§ 7.25 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
Perhaps I ought to say a few words in explanation of this Supplementary Estimate. I do not intend to enter into any long discussion and I do not intend to be controversial in handling it, because I hope that it will be more or less generally agreed that the step the Government propose to take in this matter is one for an improvement in the handling of our Scottish affairs.
There have been various changes in the course of time in the set-up of the Scottish Office and its organisation. I do not intend to go further back than the year 1885, which I think is perhaps early enough for the general wish of this Committee. In 1885, under a Unionist Government—Lord Salisbury's Government at that time—there was established the Office of the Secretaryship for Scotland, which had been in abeyance for reasons I will not go into now. At any rate, I think that was a right and proper step and one which was welcomed in Scotland.
479 In 1926, under another Unionist Government, the office of Secretary for Scotland was elevated to that of a Secretary of State and that is the position today. There has been little change since 1926 so far as I am aware. A number of hon. Members on this side of the Committee have taken an interest in this matter and have given a great deal of thought to it over a period of time. As Leader of the party, the Prime Minister set up a committee to consider how we could make improvements for the better control and administration of our affairs in Scotland. I had the honour of being the chairman of that committee, which contained at least two ex-Secretaries of State. We reported in November, 1949.
One of the suggestions made at that time was that there should be a Minister of State for Scotland who would be in a position to assist the Secretary of State, whoever he might be. It was suggested that he should be a Privy Councillor and should receive Cabinet papers as a right; and if summoned to the Cabinet, or if deputising for the Secretary of State, he would be present as an equal. It was suggested that he should be designated Minister of State for Scotland in the same way as today we have a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
I do not say that this is the end of the improvements which we wish to make, because perfection is, of course, difficult to achieve. But I believe that this is a step in the right direction and will assist those who hold the office which I have the very great honour to hold at the present time.
I am glad that sitting behind me is a previous Secretary of State for Scotland, and sitting opposite me are two right hon. Members of this House who were Secretaries of State immediately before me, and the former Lord Advocate. I feel, therefore, that this Committee is well adorned in that respect, and no doubt we shall have the benefit of their views and advice. Those who have held the office of Secretary of State for Scotland will agree that the work of that Minister has increased during the past years. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) who, to my knowledge, has had experience of the Scottish Office dating back 29 years, has considerable experience of 480 this matter. He was on the committee which made these suggestions.
A matter in which I think this arrangement will be of considerable help is in having more or less resident in Scotland a Minister of high rank, what, in my day, when I was Chief Whip. was known as a Minister above the line. Ministers above the line are not necessarily in the Cabinet, but they receive Cabinet papers and are fully informed as to policy in that respect. Being in Scotland, a Minister of State would be in a position to relieve whoever holds the position of Secretary of State of a good deal of travelling which, I think it will be agreed, is a heavy burden. It would be a great help in expediting the conduct of Scottish business because the Minister of State would be resident in Scotland and be able to meet, in St. Andrew's House, representatives of industry, local authorities and other bodies, such as, for example, the Highland Panel, with very little delay, and he able to hear their views.
While I must make it absolutely clear that the responsibility for taking decisions rests, and must rest, with whoever holds the Office of Secretary of State, nevertheless, there could be, and I think we already have evidence of the fact that there will be, a genuine saving in time and travelling; because with modern communications, the telegraph, telephone and teleprinter, and so on, it is easier for my noble Friend, when in Scotland, to communicate directly with me. I think that time can be saved and that decisions can be reached more expeditiously by the method which we propose.
It will, of course, be the duty of my noble Friend to deal with Scottish business in another place, as well as to be resident in Scotland to a great extent. That does not mean that I have no intention of visiting my native country. I shall go there whenever possible. It is not necessary for me to explain to the Committee that it is not always very easy for an hon. Member of this House to absent himself during the working week when the House is sitting. That is a difficulty which confronted hon. Members in the last Administration and which would appear likely to confront hon. Members in the present Administration. But at other times, and when I can, it 481 will be my duty to be in Scotland as much as possible, and that will be my intention.
I do not think the Committee will expect me to go into a lot of detail, but, to make the position quite clear, I would say that it is the intention that while the responsibility rests on me, and I have to be in London a great deal, the Minister of State will be able to supervise the co-ordinating of work in the Departments in St. Andrew's House by keeping in touch with the work of every Department in Scotland, and in continuous contact with local authorities and other bodies in the widest range of Scottish affairs. He will be in a position to assess Scottish requirements. He will keep me directly informed, and take such steps as he can in the ordinary administrative field, which will, I think, lead to improvements and to an acceleration in the conduct of our business.
It is early in the day to make a pronouncement now, but I believe that in the light of experience we shall be able to achieve an improvement in the management of our affairs. I am only too happy to say that I feel myself to be extremely fortunate in having my noble Friend to undertake this important work. We have worked together in the past and I am quite satisfied we can work amicably together in the future. Given a little time and experience I think that the proposed new set-up will prove to be of genuine assistance.
§ 7.45 p.m.
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
My first pleasure is to congratulate and felicitate the right hon. Gentleman in his post. There exists between his office and the Opposition a degree of tolerance that is not always shown to occupants of these benches, and, when I say that we hope to display this tolerance towards him, I do not mean in any way that we will fight any the less fiercely or be the less vigilant on matters of substance and principle to us. There are times, in Committee and in this House, when, as we know from experience, the most important thing is to be Scottish, and, on these occasions, the right hon. Gentleman can be satisfied that affection and tolerance towards his office will be manifested by my hon. Friends and myself. I said upon these occasions; there will be other occasions.
482 I wish that I could start tonight in a warm and benevolent frame of mind about the appointment of the Minister of State for Scotland. I am afraid I have a complaint, and quite a serious complaint, the justice of which, I am fairly certain, the right hon. Gentleman will admit. It seems to my hon. Friends and myself that this business has been conducted in a rather gauche fashion. Within a fortnight, we have become quite used to the addiction of His Majesty's Government for peers, but we think it a little odd that the Government should not so have arranged their business that a change of this kind might first have been discussed by the Commons and not by another place.
It is particularly true that, on Scottish questions, there is in our country—and I am very happy that it is so—an insistent jealousy of the rights of this House, and, when we come to discuss a new appointment like this, it is, to say the least of it, gauche when we find that the principle and the office have been discussed in another place. I think that this business might have been more properly arranged.
