§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
This Clause makes quite a change from what we have hitherto had at the Scottish Office, and there are certain aspects of it that Scottish Members, I am certain, are very desirous of having further enlightenment upon. I therefore want to ask you, Sir Charles, for guidance. I take it that we can ask what the duties are of these Under-Secretaries, and how they will fit into the various Departments in the Scottish Office, and that I should not be out of order in going into inquiry about the various duties of the Under-Secretaries.
I do not think we can Debate on the Question that the Clause stand part is like that on Third Reading. We can discuss only what is in the Clause. I do not think that the question can be made any wider.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
Further to that point, Sir Charles. We are in this difficulty because of the Motion just carried in the House remitting this matter to a Committee of the whole House, which was previously re- 2044 mitted by the House to a Standing Committee. Hon. Members could not put down any Amendments because the Standing Committee was not appointed and they did not know whether they would be members of it. It was only at that moment, three or four minutes ago, when the Bill was committed to a Committee of the whole House that hon. Members knew what the position was to be. In the circumstances no one could put down an Amendment on the Order Paper to deal with these various problems.
The Leader of the House having got us into this unfortunate difficulty, we hope that on Committee stage he will at least repair some of the damage he has done by joining with me in making an appeal to allow the matter to go wide enough for discussion upon various points hon. Members would have discussed if he had allowed the normal procedure.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong. Anybody can put down Amendments on Committee stage whether he is a member of the Committee or not. Amendments can be put down by any Member of the House.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) asked whether we should be in order in discussing the functions of the Under-Secretaries who are provided for in Clause 1 of the Bill. You have ruled, Sir Charles, that we may not discuss the duties of the Under-Secretaries.
When the difficulty mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) arose some of my hon. Friends told me that it was their desire to put Amendments on the Notice Paper for the Standing Committee, so that they might get some further elucidation of the duties of the additional Under-Secretary. Indeed, they called my atten- 2045 tion to the fact that one could have a rather wider debate, to deal with particular aspects, by putting down Amendments covering them.
Now we find that in debate on the Motion that the Clause stand part we can discuss only what is contained in the Clause. I said to my hon. Friends, when they pointed these things out to me, that I was sure that, since this Clause provided for the appointment of three Under-Secretaries for Scotland, the Chair would enable hon. Members to discuss the duties of those persons to be here appointed, for how otherwise could the Committee decide whether or not it would be a good thing to appoint them? I submit to you, Sir Charles, that it would be in order for hon. Members to discuss the duties of the Under-Secretaries to be here appointed.
I do not think it would. No manuscript Amendments have been handed in. I heard someone suggest that the parties might agree about the handing in of manuscript Amendments. Their selection would be my responsibility. Probably I should have called them. However, none has been handed in, and I do not see bow we can go beyond the Question that the Clause stand part.
§ Mr. Fraser
In view of the difficulty in which the Government have put us, and quite irrespective of the manuscript Amendments, may I submit, Sir Charles, for your consideration, that it would be competent for this Committee to discuss what it is that these Under-Secretaries are to do after they have been appointed?
It is not within my power to allow it. It is perfectly clear that on the Motion that the Clause stand part the debate must be confined to the Clause. I cannot allow the debate to go beyond the Clause. I am only carrying out the rules. It has nothing to do with me personally.
§ Mr. John Wheatley (Edinburgh, East)
Further to your Ruling, Sir Charles, in which you have, if I may respectfully say so, properly defined the powers and limitations of a Clause stand part debate, the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) is that, in the Clause as it stands, provision is made for the appointment of three Under-Secretaries to the Scottish Office, 2046 and that what the Committee has to decide is whether it is justified in making that alteration to the existing law, which provides at the present time for only two Under-Secretaries at the Scottish Office.
To enable the Committee properly to decide whether this change is desirable or necessary it ought to know what the functions of the three Under-Secretaries are, as compared with the functions of the former two Under-Secretaries. We cannot come to a decision—or we may not be able to come to a decision—until we get further information about the duties and functions of the three as distinct from the two Under-Secretaries.
Therefore, within the ambit of the Ruling which you have given, I would respectfully submit that it would be quite competent for us to discuss what the proposed changes are, so that we could decide whether or not the changes are justifiable in the circumstances, without in any way transgressing the Ruling with regard to the debate on Clause stand part.
I think that the suggestion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite correct with reference to Second Reading, but I think that on Third Reading and on the Motion that the Clause stand part the debate is very much narrower.
§ Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)
Is not the Ruling which you have given, Sir Charles, taken from Erskine May, and based on previous Rulings of Speakers and Chairmen in relation to ordinary circumstances? I submit that these are not ordinary circumstances at all, and I suggest that you have discretion, if the Committee wishes to go a little further than that Ruling permits, to allow it to do so, since the Ruling arises from various Editors of Erskine May.
§ Mr. Bowles
With great respect, Sir Charles, I am quite certain that many hon. Members can point to many contradictions in Erskine May.
