HC Deb 03 June 1947 vol 438 cc71-7
Mr. Lyttelton

I beg to move, in page 3, line 9, to leave out from "number," to the first "of," in line 10.

May I ask your intention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with regard to the remainder of this group of Amendments:

In line 11, at end, insert: so however that each of the said categories shall be equally represented on the development council. In line 11, at end, insert: Provided always that the number of independent members on the council shall be less than the number of persons specified to represent either category (a) or category (b) as defined in the preceding Subsection. In line 11, at end, insert: Provided always that the number of persons from categories (a) and (b) as defined in the preceding Subsection shall, taken together, be such as to form a majority on the council.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I think it would be for the convenience of the House if all four Amendments were discussed together.

Mr. Lyttelton

I hope very much that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to cut short the discussion by accepting one or other of these Amendments. Naturally, I would prefer him to accept the strongest of the four. The point is not a very elaborate one and I think that if, on the Committee stage, the Whips had not been frowning so much after an early defeat of the Government, those on the benches opposite might have supported this Amendment. However, they received a severe admonition about the dangers of bringing the Government down by defeating them continually in Committee, and therefore they voted against them.

The point is a very simple one. Ministers—not only the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his nicety in these matters, but certain other Ministers as well —are getting very wide powers over industry to appoint development councils, and I do not think it is a very outrageous thing to ask that those eight Ministers should not have the power to pack development councils with Government nominees, whether those nominees are ex-Ministers who have been unable to hold their jobs satisfactorily, or whether they are retired officials of the Labour Party. Whoever they may be, we do not want to think that Ministers have the right to pack development councils to such an extent that Government nominees can outvote both sides of the industry. It is bad enough when there is a conflict of opinion between workers on one side and employers on the other; then the Government nominees really hold the balance, and get into the position which the Irish Party used to occupy in the days when I first took an interest in politics.

The idea that one of those eight Ministers should be able to mobilise a platoon or even half a company of nominees in order to out-vote both the workers, who represent the major element in production, and the employers, who represent of course a less respectable but nevertheless tolerably important part of production, is very uncongenial to our way of thinking, and I believe it is to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. So I ask him to do what visitors to Conservative fetes or other charitable institutions sometimes do, and put his hand into this pile of Amendments and select one. We hope it will be the strongest of them, because I am sure the object we have in mind is as dear to his heart as it is to mine.

Sir S. Cripps

I am very glad to hear that Conservative fetes are charitable institutions; I thought they must have some reason for them, but I have not discovered what it was before. The right hon. Gentleman has always a most attractive way of putting forward propositions when he wants to get them accepted, which consists of making suggestions which would be quite ridiculous when made against any Minister, let alone Ministers of a Labour Government. Nevertheless, I do not want to be embittered by his partisanship; I want to do all I can to make this a good Bill. There are really two classes of Amendments to be dealt with, the first and the three following ones. As regards the first, which sets out that the number can be a maximum or minimum rather than a hard and fast figure, I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me that in a Bill which is obviously experimental to a large extent it is very advisable to keep that latitude. One thinks, for instance, of some industry in which a particular section grows very much in importance, and one therefore wants to add a person representing that particular section. In that case one wants to keep some flexibility within a minimum and maximum number, it might be between 9 and 12 or whatever the figures may be, so that such a person can be added if necessary without having to reconstitute the entire body. So much in regard tr., that.

When it comes to the other matter referred to in the Amendments in page 3, line 11, I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is neither our desire nor our purpose that in those cases the industry itself should be out-weighted by independents. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it has always been the practice in the working parties to keep two-thirds for representatives of the industry and not more than one-third for independent representatives. Therefore, I should be quite prepared to accept the principle of the last of the other three Amendments: Provided always that the number of persons from categories (a) and (b) as defined in the preceding Subsection, shall, taken together, be such as to form a majority on the council. That is perfectly in accordance with what we believe is right, and we are quite prepared to accept it. I would rather not accept it exactly in its present terms, however, but we will have it put in in proper form in another place, if that is convenient to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Lyttelton

