§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Richard Law)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is something like three months since proposals for the reform of the Foreign Service as set out in Command Paper 6420 were debated in this House and another place and were generally approved. Following these Debates, a draft Order in Council was prepared for submission to His Majesty, creating a new combined Foreign Service, and this Order in Council was approved on 20th May last. I am now asking the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill which implements those parts of the Command Paper which require legislation for their implementation. The House will remember that the proposals in the White Paper were very wide in their scope. They will remember that they dealt not only with the amalgamation of the Services and with the question of superannuation, a matter in which my right hon. Friend has at the moment only very limited powers. The proposals in the White Paper dealt also with the question of recruitment, training, the regrading of posts, and many other matters. The House will remember those proposals and will observe that the Bill is nothing like so wide in its scope as the White Paper was. That does not mean—and I would like to emphasise this point—that the proposals in the White Paper have been so whittled down that nothing remains except what is in the Bill. It is simply that the Bill deals only with those parts of the proposals which require legislation. The wider proposals in the White Paper do not require legislation at all.
The Bill seeks in the main to do four things. Most important, it seeks to implement paragraph 5 of the White Paper, which would give my right hon. Friend powers, which he does not have at the moment, to retire on pension below the age of 60 members of the Foreign Service when it appears to him to be in the public interest to do so. Those powers will be found in Clause 2. I will revert to Clause 2 in a few minutes. In 1040 the meantime I will endeavour to explain to the House what it is the Bill purports to do. Clauses 1 and 6 and the Schedule deal with Amendments which are necessary to existing Acts of Parliament following upon the amalgamation of the three previously existing Services which are now part of the combined Foreign Service. In the main they are, as it were, drafting Amendments consequential upon the amalgamation, and I do not think the House will want to be worried with details of them. Clause 1 (2), however, takes the opportunity to correct a small error in the Superannuation (Diplomatic Service) Act, 1929, an error which, so far as I know, has only caused trouble in one instance. It was not a very important mistake, but the opportunity is now being taken to correct it. A very careful scrutiny has been made of existing Acts of Parliament to ensure that nothing in those Acts in any way contradicts or interferes with the proposed amalgamation of the Services which has in fact already taken place. It is, however, a fact that even old Homer sometimes nods, and it is possible, though it is unlikely in the highest degree, that Parliamentary counsel has been caught napping in this matter. Provision is accordingly made in Clause 6 to ensure that, if it becomes necessary in the future to amend some existing Act of Parliament which has slipped our notice now, that Amendment may be made by means of Order in Council. And lest we should incur the well-merited censure of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and others of my hon. Friends, it is provided that any such draft Order in Council will need an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
Clause 3 is an important one. It provides that where a member of the Foreign Service has been recalled from his post as a result of circumstances arising out of the war, and is serving in the Government service but at a lower salary than that which he previously enjoyed, he shall be in a position for the purposes of superannuation and pension as if he had never left his old post and was still serving at the old rate of pay. I hope the House will agree that this is a perfectly fair provision.
Clause 4 deals with the old China Consular Service. Under the Super- 1041 annuation Act, 1935, members of that Service were given the privilege of retiring at the age of 55 instead of 60, and this Clause ensures that they retain that privilege in the light of the facts, first, that they will now have to do diplomatic as well as consular work and, secondly, that some new posts have been created in the China Consular area. I ought perhaps to add that it was part of the provisions of the Act of 1935 that they only qualified for retirement at 55 instead of 60 if they served in certain designated posts, which were called China Service posts, and these posts have now been increased. The third fact that is taken account of in Clause 4 is that many members of the China Consular Service are in exactly the same position as other members of the Foreign Service who have been recalled owing to the exigencies of the war and are serving in other capacities to-day. Here again I hope the House will feel that these proposals are not unreasonable.
I have given an outline of the four main purposes of the Bill. They are, first of all, to secure Amendments of existing Acts of Parliament so that the structure of those Acts of Parliament fits in with the amalgamation of the Services; secondly, to preserve to members of the Foreign Service who have been recalled as a result of the war their existing pension rights; thirdly, to preserve to members of the China Consular Service their right to retire at 55 instead of 60; and, finally, to give power to my right hon. Friend to retire on pension those members of the Foreign Service who have given valuable service in the past but who are not quite good enough to fill the highest posts. When the Foreign Service reforms were debated on 18th March I gave the House the reasons for which my right hon. Friend needed further powers of retirement on pension, and perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House if I recapitulate them. However carefully a man may be selected for the Foreign Service, and however full and careful his training may be, it is impossible to guarantee that he will in every case fulfil his early promise and that he will always be fitted, as he proceeds in his career, to fill positions of the highest responsibility.
At the present time, as the House knows, the powers of my right hon. Friend in this matter are extremely 1042 limited. I think he has certain powers of retirement on pension under the Act of 1935. He has power under that Act to retire on pension the head of a Mission—and only the head of a Mission—who becomes persona non grata to the Government to which he is accredited. I take that to mean, in translation, that the Foreign Secretary can retire on pension the head of a Mission who has made himself so much disliked in his post that it is impossible to retain him there. But apart from that, my right hon. Friend has no power in the matter whatever. In those circumstances, any Foreign Secretary has been compelled to fall back upon a solution which is not a solution at all. In those circumstances all that is left to my right hon. Friend to do is to scratch his head and try to think of what post is least important to which such a man can be sent—a man who has committed no crime or grievous error for which he can be dismissed the service, a man who has given many years of devoted service to the State but a man who, for all that, is not able or not qualified to fill the highest posts. The solution of sending such a man to a post of small importance has never been a good one, it is not a good one to-day, and when the war is over it would be a fatal one, because when the war comes to an end, there will be none of our Missions abroad which will be of small importance.
It is necessary, therefore, to find some other solution. Of course, theoretically my right hon. Friend has a solution now. Theoretically he can pitch such a man out of the Service and throw him on the street without a penny to his name. But we must face facts as they are, and we must take my right hon. Friend as we find him. He is not of that calibre. And I must say that, looking round the House, I do not see anyone who is likely to succeed him who would be of tougher metal in that particular respect. This Clause 2 of the Bill therefore does give him in practice, a power which my right hon. Friend has always had in theory, to retire on pension a member of the Service who is not just good enough to fill the highest posts. As I explained in the earlier Debate, this is not really giving any new power to my right hon. Friend that he or any successor of his can use tyrannically. My right hon. Friend has the power to-day to put a man 1043 on the shelf, to place him en disponibilité as the phrase goes, and this Bill gives him only the power to retire such a man on a pension on which he may be able to live.
The Bill, however, does disturb the expectation which a member of the Foreign Service at present has, that if his health remains good, if he has no serious illness which unfits him for the Service and if he commits no grievous fault which would merit dismissal from the Service, he can expect to remain a member of the Service until he is 60 years of age. The Bill changes that. The Bill provides that he can be retired before he reaches the age of 60. In other words, the conditions of employment have been materially and adversely affected by the unilateral action of the employer. In those circumstances it is proposed in the Bill that certain compensation should be made to the man who loses his expectation of employment. It is proposed that the pension granted to him on his retirement should be at a slightly higher rate than the pension to which he would be entitled, if he were retired under the existing Superannuation Acts.
I will try to explain to the House the measure of this increase, which is not a very big one. At present under the Superannuation Acts a man on retirement receives as yearly pension 1/80th part of his retiring salary for every year's service, and he receives, in addition to that pension, a lump-sum payment. The retiring pension and the lump-sum payment are subject to certain maxima. These are that the pension shall not exceed one-half the retiring salary and the lump-sum payment shall not exceed one-and-a-half year's pay. Under the Bill, those maxima are retained, but within them certain modifications are proposed. It is proposed that the Foreign Secretary shall have power to increase the pension by £100 a year above the rate laid down in the Superannuation Acts and to increase the lump-sum payment by £300 above the payment laid down in those Acts. The limits of £100 in the case of the annual pension of £300 in the case of the lump sum, are qualified, however, by the fact that the Foreign Secretary is allowed to make additional payments above the £100 in the one case, and the £300 in the 1044 other, to bring up the pension, if necessary, to the rate of £300 a year and to bring up the lump sum, if necessary, to the figure of £900.
I will explain to the House briefly how that is to operate by taking two different cases. I take first the case of a man who has had 20 years' service in the Foreign Service and whose salary is £1,200 a year. Under the Superannuation Acts he would be entitled to £300 a year pension and £900 lump sum. Under this proposal he would get £400 a year pension and £1,200 lump sum. In other words, the pension would be put up by £100 and the lump sum by £300, in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. The other case is that of a man who has had 16 years' service in the Foreign Service and whose salary is £900 a year. Under the Superannuation Acts he would be entitled to £ year pension and, I think, £540 lump sum payment. Under the Bill he would get £300 a year pension and £ lump sum; that is to say, his pension would be increased by £120 instead of by £100 and the lump-sum payment by more than the £300 laid down in the Bill.
§ Mr. Leach (Bradford, Central)
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the proposal which he is now outlining will cover the case of an officer who has to retire on the ground of ill-health before he has completed the full period of service?
