government is likely to be made the object of representations of every sort—some I hope from the trade unions and some I fear from certain capitalist interests, whose aims may not always be in harmony with the views of those who desire to see value for money in the supply of arms and requisites—it will be the Minister of Supply. Undoubtedly there will be an enormous number of deputations and representations of every kind to the Minister. How can it be supposed that without the assistance of an Under Secretary the Minister will be able to deal with all these representations, and at the same time carry on the work of this Department? I hope that consideration will not be considered insubstantial, particularly by Members of the Conservative party who may have some relationships, in one capacity or another, with some of these deputations to which I have referred. Surely it is abundantly clear to-day that if we are to accept this Amendment it will be taken for granted—what really cannot be taken for granted at all—that this Minister will have less work, and less important work, than a great number of other Ministers who at the present time have Under-Secretaries as a matter of course.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
I am delighted to hear the speech which we have just had from the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). It shows that there is some common sense to be found sometimes on the benches opposite. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply Designate will appreciate the compliment paid to him by the speeches which we have heard. The Liberal party, with others, in this House have been agitating for a considerable time for the establishment of a Ministry of Supply, which I think the great majority of Members of this House feel to be a constructive part of our whole system of National Defence.
§ Sir P. Hannon
The hon. Baronet opposite, who takes such a delightfully light-hearted view of these great public affairs, was one of the great supporters of this proposal. If we are to establish this Ministry at all, it must be a Ministry which can be completely efficient in the 1846 discharge of its great obligations, and it seems to me that every assistance that Parliament can give to the Minister should be given to him in the discharge of the very heavy responsibilities which will rest upon him. I agree with the hon. Member opposite that a very large part of the Minister's time will be occupied in dealing with questions arising out of the multiplicity of projects with which he will have to deal by conference and consultation, on the side of both employers and of labour, in relation to supply, and from that point of view and also from the point of view of answering questions raised in this House it seems to me of profound importance that the Minister should have a competent Parliamentary Secretary to assist him in the discharge of his duties. Of course, the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) would not be discharging his traditional position in this House during the years in which he has been here if he did not take exception to everything that would be helpful and hopeful in the public life of this country, and to-day he carries on his own role of finding fault with something. If ever there was in this country a first-class fault finder, it is the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and to-day he has been a first-class exponent of the weakness of his own position. I hope very much the Amendment will be withdrawn, and I would respectfully suggest to the hon. Member that we should give all the support in our power to the Minister in the discharge of his heavy responsibilities.
§ 4.34 p.m.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster(Mr. W, S. Morrison)
This Amendment, I think the Committee will have perceived, proceeds not from any practical merits in itself but in furtherance of some theoretical preconception, which is so frequently conceived as a principle, by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) who moved it. Really, no arguments have been addressed to the Committee why the Minister of Supply should not have a Parliamentary Secretary, and indeed this Amendment has been commended to the Committee, not on that ground, but upon the ground that it is alleged that there are too many other Ministers. Surely that is a topic which is of much larger scope and quite inappropriate to discuss on this Amendment. The hon. Member said that there are too many Under- 1847 Secretaries attached to the Admiralty and the War Office. There are ample opportunities on the Votes for those Departments on which that matter can be raised, and on which the Departments can, and I have no doubt they will, vindicate themselves from the charge of superfluity which is brought against them. The point here is perfectly simple. The Minister of Supply will have very heavy duties to perform. He will also have to be in constant touch with the House of Commons, and both from the point of view of the Minister and the efficient discharge of his duties and from the point of view of keeping the House of Commons constantly informed of the transactions of the Department, it is necessary that he should have this assistance. I hope the Committee will not proceed to a Division on this Amendment, because I am certain that it would have very few supporters in the Lobby.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The right hon. Gentleman has made quite clear the object of the Amendment. It is not intended to be an Amendment to try and prevent an Undersecretary being appointed. Its object is to raise a very much wider question. I was rather afraid—
§ The Chairman
I am obliged to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) for calling my attention to the point, and I will watch what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) says upon it with even greater care.