I am very grateful for the information which the right hon. Gentleman has offered us, but I am afraid that it scarcely goes far enough. Some of my hon. Friends, not intimately acquainted with this business, might unwittingly have concluded that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about a Committee of this House when he spoke about the recommendations offered by a committee which carried on it two former Secretaries of State for Scotland. [Interruption.] Of course, quite unwittingly, yes, but I think I should put my hon. Friends and other hon. Members right. This committee, however important it may be in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman, is of no importance to this Committee. It was, of course, a small Tory Party committee which was committed to produce some Election literature, and that it did.
I think I might summarise our attitude by saying that we are not enthusiastic about this appointment, because it is difficult to see at this stage—and, with great respect, it has not been made clearer by the right hon. Gentleman—the exact and substantial contribution which it is claimed this appointment will make towards the better government of Scotland. At this stage, it looks—and, apparently, it seemed to the noble Lord yesterday— 483 like a piece of window-dressing, whose functions we might see developed, but not very ornamental window dressing, as we think on this side of the Committee.
However, in the meantime, provided our questions are reasonably answered, as I am sure they will be, we are prepared to suspend judgment until we see how the idea develops. The problems of the Scottish Office, as we all know, whether we have been in that office or not, are complex and extensive, both in their administration and policy-making aspects, and we have never attempted to suggest for a second that these arrangements could not be improved. So, while being cautious and, naturally, reserving our Parliamentary right to come back to this business, we will, meantime, be prepared to suspend judgment, so that impartial but very careful examination can be made as the scheme develops.
I said that we are anxious to know what are the intentions of the Government at the outset of the scheme, and I hope I was not being discourteous when I suggested that it looked a little like window-dressing. My fears about window-dressing are in no way allayed by a report which appeared in "The Scotsman" yesterday, dealing with the noble Lord who is the Minister-Designate. I think he is still the Minister-Designate, until we approve his salary and his staff, and so it might be convenient for me to call him the noble Lord.
It is a fairly long story, with which I will not bore the Committee, and I should be surprised if it appeared quite unknown to the Information Office of the Scottish Office. I do not know if any facilities were afforded, but I should be surprised if they were completely unaware of its preparation. We are told:Something akin to a breeze of re-invigoration has begun to blow through the corridors of St. Andrew's House.Is this due to the arrival of a Secretary of State with such a distinguished name as the right hon. Gentleman opposite? Is it due even to the strange advent of a Government without a majority? Not a chance. It is due to the arrival of yet another peer with a Tory ticket in his hand. We are told:In the mere ten days since he took over his task in St. Andrew's House, Lord Home has already established a reputation as the 484 busiest Minister St. Andrew's House has known for many years.As a commoner and a Scotsman, I must come to the rescue of the right hon. Gentleman. It is really rather rash to consider that, in 10 days, breezes have blown open the doors of St. Andrew's House, and that the reputations of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) and of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and even of poor Mr. Tom Johnston, a distinguished former hon. Member of this House, are just wiped out.
I do not complain about that.
Here is the noble Lord, and I do not think I can better this quotation:Every day during the last week, he has had meetings with heads of departments and staff conferences, familiarising himself with the intricacies of Scottish affairs and administration, and gaining the respect of permanent executives by a ready grasp of realities and the quality of open-mindedness.In my limited experience, that frequently means that he is a Minister who does not disagree with the permanent staff.
Perhaps I do the Scottish Office an injustice, but according to this elaborate editorial column—there is another gem here —the noble Lord is not even to have a Christmas season—he is going to have a busy "Yuletide" season. The whole list suggests to any impartial reader that nothing he has done or nothing he intends to do marks him off from the office of an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary. Naturally, we in this Committee are worried because we are asked to find a new office and a new staff and to spend further public moneys by a Government which came in on an economy ticket in order to create—and this not by the usual method—an additional Parliamentary Secretary.
I am bound to say that the statement made by the noble Lord yesterday in another place does nothing at all to dissipate this impression created by "The Scotsman" and by a previous Press conference held by the noble Lord. He said yesterday in another place:I am going to make one claim on the credit side at once, and that is that I must surely embody one of the quickest fulfillments 485 of an Election pledge in British political history."—a somewhat arrogant claim, but I suppose we can permit him that because it seems likely to be the only one—My office has been charged by the Secretary of State with certain particular responsibilities for the welfare of the Highlands and Islands, and for the orderly development of Scottish industry and for close relations with the local authorities.He then went on to say:As deputy to the Secretary of State, it is already clear to me, in the short time that I have been in office, that I can do much to help to expedite the business of government and efficient administration by being on the spot,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174, c. 394.]—an ambiguity which he might have avoided with a little care.
It will be plain to the Committee that with the exception of the one phrase relating to industry—to which I will return later—the duties of the noble Lord are only those which a Secretary of State might normally delegate to one of his Under-Secretaries, such as the receiving of deputations, particularly from local authorities, the vetting of schemes and projects, the encouragement of industrial operations, and the supervision of sectors of work in the Scottish Office. These are jobs which an Under-Secretary of State in the Scottish Office and in other Government offices does in the normal way.
The noble Lord makes great play—and the right hon. Gentleman referred to this—with the fact that he will be more or less constantly in Edinburgh. I admit that that will, perhaps, prove an advantage, but it also leads me to the question to which the right hon. Gentleman referred when he read out from the Conservative Party document the functions of the Minister of State. If the noble Lord is going to find his main rôle in Edinburgh or in remaining in Scotland, I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever is to reply, would be good enough to explain to us what exactly is the rôle of the new Minister of State in relation to the Cabinet.
He is, as we have been told, of Cabinet rank. We were also told that when he appeared at the Cabinet he would sit as an equal, which I find a little difficult to understand, but, whatever it means, he is something short of being a member of the Cabinet. Does he attend the Cabinet at all times when Scottish affairs are being discussed, or only when he is summoned, 486 and, if so, summoned by whom and at the request of whom? Is it at the request of the Secretary of State?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but that does not take us any further forward in understanding what are the peculiar novel duties of this Minister of State. After all, that would be the normal experience of any Parliamentary Under-Secretary; he would go to the Cabinet to deal with a subject from his Department when his Minister was unable to be present. He might do so even if his Minister were not a Cabinet Minister, but merely a Departmental Minister, so that this does not make the Minister of State any different again from all other Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.