§ Mr. Law
No, Sir, this proposal would not cover such a case. The increase in the pension and the lump sum which is proposed for the officer who is about to be retired because he is not fitted for the highest posts, is being given because the conditions of his employment are being materially worsened by the action proposed under the Bill. If it were not for this Bill, he would know when he entered the Service that he could go on until he reached the age of 60 and that unless he became seriously ill or unless he committed some serious fault, he would be safe for life. Under this Bill, my right hon. Friend will have the power to retire him on pension before he reaches the age of 60. The same considerations do not apply in the case of a man who is pensioned because of ill-health, because he knew when he went into the Service that that was one of the conditions of his service. I do not think I need detain the 1045 House any longer to explain the provisions of the Bill. I would only remind the House that it is a temporary war-time Measure.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
May I ask my right hon. Friend a question? I do so with some hesitation, because we appreciate the care with which he has explained the Bill. Is not the use of the phrase "not quite first class" unfortunate? Is there not a real analogy between this and the other Services. In the Army and Navy, for instance, if there are more candidates available for a post than there are vacancies, the best candidates are selected, and the others are rejected. I would ask my right hon. Friend to make that point clear.
§ Mr. Law
I am grateful to my noble Friend for his interjection. He has put the point extremely well and more clearly than I was able to do. It is the purpose of the Bill, not to retire second-class people, but to retire people when the competition for the highest posts becomes so keen, as I hope it will become, that it is impossible to fit every candidate into those posts. I was saying that this Bill is intended only as a temporary and wartime Measure. As was indicated in the White Paper which was presented three months ago, it is to be followed after the war by a more far-reaching Bill consolidating the whole pensions system in the Foreign Service. In the meantime, I would assure the House that in the view of my right hon. Friend it is very necessary that we should have this Bill now, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
The right hon. Gentleman has very lucidly stated the limited purpose of the Bill, and we have little cause for criticism of the proposals embodied in it. The House has had the opportunity comparatively recently of discussing the comprehensive proposals for reform stated in the White Paper, and the House endorsed those proposals in it which are now embodied in this Bill. All of us accept the view, I think, that unification of the Foreign Service, including the Consular Service, must take place, and in the post-war period, when the great work of reconstruction goes on in all parts of the world, and when diplomacy and the activities of our re- 1046 presentatives abroad will matter very much, it is important that the Service should be put in order, greater efficiency secured and the proposals now before the House adopted as soon as possible. I am sure that all of us will welcome the greater prospects which will be opened out to younger, more energetic and more live men as the result of the adoption of these suggestions. It will give the Secretary of State the opportunity to retire from the Service those men who are not perhaps now sufficiently competent to pull their weight and men who fall short of the calibre which is required for the efficient discharge of their duties. Indeed, the Secretary of State has admitted his present difficulties, and the Under-Secretary has underlined them. In the White Paper he said that he:has not been free, in practice, to move a man from a Mission abroad to a post in the Foreign Office without consideration of the effect which such a transfer might have on the individual concerned. The efficiency of the Service has undoubtedly suffered in consequencenot only in that direction but in others, and the freedom of the Secretary of State to secure the maximum efficiency has been impeded. The duty of removing men from the Service is an unpleasant and disagreeable one. Those of us who have been privileged on occasions to meet members of the Service serving abroad are conscious that there are men of not quite the quality which we would like to see in the Service and large numbers of younger men of drive and energy, enterprise and imagination whose passage in the Service ought not to be blocked by what deadwood there might be in the way. That was my own observation a few months ago during my visit to America. All over the Continent one discovered extraordinarily able young men filling consular posts and discharging their responsibilities with great skill and a high standard of efficiency. Therfore, one hopes that the purpose which the Secretary of State has in mind will be met by this Bill and that he will speedily and purposefully apply the changes which we all know to be necessary to increase the efficiency of the Service.
I am a little doubtful whether the terms of the Bill are not too narrowly drafted. The Under-Secretary just now referred to the fact that only certain grades are involved in the Bill—first secretaries and upwards. I do not want to see anything 1047 in the nature of a general purge of the Service, but I would hope that consideration might be given to the inclusion within the scope of the Bill of classes which are inferior to those which are included, in order that promotion may be more rapid and that the Service may have the advantage of younger and more go-ahead men who will be available.
I assume from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that the right to retire is one that will be imposed by the Secretary of State and that the initiative cannot come from the man himself. That is important; otherwise a premium will be put on inefficiency. People will take advantage of the facilities this Bill provides and of a practice, which has been rare in the public service of this country, of men being encouraged because of their contacts and activities to seek prospects outside the Service while they are already in it. I think that would be most unfortunate.
There is one point I would like to make in regard to the initiative which can be taken by the Secretary of State. It does often happen that men with very great qualities, men of great initiative and enterprise, do not always fit well into a team. They are not too conforming, they are not exactly "Yes-men." Nevertheless, they are men of great ability, but they may, on occasions, be singled out as misfits in a Service because they are not too accommodating in their views and their activities in the Missions or the places to which they go. As the recommendations are likely to be made to the Secretary of State through men who, possibly, have grown somewhat complacent, somewhat conforming, I hope it will not happen that the men singled out for retirement are just those who have a little more go and a little more initiative but who show themselves a little less conforming than other members of the Service. I do not want men to be penalised largely because they are not sufficiently complacent or conforming with the rules of the Service.
With the general terms of the Bill we find ourselves, I think, in agreement. It seems to me that the Bill is fair and reasonable. Obviously one should be generous. Large numbers of these men will not have had the opportunity of living in this country or building up homes. The cost of transfer home on retirement is 1048 likely to be heavy, and therefore there is a case to be made out for the provisions of the Bill to operate for men who have given good service to the State. On this side of the House we are always happy to note how ready the House is to meet generously the special problems of those who have given generous service to the State, and we would wish that the same generosity should operate towards the toilers in industry generally, who make an equally necessary contribution to the life of the State, but in another way.
There are one or two questions I should like to ask the Secretary of State. Are we to assume that in all cases the initiative will have to be taken by the Secretary of State in the event of retirement? The Under-Secretary has already answered a question as to persons who suffer a breakdown in health. Will he also tell me why it is that only grades of the status of first secretary and upwards can be dealt with under this Bill? Would it not be wise to make provision so that any lower class grade men equally unsatisfactory do not block the way of younger people coming up? In paragraph 30 of the White Paper there is a reference, I believe, to some provision being made for subordinate branches of the Service, but I am not clear as to the implications of it. Again, the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Bill is purely a war Measure and is limited in its application. I should like it to be made clear whether it is proposed that the Bill should lapse with the conclusion of the war. Is it really hoped that these far-reaching changes can be carried through in so short a time, and will it not happen that the Minister will require these powers for some considerable time after the war is over? Further, can we now satisfy ourselves that these proposals do cover all sections of the new Foreign Service? Will there be left any non-pensionable officers or officials blocking the way with whom the Secretary of State has no power to deal? I should like to be sure that the provisions of the Bill are as comprehensive as they need to be in order to achieve the changes which we are all anxious should be brought about.
The Secretary of State is anxious to have an adequate instrument to make the Service effective. He points out that the reforms are not likely to involve the country in very much additional expense, and in any case it is a small price to pay for a thoroughly efficient Foreign Service. 1049 With those views we agree, and therefore it will be our intention to assist the passage of the Bill through this House as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
I am told that the late Provost of Eton used to do "The Times" crossword puzzle whilst boiling his breakfast egg, and as a great many Members wish to speak I will try to compress my remarks into an equally brief space of time. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) said the object of this Bill was to ensure greater efficiency, and I am certain that all would agree that we can only ensure greater efficiency if we draw the best brains into the Service. We can only do this by giving adequate remuneration; otherwise we shall find men of ability seeking a livelihood in industry or commerce. Looking at the exchequer of the Foreign and Consular Services this year I see we spend £742,000 on the Foreign Service and £1,000,000 on the Consular Service. I do not believe that these sums can in any way be called excessive, especially when we look to the future. We must realise that the Foreign Service of the future will be passing from a comparatively rich Service to a poor Service, that in future our diplomats abroad will not in every case be able to rely upon private incomes, and that it may be possible to enter the British Embassy in Washington or in Moscow in 1965 and find there as Ambassador not a man formerly at Winchester or Eton but one who has worked his way up from a secondary school in Oldham, Huddersfield, or Glasgow.
Looking at the pay of our representatives overseas, it falls roughly under three heads: First of all, the salary, which is subject to Income Tax in this country; secondly, Foreign Service allowance or frais as it is known to the heads of our Missions; and, lastly, rent allowance. I believe that the heads of our Missions abroad are well-looked after financially, but I am not so satisfied about those in the lower ranks of the Service. A young man of ability and ambition arrives in a foreign capital. He wishes to impress his chief, to make valuable contacts, and I am not certain that he has adequate financial remuneration to enable him to carry on that work efficiently. I was likewise impressed by the fact that many members of the Foreign Service who have families to support, especially children to 1050 educate, do have a difficult time financially. I hope that it will be possible in the future to grant something like a marriage allowance for members of the Foreign Service. Thirdly, and this is a very genuine grievance, while I understand the Office of Works finds furniture for embassies and legations, in many cases the Minister or Ambassador has to provide his own linen, his own cooking utensils and whatever else is desirable. I am told that if, for instance, a Minister is transferred from Teheran to Buenos Aires the State pays for the transport of his goods but that when he arrives he may find himself with a large embassy, far larger than he was used to, and will have to provide out of his own pocket for cooking utensils, silver, etc. I think it is undignified that an ambassador should be engaged in a scramble for saucepans, and I feel that the State should make itself responsible for all furnishings in embassies and legations.