Perhaps they can. If anyone can find a contradiction of the Ruling I have just given I shall be glad to see it.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Does your Ruling, Sir Charles, mean that we on these benches cannot ask the Government to justify this proposal? After all, the Government are asking us to pass this Clause and the Bill. Surely they have to justify to the country the need for an extra Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "They have."]—and allow discussion on it. In my view the change ought to be justified. Surely we should be allowed to discuss the appointment of the three Under-Secretaries. Is there anything at all we can discuss.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
On a point of order. I understand that the point which we are considering is whether we are entitled to discuss what is in the Clause or something outside the Clause. With great respect, Sir Charles, I venture to agree with you when you say that we are bound to confine our discussion to the words in the Clause only; but surely it is within the Clause to discuss the duties of the Under-Secretaries of State whom it is proposed to appoint.
We are asked to approve of the appointment of Under-Secretaries of State and of a Bill which will provide for the appointment of Under-Secretaries of State. Are these Under-Secretaries of State to have any duties or no duties? If they are to have any duties, surely it is right to ask what these duties are and to discuss them. If they are to have no duties, surely we are entitled to be told so.
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to deal with one point at a time. The first point he mentioned was whether the duties of the Under-Secretaries referred to in the Clause could be discussed. If they are not mentioned in the Clause they cannot be discussed.
§ Mr. Hughes
The second point which I want to make with regard to the point of order is this: You have ruled, Sir Charles, that we are not entitled to discuss anything which is not in the Clause. The point which I wish to make is that your Ruling, in my respectful submission, should be interpreted very widely in the very peculiar and abnormal circumstances in which we are placed. Yesterday, the House resolved that this Bill be submitted to a Committee upstairs. Today, we are asked to discuss it in Committee of the whole House, without the intervention of time to permit Amendments being put foward. That is an abnormal situation which calls, I think, for a generous and liberal interpretation of the Ruling that you have given. On these two grounds, I submit that we are entitled to discuss the duties. My first point is that the duties are a fundamental element of the question of whether the Under-Secretaries of State should be appointed or not, and, second, that we are discussing this in abnormal, unusual circumstances, and, therefore, any Ruling that you make should be interpreted widely, so that we can discuss the duties.
My original Ruling was correct, but perhaps if we start the debate I may be guided by what is said.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
There is one point which I would like to put, Sir Charles, before we start. Subsection (1) of this Clause reads as follows:For subsection (2) of section two of the Ministers of the Crown Act. 1937 (which specifies the numbers of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries within the meaning of that Act to whom salaries may he paid thereunder) there shall be substituted the following subsection:(2) The number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries to whom salaries may he paid under this Act in the case of any Department of State shall not exceed—(a) in the case of the Treasury and the Scottish Office, three of each;…I submit that the duties of the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries are, in fact, referred to by the specification of the Department to which they will be attached, and all that my hon. Friends are asking is that they should be allowed to discuss in a little more detail what is in the Clause. We know to which Departments the Under-Secretaries are to be attached. That suggests the type of duties which they are to perform, and perhaps 2049 we may be allowed to look in a little greater detail into what these Under-Secretaries are to do.
§ Mr. Manuel
I hope that I shall not wander too far from the recognised channels of debate on this issue, Sir Charles. I am interested in what is to be the desire of the Scottish Office. I understood from the Secretary of State on previous occasions when we debated this particular issue that certain duties were to be undertaken by the three Under-Secretaries to be appointed. I understood also that the Minister of State for Scottish Affairs was to be responsible for education. I agree completely that education must have a predominant place in the Scottish set-up and in the responsibility of the Scottish Office.
The difficulty in which we are placed is owing to the inadvertence of the Leader of the House in having this matter referred to a Committee upstairs and then coming before the House today and asking for it to be taken on the Floor of the House. There has been no opportunity to put down any Amendment which would put our point of view concerning the particular duties of any of these three Under-Secretaries.
I should like to see devolving on one of the three Under-Secretaries particular responsibility for housing, because I feel that in Scotland this is the predominant social sore of our time. We are to have certain changes. Whether those changes are big enough is another question. I do not think that they are. We are to have a change in the Scottish Office by the appointment of three Under-Secretaries instead of two. I have been interested in housing throughout the whole of my public life, and we on this side are particularly interested in housing.
With regard to the appointment of the three Under-Secretaries instead of the two which we have hitherto had, would the Secretary of State agree with our request that he should look again at the duties of each of the three Under-Secretaries and consider reporting to us whether or not he can give one of the Under-Secretaries a full-time appointment on the question of housing in Scotland? In my consti- 2050 tuency and, no doubt, in other constituencies in Scotland, Members of Parliament have terrific problems to consider in connection with the social conditions which many of our people are experiencing because of the lack of homes.
In my particular constituency there are many miners' homes which are so old that they are rapidly falling into decay, and in some respects no one is really responsible for them. As a result, these old properties are falling into disrepair, roofs are leaking, children are tubercular and suffering from rheumatic conditions and hospital space is being used up. This is something for which we have to be responsible. Every Scottish Member on both sides of the committee is aware of these conditions which are arising in Scotland. We have also big headaches with regard to two other facets of housing. Thousands of families in Scotland are living in sub-let dwellings, where life is becoming intolerable for them, and there is gross overcrowding.
Having regard to this and to the worsening housing condition throughout Scotland, will the Secretary of State consider looking again—I do not want to press him too much—at the duties of the three Under-Secretaries, and put the complete bias for housing either on the Minister of State or one of the Under-Secretaries as a full-time job with no other Departmental commitments. If he would agree to do that, I feel that it might help to rid Scotland of some of the social ills arising from the housing position today.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I think that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is labouring under a misaprehension. Everyone knows perfectly well that one of the Under-Secretaries will have the job of looking after housing—
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not misrepresent me. I know that one of the Under-Secretaries to be appointed will have responsibility for housing. What I am asking is whether he will have the complete responsibility and nothing less.