It is usual, I believe, in these modern times for Parliamentary Secretaries to have access to the minutes and papers of Cabinet and ministerial committees concerning their own Departments. Moreover, they normally attend, as we have agreed, in their own right—and not as anything new or novel—ministerial committees dealing with subjects concerning their Departments or the affairs which they supervise on the delegation of the Minister, and, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, they would attend in his absence.
Therefore, these attendances on ministerial committees, these deputisings for a Cabinet Minister, and this access to Cabinet papers are nothing new. There is no addition to normal governmental practice, and, except in the provision of an additional body, there is nothing new so far as the government of Scotland is concerned.
Quite plainly, if the Minister of State is not going to take up the duties either of his Minister or of one of his Under-Secretary colleagues in attending such meetings he will be, I would suggest, hopelessly out of touch with Scottish business. He will be a minor permanent Under-Secretary charged with certain administrative supervision, but having no part in policy-making. When the right hon. Gentleman refers to the use that can be made of the telephone, the teleprinter and the telegram in the delivering of decisions, I would point out to him that these means of communication can be 487 employed in exactly the same way between the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary or between the Secretary of State and the Permanent Under-Secretary when it is a question of the Secretary of State taking a decision and the machine operating it.
The noble Lord, the Minister of State, added a little to our difficulty in understanding this subject because he said:It is vital to Scotsmen that the Secretary of State should he free and have full time to take his part at the highest level of Cabinet discussion and decision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174, c. 395.]I do not know what that means, unless it means the obvious in which case it is difficult to understand why it was said in that context.
Does it mean—and I do not think it does—that the noble Lord is going to the Cabinet to deal with Scottish affairs? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State says not, and that the noble Lord only goes there when the right hon. Gentleman is absent. If that is so, in what way is the Secretary of State relieved to deal with these very important duties? I say they are of tremendous importance. Both in and out of the office which the right hon. Gentleman at present occupies I sometimes felt that the Scottish public were a little unfair, or perhaps a little impatient, towards their Secretary of State.
The Scottish public must understand that the ability of their Secretary of State to demand the attention, and perhaps sometimes the benevolence, of his Cabinet colleagues towards Scottish affairs will largely rest upon the reputation and prestige which their Minister builds for himself as a full Cabinet Minister. There cannot be a kind of second-class Cabinet Minister for Scotland. He has to be of equal status with his colleagues. I have sometimes thought —and I would be glad to support the right hon. Gentleman in this matter—that the Scottish people must bring patience and perhaps a warm indulgence towards understanding the rôle of their Secretary of State in discharging his part in the Government and in the government of their affairs.
But strange as this statement reads, here we have the assurance of the Secretary of State that the Minister of State, 488 in the meantime, is not proposing to do anything for him in the Cabinet or in the discharge of his Cabinet tasks that was not previously done by the Joint Under-Secretaries. Therefore, I should like the Secretary of State, or whoever replies, to tell us precisely what is new in the relationship of the proposed Minister of State to the Cabinet and to the ministerial committees. I should like him to tell us in what way this precisely differs from or is superior to the arrangements previously carried out by the Joint Under-Secretaries and their relationship to the ministerial committees and to the Cabinet.
It would be also germane to the question, if not immediately relevant, if the Secretaries of State could find time to tell us before we dispose of these proceedings to whom we should address ourselves by Questions, by letter and by personal approach upon different subjects in his now fairly expanded team. We had a reply from the Prime Minister which helped this afternoon. We had a reply from the noble Lord yesterday which, if I may say so with great respect, did not help at all. He informed their Lordships that there were various departments in the Scottish Office, and, strangely enough in a Scottish Minister, he missed out completely the Department of Education. The Prime Minister put that right this afternoon. It will be very helpful if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State would tell us how he is to divide the work, to whom Questions are to be put, how we should make a personal approach and where to in the case of the Minister of State.
There is one other question which is rather more important. The noble Lord the Minister of State, discussing this yesterday in another place said he would supervise the orderly development of Scottish industry. I concede immediately that this is an important task. Does the Minister of State mean more by that statement than that he will accept the task of consulting, stimulating and supporting such excellent organisations as the Scottish T.U.C. and the Scottish Council for Industry, both of whom do magnificent jobs? If he is going to do no more than see that some of the big gaps in Scottish industry, created primarily by 50 years of Tory neglect, are filled by new and light industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. Nobody in this 489 Committee will argue otherwise than that the unbalanced and haphazard development of Scottish industry, as of industry in South Wales, was due to Tory casualness. If the Minister of State, with his organisation, will do no more than that, then once more there is nothing new, except that the Secretary of State is parting with the duty which was carried out by the two previous occupants of the Office themselves.
If I may offer the right hon. Gentleman a piece of friendly advice, I say to him, from my own experience and the experience of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling, that in the end this co-operation between the Scottish Office and such organisations as the Scottish Council for Industry will frequently depend upon the ability of the Secretary of State to inject himself at the highest level, even at Cabinet level, to see that the correct decisions are taken and that Scotland has her place in these developments so far as they spring from changes or development in Government policy.
It would be a mistake to leave that to a junior Minister. But this statement might mean a little more. The noble Lord the Minister of State for Scotland yesterday threw in a sentence or two which I find it fairly difficult to understand. He said, at the end of his speech:Therefore, we intend, so tar as the nationalised industries are concerned, to take such measures as will establish in Scotland the most appropriate machinery to serve the Scottish needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174. c. 396.]That is a strange sentence. Are we therefore to understand that, despite the King's Speech, despite undertakings given by the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Fuel and Power to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the Government now have some intention towards nationalised industries other than iron and steel and transport? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us, if that is the case, how it came about that a junior Minister in another place in a casual, off-hand statement enunciated this new policy of the Government?
But if it means—as I suspect it means —nothing, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will indicate that and we will say no more about it, provided he answers this point: that I take it even in the case of steel and transport the right hon. Gentleman does not intend or anticipate 490 that the Minister of State—designate shall have any Governmental role in the discharge of these industries. I presume, further, that we shall still address our Questions relating to these industries to the existing Ministers. A change of this kind would be a very great departure indeed, and one very difficult to follow.