There is one other point in conclusion, namely the question of numbers. I believe it is vitally important that the members of embassies and legations overseas should not remain all the time in the capital cities but should visit the great provincial cities as much as possible. I am told that should our Ambassador in Washington decide to send a junior member of his staff on an investigation, say to Oklahoma he is able to claim travelling expenses and his keep, but what usually happens is that owing to the shortage of staff in the embassies these junior members are sitting 12 hours a day at their desks. Therefore, I regard it as vitally important that our Foreign Service should have increased numbers, and particularly is this true of the Consular Service. I am told there are countless cases where our consuls overseas are never able to take as much as one day's leave, that they are constantly badgered, and with work continually on their hands, and I am certain that efficiency suffers in consequence. These are principally the points I wish to make: Consideration of higher pay for the lower ranks of our Foreign Service, the possibility of marriage allowances, the possibility that the State should find all furnishings for embassies, and, lastly, that we should consider increased numbers. I believe we always have to pay for quality. It is as true of this as of anything else, that you cannot buy a Cartier watch at Woolworth prices.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
Three months ago the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a splendid speech. For clarity of expression and lucidity of explanation I have seldom heard a better speech in this House, and the Foreign Secretary, who was absent at that time in the United States, need have had no fear as to what would happen regarding the explanation of these proposals, part of which are finding expression in the Bill before us to-day. They have interested industrialists and have been considered by various chambers of commerce throughout the country, and I am very glad to tell the Foreign Secretary that without exception these proposals and the powers in the Bill have had the very warmest approval throughout the length and breadth of the country.
The Under-Secretary started to-day by saying that the Bill would give powers to the Foreign Secretary to retire men who did not prove to be efficient for the higher posts, those who had proved failures. The noble Lord interrupted and asked whether the Under-Secretary of State was not doing these men rather an injustice. The Under-Secretary replied that there were many applicants for these posts and that men who were suitable had to be selected. In that connection he went back on what he had said in the earlier part of his speech, while in the proposals made three months ago he said that the Bill would give power to the Foreign Secretary to retire men who had proved unsuited to positions of higher responsibility and for whom other employment could not be found. What the Under-Secretary said in the beginning of his speech, and not what he said in reply to the noble Lord, is what is embodied in the Bill.
In his speech of three months ago he said that the Foreign Office was not inefficient and that times had changed. There is no doubt about this, and the services required from His Majesty's Missions abroad have altered enormously during the last 25 years. It is a matter of great credit to the Foreign Secretary that he has realised this fact. As the right hon. Gentleman said just now, the men who are going out to posts in various parts of the world should have proper remuneration for the job they are doing. Many of them have not had it in the past. In the old days His Majesty's Missions abroad were concerned mainly with high policy and 1052 with political matters requiring astuteness, secrecy and, sometimes, intrigue. Speaking as an industrialist, my view is that His Majesty's Missions abroad must in future be the handmaidens of commerce and industry, as well as engaged in maintaining good relationships with foreign countries. The Foreign Secretary is one of the first to recognise the fact that changes have come over the whole field of foreign diplomacy and that the men who are sent out to our foreign Missions must not only be interested in diplomacy and strategy but must know something about trade, industry and commerce.
When I have gone into foreign countries I have made very little use of our foreign Missions as a business man, but just before Hitler walked into Poland in 1939 I was in touch with our foreign Mission there, and I received very valuable assistance from that commercial consul. Generally speaking, business men do not make use of our foreign Missions. That may partly be their fault, but to a great extent it is the fault of the members of our Missions. They have not understood business and commerce sufficiently well in the past, and they have not sufficiently advertised their wares or their ability to meet the requirements of those who were desirous of winning foreign trade. In South American countries, of which I have had some experience, the organisation of some of our Missions is very inadequate and not very helpful to trade interests. Our Foreign Minister appears to be the first who has realised that the old basis of such Missions as to diplomacy and as the special preserve of the sons of families of high social status and the hallmark of social connection is passing away, and that in the future a not less important sphere of usefulness opens before them. The Foreign Minister has also showed himself aware of the changed necessities of life. The proposed reform is a step in the right direction and will be approved by industrial interests throughout the whole of the country.
The conditions in which our Diplomatic Service grew up no longer exist in international affairs. In the future, many countries will loom much larger in commerce and industry than at any time in the past. Time after time when I was in South America I came across men working there who were palpably inefficient. It seemed to some of us that South America 1053 was the home for worn out and inefficient men from the Diplomatic Service, as though the Foreign Office said, when they had a man who had proved himself a failure, "Send him to South America."
§ Sir G. Gibson
I also came across cases where posts had been given to men who had no knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese.
§ Sir G. Gibson
I hope that, as a result of this discussion, there will be an entirely different state of affairs in the future, from the point of view of industry as well as of the Foreign Office. Some of the men whom we sent there did not understand the language and had no knowledge of South American affairs. In the case of the U.S.A. and Germany, while they trained their men for specific spheres of usefulness, they usually selected them from commercial circles. In the United States, the German and Italian Missions were invariably well staffed—particularly the German Mission. Since 1939, United States manufacturers have discovered that 1,800 of their agents in South America were Italian or German—the best agents, as it were. I am anxious that in the future the Foreign Department should see to it that we send men out to various countries of the world equipped, as it was intended they should be in the proposals outlined three months ago by the Under-Secretary of State, with a knowledge of the languages and of the trade and industries of the countries to which they are accredited. In some places in South American countries we suffer seriously in our Missions from lack of personnel. In Equador, I understand, the sole Secretary of the Legation was an Equadorian. I would ask whether this was in keeping with the dignity of His Majesty's Missions abroad.
I welcome the Bill. I have come across very finely equipped commercial consuls in South American countries, but they had no opportunity of rising above the commercial consul scale, prior to this 1054 Bill. They were in a blind-alley occupation. These men have not been properly paid, and there is no wonder that they have wanted to get out of the Service and into industry. It is no use expecting to get first-class men on third-class wages, although I know there are lots of men who have first-class wages and give third-class service. Men who are really efficient at their job, and know it and can do it, have a right to be properly paid for the work that they are doing.
Another matter is in regard to the British Income Tax which is paid abroad by members of our Missions. The Finance Bill allows freedom from Income Tax in accordance with the extra cost of living outside the United Kingdom to enable a person to perform his duties, but it is difficult for men who have to face increased costs of living in those countries and at the same time a heavy increase in Income Tax in this country. Sometimes a great amount of entertaining should be done, but the allowances are so meagre that our men cannot afford the opportunity to do the right amount of entertaining which is so necessary in connection with our Missions abroad. I was glad at the proposal outlined by the Under-Secretary of State that, with the amalgamation of these three Services, the men are to be trained not only in diplomacy but in industry and commerce. Those proposals are on the right lines, and they will give to commercial and diplomatic consuls the opportunity of rising to ambassadorial rank. The Foreign Office will also have the opportunity of winning into the higher ranks and of keeping men who are efficient and who otherwise might have been kept in the lower grades, such as that of commercial consuls.
The Foreign Secretary referred to the fact that the proposals would mean that, when retiring, these men could not go back to the poverty line. Even though a man has proved himself somewhat inefficient in his work, I should be sorry to see him treated in that way. Even though men have not proved as efficient as we hoped, they have at any rate given us their best, and they deserve something more than being kept just above the poverty line. I am glad that the expression of views by the Under-Secretary three months ago has not been carried out in the Bill, which deals much more generously with those people. I think the Bill will meet with the approval of 1055 all people in this country who are interested in the export trade. I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary to consider bringing in a Bill after the war to deal with this matter, giving a man an opportunity of learning languages, of having a year at home and perhaps six months in industry and six months in the Foreign Service. If the war lasts five years, it will take nearly five years to bring in a comprehensive scheme to deal with the whole Civil Service on the lines of the proposals set out in the White Paper. We must not wait too long, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will keep it very alertly before his mind, because our competitors will be on the job, waiting for foreign trade immediately the war is over. They will not wait year after year to go after the trade.
There is another question I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary. Why should the Board of Trade and the Department of Overseas Trade be represented on the Appointments Board only when appointments to the commercial and diplomatic posts are under consideration? Why should they not be present and take part in all the appointments, seeing that these three Services are amalgamated into one great Service? I cannot understand why they should only be called into consultation when the highest appointments are being made.
In conclusion, with regard to the visits abroad to our various Missions of representatives from the Foreign Office to see that they are efficiently doing their work, over and over again I have found, on going abroad on business, that unless one keeps pegging at one's agents abroad and keeps them up to concert pitch, gingering them up a little, they get slack in their work. In one South American country there was one of our Ambassadors two or three years ago who was told by one of my friends that he was going the following day to the industrial centre of that country. The Ambassador said, "I have never been there." It was only 200 miles away from the capital of the country. We do not want that kind of thing. That is not service, that the Ambassador had never even visited the industrial centre of that country. Therefore our people who go out from here visiting them from time [...] time should look into these matters and ginger them up, keep them up to their 1056 job. It is the only way you get the fullest protection and highest efficiency from your agents abroad, and I suppose that applies in the Foreign Office as in industry and commerce. I wish the Foreign Secretary every support I can possibly afford him and which I hope the House will afford him in this great work which he has commenced. In the future there may be tremendous issues in this matter, and this reorganisation of the Foreign Service may play an important part in the future prosperity of this country, greater than any of us might dream at the moment. The step which the Foreign Secretary has taken is one in the right direction in order that after the war we may still not only obtain but retain our pre-eminent place among the nations of the earth.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his return to this country and on the admirable work which from all accounts he has been doing on the other side of the Atlantic. He put forward once again the views of the Government in a very clear manner to-day. This Bill follows as a necessary consequence[...] of the Debate which took place in March. I am very glad there is to be no further delay. That has already been considerable since the Minister announced his proposals rather more than 18 months ago. This Bill represents a necessary and an excellent but small advance. It is, of course, without prejudice to the much larger question which may not be touched upon in this Debate, and which I will describe in one sentence. That is, the large reform which involves the whole re-organisation of the machinery which is responsible for foreign affairs, which would include the coordination in some form under one Minister of not only the work of the Foreign Office but some of that of the Ministry of Information, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Economic Warfare and also some questions of finance. Quite clearly at some stage it will be necessary, in the new age, for concentration to be entered into in this connection. One cannot do more than mention it as a matter of the utmost importance for the conduct of foreign affairs.