That is not a point of order. If the hon. Member wishes to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) no doubt he will give way.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not trying to misrepresent him. I think he is under a misapprehension. The deplorable state in which we find Scottish housing is owing to six years of Socialist maladministration.
§ Mr. Wheatley
I put this question to the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the housing position is worse in Scotland after six years of Socialist administration. Can he deny that more houses were built in Scotland during the past six years—
§ Mr. Manuel
The question of six years' Socialist rule was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite without his being stopped from the Chair.
I have been asked to do something which is difficult. I am giving a certain amount of latitude, but I do not think that we should go back over the last six years of housing.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
If I may go on, Sir Charles, I promise to keep within the bounds of order. What we want to be assured of, and I think that we can be, is that there is provision made that one of the Under-Secretaries shall have housing as his complete charge. That, I believe, is what is happening. After all, we cannot ask two Under-Secretaries to deal with housing.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Because there are many other things required in Scotland as well as housing.
This Clause provides for every facet of Scottish administration to be properly covered by a Minister responsible to Parliament. That is highly desirable. There may have to be a slight adjustment after this thing has been running for a time, but I think that the set-up is a good one, and that the Clause gives a 2052 chance of Scottish affairs being dealt with by Ministers responsible to Parliament and not, as hitherto, left almost entirely to civil servants.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
I hope that I shall not incur the resentment of any Scottish Members who wish to speak if I intervene at this stage. I understand that the very convenient arrangements which were made on Second Reading have not been adopted on this occasion.
I want to raise one very short point about the additional Under-Secretary of State to be appointed for the Home Department. If the present situation had not arisen, which has been referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), I might have had an opportunity of dealing with this matter in another way, by putting down an Amendment. I hope that when the Bill goes to another place the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consider the suggestion which I am about to make.
We realise that the additional Under-Secretary of State is being appointed to assist the Home Secretary in his capacity as Minister for Welsh affairs. Is it intended that the new Minister should be specially charged with Welsh affairs? Nowhere in the Bill is there statutory authority for the creation of an Under-secretaryship specially charged with Welsh affairs. The additional Under-Secretary is being authorised for the Home Office. The Home Office deals with a variety of subjects, including aliens and, in the course of his duties, the new Under-Secretary may have to deal with matters pertaining to aliens. He will also have imposed upon him the affairs of Wales.
As the proposal is being made in order to give pleasure to the people of Wales, nothing should be done in the Bill which would cause them resentment. I therefore suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should consider my suggestion in the spirit in which I am putting it forward, which is that the additional appointment should be specially earmarked as charged with Welsh affairs. That could easily and conveniently be done in another place. I hope that consideration will be given to the point which I have raised.
§ Mr, John Taylor (West Lothian)
The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) need not have apologised to the Committee for intervening, because Wales is equally concerned in this matter with Scotland. In fact, we ought to apologise to him and his compatriots for taking up so much time in the discussion.
I want to mention a point which is puzzling me, but I do not know whether I am in order in raising it, so I have to explain it by referring to the appointment of the Minister of State for Scottish Affairs. This appointment is not provided for in the Bill, but it has a relationship to the point which I want to raise touching the additional appointments authorised by the Bill. When we discussed the duties of the Minister of State in the House, it is my recollection that the Secretary of State replied that the new Minister would be responsible for education.
Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) specifically raised the point that, in a speech in another place, explaining his own duties, the Minister of State had overlooked his responsibility for the care of education. The Secretary of State explained with great care, with emphasis and detail, that the Minister of State had, in fact, forgotten that he had been asked to be responsible for education, and had overlooked the fact.
Last week, when we discussed the Bill on Second Reading, the Secretary of State said that the new Under-Secretary would be responsible for the care of education in Scotland, as well as for fisheries and some odds and ends not specifically dealt with by the other two Under-Secretaries. It has been hinted at by the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) that it would be unwise to have two Ministers responsible for one Department. My puzzlement arises out of the fact that these two Ministers, the Minister of State in another place and the new Under-Secretary here, are both to be responsible for education.
I should therefore be glad if the Under-Secretary would explain which of these two Ministers will have the chief responsibility for that important Department of Government in Scotland, or whether there is to be divided responsibility.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I should like to underline what has already been stated by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and to ask who is to be responsible for the future of housing in Scotland. I believe that in addition to the Minister who has been mentioned in connection with housing there is to be some kind of assistance either from the other Under-Secretaries or from the Minister of State.
I quite agree that we should not go back into the past, and into old housing controversies, and that we must look towards the future, but from what has taken place there must be anxiety in the minds of all Scottish Members as to how much responsibility for housing will be borne by the various Ministers and whether, in the present set-up, we have an arrangement adequate for the drive which will be required in Scotland if we are to deal with the housing problem in all its magnitude.