I hope that we shall get answers to these three groups of questions. We on this side hope for the very best from this development, although we fear there will be a bit of a muddle. I respectfully suggest that it might have been better to delay the appointment until the limits of the job have been worked out and defined. That is a normal governmental practice. It is a little unusual to come to this Committee and ask for funds while the Minister-designate explains his hopes in another place. We shall have to wait and see how this develops. It would have been much better if this Committee had had a precise statement from the right hon. Gentleman. I am not blaming him for not having the information. Indeed, it is a little unfair to send a Secretary of State to the Front Bench armed with nothing but a party pamphlet.
It would have been better, and we on this side would be much happier to discuss this matter constructively, because we are all desperately concerned to improve, wherever possible, the method of Scottish government and to do anything that contributes to the welfare of Scotland and her people. Therefore, at this stage, provided our questions are answered satisfactorily, we shall not oppose but will keep in touch with the right hon. Gentleman, anxious to understand this development so that we may later examine it, with the details before us, in a constructive frame of mind.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The statement we have just heard from the former Secretary of State for Scotland deserves a little underlining. I agree that the Government have been far too hasty in bringing this matter before us; I do not think they have thought out what advantages, if any, will be gained by this appointment. It would appear that there is only one election pledge that they can fulfil, and so they rush in with this.
§ Mr. Ross
I do not know whether the Government fancy that Scottish people will accept the proverb "Never look a gift horse in the mouth." If they think that simply because we are getting something thrown to us from the Tory table, some little devolution crumb, we shall make no effort to examine what we are getting, they are making a great mistake.
I complain also at the fact that although this matter was mentioned in the Gracious Speech, we have heard nothing at all about it in this House until today. In fact, this is the first time we have discovered that the Secretary of State for Scotland could even speak. The people of Scotland were beginning to wonder whether he possessed that faculty, and we congratulate him on having been allowed to break his silence.
We started this Parliamentary Session by being told how serious the situation was and that even Cabinet Ministers had to sacrifice £1,000 a year from their salaries.
§ Mr. Ross
We will take it just as it looks. Now we have the Government telling us that we have got to spend £3,000 a year on a completely new appointment. It is going to be a disappointment to many people in Scotland. There is a feeling in Scotland that we must bring the Government nearer to the people and that we should have greater democratic participation in government. But is anyone going to suggest that the appointment of a Minister of State who cannot answer Questions in this House, who is in another place altogether, will contribute anything towards that end? I ask, in view of the serious warnings about finance, Is this the time to spend £3,000, or is this the way to do it?
What is the Minister of State going to do? So far as we can judge from the Secretary of State, he is going to be a glorified public relations officer. He is going to meet industrialists and members of local authorities. What is he going to do after that? He will evidently get on the teleprinter and ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what he has got to do.
We have been told by a noble Lord in another place that ultimate responsibility rests upon the Secretary of State for Scotland. I do not know how often the Sec- 492 retary of State is in Scotland, but I can tell him that the folks in Scotland have not changed. If representatives of the local authorities come to see the Minister of State and he does not satisfy them, they will immediately ask to see the Secretary of State for Scotland. In other words, we have only got a buffer, and instead of getting speedier decisions we shall have matters prolonged and further delayed.
If this appointment is to effect anything, surely it must give us speedier decisions. The man on the spot is going to decide. But the man on the spot has not the responsibility for decision. He does not create Government policy. He is only the interpreter, the co-ordinator. It is a piece of nonsense to tell us that we shall get quicker decisions from the man on the spot. So far as I can see, we are getting a very expensive office boy in Scotland. We used to hear something from hon. Members opposite in the last Parliament about "jobs for the boys." I think we are now back to "jobs for the blue-blooded boys." I do not mind them having jobs, provided the jobs will create better administration in Scotland.
This throwing in of an extra Minister between the people of Scotland and the Secretary of State will not give us speedier decisions, and it will not provide the clear-cut responsibilities which we could well do with. If the people are not satisfied with the new Minister's answers they will go straight to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State, despite all his hopes, will find himself travelling to Scotland as often as before; indeed, I hope so, because that is where his job lies.
What are we getting with this appointment? We are getting a Minister of State in another place who cannot be questioned in this House. In other words, this is a back door entry into the Civil Service. What is the new Minister of State going to do that cannot be done by the present Permanent Under-Secretary of State? He may be able to create a breeze, but he will certainly not give us any better administration. All I know is that an extra £3,000 is going to be spent by the party who were going to cut down Government expenditure, the party who had their Press blazon forth the fact that they were sacrificing £7,000. Now they are spending extra. I want to know whether we are going to get value 493 for it. We have already been told the relationship of the new Minister of State to the Secretary of State. He is going to be the underling of the Secretary of State.
What is to be the relationship with the Under-Secretaries of State? We have two, but this Government, which intends to cut down expenditure, is to give us another we are to have three Under-Secretaries. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not four?"] Yes; why not four, or five? This extravagant Government might as well give us four. For the money we are paying for the Minister of State, we could have another two.
§ Mr. Ross
What will be the position of these three Under-Secretaries? Are they to be responsible directly to the Secretary of State for Scotland, or are they to be responsible to the Minister of State? Remember, according to his own statement in another place, the Minister of State also has departmental responsibilities, although we again heard the new word "co-ordination" today from the Secretary of State for Scotland. In another place the Minister of State declared that he had:particular responsibilities for the welfare of the Highlands and Islands, for the orderly development of Scottish industry and close relations with the local authorities.Which of the Under-Secretaries will be displaced by the assumption by the new Minister of those responsibilities? The fact is, the Government have no idea at all about what is to go on.
§ Mr. Ross
This is a Scottish quarrel. What was said in another place by the Minister designate sums the position up:I think we shall have to work out this scheme as we go along,He went on to say:The Secretary of State will give me as wide a discretion as he can, particularly on administrative matters.That means nothing at all. He continues:We shall have to work it out and see how it goes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174, c. 394–6.]As far as I am concerned, the quicker the whole lot go the better for Scotland.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I am quite certain that all Scottish Members would support a Measure for more streamlined administration, or for the creation of another office if it would be for the benefit of Scotland. All of us on this side of the Committee are especially zealous for the welfare of Scotland. After the speech we have heard from the Secretary of State, however, I am afraid we shall need many more assurances than he has given so far before we are convinced that this new appointment will lead to any further strength in the application of Government to the lives of the people of Scotland.
