HC Deb 02 June 1942 vol 380 cc556-8
Mr. Dcnman (Leeds, Central)

I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 26 and 27, and to insert: Provided that during any period during which the Minister is a member of that House not more than one such parliamentary secretary shall sit as a member thereof, and, during any other period, not more than two such parliamentary secretaries shall sit as members thereof. The effect of this Amendment is exceedingly simple, As the Bill stands, there can be three Parliamentary representatives of the Department sitting in the House at the same time. The Amendment seeks to reduce that number to two, so that at no time shall there be more than two representatives of the Department in the House. They may be either the Minister and one Parliamentary Secretary, or two Parliamentary Secretaries, as is the case at the present time. The Amendment arises directly out of the remarkable speech made by the Chairman of Ways and Means on the occasion of his presenting to the House the Report of the Select Committee on Offices of Profit under the Crown. It will be remembered that that Committee was a good deal concerned at the increasing number of Members of the House who were absorbed in the task of the Executive Government. By that means the number of independent critics of the Government was steadily being reduced, and the powers of the Executive being steadily increased. The Chairman of Ways and Means then told us that there were three chief principles that should guide our thoughts on this matter, the second of which was the need to limit the control or influence over the House by the Executive Government by means of an undue proportion of officers being Members of the House. The Committee, in fact, made a recommendation that the representatives of the Departments should be limited to a specific number, and that recommendation, as part of the whole Report, was accepted by the House. It seems to me to follow that if you limit the number of representatives of the Departments that may sit on the Front Bench, it is reasonable to limit the proportion out of that number which is attached to any one Department.

We know quite well that there are some offices that have more than three representatives. The Treasury, the Army, and the Navy are examples. At the present time, more than one Department at any rate has three representatives in the House, but that is purely a question of war conditions, and is not intended to be a permanent arrangement. I suggest that on this occasion, when we are setting up a Department as a permanent part of our organisation of Government, we should lay down the sound constitutional maxim that in ordinary conditions two Parliamentary representatives are as many as any normal Department should possess. Accordingly I move the Amendment standing in my name.

Mr. H. Strauss

The Government consider that, when the new Ministry is set up, it is a reasonable provision that not more than two Ministers should sit in this House and that the third Minister should sit in another place. In these circumstances I am prepared to accept the Amendment.

Sir R. Tasker

If that principle is to be accepted in this case, is it to apply to all Bills, because, if so, we shall have a House packed with supporters of the Government?

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.