In those circumstances, I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his assurances; although the dish is to be cooked in his own special fashion, it is none the less digestible and acceptable, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Lyttelton

I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, to leave out Subsection (7), and to insert: (7) A development council order may provide for the payment to all or any of the independent members of the council, or to such other members as shall devote the whole of their time to the work of the council, of such remuneration, and to all the members of the councils of such allowances for expenses as may be determined by the Board or Minister concerned, and for the payment on the retirement or death of any members of the council who have devoted the whole of their time to the work of the council and as to whom it may be so determined to make such provision of such pensions and gratuities to them or to others by reference to their service as may be so determined. The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the payments to members of development councils are contined to those who spend their whole time in the work of the councils. It provides that expenses can be paid to all those serving upon them, but that neither payments nor pensions nor retiring gratuities should be paid to those who are not whole-time members. The objects of the Amendment are so simple that I do not think they require any elaboration from me, but I think it is a vicious idea that payments should be made, especially pensions and gratuities on retirement, to those who spend perhaps only a few minutes a month on the work of the development councils.

Sir S. Cripps

The object of preventing abuses is one which I share with the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that the Amendment he proposes would really serve his purpose, while it would create a number of rather difficult anomalies. In the Subsection as it stands it is quite clear that the board, or the Minister concerned, has to give approval to payments of this kind. The allowances have to be determined either by the board or by the Minister. Therefore, the safeguard is the usual administrative safeguard of the responsibility of the Minister to Parliament. If we try to begin to lay down in the Bill itself provisions as to who may and who may not be paid, we get into inevitable difficulties. It may well be that there are people who do two or three days' work on one of these councils and who cannot afford to do it unless they get some remuneration, and mere expenses might not be sufficient to enable them to afford to do it, whether they happen to be on one side of the table or the other.

There is no particular reason why a person who is independent but who perhaps does only one day or less a week should be entitled to get these payments, whereas someone connected with the industry who may do more work is not entitled to them. It is quite an illogical division between the two categories of people. Payments should be made only on merit, whoever the person is, for work done, and that would be the principle we should apply again to the question of pensions or gratuities. There may be a man who serves for ten or twenty years doing one or two days a week and who belongs to the industry, and there may be another man, an independent, who started only last week. If the independent who started last week is to be entitled to a pension or a gratuity whereas the man who served for 10 or 20 years doing a really good job is not entitled to either, it would be an extremely raw deal for people connected with the industry. All the plums would be going to the independent members, and that would be quite impracticable and quite unfair. It must be left to the discretion of the Minister and the Board to decide, where there is a genuine material contribution made to the work of the council, to permit payments to be made in those cases. There may be cases where a man has given a lot of work and perhaps jeopardised his other form of employment. It may be that there should be gratuities or pensions in isolated or particular cases. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is better to leave the matter at large as it is left in the Bill as drafted rather than try to lay down hard and fast rules which will produce anomalies and great unharminess as between the two parties.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. W. Shepherd

The President of the Board of Trade has stated the view of the Government on this Amendment. With some aspects of his remarks there will be agreement on this side of the House and possibly on his own. He is overstating the case in relation to the entitlement of a representative of the workers or the employers to a pension. I hope we shall be given some idea of the services which are involved to get a pension for a day a week or a day a month's service to one of these organisations. I do not believe that a man who gives part-time service is going to be a better part-time server by virtue of the fact that he will be granted a pension at the end of a certain time. The view I take is that these councils must attract men of public spirit, men whose desire it is to improve the lot of the industry and those in it. No attraction in the way of a pension or large-scale remuneration should be offered to them as an inducement, for that type of man would not be induced by offers of a pension for service of one or two days a month. I do not conceive any circumstances in which it would be desirable to offer a pension to a man giving service of a day a week or a day a month to an organisation. For that reason I regret that the President of the Board of Trade has not seen fit to accept our Amendment.

Amendment negatived.