I have heard nothing from the Front Bench opposite today which would lead me to believe in any way that the application of this new appointment to the homes and lives of the ordinary people will bring about any improvement—and as far as I am concerned that is a supreme test of any new appointment. I want to know, from the right hon. Gentleman what will be entrusted to this new Minister. I understand from the Press and from the speech made by the noble Lord who has been given this post that he is to have special responsibilities for the Highlands and Islands. I am keenly interested in the Highlands and Islands, and have often been in the Highlands, and I want to know what this statement means.
After all, we know that under the present Scottish Ministers there is complete control over the services of forestry, agriculture and fisheries. These three Departments are committed to one Under-Secretary. Another Under-Secretary is responsible to the Secretary of State for education, housing, health, fire services, police and civil defence. In what way will this new appointment give any additional power in the application of these services to the people of Scotland? We have not had the slightest inkling in the Press, in the speech made by the noble Lord in another place, or from the Secretary of State today that there will be any difference.
No information has been given to suggest that the new Minister of State will have decisive authority—that he will be able to decide anything. Unless the occupant of this office has authority to decide on his own volition that such and such a 495 thing can be done, or that something else can be done, then the office does not strengthen administration at all, and certainly it will not meet the wishes of those sections of the population of Scotland which have been asking for a strengthening of the Scottish Office, in personnel, in order to try to bring the Government nearer to the lives of the people.
I am especially concerned about the application of the new post to the Highlands and Islands and to their welfare. Those of us who are interested in the Highlands and Islands recognise their importance—and I am glad to see in his place the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum), who is responsible—[Interruption.] Well, he ought to be responsible for these things. I know many of the problems of the Highlands and Islands.
All Scottish Members know that the main problems concerning the Highlands and Islands are tied not to the Scottish Departments but to English Departments—or perhaps U.K. Departments is the proper term. As I understand it, these Departments will not be affected in any way by the creation of this new post. When a problem arises with application to Argyllshire, or to any of the other northern counties, in relation to transport, for instance, the new Minister of State will have nothing to do with it at all, because the responsibility will rest with a U.K. Department. That is my interpretation of the position. Perhaps the Secretary of State can inform me otherwise.
We want further information about this. Will the Minister of State lift the telephone and contact a Minister in a U.K. Department here? I suggest that an official could do that quite as well. The creation of a new post seems to me to be a spendthrift policy. That is all it is. Furthermore, in the Election, the party opposite committed themselves to another principle which has application to the problem of transport—and I am choosing transport from many other examples as a subject which is the responsibility of a U.K. Department. The Government are pledged to take the more lucrative road haulage side of the industry away from the transport services of the country and to return it to private enterprise. This is going to have dire consequences for the Highlands and 496 Islands because British Railways operating in the Highlands of Scotland today are already operating quite uneconomically. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are pleased to see enforced the principle—
The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
The hon. Member is carrying the debate too wide and must revert to the appointment of the Minister.
§ Mr. Manuel
With great respect, this appointment is, we have been authoritatively informed, related to the welfare of the Highlands and Islands, and it is agreed on all sides that transport is related to the welfare of the Highlands and Islands. Therefore, I submit that my remarks so far as transport is concerned are in order.
The hon. Member may not argue the hypothetical duties of the Minister, but only what the duties are.
§ Mr. Manuel
Until we are informed of what these duties are, I am afraid that I cannot argue them. I do not know what they are. We have not been told —unless the Chair can inform us?
§ Mr. Manuel
None of us knows what they are. If I may be permitted to deal with the question of transport, which is awfully important so far as the Highlands are concerned, I would say that the railways are running quite uneconomically in the Highlands at the present time. We have had hon. Members opposite frequently asking for lower freight rates and lower passenger rates, but now they are taking up a course that they advocated at the last Election, that the lucrative road haulage side should be taken away from the nationalised industry. That is going to work against what they have been advocating, for it is going to mean higher rates in the Highlands, and they will thus do a dis-service to their constituents by fleecing British Transport of its more lucrative side.
I think that hon. Members for the Highland constituencies ought to have second thoughts about this, and recognise its implications for the Highlands and Islands—for the Highland crofters, and for the sheep farmers so far as the conveyance of stock is concerned, and so on.
§ Mr. Manuel
With the greatest respect, Sir Charles, as one of your constituents, and as you are one of mine, I think we could agree on the importance of discovering what are the duties under the new appointment on which money is to be paid. Surely it is relevant, if we are to vote £3,000 for this appointment, to ask what work is to be accomplished, before we agree on the rate for the job. I have been trying to find out just what the implications are for the Highlands and Islands, and what they are for transport in those areas. However, if I am getting out of order, I will proceed to my next point.
It appears to me, as we have had no indication at all of the duties of this new Minister of State, that this matter has been hastily thought out, and the appointment made because of the election promises made in Scotland, that a new office would be created, and to placate certain sections of Scottish opinion which have been arguing for more devolution. I quite agree with devolution. We are agreed that we should get government down to the lives and the homes of the people.
This appointment has been made simply because the Tory Party in Scotland have had to try to redeem this particular election pledge. I feel that it is because of that that they have thrown this sop to the people—a sop which, I am convinced, really means nothing at all. We shall see no benefit from this new appointment, and we shall have to have further thoughts before Scotland derives any benefit at all from such a post as this.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Major D. McCallum (Argyll)
It surprises me that hon. Members of the other side seem to find something to wonder at in the Government's decision to fulfil their election pledge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] One of many, and many have been fulfilled, and it surprises me that hon. Members opposite should wonder at it, although they deliberately failed to keep their own promise of the 1945 election, when they promised home rule for Scotland.
§ The Chairman
I think we should try to keep the debate to the matter of the Supplementary Estimate.