I am glad the decision has been taken to amalgamate the three different branches of the Foreign Service. Perhaps I, who 1057 have given more trouble than any other Member of this House to the officials of the Foreign Office in past years through the large number of Questions which I have felt necessary in the public interest to put to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, may pay a tribute to the Foreign Office and its staff for the admirable manner in which I know they carry out their duties within the scope of their powers and on the basis of the way that things have been done up to the present time. They are a most devoted and conscientious band, and I am sure they deserve very well indeed of the country. They have done their very best. They are the agents, not makers, of policy whether here or representing us in other parts of the world. It is the Minister in the Government who makes the policy. They do their best to pass it over to other Countries.
My right hon. Friend now recognises that we have passed into a more democratic age, that there should be a wider scope for recruitment. Obviously the world is narrowing, and the introduction of the wireless and aeroplanes, and the way that Ministers and heads of Governments now have of themselves meeting and discussing questions very often has had a great effect. This happened at the League of Nations, and I imagine and hope it will be continued in future as it has been during this war. All these things change the outlook and the status of the foreign representative abroad. The unification of the three branches of the Service, is, I am sure, long overdue. The difference of status which has existed has been quite absurd, in some instances, in the past. I shall not make any reflections on individuals, because during the years before the war I often used to pay visits to different parts of Europe, and I received the greatest courtesy and consideration from the representatives of the British Government wherever I went, and I am most grateful to them. But one could not help forming certain general ideas as to changes that might suitably be made, and, as I say, the difference in status was absurd. There were instances where parties were held, and owing to the different standard that was adopted the Consul was not invited to certain parties held by the Minister. That struck one as being quite a ridiculous difference.
I am bound to say I cannot help thinking that the way the Consul conducts his 1058 business, the contact he has with the nationals of a country, is a very good standard, and I hope that the consular standard will be to a very large extent adopted as to the one to work towards rather than some of the others. It was often the case that the commercial representative was regarded as inferior in status. That should not be so. They all ought to be exactly the same. I am very glad that that is the intention in the future, because the Minister or Ambassador will very likely have to have something of the same qualities as a commercial traveller on the grandest scale. It is quite clear that there will be State purchase on a very large scale between countries, and the British representative will have to know more about it, will have to be qualified to understand what is happening in a great commercial State transaction of that kind.
The duty of a British representative abroad is to interpret over here the views of the country where he is. Often he is extremely successful, but not always. The British Council interprets Great Britain to foreign countries, and the British Ambassador should interpret foreign countries to this country. In introducing the Bill just now, my right hon. Friend said that the Foreign Secretary possessed the power at the present time—I think it was almost the only power he possessed—to pension a British representative when he had made himself Persona non grata to the country to which he was accredited. That raises a very interesting point, because there are types of cases in which it would not be the duty of a British representative to make him self popular with the country where he was our representative. I have in mind Nazi Germany before the war. It might well have been the duty of the British representative to be unpopular, and to show firmly but politely what he thought of the people with whom he was called upon to be associated. However, that is to be put right. In future the Foreign Secretary will be able to deal with all and sundry, whether they are rightly popular or rightly unpopular as the case may be.
I do hope that the Minister's representatives abroad, Ambassadors or Ministers, will feel it is their duty to get right down to the people, and not to be content with a small round of diplomatic dinners which has sometimes been the 1059 case in the past—that is not enough—or merely to visit people who are decorative remnants of a former régime. They need to know the people who are in power and who represent the main mass of the country. They need, if possible, to know something of their language, to understand their art, their literature, to go to their theatres and not only be content with shooting and hunting, which are very agreeable pastimes in their due place. It should be their duty to see the national life from ballet to baseball. I hope our representatives in future, if a country should arise such as Nazi Germany, would know a criminal type when they saw him and say so, and report it back, and that we shall have no more back-slapping or encouraging popularity among people of a criminal type.
I wish well to these proposals of my right hon. Friend. I have the utmost confidence in his conduct of foreign affairs, and I am sure that under him this Service will rise to greater heights than it ever has before. I believe those who will come into the Foreign Service in future will serve this country loyally to the very best of their ability, and I believe too that they will be proud to serve not only their own country but the larger purposes of the United Nations, embracing, I hope in due course, though it may be a distant ideal, the whole of mankind.
§ Miss Ward (Wallsend)
My right hon. Friends must be extremely pleased at the reception which the Bill has had. I should like to add my congratulations. I have only one regret: that is, that such a practical Bill, with such vision behind it, should have had to wait until the fourth year of the war. I can well believe that the proposals of this Bill would have been of very great advantage not only to the present Foreign Secretary but to past Foreign Secretaries. I have wondered why a Bill of this nature has not been introduced before. I think I know the answer. I understand that my right hon. Friend has for a considerable period been fighting behind the scenes a battle, without success, against the Treasury. I come down to saying, as I have tried to say in this House on more than one occasion, that I think it is a condemnation of our democratic system that proposals such as we are discussing to-day, which are urgently required by a responsible 1060 Minister, should be held up by the Treasury, and that the responsible Minister has not the authority to come to the House of Commons and to ask Members to back his request against the Treasury obstruction.
I was very interested in some of the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr). It is quite true, in relation to the wider problems of international relationships, that these are very small points, but we know from past history that very small irritations have often had very big results. It seems to me that, in view of the position of Great Britain and the British Empire, the fact that we have to fight over tiny details, which would add considerably to the prestige of our foreign missions, is not worthy of the traditions of Great Britain. I discussed the matter with a friend of mine who is connected with the Treasury, and asked him why there has been this obstruction to these proposals. His answer was, "Well, the Foreign Secretary cannot have put up a strong enough case. That I cannot believe, unless, in the important work that the Foreign Secretary has to perform, he has not time to argue with the Treasury over domestic details. I make these comments only because I hope that some of the practical proposals that have already been commented upon by other hon. Members, with regard to the provision of sufficient funds for our foreign missions, will not in future be received grudgingly by the Treasury. I hope that my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary will, without argument, get everything they want to enable them to do justice to our representation in foreign countries. When my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary introduced the discussion on the original proposals, he ventured upon a very able philosophical argument, upon which I congratulate him. He said:
A great many people believe that the Foreign Office is responsible for the formulation of foreign policy and is, in large degree, the final arbiter of peace or war. That is not the case. It may be said that our foreign policy between the two wars was mistaken. Speaking from this vantage-point of time, I would say myself that it was tragically mistaken, and I think probably all hon. Members of this House would agree with me, though the basis of their agreement might be different from mine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1943; col. 1358, Vol. 387.]Then he went on in a very able philosophical strain, which I was very glad to 1061 hear put across from the Treasury Bench. As the discussion has followed many unusual channels, considering the provisions of the Bill, perhaps I might say this one word. I hope that when the war is over, having regard to the speech made by my right hon. Friend, this House of Commons and the country will have the benefit of having presented to them all the documents relating to that period when, as my right hon. Friend very rightly said, our foreign policy was wrongly interpreted by the Foreign Office chiefs of that day—I take it that what he meant to say, although he did not say it quite so bluntly as I do, was that certain Foreign Secretaries in the past were not a success in interpreting the information that was provided by their Foreign Service. I want the House of Commons to be informed as to how the information, which was available from the Foreign Service, was wrongly interpreted by the political chiefs and by the Cabinet of the day. I do not want us, when we have built up a fine Foreign Service after this war, to have its work scuppered by inefficient political interpretation. I was very glad to hear the tributes which were paid to my right hon. Friends, and I heartily associate myself with those tributes; but there is a future, and I believe that this House of Commons ought to learn from the past. If we build a Foreign Service which can advance a wise policy and which can create confidence in the British effort and the British philosophy of life in those countries where the Foreign Service is representing our interests, it is deplorable that the information that is provided should be misinterpreted and misrepresented by the political chiefs.
§ Mr. Mander
Does my hon. Friend not realise that there were occasions when Ministers refused to listen to the expert advice tendered by the Foreign Office?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I have been listening to the hon. Lady's remarks very carefully. Perhaps we might now leave the matter as being irrelevant to the Bill.
§ Miss Ward
I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for allowing me to make my point. I have said what I wanted to say, and I have no wish to enter into a controversy with my hon. Friend. But I hope that some day the documents will be available to us, so that we may judge.