§ Mr. Mander
I was rather afraid when I moved the Amendment that my hon. Friends above the Gangway might be tempted to take the line that they did take. Of course it is very comprehensible from their point of view, because we all realise that probably within a period of some six months the hon. Members above the Gangway will be transferred from the places which they now occupy and will be sitting on the benches opposite and will have a desire to occupy as many offices as they possibly can. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why cannot you think that?"] We are taking a more detached 1848 and objective line than hon. Members above the Gangway. I think the object of the Amendment has been achieved, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be good enough to do this: If he will, I shall be glad to withdraw the Amendment. Will he on a suitable opportunity convey to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the arguments that have been put forward, by supporters of the Government as well as from this side, as to the broader question of the gradual increase of offices in the Government? If he will be good enough to undertake to do that, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Chairman
The next Amendment that I select is the one in line 4, to leave out paragraph (c) and I think the one which follows it, to leave out paragraph (d), must be regarded as consequential upon it.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out paragraph (c).
I think this Amendment raises to a considerable extent the same point, and there will be no necessity to go into many arguments in connection with it. The point that I wish to raise is with regard to the gradual increase of Ministers. It is not desirable to appoint a new paid Minister of Supply when the difficulty could be got over by appointing a Minister of Supply from one of the sinecure offices that now exist. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should be appointed Lord President of the Council. I think the present occupier of that office, a man of great ability and distinction, is not perhaps absolutely essential in the position that he occupies. He has been able to make an extended and no doubt very interesting tour of the Empire during the past six months, and I sincerely suggest that the time has come when that office might be suitably vacated and my right hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Burgin) might be appointed Minister of Supply and Lord President of the Council at the same time. If it is thought that that is too high an honour to confer upon him, no doubt there could be some change about, and he could be made Chancellor of the Duchy, or Lord Privy Seal, or something of that kind. My point is that it is absolutely unnecessary to appoint a new Minister when you could make use of 1849 one of the sinecure offices that exist at the present time, without adding to the pay roll of new offices in the House of Commons. To do that is agreeable to the Executive. It increases their power as against the House of Commons as a whole, and I venture to say that it is a tendency that ought to be strongly resisted by hon. Members on back benches, and particularly by those who have no immediate desire to occupy any of these posts.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
The effect of the Amendment, if it were carried, would be to prevent the Minister of Supply from sitting in the House of Commons, and I think the general sense of the Committee would be against such a proposal, because clearly the duties of the Minister are those which are proper for the House of Commons to supervise with the assistance of the Minister himself. We have always in this House, as I understand it, taken the line that where a Minister is charged with a Department of a spending character, particularly when questions of contracts and so on are concerned, it is desirable that the Minister should be answerable to the House of Commons. The effect of the Amendment, if it were accepted, would be that we should not be able to increase the number of Ministers in the House of Commons, and either the Minister of Supply himself would have to sit in another place or some other Minister now in the Commons would have to be translated there in order to make room for him. I think the general sense of the Committee is that in a matter of this sort it is advisable for the Minister to sit in the Commons, and for that reason I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
I should like to raise a matter of detail which is, however, a matter of some importance for the efficient working of the new Ministry. I see that in Subsection (5) of this Clause the Minister is taking powers toappoint such other secretaries and such officers and servants, and there shall be paid to them such salaries and allowancès, as the Minister may, with the sanction of the Treasury, determine.1850 I would like to know from the Minister, in the first place, whether these salaries will be fixed independently of any scale which now applies to other Departments, and if that is so, I should be glad to know what salaries will be paid. I have been made aware, to put it quite bluntly, that considerable dissatisfaction exists among civil servants who are on the scientific side. I do not want to go into details, but I have here, as a matter of fact, a communication from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, who say that the salaries at present paid to the scientific heads of the War Office, for instance, who are now to be brought under the Ministry of Supply, are most inadequate in relation to the responsibilities of the posts.
I gather that in the past an attempt has been made by these scientifically-qualified civil servants to get their status raised and their salaries in line with the general standards applying to the administrative staffs. I believe those efforts have failed in the past. The War Office said "We cannot deal with it because there are relativities with other Departments." Then an attempt was made to get to the centre, to the Treasury, but again representations on salaries were denied to this body. I have been looking into some of the"relativities, and while the salaries appear to me to be adequate as salaries there can be no doubt that these men are in an inferior position to those on the general administrative staffs. I wonder whether it is still true in the Civil Service that a man who has taken" Greats"cannot command a higher status that these other men. As my hon. Friend said just now, in a new world we want new services, and with the increasing importance which attaches to scientific knowledge and scientific equipment these men will be absolutely essential to the successful working of the Department.