I want to be helpful. I suggest that we already have a lesson for the future in what happened last week. Last Friday we discussed questions affecting Scotland and, for the first part of the day, the Under-Secretary who deals with agriculture was on the Front Bench. I had intended to raise, on the Consolidated Fund Bill, the question of Scottish housing and of the expenditure pertaining to it, but although I have a very great admiration for that Under-Secretary of State and for his knowledge and experience of agriculture, I doubted whether he had the necessary experience to answer questions about housing in the industrial areas. The hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) was sitting on the Government Front Bench, preparing to answer questions of which he has not the background for answering. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland was in the building, because when the count was called he emerged from the recesses somewhere below.
What was happening to the other Under-Secretary of State for Scotland? From the report of the Press which I have here he was in Edinburgh, receiving a deputation on the subject of housing. This is very important. The deputation was putting very important questions before him likely to affect the whole future of Scottish housing problems. I have here a cutting showing the kind of duty which the 2055 Under-Secretary of State responsible for housing will be called upon to undertake. He will have to receive deputations from the local authorities all over Scotland about housing. I wish him well, because I happen to be his Member of Parliament and I want to see him make a success of it.
Nevertheless, a question was put to the Under-Secretary of State on behalf of the leading local authority in Scotland by the chairman of the Edinburgh Housing Committee, which is deeply concerned about the slow progress of housing in that city. It is also concerned because there is a lack of materials. The question to the Under-Secretary was: "How are we to get over the difficulty about housing materials?", and it specially mentioned lead piping. That is one bottleneck in housing right away. I believe it is almost certain that in a very short time the Under-Secretary of State will be called upon to meet deputations from Ayrshire, where they are concerned not merely about lead piping but about piping for water mains. There are other problems affecting the building of houses in that part of the world, and all kinds of difficulties and bottlenecks.
I therefore suggest that the housing problem is more than one man should be called upon to take upon his shoulders. That point was stressed by the Under-Secretary of State when we discussed housing at the last meeting of the Scottish Standing Committee. He pointed out that at the present rate of building it would take us until 1965 to make good the deficiency. Glasgow needs 100,000 houses. That is the magnitude of the problem. No hon. Member will deny that this is a problem of appalling magnitude. It is not enough to have one Under-Secretary with that huge burden upon his shoulders.
There is the question of labour and how to organise the labour force of Scotland in order to see whether we have sufficient labour to carry out the programme. Again, there is the whole question of priorities. The one Under-Secretary will be up against some thorny problems of priority in building and in materials. What priority is housing to have for raw materials which are not in such demand as lead piping? I have tried to speak to this Motion in the same spirit—
§ Mr. Hughes
I was trying to make the sort of speech that Erskine May would have made if he had been a Member of this Committee, and I have been rather successful, because you have not pulled me up until now, Sir Charles.
We have not completely thought out the implications of the housing problem. We have not considered the machinery in sufficient detail. I do not think that the appointment of three Under-Secretaries of State will be adequate to solving the housing problem, a solution which all hon. Members of the Committee, especially those from Scotland, have so much at heart.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants more than three Under-Secretaries of State?
§ Mr. Hughes
If I believed that 10 Secretaries of State would lead to a drive for housing, I would willingly support them.
§ Mr. Ross
The speeches made from this side of the Committee are clear evidence to the Secretary of State for Scotland that he has failed to give us an adequate reason why he needs three Under-Secretaries. When we remember the critical times in which we live, and that the passing of the Bill will lead to further expenditure by the Government, we Scottish Members, if not the English and Welsh Members, must make it our business to be careful of the nation's money, and see that we get something which looks like going to be value for the money.
We have not been told whether there is work for this third Under-Secretary, and while it is true that too many cooks spoil the broth, I have no desire to see many inefficient cooks spoiling the Scotch broth which will fall to their care when we pass this Bill. We have been told by the Secretary of State in this Parliament, and when we were on the hustings, that one of the things which the Conservative Party would do was to free the local authorities in Scotland from the distant control of Whitehall. If we are going to free the local authorities in Scotland from the trammels of Whitehall it will mean less work for the Under-Secretaries we have got already without passing this Bill at all.
2057 4.45 p.m.
Last week we approved a Bill for a Minister of State for Scottish Affairs at a salary of £3,000 a year. There are going to be cooks and cooks spoiling the broth, and we want to get a fairly clear picture of what we are going to do. I liked the blind optimism of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) when he said that what we were to get was a Minister responsible to the House. Last week we agreed to the expenditure of £3,000 and we did not get a Minister of State for Scottish Affairs responsible to this House. We have no guarantee that the person who is to be appointed to this office will be a Member of this House. After all, the current slogan is still "Jobs for the blue-blooded boys."
§ Mr. Ross
I agree that they are rubbish.
We have been given a slight indication of what the third Under-Secretary is to do, but what the hon. and gallant Gentleman failed to appreciate was the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), namely, that one of the Under-Secretaries has been' given housing to deal with as well as a few other jobs, including health, police and fire services. Anyone who heard the statement made by the Home Secretary will appreciate that that is not at all times a job that can be pushed off as unimportant. He has also the task of handling Civil Defence, and we must remember that a considerable amount of money has been voted by Parliament for Civil Defence work, so that in itself is a very big task for any Minister to deal with.