1062 I do not intend to raise the issue of the right of women to enter the Diploma tic Service, because I realise that that would be right outside even the Title of the Bill, but I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that this was only, so to speak, a temporary Bill. I realise that we cannot establish our right within this war period to take part in the foreign service of the future. We are grateful for the promise given by my right hon. Friend that there shall be a Committee to consider the position as soon as the war ends. I had expected that this Bill was going to be the final word, and, speaking for my women colleagues in this House, and, to a large extent, for the women of the country, I felt, that the decision was unfortunate. But as this is not to be the final word, I feel that I need not be obstreperous on that point. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friends, and I hope that this Bill will do what they wish by increasing further the efficiency of the Foreign Service.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
Unlike the last three hon. Members who have spoken, I have no desire to trespass out-side the scope of the Bill; it affords ample opportunity for the exercise of such debating power as I possess, and I feel no temptation to go outside it. Before I come to the main burden of my remarks, I would like to ask a few questions on details. Has the Foreign Secretary fixed an age below which an official may not be retired? I understand that no one may be retired below the rank of first secretary, and that gives us some idea of age; but I would like to know whether he has fixed a definite age below which he will not retire anyone. My second point concerns Clause 6. I thought it a very curious Clause when I read the Bill, and I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his explanation, As this is only a war-time Measure, and a comprehensive Bill is promised when the war ends, I hope there will be no similar Clause in that Bill, and that by that time the Parliamentary draftsmen will have discovered all the enactments which need to be amended and will have made provision in the Bill itself. I understand the difficulties under which the draftsmen work, and I think their numbers should he increased. I am making no criticism of the draftsmen, who do a difficult job very well.
1063 My third question arises out of the Sixth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. That Report recommended the creation of Organisation and Methods Department in Government offices. I wonder whether it is proposed to set up any such department in the Foreign Office. It might easily obviate the need for the powers under which this Bill is introduced, by removing some of the inefficiencies against which this Bill is directed. Incidentally, we have noticed to-day the difficulty of describing the need for this Bill without offending the susceptibilities of the persons to be affected by it. Obviously, in the Foreign Secretary's judgment, this Bill is immediately necessary, because we are promised a comprehensive Bill to deal with the whole question after the war. I think that the members of the Foreign Service who are to be axed by the Bill should be notified as soon as possible, in order that they should not be left in suspense.
I come to the main purpose of my short speech. I am sorry to introduce a jarring note towards the end of the party. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will not think that he has come back from Hot Springs into hot water. This Bill raises many anxieties in my mind. We all recognise the purposes for which it is introduced. We all know, by acquaintance or by description, persons in the Foreign Service who are ceasing to fulfil the promise of their youth. I deeply sympathise with the Foreign Secretary in his desire to retire them gracefully and without offence. But I am very apprehensive about the uses to which these powers might be put—not by the present Foreign Secretary, for I have great confidence in him, as I think have most Members in this House; but he will not always be Foreign Secretary. We are making provision for some time ahead, and I think it will be clear on reflection that these powers might be used to get rid, not of people who are ceasing to fulfil the promise of their youth or who are unfitted for the higher posts, but people who are politically inconvenient. Any Foreign Secretary would be indignant at that suggestion, and rightly so; but it is very easy for us to imagine that people with whose political opinions we disagree have a special dose of original sin or are incompetent or something of that sort, and I 1064 would not like Foreign Secretaries to be exposed to that temptation.
The parallel drawn with the Armed Forces is misleading. As I understand it, subordinate officers of the Armed Forces, and of the police also, are retired because they do not possess after middle age the physical qualities necessary to carry out the duties of those ranks—physical qualities which are not needed in the highest posts. Considerations of that kind do not arise in the Foreign Service. The removal of a man from a very cold country to a very hot country might put some strain upon him, but there is not a great deal of physical strain involved in the normal work of the Foreign Service. But the Foreign Service does call for some qualities that can only be obtained with age and experience. It calls not only for knowledge but for judgment and for tact —qualities which are more likely to be prevalent in age than in youth. I fully agree with all the hon. Members have said about older men in the Foreign Service who are not fulfilling their jobs adequately. I recognise all that, but I do not want to go over the same ground. What I fear is, that in aiming at perfection we might escape the best.
The proper service of the State demands a large number of people who are not deterred by economic considerations from expressing their opinions fearlessly. I should deprecate very strongly the day in which members of the Foreign Service felt, through economic considerations, that they had to trim their sails to the political wind, as might possibly happen. I have been conscious in my journalistic life of many foreign correspondents who send home messages that do not really depict the true state of the countries to which they are sent but are the kind of messages they know their editors will want to receive. I hope that we shall not get that kind of thing in the Foreign Service. Hon. Members to-day have not introduced any names from recent history; I propose to follow their example, and in order to give an instance I shall have to go back a long time. I take the case of Sir James Hudson, who was our Minister in Turin before the unification by Italy. He was recalled to report in the eighteen-fifties by Lord Malmesbury. It is Certain that if Lord Malmesbury had possessed the powers given in this Bill that Hudson would have been retired on pension, but 1065 the Foreign Secretary at that day did not possess such powers; he was allowed to go on and did most excellent work for this country and for the general peace of Europe
I do not wish to oppose this Bill. I realise the good purpose for which it is intended, but I would like to utter this warning note, that it is capable of misuse, and the best antidote against misuse is a strong warning from this House. I have said that the proper service of the State demands a large number of people who have what we on our Labour platforms call "economic security," and in recent years the economic security of large numbers of people has been undermined little by little. The valuable part that we can play in this House rests on two foundations. One is the privilege that protects us while we are speaking and the other is our irremovability between elections. It is true that the imminence of an election might possibly cause us to modify our innermost feelings, but until an election comes we can speak our minds freely. That I think is a foundation of the great service we can render to the country. The judges of the High Court have this economic security in doing their job, and it is essential to the performance of that job. The incumbents of the Church of England have it, although their bishops are continually trying to deprive them of it. The Fellows of Oxford and Cambridge colleges used to have it, but they have been deprived of it by one means or other, with certain distinctions. In the college to which the Under Secretary and I both have the honour to belong there is a subtle distinction between a Fellow, who can be deposed for immorality, and the President, who can be deposed only for gross immorality. But the economic security of Oxford and Cambridge dons has gone, and I think that there is a loss to the State in it.
I would not like to see members of the Foreign Service put in the position that, from fear of losing their jobs, they would modify their political advice in order to support the political views of the Foreign Secretary of the day. I make no plea on party grounds. It may well be, if the fears I have expressed are realised, that Socialists or quasi-Socialists in the Foreign Service would be dismissed; but it might happen equally well, if there were a Socialist Foreign Secretary, that people of other political views might be dismissed 1066 without any intention on the part of the Foreign Secretary overstepping the bounds of decorum. These are powers which can be very dangerous. They resemble the power given to doctors under euthanasia. It might be a very great advantage—leaving aside metophysical considerations, with all respect to the hon. Lady behind me—to be able to get rid of people who are no longer fitted for the advanced years of life; but most of us will admit that these are dangerous powers to put into the hands of any doctor. They might get rid not only of the tuberculous or cancerous and so on, but of many people who were disliked for one reason or another. That is the kind of consideration that forces me to utter a word of warning on this question. These powers are even less necessary, because there are so many types of post in the Foreign Service to which a man can be sent.
The Under-Secretary has explained that after the war all posts will be important. That is true. He has also explained that all members of the Foreign Service are good, so that really his remarks cancel each other out. What is undeniable is, that while all posts are important, there is a priority among them. Washington, Paris, Moscow and Chungking, if it should remain the capital of China, will undoubtedly have a priority over other posts, and there are a very large number of extremely agreeable places of exile in the Foreign Service to which a man can be sent, without any disrespect to the countries concerned, if he is not capable of fulfilling the highest posts. I have expressed the anxieties which are in my mind. I do not wish, as I have said, to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, but I hope that the powers under it will be used sparingly and with discretion.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is having a gala day, and I wish to add my very humble meed of praise for this excellent little Bill. We had very few opportunities from these benches in the Debate on the White Paper to express our viewpoints, and as this is the Second Reading of a Bill which is really part of that White Paper, I hope that some slight latitude will be allowed to me to refer to provisions which will presumably come in later Bills although not in this Bill itself. The first point I 1067 would like to make is that the first three paragraphs of the White Paper are altogether too apologetic. They have so understated the case for the Foreign Service as to be altogether too apologetic. The brief experience of the Foreign Service that I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed has left me with an impression of a number of able and devoted public servants working immensely long hours, very often at great personal sacrifice, and to suggest or to allow to be suggested that the faults of our pre-war foreign policy rested on the Foreign Service and not on this House and the Cabinet is really nonsense. I go further, and I say that time has shown, possibly with one exception, that our Foreign Service is the best in the world. The only possible exception would perhaps be the Dutch, who appear to be most remarkably efficient and have a wonderful Foreign Service in all its branches, which brings me to this little point.
There are already places in which our representation is entrusted in vice-consular posts to non-British nationals. It may be possible after the war to find places where we can combine our representation with the Dutch. They are the people above all whose mental processes and habits, and whose instincts and everything else are so similar to ours that I believe that if in some places the services could be combined it would be to the benefit of our two Empires whose closer integration in future is something to which I personally look forward.
Paragraph 13 of the White Paper contains a point to which I would like to make a reference. The first sentence reads:By facilitating the transfer to the Foreign Office of senior officers of experience, more effective interchange between posts at home and abroad will become the rule.It may be implicit, but it should be made explicit. It should read: "to and from the Foreign Office." There is just as much disadvantage in people sitting unduly long in that office as there is in those who do not sufficiently often return to it. I very much welcome the point in paragraph 15 with regard to over usual age entrants. That, I am sure, will bring in a category of persons analogous to the valuable political Service entrants to the Indian Civil Service, which has been of 1068 immense value out there. I am sure that this will very greatly help our Foreign Service. Paragraph 33—the admission of women—was most effectively dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) in the last Debate. There is really only one small point I would like to add to his effective condemnation of this absurdity. If you are going to admit women to the Foreign Service at all, clearly they cannot be debarred from the highest posts. If they are to reach the highest posts, what is to be done to meet the position of the derisony figure of the Ambassador's husband? I think that is reductio ad absurdum, and I hope to hear no more of that.