You cannot argue a case like this across the Floor of the House, but I would ask the Minister to look into this matter with a fresh mind, and if possible to meet this professional organisation in order that they may at least present their case. I can assure him that they have grievances which they feel deeply—I know they feel deeply on the question of status alone—and if he will meet them and allow them to state their case I shall be satisfied, and I am sure that he will then have taken 1851 action at the beginning of his career at the Ministry of Supply which will help to create a favourable atmosphere and to sweeten the whole attitude of these men.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Before the Minister replies I would ask whether those matters cannot be determined by the National Industrial Council of the Civil Service, the Whitley Council of the Civil Service, which takes into consideration all questions regarding conditions of employment and salary. During the long years I spent as representative of this House on the Whitley Council of the Civil Service all questions of this character were dealt with very impartially and fairly by the representatives of the Treasury and by the heads of the Departments concerned, and I do not think any real difficulties arose. I am certain that where any technical problem arises as to the status of civil servants in the professional or in the administrative classes the Whitley Council will deal with it on broad and generous lines and will submit to the Minister considerations which will command his sympathetic attention. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) need be afraid that in the case of a new Ministry like this, which is embarking upon very serious duties in relation to supplies of munitions, clothing and all sorts of other things for the Defence Services, the Whitley Council will not continue to discharge its responsibilities fairly and squarely.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
It may be that the point which I am going to raise can be dealt with administratively, and, if so, I should like the Minister to inform us whether it is his intention to deal with it in that way, because if not I hope it will be considered between now and Report stage from the point of view of making provision for it in the Bill. I contend that we are not going far enough in just appointing officers to posts, and that to get the most efficient and most economical results it will be necessary to have a supply council. In my view that Supply council should be presided over by the Minister of Supply, and at least one other Minister should be a member of it, perhaps the President of the Board of Trade. That council should have the right to 1852 summon to it the heads of the different Departments which may be affected and it might be necessary for it to have either a weekly or fortnightly survey of all that was going on. It would be necessary to check up what had been done and was being done, to look into deliveries, to speed up supplies and to give directions in various matters. In the train this morning I was reading the Report of the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture and Trade in Armaments, and in recommendation No. 6 on page 53 they state:We recommend that the Government should assume complete responsibility for the arms industry in the United Kingdom and should organise and regulate the necessary collaboration"—
§ Sir P. Hannon
On a point of Order. I apologise for interrupting, but does not this question arise under Clause 2 rather than under Clause 1? Clause 1 gives the Minister all the necessary powers to discharge the functions of his office. I think the hon. Member is anticipating Clause 2.
§ Mr. Smith
No, I am not anticipating Clause 2. I am fully conversant with what it does. What I am saying is that we shall not get the best results out of the Bill if we are going to depend upon officers of Departments. It will be necessary for some collaboration between the heads of the various Departments and the Members of the Cabinet, and if we part with Clause 1 we shall be prevented from raising the issue in the way I am raising it now.
§ The Chairman
I must reply to that point of Order. What the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) is saying is permissible on Clause 1, but if it is discussed on Clause 1 I cannot allow it to be discussed again on Clause 2.
§ The Chairman
I did not tell the hon. Member that he was out of order. What I said was that he was in order in raising this question on Clause 1. I am not saying that it will be in order on Clause 2, but I must warn him that if I do admit this discussion on Clause 1, I cannot allow it to be repeated on Clause 2.