Housing is a most important question for Scotland today. The Secretary of State must realise that it did not start five years ago. In 1911 a Royal Commission was first established to go into the need for building houses to let in Scotland. That Commission, reporting in 1917, said that the reason for it was the failure of private enterprise to be interested in building houses for rent, and that started local authorities building houses. From 1917 that situation has gone one—
We are going further back now. We were only going back six years, but now we are going back to 1917, which is beyond the scope of what is before the Committee.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
At the beginning of his speech the hon. Gentleman questioned the need for another Under-Secretary. Now he is making out an even stronger case for a third Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. Ross
If he recollected what I said, it was that the Government had not justified the need for this appointment, and that we have not had a fair and true picture of the need for this Under-Secretary in addition to a Minister of State for Scottish Affairs. If one of these three is to be used for this task of housing, then it should be housing alone.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) will know by this time that housing occupies the full-time attention of one man. One of the other Under-Secretaries is to deal with agriculture and forestry. Why this disparity of burden on the Under-Secretaries? Is it a disparity of ability? Why should one man be given housing, health, police, fire and Civil Defence and the other one be left with this single burden of agriculture and fisheries? I do not think that the picture we have been given justifies us in approving of the new set-up, because if one man can deal with housing, health, fire, police there can be added to the shoulders of the second Under-Secretary education and the Home Department as well as agriculture and fisheries, leaving housing to be dealt with by one Under-Secretary.
2059 We have been told that the present Minister of State is meantime looking after education as well as industry, new industries, hydro-electric problems and the Highlands. The Secretary of State for Scotland announced a policy for Scottish housing last week. I do not know whether we could call it announcing; we dragged it from him; he got up and said a few words on the subject. The point is, on what information was that policy based, because he now comes forward and tells us that to carry it out properly he must have a third Under-Secretary of State. Did he announce his policy on the information of the two Under-Secretaries he has, or because the one who was dealing with the problem was obviously over-burdened? Judging by the policy announced, he has not been doing his task very well, but we will come to that tomorrow.
What relation will this Under-Secretary have to the Secretary of State? Will he report directly to him or will his report first be vetted by the man on the spot, the expensive Public Relations Officer? What kind of status has this new Under-Secretary to have in the Government? This is an important point, because we can ignore the existence of this Minister of State for Scottish Affairs, as he is either going to detract from the responsibility of the Secretary of State or he will be pushing the Joint Under-Secretaries of State into the position of third-grade office boys.
The whole policy of the Government has been fittingly described by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire. but I should be very glad indeed if the Secretary of State would try to give us a clear picture of what the duties of these Under-Secretaries are, what their relationship will be to the Minister of State and himself, and also say whether he will not think again about the division of responsibility and place the responsibility for housing in the hands of one man.
We do not know who the fortunate or unfortunate person is to be who will be appointed to the new position. That places us at a decided disadvantage. When we were discussing the issue of the Minister of State for Scottish Affairs last week we were told who he was to be. Indeed, he had been appointed, but there 2060 is secrecy about the extra Under-Secretary.
I do not think there is any subject more important to the people of Scotland than education. Before the end of the 15th century we had established four universities in Scotland as well as a reputation for education. We are told that this new Under-Secretary is to be in charge of education, and we are blindly being asked to agree to the proposal of a third Under-Secretary without knowing who the person is and whether he will be fit to look after Scottish education. I appeal to the Secretary of State to impart more information and to let us know whether this set-up is to be of any service at all to Scotland.
§ Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)
If I may be allowed a few minutes to look back, I want to refer to the Schedule, which states that the whole of the Regulations made under the Defence (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Regulations, 1940, are repealed. I want to congratulate the Home Secretary on having repealed this Regulation and on having brought back as part of our constitutional procedure that a paid member of the Executive shall be appointed under an Act of Parliament and not by the Defence Regulations.
I have been thinking back over the years, and two things occur to me. First, I am not at all clear why I and other hon. Members in 1940 formed the opinion that there was power under the Defence Regulations authorising the Executive to appoint a paid Under-Secretary by Regulation, but whether that was so or not we, no doubt, were prepared to authorise the Government to do almost anything that was necessary in time of war.
The second thing that occurs to me is how we allowed to pass without any discussion—there was none to the best of my recollection—the Defence Regulations under which the Executive was empowered to fill the whole of the Front Bench by paid members. To me that was one of the most unconstitutional Acts we ever adopted. If it were to be done by Defence Regulations the power should have been perfectly clear, but the principle that the Executive should be given the power by this House to appoint, by Regulations, paid members of the Government is in my view utterly and 2061 completely wrong. That is a power which we ought to have kept in our own hands even in war-time, and to have insisted that it should be done by Act of Parliament.
That is simply going into past history and I need not develop that aspect. My right hon. and learned Friend has now abolished that, and I hope that under no circumstances will the House of Commons ever allow paid members of the Executive to be appointed by Regulations made by the Executive.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The Secretary of State should be very grateful to my hon. Friends for giving him an opportunity to elaborate the reasons why the Bill was introduced. I agree that there is much to be said for increasing the personnel of the Scottish Office, though its conduct during the last six years does not indicate that, for it has carried out its duties with great skill and energy and with great satisfaction to the people of Scotland.
Nevertheless, this step is being taken, and the Secretary of State should be glad of an opportunity of adumbrating the real reasons behind the Bill. I should like him to answer four specific questions. The first is, why there should be an extra Under-Secretary at all?; second, what are his duties to be?; third, how are they to be discharged?; and, fourth, where is he to operate? Something has been said about his spending most of his time in Scotland. The Committee is entitled to know specifically how much of his time he will spend in Scotland and how much in this House.