There is one omission from the White Paper which I, personally, very much regret and which is really the main point I want to make. Paragraph 24 of Part II relates to recruitment. Surely if there is one Service which should be an Imperial- Service, it is our Foreign Service. Why is no reference made in that paper to Dominion recruitment? I know, of course, that the Service is open to Dominion recruitment and that on the very small Dominion intake we have had so far we have had quite exceptional results. But I would like to see in the next Bill that is introduced special provision made to encourage Dominion recruitment. For example, there are certain zones which more particularly concern other sister nations of the British Commonwealth. Ought not there to be recruitment to the Foreign Service on a population basis between the self-governing Dominions? Has not Australia a particular interest in one sphere in Asia and Canada in America? Ought not we to aim at creating our Foreign Service primarily as an Imperial service? I trust that in the next Bill special steps will be taken to bring home this field to the Dominions. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I welcome this Bill; it is a triumph for the Foreign Secretary that he has been able to bring it forward. Nothing will give a better return, and I am sure the whole House applauds the Minister on this occasion and gives a welcome to this Bill.
§ Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
I think my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has reason to be satisfied with the way in which his Bill has 1069 been received by the House. Indeed, the harmony is so beautiful that had I come here intending to make a hostile speech I should have burst into tears and have torn up my notes, but as it is I can join in the congratulations which have been vouchsafed to my right hon. Friend today, more particularly so as I think this is the first Bill in human memory which the Foreign Office has presented. I do not remember another one, and I asked my right hon. Friend if he did, but he does not remember one either. In the spate and orgy of legislation from which we have been suffering so long, I think the Foreign Office can congratulate itself that this small and worth-while Bill is the first that they have presented for a very long time. I listened with great interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He did not descend—and I think rightly—too much into detail, thus living up to what is, or ought to be, the motto of his family De minimis non curat lex.
This is a somewhat technical Bill, and I do not think it is necessary to go too much into detail. None the less I wish to ask one or two questions, not in a spirit of hostility, but rather with a view to seeking information, and to make one or two suggestions. I am not very happy about one or two aspects of Clause 2. I know that superannuation can only take place from the rank of first secretary and upwards, the average age being about 34 or 35 at the present time. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be wise to take powers at any time, say in two, three, four or five years, if a man is not suitable for the Foreign Service, to ask him to retire, under pension if necessary. It seems to me that when the proposals in the Command Paper are brought into being it is quite possible that there may be a number of recruits, who come in without examination, and who are subsequently found to be unsuitable for that Service. The powers of selection will no doubt be wisely exercised, but it is quite possible that there will be some who are not really doing their job and of whom it would be thought wise that they should either leave the Service altogether or go into another branch of the Civil Service. I notice there is nothing in the Bill to provide that if the Foreign Secretary is of the opinion that a man is not very suitable for the 1070 Foreign Service he should have power to recommend that he should be transferred to another part of the Civil Service. I think that point is worth consideration because it is possible that certain people now in the Foreign Office perhaps do not get on very well with foreigners. They may be very good administrators, on paper, and be sound and wise, but perhaps they are not particularly suitable for that Service abroad. If that is the case, would it not be advisable to take powers to recommend that such a person be transferred maybe to the Colonial Service or some other branch of the Civil Service, keeping his relative rank, his seniority and his pay? That, of course, I know could only be done by agreement with the Government Department to which it was suggested he should be transferred, but I commend that thought to my right hon. Friend.
Another point about Clause 2 disturbs me a little, namely, that with regard to the superannuation to be paid to a man who is asked to leave, due, it may or may not be, to causes over which he has no control. Maybe he is not suitable, or perhaps he does not get on with people. I do not think it is right that a man should be bribed, as it were, to leave, that lie should be offered better terms, relatively, than a man who stays in the Service. It is true that there is an upward limit to the inducement that may be offered, but it is not a question of inducement. The Secretary of State of his own volition and subject to no challenge except in this House—where he is unlikely to be challenged—can require a man to leave the Foreign Service. It is not a case of "Poor old Fred. He is a very nice fellow. He has done very well, but we cannot have him any longer. We must pay him something extra to go out." That is not what will happen. The Foreign Secretary is the absolute master, and he can require a man to retire. I do not think that it is right that an extra inducement should be given to a man when he retires. He should not be paid more to go quietly. It is to some extent putting a premium on inefficiency at the expense of efficiency. There is also the question of perhaps creating a bad precedent for other Services. Suppose the general principles of the superannuation scheme become more widely known than they may be expected to be by ordinary Parliamentary discussion. There may well he a plea on behalf 1071 of all the Fighting Services of the Crown that if officers of fairly low rank are required to leave, they also should have relatively better emoluments than those who are efficient and stay in the Service.
On the question of amount, I would ask my right hon. Friend how the superannuation allowance, the basic one without addition, to men of 36 leaving the Foreign Service, compares with that made to a major leaving the Army at the same age. I think we have to make quite sure that the amounts in the various Services of the Crown are similar, in order that there should not be any feeling of injustice as between those in one Service and those in another. There is one Clause to which I must take some exception, and that is the Henry VIII Clause—Clause 6—which gives power to the Secretary of State, by Order in Council, to amend other enactments. On more than one occasion we have drawn attention to the objections to this Henry VIII Clause, and I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he has any specific enactment which he may desire possibly to take powers to repeal or alter or whether this has been put in for safety in case something has been forgotten.
There are two or three other points I would like to make, and I do not think I shall be out of Order, because I could claim that they ought to have been put into the Bill. I would like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) in saying that our Foreign Service should not be starved. There was a French Ambassador in the 18th Century, the Cardinal de Bernis, who was always asking for more money from headquarters, which was generally refused him. His case was that he was keeping the French inn at one of the cross roads of Europe. I think it is most important that in the matter of entertainment and representation expenses our ambassadors and officials should not be starved. Although I have from time to time strongly contested my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's policy, I believe that he himself has been starved in representation and entertainment expenses for many years past. I would have liked it to have been possible for him to have included in this Bill, which is not only a superannuation Bill, some provision by which a Secretary of State for Foreign 1072 Affairs could have certain allowances which he could spend as he wished on various forms of entertainment to distinguished foreigners and so on for the benefit of his country as a whole.
Then there is the question of languages. The Command Paper refers to this, which is most important. To some extent the pay of members of the Foreign Service should depend upon their power to learn languages. Too often when travelling round different capitals have many of us met diplomatists representing this country in smaller countries, like Bulgaria or Sweden, who after even six months or a year do not know the language of the country in which they are living. That is appalling. Every member of the Foreign Service ought to be given six months in which to learn the language of a new country when he goes to live in it as a member of the Legation or Embassy, and if he does not learn it in six months, questions ought to be asked. At the utmost he should be expected to know the language well at the end of a year.
I should like to reinforce what has been said as to the absolute necessity for every member of an Embassy or a Legation travelling about the country as much as possible in order really to get to know the people and their habits and not be stuck the whole time deciphering telegrams at headquarters. Furthermore, I believe that in many cases our Embassies, not only in war-time—that is understandable—but in peace-time have been grossly understaffed. An Embassy or Legation or foreign Mission should be, if possible, overstaffed. It would pay for itself every time. It would give an opportunity for its members to travel about the country and get to know the habits and customs of the people. Furthermore, it should be possible for the Ambassador so to arrange his staff that each member could concentrate, in addition to his ordinary office work, on some particular aspect of the life of the nation or some particular section of the population. For instance, one might specially get to know the trade union leaders, another might make a point of going to agricultural shows and another of meeting members of the Jockey Club, so that every cross section of the life of the country concerned would be tapped, as it were, and would be reported to head- 1073 quarters. Those are a few suggestions which I believe are most important. I also welcome the Bill, and I hope my right hon. Friend will consider the various suggestions which have been made in regard to it.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson (Leicester, West)
I should not have intervened in this Debate had I not been stung to intervention by the remarks not only of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) but of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Falmouth (Major Petherick) in connection with Clause 2. The hon. Member for Keighley considered it unfortunate that inefficient officers should be retired at a certain age and feared that the powers entrusted to the Secretary of State might possibly be abused. He therefore suggested— this is the remark which stung me into intervening—that there were many "agreeable places of exile" at the disposal of the Secretary of State to which an inefficient could be sent. I could not let that remark pass without protesting very strongly against it, because that is the every evil that the Clause is being introduced to stamp out. That is why the whole scheme devised by my right hon. Friend is likely to prove so revolutionary and so really contributory to the efficiency of the Service as a whole. There are no agreeable places of exile to which an inefficient can be sent without exposing the national interests of the country to grave danger. It might be said that Tunis or Algiers or Casablanca was a delightful and agreeable place of exile. We know that if we are going to keep the Service on the high level which it ought to maintain we must have a guillotine which is really a guillotine and not a series of asylums and sanatoriums. I regret also that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Falmouth, seeking to save the inefficient from the guillotine, suggested that they should be transferred to other branches of the Civil Service.
§ Major Petherick
I am not suggesting that an inefficient man should be transferred to another branch, but that a man who may be highly suitable for another branch but does not fit in with the Foreign Service should, at the Secretary of State's suggestion and by agreement with the head of the other Department, be transferred to it.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has modified what struck me as an extreme statement into a statement which is not so extreme. But the fact remains that it is not a good system in the Civil Service to ask one Department to receive the discards of another.