§ Major McCallum
Reverting to the appointment of the Minister, I do not understand why there should be this misunderstanding about what the Minister is likely to do. Presumably he is going to take charge of Highland and Island affairs. He will travel about the Highlands and Islands and be able to make decisions and recommendations to the Secretary of State on the conditions he finds.
What happened under the last Government? During the Summer Recess either the Secretary of State or one of his UnderSecretaries—or, I believe, even the late Lord Advocate—embarked on a fishery cruiser and cruised round the Western Isles and some of the western and northwestern coasts. That is their looking after the Highlands and Islands. I am glad to learn from Press reports that already the new Minister is making contact with an organisation known as the Advisory Panel for Highland and Island Affairs—next month, in the winter, not waiting for a fishery cruiser.
§ Mr. John Wheatley (Edinburgh, East)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman admit that frequently Ministers in the previous two Governments went to the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel and were present during their deliberation?
§ Major McCallum
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman says "frequently," I think that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague came up to Inverness to meet the Highland Panel in the summer of last year. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) also visited the Panel in Inverness in the previous year. For the purpose of looking after the affairs of the Highlands and Islands, I welcome the appointment of a Minister who will do so. It seems to me that in view of all the promises made by hon. Members opposite in their various election campaigns, particularly that they were going to bring in some form of home rule for Scotland, they ought to welcome this appointment and not find fault with it. That is the point I want to make.
I welcome the Government's decision to appoint this Minister, one of whose duties will he to look after the affairs of the Highlands and Islands From that, we sincerely trust that means other than 499 were found possible by the previous Government will be found for the betterment of the Highlands and Islands.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
There is one matter that perturbs me very greatly, and I am certain that it will perturb everyone in Scotland who is interested in Scottish education. I learned today from the Prime Minister that the new Minister of State for Scotland is to have some responsibility for education. From what the new Minister of State said in another place yesterday, there was no indication at all that he then even knew that he had any responsibility for Scottish education.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I can assure the hon. Lady that he did know of that, although, maybe, he did not refer to it. He did know because it was made quite clear to him at the time when he was taking up this office, and the Prime Minister was, of course, quite correct in his answer today.
§ Miss Herbison
If the noble Lord did know that he was responsible for education, in outlining his duties yesterday he did not mention it, and that will cause more serious perturbation in Scotland than if he had not known it, because it shows very clearly indeed that the Minister of State, who at the present time is to be responsible for Scottish education, did not think it of sufficient importance to mention it in another place yesterday.
§ Mr. Stuart
As the hon. Lady knows, whatever Under-Secretary or Minister of State supervises these matters, they will still remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
§ Miss Herbison
I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman, but if that applies to education, it applies to every other thing for which this new Minister of State is responsible. Therefore, the new Minister of State must consider these other things for which he is responsible much more important than education. We in Scotland have always been proud of our education. We have always considered it to be one of the most important aspects of Scottish life. It is very difficult indeed to find out exactly what are the duties of the new Minister of State, but I think that, like the other new Ministers, his main job is co-ordinating.
500 We have also two Joint Under-Secretaries, and we are told that these new appointments will make it possible for decisions to be reached much more quickly. Without greater information from the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot see how that will happen. What is the set-up? We have a Secretary of State upon whom ultimate decisions must always rest for Scottish affairs. We have beneath him this Minister of State and, I take it, the Joint Under-Secretaries come beneath the Minister of State. When I was Joint Under-Secretary of State I had only one step to go to get a decision on some matter. What I fear is that if one of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State feels that a decision ought to be reached, he must go to this new co-ordinating Minister, make his case to him, and then the new co-ordinating Minister must go to the Secretary of State, who will ultimately make the decision. If that is the case it will not lead to decisions being come to more quickly, but will lead quite definitely to decisions being hindered.
There is another point in which I am interested. We are told that the Minister of State is going to pay particular attention to the Highlands and Islands. The criticisms of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) were most unwarranted. In the first place, the Highland Panel, which has done such very good work, was set up on the initiative of a Labour Secretary of State.
The Minister of State is going to have not only responsibility, or a watching brief, for the Highlands and Islands but also for industry in Scotland. I make the plea that my right hon. Friend made when he spoke in this debate. I come from an area in Scotland where we suffered very much indeed because our people depended on one heavy industry. Employment in that area has been greatly improved as a result of our efforts during the last six years. Whether it is the new Minister of State or the Secretary of State for Scotland, I hope as much initiative will be shown in. and as much attention given to, industry as was given by Labour Secretaries of State. I do not ask for any more initiative or attention than that. I and the people I represent will be content if we get the same initiative and attention from the new Secretary of State and from the new Minister of State.
501 In addition, this new Minister of State is to have something to do with the nationalised industries. The miners in worth Lanark will wonder what he is wing to do about the mining industry in Scotland. They will be wondering if he is going to attempt to go back to the old district basis in this industry. If he does I can assure him that there would be much criticism and great fear amongst the miners in my constituency. It may well be, as my right hon. Friend said, that he may not know what is going to be done about the nationalised industries. There have been so many statements by Scottish Tories about decentralising the nationalised industries that we feel that this was as good a wicket for the new Minister of State to bat from yesterday as any other.
The last point I want to make is this—we are told that the Minister of State is going to perform the function of meeting delegations from local authorities on housing, education and many other matters. These people who come from local authorities are people who know their subject very well. They expect to find a Minister who knows his side of the subject just as well. Is this Minister of State going to take the place of the Secretary of State or one of the Joint Under-Secretaries who usually met these delegations? The Joint Under-Secretary of State responsible for housing at least knew what he was talking about.
Is this Minister of State going to find out the whole of the background of any problem or subject that a delegation from a local authority wishes to discuss? If he does not know it, members from local authorities will be alive to that fact in a minute or two and they will demand to discuss the matter with someone who knows something about it. These are all questions on which we ought to have firm answers before we decide to allow this Vote to go through.
I come back to where I started. There are many problems in the educational world and, as a Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, one of my departments was that of education. Much of my time and energy was given to that department. As a teacher, I knew many of the education problems facing our people. I knew the Scottish educational system. Does this noble Lord know that system? Does he know very much about it, or is that one of the matters that he had to get 502 down to learning? From fear of that hard work which he must do, did he forget all about it yesterday, when he was mentioning his duties? Scottish teachers and parents, and all who are interested in education, will be very disappointed indeed that neither of the two Joint Under-Secretaries of State have been given responsibility for that subject.