The circumstances in which we are discussing the Bill are abnormal. On Thursday the House resolved that the Bill should go to a Standing Committee. Today we were told that it was to be discussed by a Committee of the whole House. As I said earlier, hon. Members are not being given the opportunity which they would normally have to put down Amendments, and therefore, the Committee should welcome this opportunity of asking the Secretary of State to be a little more specific and precise about this subject.
The Bill extends beyond Scotland, but my hon. Friends from Scotland will agree that there are topics of special interest to the people of Scotland. I want to know, in particular, how the work of the 2062 new Under-Secretary is to be allocated with regard to three aspects of Scottish endeavour. I want to know who is to deal with fisheries: during the last five or six years the Scottish Department has given a great deal of attention to inshore fisheries and deep sea fisheries and several fishing Acts have conferred great benefits on Scottish fishing interests. I want to know who is to deal with the allocation of such raw materials as steel, which are required by the shipbuilding yards which range from the Clyde up to Aberdeen; and who is to deal with housing.
The first two subjects are complicated and require detailed consideration and perhaps the whole-time attention of one Minister. Housing is another very complicated topic, and I should like to know who will deal with it. I should like whoever is to reply—I do not know whether it will be the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State—to answer my questions. The Home Secretary has been making copious notes, and it may be that he will reply. Whoever it is, it is right that we should give him an opportunity of justifying the Bill and telling us why it is being introduced.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
I should like briefly to answer some of the points which have been raised. In the first place, the Home Secretary has asked me to say that he will take into consideration the point raised by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) and hopes that the hon. Member will be good enough to accept that reply for the present.
I have not been in my present position for long yet, but already I find that it is very difficult to please everybody. At one moment the Government are thought to be having too many Under-Secretaries at the Scottish Office, and a moment or so later the argument veers round to the suggestion that there are not enough Under-Secretaries because one Under-Secretary ought specifically to be charged with a certain function.
I do not want to go outside the Rules of Order, and that is liable to curtail my remarks—
§ Mr. Stuart
—but I dealt with the question in some detail on the Supplementary Estimate for the Minister of State for Scottish Affairs, which is not before us 2063 today, and I also dealt with the position of the additional Under-Secretary last Thursday. If hon. Members will turn to c. 1776 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for last Thursday they will see that I endeavoured to give the picture of the various duties and functions of the three Under-Secretaries and not only the new one.
With regard to education, originally I stated that the Minister of State would be charged with the work of supervising the educational department, but at that time the Bill had not come before Parliament and I could not take it for granted that the new and additional Under-Secretary would be granted by the House. However, in discussing it on Second Reading, I suggested that the third or additional Under-Secretary would pay particular attention, among other things, to education, and I said "if and when appointed" because I still did not wish to give the impression at that time that I was taking for granted something to which the House had not given its approval.
§ Mr. Wheatley
Does the right hon. Gentleman's present statement mean that if and when the new Under-Secretary is appointed he will be the person with the responsibility for education and that the Minister of State will step out of the education picture?
§ Mr. Stuart
That was my intention. That was the point with which the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) dealt in particular.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) expanded the discussion somewhat. What Sir Erskine May would have said of such a speech on the Second Reading of a Bill I am not in a position to say, but I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not pursue him over the wide ground which he covered in his remarks. I must point out to him, as I did before, that I do not think the House would agree to the appointment of an unlimited number of Under-Secretaries.
We have four separate Departments within the Scottish Office, and forestry has also to be handled, and as I mentioned the other night, we cannot divide four or five by three. There must be a certain spill-over as there are too many subjects to permit each Under-Secretary to deal only with one.
2064 While I agree absolutely with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and other hon. Members who have spoken about the vital importance of housing in Scotland, as I said just now, we cannot have an Under-Secretary for each separate Department, and I believe it is common sense to appoint to the supervision of the work the Under-Secretary who is best suited to the task. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Snadden) is dealing with the agriculture and forestry side of the work.
However, I am not claiming that we have achieved perfection, and this matter can always be re-adjusted in the light of experience if it proves to be the case that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) has too heavy a burden cast upon him. The re-arrangement can be made within the Scottish Office without necessarily coming to the House of Commons for additional legislation.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), was good enough to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on getting rid of Defence Regulations under the Bill. We are both very grateful to him for those words. I speak for the Home Secretary as well as myself when I say that we agree with my hon. and learned Friend and that we do not wish to return to that practice. My right hon. and learned Friend—I wish to join in this—desires me to say to my hon. and learned Friend that we are grateful to him for the fresh wind of constitutional purity which blew from South Kensington. In fairness to my right hon. and learned Friend, I must give him credit for one of the better parts of my remarks.
§ Mr. Manuel
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he reply to the point which I put to him at the beginning? The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), can thank the fresh winds of Scotland for allowing the Kensington breezes to stir at all. I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would reconsider the allocation of duties among the Under-Secretaries in order to give a greater bias towards housing. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman did not consider my remarks worth answering or not, but 2065 he made no reference to them—[HON. MEMBERS: "He did."]—not arising from my remarks. There is a bigger job in housing for the Minister of State than there is in the duties which have been allocated to him, and all I am asking is that the right hon. Gentleman shall keep an open mind about the re-allocation of duties if that should appear necessary.