There is one point on which I should like my right hon. Friend to give us some assurance. He is quite rightly, and with great courage, introducing this possibility of compulsory retirement at the rank of first secretary. I hope that when the guillotine really begins to work and the heads—the dunderheads—really begin to fall, he will not insist upon a retirement age of 60. It is one of the things which have exposed our Foreign Service almost to ridicule. Foreigners know all about the top diplomatic ranks of other countries. They know what sort of value people have. When they see a man like Sir Horace Rumbold retired at the very height of his capacity, at the very richness of his experience, at a moment when his authority was not confined merely to the post to which he was appointed but was an international authority, because he reaches 60, they feel that there is something very unimaginative about the central control. I hope therefore that my right hon. Friend will give the House an assurance that, if he gets rid of the inefficients when they are young, he will retain the services of the highly efficient when they reach the antediluvian age of 60.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I, too, should like to offer a word of praise of the Foreign Secretary for having introduced the Bill, which will make for the greater efficiency of the increasingly important Foreign Service. Too long, I fear, has that Service been somewhat of a closed caste, gradually breaking down, it is true, but even now retaining somewhat of its former exclusiveness. Anyone who has travelled abroad in peace-time and has been to our Embassies and Consulates will have noticed that there is always a rather different atmosphere in the one from the other. There is a greater air of reality in the atmosphere of a Consulate than in that of an Embassy. It is increasingly the case in the modern world that the handling of economic, financial, trade and commercial problems is becoming the work of diplomacy. The exclusive atmophere of the spacious Victorian times, 1075 when we could afford to sit back in an armchair and look upon foreigners disputing and quarrelling with one another while we lived in supreme isolation and indifference, has gone for ever. Therefore, although the Bill does not cover a very wide field and does not cover anything like the full scope of the problems dealt with in the White Paper which we discussed a few months ago—I have no doubt it will be followed up by further Measures—at least it does something in a direction which the House generally agrees is desirable.
Anything which would make it easier to promote into obscurity someone who has not proved satisfactory, without at the same time leaving a sense of grievance, is the right thing to do, and I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member who, I understood, said it was desirable that steps should be taken towards the interchangeability of members of the Foreign Service if it should be found that they could serve in a niche in some other Service. I do not think this means the other Services taking the discards of the Foreign Service, but anything that will give greater flexibility between the Services will be a step in the right direction. Where a member of the Diplomatic Service is found not suitable, it ought to be possible to have a little flexibility so that he could serve in another branch of the Civil Service where his capacity could be better utilised. I congratulate the Foreign Secretary because, though the Bill is a small one, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction which will make it possible for us to feel rather more pride in our Foreign Service than many of us have felt, because the times are changing, and the Foreign Service must get to know all about things that they have never thought of before. They must understand the labour problems and the economic and social aspects of the countries in which they are serving, and the broadening of the general outlook of the Service is extremely important. Though the Bill may not do much, it does something in this very desirable direction.
§ Sir Malcolm Robertson (Mitcham)
I very cordially support the Bill and add my tribute to the Secretary of State, who has brought about a very much and very long needed reform. One aspect to which I should like to address myself, and 1076 which perhaps some hon. Members may not wholly appreciate, is why the rank of first secretary has been chosen. I think the point really is this. A young man enters into a career, whatever it may be; for the purposes of this discussion it is the Foreign Service. He may be unsuited for it, but it is impossible to judge that in a year or two. When a man reaches the rank of first secretary he normally does a minimum of about 10 years' service. Here is the sort of case that might arise. A man joins the new Foreign Service. I have noticed a tendency in the House to forget that the Consular and Diplomatic Services are to be amalgamated. A young man joins that amalgamated Service. He serves for a year, say, in the Foreign Office. He is there regarded, not only by the head of his Department and his seniors but by the juniors of his own age, as incompetent at that particular work. Is he therefore to be turned out? No. The Foreign Office then send him to Para. After he has been there for six months the Consul writes home and says," At long last we are getting the right type of man in the Service. This type is first class in dealing with drunken sailors. He is excellent also in dealing with a community which is still more difficult. He knows, too, the local Brazilians and talks the language. He is just the sort of man we need." That man cannot be left for the rest of his life at Para, and he is transferred to an Embassy. After a few months there the Ambassador says, "So that is the new regime; this is the type of fellow we are getting now. He is no use whatever to us."
What is the answer to that, at that time of his life and career? He is not suited to Embassies but is better suited to more distant posts. Is he always to be kept at the more distant posts? Not necessarily. As the result of his career and training he may grow up to be a first class British representative in some of our more distant out-of-the-way posts, Eastern, Middle Eastern or elsewhere, but the safeguard all the time for him and for the rest of the Service is surely this. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is head of the Service, and it is obvious that he does not act "on his own." He acts on advice. As I understand it, there is to be a personnel board which will advise the Foreign Secretary. That board will do what I understand is not really done 1077 at the present moment; it will keep a full record of every man who joins the Service. It will be able to judge, and it will be an unbiased board. There will be no question of political influence. In point of fact that has never obtained in the whole of my rather long career. A man's own personal political views just do not matter. The personnel board will judge a man by his record and the efficiency or inefficiency which he has shown, and it will advise the Foreign Secretary accordingly. The Foreign Secretary will be able to say to a man, "I am very sorry, but we have tried you in the rank of first class secretary everywhere we can, but you have proved incompetent for this particular Service. In these circumstances we think you had better go, and here is a pension for you." That is surely the only proper and fair way of acting.
I cordially agree with the hon. Member who said that it is quite wrong to retire men at the age of 60 just because they are 60. In the art of diplomacy—I use the word "art" deliberately—a man at the age of 60 may be at the finest point of his life, and it would be wrong to retire him just because he is 60. On the other hand, if you retire him at the age and rank of a first secretary, he has his life before him and may find other jobs to do. Very likely he might be unsuited only to the Foreign Service but be eminently suited to the Civil Service at home. He could try his hand there. One of the distresses of everybody's life in all ranks and professions is that you have to start so young and you may choose the wrong profession. This Bill will at least give the man who has chosen the wrong profession a pension to carry on with until he can find something else to do. I do not wish to stray, as some hon. Members clearly have done, beyond the purposes of this Bill, but I would like strongly to support it and again congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on bringing it in.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Blackburn)
I want to speak for only a few minutes, because I am not an expert on this subject. I have only travelled abroad in the same way as the average citizen of this country. I would like to mention the question of transfer from one Service to another. It is a desirable policy, and I am glad it is to be followed. A friend of mine passed into the home 1078 Civil Service at the end of his university career. At that time those who passed in the first 12 places were able to select whether they would go into the home Civil Service, the Indian Civil Service or the Colonial Civil Service. My friend selected the home Civil Service, but after about six months or a year he came to the conclusion that he was wasting his time, as he elegantly put it to me, "licking stamps," and he asked to be transferred to the Indian Civil Service. He was told that it could not be done. He managed to resign from the home Civil Service. He took the examination again, passed in the first six, and chose the Indian Civil Service. When he was on the point of retiring at the age of 55 I asked him what he thought about it. He said, "I wish I had not got through but had stayed in the home Civil Service." That shows that a young man of 22 or 23 is not fully capable of being able to make up his mind.
I would like to raise also the question of languages. Adverting to India, which I know most about, any civil servant up to any age can take an examination in any language in any district to which he had been transferred. A friend of mine took up a language at 50 and passed, but he had the inducement that it meant an additional 1,000 rupees, or about £80, to his salary. I understand that in countries which are not so popular, such as Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania and other places like them, if you meet one of the undersecretaries at an Embassy and ask him how he is getting on with the language, it is possible to get the answer," I have not learned the language, and I have no intention of learning it. I do not want to stay in this country. I want to go to Paris or Vienna or Berlin or Washington." The Ambassadors and people who are high up know French and German and probably Italian and Spanish, but is there any inducement to learn the languages of the smaller countries?
§ Sir W. Smiles
I am glad to hear that, because it was a common thing in the past that people were reluctant to learn the languages of the smaller countries for fear of being condemned for a good deal of their service to the unpopular places.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I intervene to ask my right hon. Friend 1079 whether he will clarify a point which has already been raised by my hon. Friend below me. Why has it been necessary to introduce in Clause 2 both a period of service and a rank? It is conceivable that you might get a second secretary of 10 or 15 years' service and 35 years of age who is not the type of man the Under-Secretary has defined and it may be desirable to retire him. I am not clear why my right hon. Friend thinks it necessary that he should be promoted to first secretary before this action can be taken. The second point I want to raise is about the provision in Clause 2. Should not this just apply to the Consular branch of the service? As I understand it, what is intended in the new proposals is to create not a large sea in which all the separate streams will lose their identities, but a sort of Siamese triplet in which the three branches can in some transcendental form merge from time to time but retain to a large extent their separate identities. It may be that my right hon. Friend will wish to retire men from the Consular branch in the same way as he will from the political branch. Will he say what are the comparable ranks in the two Services if that is done?
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I do not like to make speeches, but I was extremely sorry to be in the United States when the wider proposals were discussed in this House. That was not because I thought I could say anything that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary could not say very much better. Indeed, I read the whole of the Debate—a Very unusual experience for me. I read Hansard from cover to cover, and I thought that my right hon. Friend put the case for these reforms very well. The reason I would have liked to be here, however, was that these reforms represented the culmination of what has been the work of a good many years in which a number of us who happen to have served in the Foreign Office were acutely interested, and I should have liked to give my own reasons for presenting that White Paper. That time has passed, however, and it only remains for me to thank the House for the reception it gave to those proposals. I should like to take this opportunity of associating myself with the remarks which have been made during this Debate about the mem- 1080 bers of the Foreign Service. I was glad to hear what my hon. Friend who opened the Debate said about the members of that Service, particularly as he spoke of the younger members. Other hon. Members have spoken in the same strain. I suppose nothing is further divorced from the truth than the stage representation of the diplomat, at least so far as I know in the working of the Diplomatic Service.