§ Mr. Smith
I want it to be emphasised that the only point I am raising is the appointment of a supply council. I am raising no other issue at this stage. The quotation from the Royal Commission's report goes on:… between the Government and private industry.I want to emphasise that this responsibility should be exercised through a controlling body presided over by a Minister responsible to Parliament and having executive powers in peace time and in war time. Now that we have decided to set up a Ministry of Supply the next logical step is to create a supply council, which would deal with all matters from research to design and from design to test, and in addition to a central supply council there ought to be regional councils. Unless we organise the production of these goods on a scientific basis we shall not get the results for which we are hoping.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Will the Minister in his reply indicate how appointments to his staff will be made, whether the officers will be transferred from other Departments and whether the recognised Civil Service scale will be followed? The reason I ask is because I have some knowledge of the case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), and know that there has been some dissatisfaction expressed already, particularly among persons handling the scientific side of the business. Perhaps the Minister could indicate whether he is prepared to deal with representations made to him or made through the Whitley Council. Certainly the Whitley Council would be very good machinery if it could be used for this purpose. If not, will he receive representations made direct to him by the professional association concerned? There is a vital point of principle in the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) and I should like to know whether the Minister proposes to accept the suggestion in the report of the Royal Commission. I feel that it will be absolutely necessary for the Minister to have a supply council. Perhaps he has in mind the machinery which he proposes to set up for the purpose. However, it is essential that he should have such a council of persons, who could 1854 advise him from time to time and whom he could consult on essential matters of supply. Whether the system should be worked regionally is another matter, but in the first instance he ought to have a central body to advise him as to how supplies are proceeding, as to the rate of production in certain industries and how various matters can be co-ordinated.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Burgin)
The questions which I have been asked fall into two groups, some dealing with a Supply Council and the others dealing with staff. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) asked whether it was advisable to add words to the Clause or whether what he had in mind could be substantially dealt with administratively. Let me tell him at once that it is going to be dealt with administratively. I understand entirely the point of view to which he has given expression. It is quite clear that in connection with such matters as the purchase of stocks of raw material the contact between the new Department which this Bill sets up and the Board of Trade, for instance, must be close, intimate and continuous, and administrative arrangements to that end have already been set up. I do not think the Committee would expect me at this stage, before the Royal Assent has been given to the Bill, to say whether or not I have determined to use a regional machinery—I can see a number of arguments in favour of such a proposal—but I can give the hon. Member the assurance for which he is asking by saying that the points to which he has called attention are very present to my mind. From design to test things must be supervised and checked. Because an order has been placed one cannot assume that deliveries are going on, and there must be checks to ascertain that deliveries are coming forward satisfactorily. For all such purposes there must be something in the nature of a council, board or committee, whatever one may call it, almost continuously in session, presided over by the new Minister himself and having very wide powers. That, of course, is different from the Advisory Committee of Industry who will advise on other matters to which I referred on the Second Reading. I hope the hon. Member will feel, with that assurance, that the main purpose of his question is answered and that it is not necessary or 1855 practical, or good draftsmanship, that these matters should be put in Clause 1. Clause 1 is the right way to set up the new Ministry and say what the officers are, and what their powers are to be; then we proceed to give the powers chronologically through the Bill to the body set up.
§ Mr. Burgin
I thought I had made it quite clear that the council that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent was asking for was essentially an administrative council. The Advisory Council of Industry is an entirely separate body. There are two different bodies. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, if I understood him aright, was dealing with the ordinary day to day matters, which of course would be dealt with by a body composed of Civil Servants, with the addition of gentlemen in a high position who are willing to give their services gratuitously to the State. It might be possible to add some of them but, broadly speaking, it is a Civil Service body. The other body, on which industry, employers and workmen, may well be represented, is another matter; it is intended for keeping contact with industry.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
Is the Principal Supply Officers Committee going to continue in being, and will it be presided over by the right hon. Gentleman or by the Chancellor of the Duchy?
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
It has been presided over hitherto by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence. The present Dominions Secretary did it while he held the office.
§ Mr. Burgin
Perhaps I am referring to another committee. There is, of course, the Supply Board, presided over by the senior civil servant who happens to be destined to be the head of the Ministry of Supply when it is set up. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was referring to that. The other committee, which deals with the three Services, will, I think, continue to be presided over by the Minister 1856 for the Co-ordination of Defence. Both will continue in being.
§ Mr. Burgin
I will make inquiries. Coming to the question of staff, I realise that this new Department will be a very large one, and the family of human beings which it will contain will be very big. There is a reference to 50,000 people even at the outset. Therefore, I want the relationship right from the start to be very supple. The actual method of appointment of the staff is through an establishment officer who is himself a civil servant, who settles rates of pay and other conditions. There is a reference by either side to the Treasury and, if necessary, to an independent tribunal. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) asked me how the staff were to be recruited. The figure of £30,000 which appears in the Explanatory Memorandum represents the nucleus of the headquarters staff, the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and some five or six others. In the first instance there is a given job of work for the Ministry to do and a given block of Civil Service assistance to deal with it, and the first task of the Ministry will be to take over from the War Office a number of different sections which are allotted in toto to the new Ministry and to take over the staff with them; certain particulars are set out in columns 663 and 664 of the Official Report of 8th June showing the respective numbers. I cannot enter into a discussion of a matter which I have heard from the hon. Member for the first time, but perhaps he will feel assured that his purpose has been achieved by calling my attention to the matters that he has raised.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.