§ Mr. Stuart
I assure the hon. Member that I did not mean to ignore the point he put to me. I did say that the work could be rearranged in the light of experience.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I should like, on behalf of the Opposition, to say "Thank you" to the Home Secretary for his undertaking to give thought to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). It seems appropriate that, if possible, we should provide in the Bill that the additional Under-Secretary at the Home Office will probably be concerned with the duties in Wales.
I believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland has more appreciated our concern about the additional appointments in Scotland this afternoon than he has done hitherto. He expressed gratitude to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), for his commending the Government for providing in the Bill that additional Ministers shall be appointed in future by Act of Parliament, so that the House shall have an opportunity of considering whether or not the Executive are entitled to add one or more to their number.
It is precisely because we have an opportunity of discussing the additional appointment for Scotland that we thought we should avail ourselves of the chance of questioning the appointment, not necessarily arguing that the appointment ought not to be made, but because we have a right to know what the additional Member of the Government will do. That is what the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South, was saying in the course of his remarks.
The other day, when we discussed the Second Reading of the Bill, some of us offered criticisms which have been accepted as an assertion of our opposition to any additional Ministers but that is not what they were. We said that no 2066 case had been made out. We did not say that we oppose a third Under-Secretary, nor that we would have opposed a fourth. What we wanted the Secretary of State to do was to come to the House, either during Second Reading, which would have been better than now, or at some appropriate time, and say that he had these four Departments at the Scottish Office, the counterpart of which required the attention of five Ministers, with five Departments, Under-Secretaries and what not, in England and Wales; that it was impossible for two Under-Secretaries to cover the four Departments, which represent the work of five Departments in England and Wales, and that he found, in the light of his short experience, that it was absolutely necessary to have additional assistance.
We could have understood if the right hon. Gentleman had even said that he had already found that it was necessary to have an Under-Secretary for each of the Departments, or that he needed two Under-Secretaries for the Department of Health; that housing was so important that it would need the full-time attention of one Under-Secretary, and that health was so important that it needed the full time attention of another. We could have understood that. Our difficulty was, and, in a measure, still is, that we have not been told that the burden is so heavy.
The Home Secretary, in moving the Second Reading the other day, repeated the remarks of the Secretary of State for Scotland in saying that these appointments are made in consequence of reports made by a Tory Party committee some two years and more ago. They were not made in consequence of any experience of government whatever, not even the experience of government before 1945 or in pre-war years.
§ Mr. Fraser
I should not like to cover again the ground I covered the other day, but one of the ex-Secretaries of State made a speech at exactly the same time telling his junior Unionists in Kelvingrove that they would have to do without a Nationalist policy in Scotland, saying something to please the Scottish Nationalists, with a view to getting into power. I quoted the speech which was reported in a Glasgow evening newspaper.
2067 That was our criticism of the appointment. No case has been made for it as far as we could see it had been done for electoral purpose.
The Secretary of State has got nearer today to appreciating what we have in mind. We are not opposed to the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary. We did, however, want the Secretary of State—
§ Mr. J. MacLeod
I am finding it very difficult to understand the hon. Member. Will he say whether he is in favour of the appointment of the additional Under-Secretary or not?
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member probably has not taken the trouble to read the speech I made the other day. He certainly was not here to hear it, and I shall not bore the Committee by telling him all that I then said. I said, and I repeat, that it is the duty of the Government, when asking for Parliamentary assent to the appointment of an additional Minister, to justify that appointment and not merely to say that a Tory Party committee in 1949 said, "We would do this if ever we were returned to power." That is not enough.
§ Mr. MacLeod
The hon. Gentleman was himself Under-Secretary of State. Surely, therefore, he can say whether or not he believes in the additional appointment.
§ Mr. Fraser
I have stated my views about the work of the Scottish Office and I am not expanding them here this afternoon.
I repeat that the Government have a right and a responsibility to look at the organisation of government and that, whenever they think that the efficiency of government will be improved by the appointment of additional Ministers, they ought to come to Parliament to ask for the appointment. Our criticism was, and still is, so far as Scotland is concerned, that we were not given adequate justification for the appointments. All that we were given was an explanation of the allocation of duties between the Under-Secretaries. It would be equally easy to do as we suggest if the number of junior Ministers to be appointed was four—it would be much easier, in fact, because there are four Departments.
2068 But I do not want to carry the fight any further. I merely say, as we pass from the Clause, that it will provide for the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary. I hope that this appointment will result in the affairs of Scotland being the better looked after and will result in decisions being taken more expeditiously. I sincerely hope that experience will prove that the apprehensions which I expressed the other day are not at all justified.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Mr. Butcher.]
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I am glad at this last stage of the Bill to say one or two things about it. I preface the two points which I should like to make by saying that I welcome the Bill and that what I have to say about it is subject to the proper handling of matters by the Secretary of State and his Department.
I am not so sure that we have seen sound signs of that so far. We were told the other day that education was to be handled by the Minister of State. Now, we are told that that is only a temporary arrangement and that when the third Under-Secretary is appointed, education will be added to his duties. Why on earth could it not have been kept in the hands of the Secretary of State himself for the couple of months concerned? Why take a subject like this and pass it about between two more hands instead of keeping it in the Secretary of State's hands until the Under-Secretary is appointed?