The Government seem to have shown very little appreciation of the importance of education in our way of life. They have divided the other departments between the two Joint Under-Secretaries, but education was an orphan or step-bairn, of not very much importance, so they handed it to the Minister of State, alone, with all the other hypothetical duties. It is difficult indeed to find someone from among the Scottish Tories who would be greatly interested in Scottish education. I have looked very carefully into this matter. I find that of the 35 Tory Members for Scotland 21 were educated in England, and nine of them were education in Scotland. One of the Joint Under-Secretaries is one of these Members. As far as I can find—
§ The Chairman
I do not think that this point arises in connection with this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Miss Herbison
I should like to submit that this point is very relevant to the matter. The Minister of State is responsible for education. I have been trying to suggest that there is probably someone better at the Scottish Office at present to undertake this responsibility. In my researches I found that one of the Joint Under-Secretaries was wholly educated in Scotland. I believe it was in Fifeshire. I found that the Secretary of State himself has had no connection at all with Scottish education, and that the other Joint Under-Secretary at least started his education in Scotland but did not find it good enough, presumably, and so transferred to England. I have not been able to find out how many of the nine Scottish hon. Members who were educated in Scotland have taken steps to see that their families are also educated in Scotland.
Most sincerely, I have great fears about this matter of Scottish education, which is very dear to my heart, and I suggest to the Secretary of State that it will give much greater hope to those who are interested in Scottish education if the Department of Education is given to one 503 of the Joint Under-Secretaries and not left in the hands of the noble Lord.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton (Inverness)
I commend the proposed appointment if only from the point of view that this will be the first time that we shall have a Minister one of whose special duties is to look after the Highlands and Islands. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), mentioned certain matters concerned with Highland development which ought to be dealt with. These are, of course, likely to be dealt with when we have a Minister whose duty it is continuously to travel round the Highlands and see the problems at first hand.
§ Mr. Manuel
Does not the noble Lord agree that in the past six years there has been more development in the Highlands than we have had hitherto, and is it not passing strange that this appointment should be made after we have had greater development than ever before?
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton
I do not agree at all. The basic problems the solving of which will make Highland development possible have not been tackled. There is the matter of freight charges. The railways are running at an uneconomical rate. The late Government appointed a committee to inquire into freight charges and then said that nothing further could be done until 1954. Until these problems are tackled in earnest we cannot expect the Highland development which is possible.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
On a point of order. Is not the matter of freight charges the responsibility of the Minister of Transport, and is not the noble Lord out of order in going into questions affecting the Minister of Transport, who is not concerned in the debate?
§ The Chairman
I have several times tried to keep the debate in order, and I thank the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for his assistance. The Supplementary Estimate is concerned only with the salary of the Minister of State. If we rove over the whole of Scotland we shall be out of order.
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton
With respect, Sir Charles, I submit that one of the duties of the new Minister 504 will be to see the conditions which exist in the Highlands, when he will find transport looming as the biggest obstacle. He will thus have to make the strongest recommendations and must have the weight in the Cabinet to say that something must be done.
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton
Then his right hon. Friend must have weight in the Cabinet. It has been said that he has no decisive authority. The Highland Panel had no decisive authority but merely had to advise the Secretary of State. I maintain that a person who can travel round with the authority of a Minister of State will have far greater weight in the managing of Scottish affairs.
We must recognise that we have failed badly in developing the tremendous assets which we have in the Highlands and Islands, and anything in the nature of devolution, which the appointment will undoubtedly bring, is likely to bring the development much nearer. Never before have we had a Minister who had among his duties the task of looking after the Highlands and Islands. This, in itself, is likely to bring enormous development and enormous extra food production nearer reality.
§ 9.5 p.m
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
So many hon. Members want to speak that I propose to make my argument very short. I am sure that the sympathy of the House will go out to the Secretary of State because of the invidious position in which he has been placed. He has been put by his Government and by his party in the position of presenting to the Committee an inchoate plan which has not been put before Members in the normal way. I am sure the Committee will agree that if this plan is of any importance, it should have been adumbrated in the form of a White Paper giving the reasons for the plan, the scheme, the machinery, and the general set-up of it. We have nothing of that sort before us.
The first we know of the plan is that the new Secretary of State comes before the Committee tonight and gives us a very bright and interesting little address, with no concrete realities in it at all—no machinery, no set-up, nothing to indicate what are to be the duties of the new Minister of State. In those circumstances, 505 the sympathy of every Member of the Committee will go out to the Secretary of State for the very invidious position in which he has been put. I submit that the Committee are not in a position to decide upon this issue at all. We have not sufficient facts before us, and until we have sufficient facts I think that this debate ought to be adjourned.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
There has been some expression of disapproval that this debate has been inclined, in the words of one speaker, to "rove all over Scotland," but quite frankly, that is what helps to keep it in order, because we have appointed a Minister whose function, in the words of one Member of the Government party—I think, the hon. Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton)—is to roam all over Scotland; and I fail to see why we should not accompany him on his journey. I think it is the very terms of the appointment which have caused the Members of the Opposition in particular to follow that fruitless journey.
One interesting feature of the debate, so far as I have observed it, has been the boiling enthusiasm which has been shown on the other side of the Committee for this appointment. The silence of hon. Members opposite has been most remarkable. Only two have dared to break the Trappist vow which has been either taken by, or imposed upon, them tonight, and both those hon. Members confined—[Interruption.] I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), wants to interrupt, but I will sit down if he wants to lend a hand.
Both the hon. Members who have intervened in support of the Secretary of State —and I felt sorry for him for a long time, because he seemed to me to be, like Alexander Selkirk, left alone in an island of almost complete silence; both those hon. Members—and one of them now has disappeared—confined themselves purely to justifying the appointment on the ground that the noble Lord is to bring home Scottish affairs to the people of Scotland. Actually, their justification was on the narrower ground that the new Minister of State would look after the Highlands and Islands. That was their solitary justification.