It so happens that for many years now I have had to serve in the Foreign Office without ever having been myself a member of the Diplomatic Service, and I have also served in other Government Departments. There are two things I should like to say about the Foreign Office. The first is that I am convinced that there is no other Department in this State which has a more loyal, more devoted and more efficient body of servants than the Foreign Office. The second thing I would like to say, rather more widely daring, is that I have seen a good many foreign Diplomatic Services—you cannot be Foreign Secretary without doing so; it falls to your lot to see them as you see your own—and I can say with absolute sincerity that I know of no foreign Diplomatic Service that I would exchange for our own, and I think most foreign diplomats of my acquaintance would probably endorse that view. I say that not in order that we may exude a general atmosphere of complacency, but because it is true and some harsh and unjust things have been said about the Foreign Service. But, having said that, I must admit that in any Service the need for modification and the need for change exists. When I said that harsh things have been said I do not mean in this House, but outside, and mostly by people who know very little about it. The proposals of which this Bill forms part are designed to meet certain needs which have arisen in the changes in the world as we know it now.
Before I answer some of the questions put to me, I should like to make one observation upon what my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) said just now about the age limit for retiring. If the House is good enough to approve these proposals, then I should hope, although, of course, I cannot bind my successors, that Foreign Secretaries would look with a benevolent eye on the rigid interpretation of 60 as the retiring age. As a matter of fact, 1081 it probably has not escaped observation that at the present time there are some very distinguished Ambassadors who are quite definitely over the age of 60 and who show every sign of being quite secure in their tenancy. I hope that procedure will continue, and I think we must be allowed a certain laxity in the interpretation of that rule.
Now I come to the Bill and to the questions asked about it. First, the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) asked about the need for Clause 2. I do not know that my hon. Friend understands what terrible powers are vested in me already. Without the powers in this Bill it is within my power to-day, by virtue of the office I temporarily hold, to dismiss any member of the Service; but quite apart from that, which is obviously a drastic step which might result in Questions in this House and other things of that kind, it is in my power to place a member of the Service en disponibilité, as a result of which he gets no pay and is out of a job for a quite indefinite period. Therefore, I am not being given any greater powers than I have already, but what I am to be allowed to do is to treat an individual with a measure of justice. I can assure the House this is not a sudden proposal. It has been, I know, an anxiety to many of my predecessors. I ask hon. Members to put themselves in the position of the Foreign Secretary. It is quite possible that an individual may be a good Counsellor and even a good Minister but cannot be a good Ambassador. The Foreign Secretary may then find himself faced with these alternatives, that either he has to carry the man, that is to say, find some place in which he can put him where he will not do too much harm but where it is known that he cannot do much good, until he reaches 60, when he can receive his pension, knowing quite well all the time that the man is not up to his job, or else he has to put him out on the streets without any pension at all.
Those cases may be rare. I cannot tell how often the powers under this Bill may have to be used, because much depends on the future and on personnel, but 1 feel that no Foreign Secretary ought to be put in the position of embarrassment which has been experienced by myself and many of my predecessors, because it is neither fair nor just. As to the abuse of these powers, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley was absolutely right in saying 1082 that we shall have to watch that these powers are not abused. It would be possible for a Foreign Secretary to abuse them, and theoretically and technically it would he possible for him to abuse the powers he has already. The check upon such abuse is this admirable institution in which we now sit, this House. I have not the least doubt that if the Foreign Secretary were so foolish as to wish to abuse his powers this House would at once pull him up, but for my own greater safety I propose to take other precautions, and I contemplate devising some machinery by means of which I shall be advised about any course which I propose to take. I cannot imagine that any Foreign Secretary will be willing to take that responsibility except on advice, and naturally steps will be taken to obtain the best and most impartial advice that is available. I feel the House need not be anxious that these powers will be abused, and I hope I have convinced them that they are really necessary.
Next I come to some of the questions asked in detail. First, I was asked whether retirement could be initiated by anybody else than the Secretary of State. Could the man himself initiate his retirement? The answer is "No," the initiative much come from the Foreign Secretary if the man is to receive a pension. Then 1 was asked why the rank of first secretary had been chosen, why we had not gone lower down the scale. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson), who himself has done so much work for these reforms in their earlier stages, has given the answer. When a man reaches the rank of first secretary we should know what the chances are of his going ahead in one or other of the departments of the Foreign Service. Earlier than that it might be difficult to forecast it with similar certainty. But this is an experiment; this is the basis on which we are going to work. It may be that after the war, when the later Bill is introduced, we may wish to vary the present position. I have not closed my mind on the subject. As to what is the corresponding rank in the Consular Service to that of first secretary in the old Diplomatic Service, it is that of Consul.
Next I was asked whether this Bill will lapse as soon as the war is over. The answer is that it will not; it will go on until it is replaced. I should not like 1083 to see it lapse. Perhaps I should explain, because I do not think it is quite clear to the minds of some hon. Members, that this Bill does all we need in the way of legislation in order to give effect to the proposals in the White Paper of which the House generally approved some months ago. This is all the legislation we need. The other matters in the White Paper do not need legislation in order to be put into force. That applies even to the question of the entry of women into the service. That can be effected by the Secretary of State. Therefore, the new Bill to which my right hon. Friend referred which will be introduced after the war will be a Bill on the same lines as this for the consolidation of the pensions service and will not cover a wider field than this. Another thing I was asked about was the supply of linen and saucepans in our Embassies abroad. I am glad 'to be able to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) that linen and saucepans are now to be provided by an all-generous Treasury. Several hon. Members referred to a point of real importance, and that is that our representatives abroad should travel away from the capitals of the countries in which they are stationed. I attach the greatest importance to that proposal. Of recent years valuable developments have been taking place in that direction, and I am glad to find the House encouraging them, and the Treasury have paid allowances to make it possible. As some rather harsh things have been said about the Treasury to-day I should like to say how grateful I am to them for the help they have given me, without which these proposals would not be possible. Perhaps I may express that diplomatically in the spirit and with the hope that our good will expressed to-day will find itself reciprocated in the shape of things to come.
§ Mr. Eden
My hon. Friend has a habit of getting his way, from what I have observed in this House for many years. My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir G. Gibson) spoke about South America and rather implied, perhaps with some justice as regard the past, 'that to that Continent or Sub 1084 continent have been sent people who are not perhaps always quite so good as those who have represented us in Europe. If my hon. Friend will look at the list of our representatives in South America now, he will find that they are all, I think, younger men—as Ambassadors go. What we have been trying to do is to send some of our younger and more promising men to be Ministers and Ambassadors in South America. Perhaps at a later stage we bring them over to Europe, but we have definitely set our face against using those countries, which have great importance for us commercially as well as politically, as countries to which to send representatives whom we do not think good enough for countries in Europe. That I cart definitely assure the House, and hon. Members can confirm it by looking up the ages and records of those who are now our Ambassadors in those parts.
There was a little confusion I think about some of the other proposals in the White Paper. So far as new entrants are concerned there can be no new entrants until after the war. Man-power conditions do not allow it. There is no new entry into the Civil Service at all. Later we shall need an exceptionally large entry and we shall select them very largely on their records during this war period.
§ Sir G. Gibson
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how he intends to maintain the numbers of personnel in the Foreign Service during the time when he cannot make use of young men? Does he intend making use of the benign power of allowing members to remain on after the age of 60?
§ Mr. Eden
We have to do the best we can. Many of our members are actually in the Fighting Services, and their places have been taken by older men. Another question I was asked was why it is that the Board of Trade is only to be represented in the selection of individuals for the higher commercial posts. I was asked whether the Board of Trade ought not to be in everywhere. That is how the White Paper expresses it, but it is our intention that the Department of Overseas Trade, which is particularly concerned with the commercial aspect of the Foreign Service, shall be represented at all levels and therefore be consulted not only on all commercial appointments but also, if necessary, on political ones. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member 1085 for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) asked me about recruitment to the Service from the Empire and from our Dominions. Of course, we gladly welcome recruits from them, and we have some very distinguished members of the Foreign Service who have come from the Dominions, but the Dominions now have their own Services, and although we work very closely together, it is natural that most of those from the Dominions would wish to go into the Services of the Dominions concerned. I was also asked why we had put in Clause 6. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) was a little suspicious that perhaps it covered some sins. It is a purely precautionary Clause, there is no other reason at all for it and, as my right hon. Friend made plain, if we have to make use of it any Order in Council will be subject to approval by a Resolution passed by both Houses.
I think I have covered the main questions which were put to me. I would like to conclude by saying something to the House. I would thank hon. Members for the welcome they have given to the Bill, and I would emphasise again that it is a small part of the reforms as a whole. It is small, because it is the only part that happens to require legislation. I presented all the reforms originally, in order to give the whole picture and because I thought that was far more useful and satisfactory to the House. Most of the reforms lie within the jurisdiction of the Foreign Secretary himself. When the war is over, I believe this country will have to play as great a part as it has ever played in its history, in the diplomatic work that lies ahead. Our geography and other matters, and our traditions, have given us this special position. We want to have a Service which will be really worthy of the responsibility that will be laid upon it. I believe that we can have such a Service and that the Bill will help us in that task. I once again thank the House for its welcome and hope that hon. Members will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.—[Mr. Pym.]