I take it that the appointment of the third Under-Secretary, or the provision for his appointment in the Bill, does not stand by itself. It is, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.- Colonel Elliot) described it the other day, the last stage in putting together a new administrative set-up. The Secretary of State does not seem so far to have been 2069 at all happy in his handling of the new administrative set-up. In providing for this new Under-Secretary, has he taken into consideration the relations of the Scottish Office with a number of the United Kingdom Departments, which, in many cases, exercise a very great deal of responsibility in regard to Scottish affairs?
I was not fortunate enough to be called on the Second Reading of the Bill. Had I spoken then, I might have been able to develop the point further than I may do now. So far as I am concerned, the appointment of an additional Minister to the Scottish Office is definitely a good thing. Whether it will work out well with the present Administration in power, depends upon the right hon. Gentleman in improving a little on his handling of Scottish affairs so far.
The additional appointments are a good thing, for this reason: the tendency is always for the Minister to find himself—this applies to most Departments—taking decisions which are really executive in character rather than policy-making; they are matters for a senior executive rather than for someone who is exploring the field of policy. This has been particularly true in the case of the Scottish Office. So many executive decisions have needed to be made that there has been a tendency for the Ministerial team to regard itself in that way. It is a good thing to have a thinning out of the Ministerial team and to have the work spread over a larger number of Ministers, so that they will have more leisure to think out some of the underlying problems behind executive decisions.
There is one point which has not been referred to in any of the discussions on the Bill. What strikes me most about this reform in Scottish affairs is the contrast with the last reform that was made in their administration. The main point of that reform in 1948 was that it increased the control exercised by the House over Scottish affairs. The important thing about this Bill is that it increases the strength of the Executive without any corresponding increase in the power of the House to hold the Executive responsible. The increased number of Ministers, having all their decisions channelled finally through the Secretary of State, as he has wisely reminded us, will make it rather more difficult for the House to exercise its 2070 function of supervising the Executive and holding it responsible.
That illustrates pretty clearly the difference in the approach of the two sides of the House to this kind of question. From the point of view of hon. Members opposite, the important thing is to strengthen the executive in a case of this sort. From the viewpoint of my hon. Friends on this side, what is important is to strengthen the power of Members of the House to hold the Executive to its responsibility. The Secretary of State ought to be warned that as a result of the Bill there is quite likely to be an increased demand for reform along these lines.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Wheatley, for example, the other day asked for increased time for questioning Scottish Ministers. That did not arise particularly from this Bill, but it is the kind of request that is likely to be fostered by the passing of the Bill. It is a little unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill as it affects Scotland, should not have shown that he was alive to that question and was prepared to consider some increased power to the legislative function of Government corresponding to this increase in the strength of the Executive. I welcome the provision of additional Ministers for Scottish affairs, and I hope that in the hands of the Government, and particularly of furture Governments, it will prove to be of benefit to Scotland.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I think it should be clearly understood that we do not object to the provisions of this Bill, that we welcome any additional Under-Secretaries that would enable us to get a bigger drive as far as the major problem in Scotland is concerned, that of housing. I, for one, wish the Government good luck in their task, and we will not begrudge them any credit that they may get if they succeed in producing the houses they promised us with such enthusiasm on the occasion of the last General Election, but that number is rather vague.
In my constituency we were told they were going to build three houses for every two that are to be built now. I think we require far more Under-Secretaries to concentrate all their intellectual powers if 2071 that programme is to be achieved. I think the Scottish Office should be strengthened, in personnel and in every way, against the other Departments. There has been some doubt about the various priorities; for example, there was doubt in the mind of the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister during a sitting of the Scottish Grand Committee. Then he argued that housing should have equal priority with defence. I do not know what that means. I do not know what "equal priority" means, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman does; but it showed what was the doubt that was in his mind—and it was a very interesting speech that he gave to the Committee—when he stressed the relative importance of housing in the economic life of Scotland.
I think the Scottish Office will have to struggle every inch of the way against the Defence Ministries if we are going to get the houses we have been promised. I can see a big struggle coming along for labour, for raw materials and for everything that is needed in housing which is also needed by the Defence Department, so I am glad to see the Ministry strengthened in some respects, and I only hope it will be equal to the task in front of it.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
In reply to the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. M. MacPherson), perhaps I should say something again on the subject of education. The hon. Member asked why this was passed from the Minister of State to the new Under-Secretary. The perfectly fair and honest answer is that in taking up office I had a very onerous task to acquaint myself with the many problems confronting me in the Scottish Office, and I thought it was to the better interest of education to handle it in that way. I admit that it is a matter which can be argued otherwise.
With regard to the hon. Member's anxiety about the powers of the Executive in this House, I do not think this is an occasion on which the House would wish to hear my views on this very interesting subject; but I think it would be fair to say that I, personally, at any rate, have little doubt that this House will find a way of keeping the Executive in order, if 2072 they are thought to be becoming too powerful.
In reply to the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I can only say that unfortunately, or in some respects fortunately, there is to be a housing debate tomorrow when, perhaps, there will be an opportunity to pursue the matter; but I do not wish to repeat myself again and again. I have endeavoured to make the position clear in so far as the additional Under-Secretary is concerned, and I hope that the House will now agree to give us the Third Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.