HC Deb 20 April 1943 vol 388 cc1544-62
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 23, at the end, to insert: 4. (1) The Minister may appoint such number of persons as he thinks fit as assessors to be available to the Commission in connection with any investigation or enquiry that the Commission may undertake, being persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, have expert knowledge of any of the matters which fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission. (2) An assessor shall not vote or otherwise be a party to any report or recommendation of the Commission. This Amendment provides for the appointment of assessors and is moved in accordance with the promise I made during the previous Sittings.

Sir Douglas Hacking (Chorley)

If I move the Amendment to the Amendment which is standing in my name, I take it that it will not rule out of Order a discussion on the Minister's proposal?

The Deputy-Chairman

No; the right hon. Gentleman can move his Amendment.

Sir D. Hacking

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 1, after "may," to insert: after such consultation as he thinks necessary with organisations appearing to him to represent employers and workers or other interests concerned. When the Minister of Labour appoints members to the Commission to represent employers and employed persons it is laid down in the First Schedule that such appointments should be made after such consultation as the Minister may consider necessary with such organisations representing employers and workers respectively as he thinks fit. All I ask in my Amendment is that when the Minister appoints assessors to help the Commission he should also do it after such consultations. It would appear to me that it is more necessary that the assessors should have a good deal of knowledge of the subject-matter under discussion and decision by the Commission than it is for members of the Commission to have such a knowledge.

Mr. Bevin

I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment to my Amendment. In the appointment of assessors I am anxious to avoid the question of sides arising by inference or implication. I want the Commission to have the assistance of expert technical assessors, and if I put the Amendment in the Bill, it will have a limiting implication in the administration. The common-sense thing to do is, of course, to ask associations administratively whether they have any experts they would like to suggest, but if I put this in the Bill, it will be thought as time goes on that if I get an assessor from one side, I must have an assessor from another. What it would really do by implication is to extend the Commission, and I do not want to do that. I want to vary the assessors according to the nature of the service under the consideration of the Commission.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment to the Amendment will consider withdrawing it, because a great many of us feel that the concession made by the Minister for the appointment of assessors has made a valuable addition to the Bill. If we follow the precedent of assessors in the Admiralty Court, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that it will lead to endless confusion, and we shall never get finality as to who is to be an assessor if various interests are to be consulted. It is in the interests of the catering industry that the greatest latitude and freedom should be given to the Commission to appoint assessors who are technical experts.

Sir D. Hacking

I am always ready to respond to an appeal, but I am not particularly happy about the Minister's reply. He has complete freedom throughout the Bill, and he may not even appoint assessors. His Amendment simply gives him power to appoint them if he thinks fit. My suggestion is the reasonable one that assessors should only be appointed after consultation in the same way as members of the Commission are. I do not want to press the matter to a Division, and if it meets the convenience of the Committee, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

Major Gluckstein (Nottingham, East)

Could the Minister explain whether, when a person has been appointed an assessor, he remains an assessor, or whether he is only appointed ad hoc to be an assessor when a particular matter is under consideration by the Commission? Is there to be a panel of assessors, or is an assessor merely to be appointed for a particular investigation?

Mr. Bevin

The latter was my intention.

Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)

May I express the warm satisfaction of those who take an interest in this great industry at the Minister's decision? I think that it will give widespread satisfaction, but I sometimes wonder whether members realise how far it goes. Some of us put down an Amendment asking for the representation on the Commission of the tourist industry. We realise that that would have disturbed the balance of the Commission. Now, however, the Commission will have at its disposal at all times experts on the innumerable branches of this widespread industry to assist it. That goes so far that we can accept the Minister's proposal for we are convinced that the Commission will now be a beneficial agency for the improvement of the catering and tourist industries.

Major Sir Edward Cadogan (Bolton)

May we have an assurance on that point? There is serious apprehension in certain sections of the trade that immediately after the war there will be a sudden and perhaps overwhelming expansion of the tourist and holiday traffic. There is a doubt in many minds whether the wages board is the proper body to deal with such a problem. Will the assessors be persons who are competent to give advice to the Commission on that subject?

Mr. Bevin

The idea has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). I moved this Amendment in order to give the Commission an opportunity to get experts to help it in the various subjects it has to deal with. The undertaking I gave about the rehabilitation of the industry raises the same issue. I can assure the Committee that the Commission will have the opportunity of consulting experts, according to the branch of the industry that it is dealing with, in order to get prompt reports.

Sir E. Cadogan

In view of the Minister's explanation, may I say that I welcome this Amendment?

Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

Having moved the Amendment in the previous Committee discussion, in response to which the Minister promised to try to find some means of meeting us by the appointment of assessors, I, also, would like to express my appreciation of the Amendment moved to-day by the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that when assessors are appointed, in addition to the interests which have already been mentioned to-day, the special problem of the seaside resorts will have very serious consideration.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think that to go into that matter would be going very wide on this Amendment.

Captain Macdonald

I have no intention of dealing with the whole question. I merely wish to point out that this is one vital matter which will have to be dealt with, and I hope the Minister will consider the appointment of a representative of some organisation representing the seaside resorts, to help as an assessor, in dealing with this very urgent problem.

Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

During previous discussions in Committee I suggested that, instead of leaving the Bill as it was then drafted, we should provide for a completely independent Commission with an advisory committee. The Minister then was good enough to promise to meet the points raised by various hon. Members, and I think that he has met this point very well. I am inclined to think that his suggestion of an independent Commission with assessors is really better than the original suggestion of an independent Commission with an advisory committee. Under the Minister's proposal the two bodies will be sitting together in the same room. The only point which disturbs me a little is the possibility that independent members may wish to discuss certain matters in private, without the assessors being present, and I should rather like to know whether they will be able to do that. Perhaps my right hon. Friend could inform the Committee on that point.

Mr. Bevin

Certainly, the Commission is an independent Commission, and if they want to come to their judgment without the assessors, they can do so.

Proposed words there inserted.

Further Amendments made:

In page 13, line 26, after "of," insert "and assessors to."

In line 27, after "chairman," insert "of the Commission."—[Mr. Bevin.]

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in Committee and on re-committal), considered.