506 Neither of the two hon. Members who have spoken from the Government side seemed to realise that for five years we have had a Highland Panel looking after the affairs of the Highlands and Islands under the very efficient chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan). That Highland Panel has now completed all the plans that are necessary and all we are waiting to see is how much money the Tory Government will give to carry out the plans which have been prepared by the Panel for improving living standards in the Highlands and Islands. The plans are there so that if that is the only justification for this appointment—so far it has not been justified by anything we have heard—although I agree with the ex-Secretary of State that our position will be not to condemn it but to watch carefully what is going to happen—
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Will the hon. Member tell us also whether those plans which he said the Highland Panel had approved had been also approved by the late Government?
§ Mr. Rankin
Most certainly; in fact, the Highlands and Islands plans were enthusiastically welcomed by the late Government.
§ Mr. Stewart
Would the hon. Member be kind enough to indicate first, in what publication one could find those plans and, secondly, where one could find the precise approval of them by the late Government and their intention to carry out those plans?
§ Mr. Rankin
Yes, everything has been put on record in the White Paper issued by the late Government and the hon. Member can get that on application. I hope he will find time to read it, because if all rumour is true he may have occasion to spend some time on it.
I wish to remind the Committee of the place from which this novel suggestion first came. It was a place in Glasgow which is very famous—[An HON. MEMBER: "A maternity home?"] No not a maternity home. Most Scottish hon. Members, will have heard of Ibrox Park. It will not be unfamiliar to the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett)—[An HON. MEMBER: "What happened there?"] Wonderful things happened there and not the least is that which we are now seeking to put into operation.
507 To that great field the present Prime Minister came on one occasion and, when he was speaking to an audience in the grandstand, someone whispered to him, "What about Scotland?" and he said "Oh, we will have a Minister of State for Scotland with full Cabinet rank." That was the first time we heard of that particular policy for Scotland and now, as far as I can gather, the idea of full Cabinet rank has disappeared. It has been buried as so many other hopes have been buried in that particular football field.
As far as I can gather—and my knowledge of the hierarchy is somewhat limited —like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who is leaving the Chamber, it has nearly disappeared. Now this office has lost some of its status and it is merely "of Cabinet rank." That is a great fall indeed. With that fall has gone other happenings as well, because we got the idea, when the Prime Minister was speaking on that evening, that there was to be some power attaching to this particular appointment. Now we learn tonight that the only thing this gentleman is to have is responsibility. He is to have no power whatsoever, and as my right hon. Friend the ex-Secretary of State has said, that does not distinguish him from an Under-Secretary of State.
An Under-Secretary of State has plenty of responsibility, but no power. This Minister is to have exactly the same thing at double the salary. That is the Tory form of economy. If there are any powers which do attach to this position could we have a direct answer to this question: Is he on a higher status than an Under-Secretary, and if so, can he give instructions to the two Under-Secretaries who exist and the three who may presently come along? I think we are entitled to an answer to that question.
I welcome this sign of activity with regard to the Scottish problem of administration. I think it will be accepted on both sides of the Committee that there is a problem. I will not enter into the legislative aspect in case I am ruled out of order, but at least I may say that there is in Scotland a problem at the administrative level. If this will help to contribute to a solution, or a partial solution, of that, then we will welcome it; but I think it is the wrong way to approach the question.
508 I agree that what we have to deal with is not the creation of another step in a new sort of hierarchy, but a devolution of the powers which already exist at the administrative level in Scottish affairs. It is along those lines that I think the problem should be approached, but that is not a subject for debate tonight, but I consider we are, as individuals, entitled to state the lines along which we believe the problem of bringing some order into Scottish administration should be tackled.
I do not welcome this appointment, but while I am critical of it I will offer no opposition to it; and in that I think I voice the feelings of most of my colleagues. We shall certainly watch, if with a measure of sympathy yet with critical eye, how this appointment will work out and in what way it will contribute to the easement of Scotland's administrative difficulties.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
I rise only to make one point absolutely clear. The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin), has inferred or suggested to the Committee that, because only two hon. Members on the Government side have spoken, there is perhaps some opposition. Silence on this side means consent; on the other side, there are some hon. Members who simply love to hear their own voices. With them, it does not matter whether it is for or against; they must get up and talk. We are wholeheartedly behind this appointment, and I wish to assure hon. Members opposite of that fact. We will support that view in the Lobby, if need be.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I do not think I have listened to a more confused and vague debate than in the last hour or two on this Scottish question. Indeed, the only thing that is definite about this new Minister of State is that every week he is going to get £16 as the rate for the job, which means that he is assessed at three-quarters of an ordinary Cabinet Member. He will go into the Cabinet, I presume, as the proletariat from Scotland.
I have been searching to find out what are the motives for setting up this new Ministerial post. I believe that the main motive is simply that it was, to use an expression used by the Prime Minister, one of those that happened to be stuck into the Tory Party manifesto. The 509 Minister Designate, in his speech in another place yesterday, preened himself because this was a promise that had already been fulfilled, but the dumping of another body in St. Andrew's House, even a noble body, does not mean that an election promise has been fulfilled.
I believe that that promise to appoint a Minister of State for Scotland was stuck into that manifesto simply to appease the Nationalist sentiment that exists in Scotland. I believe it was said in the debate in another place yesterday that approximately 3½ million out of the 5 million population of Scotland had signed the Covenant, and that the Tory Party thought that here was a good chance to cash in on that Nationalist sentiment. Therefore, they stuck this proposal into their election manifesto.
I cannot see—certainly, not after the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland—any evidence at all of a carefully thought out plan on what the functions of this new Minister are to be. The noble Lord himself, the Minister designate said, in another place yesterday:The Conservative Party have given considerable thought to these matters over the last few years,and then, almost immediately after, he said:I think we shall have to work out this scheme as we go along."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174, c. 394–6]So they have been thinking about it for years, and now they are going to feel their way.
From this side of the House, we have been asking and asking in vain what are the functions of this new Minister of State. I have been through the files of "The Scotsman" to find out what these functions are supposed to be, and I find that the new Minister has been referred to in these terms. He has been described as a deputy of the Secretary of State, as an ambassador-at-large, as an expediter, as a clearing house for Scottish problems —that was his own phrase—and, lastly, he has been referred to as a Scottish ginger group and brains trust rolled into one, and all this for £3,000 a year. That is another implementation of a Tory election promise to get value for money.
It is perfectly true, as the Secretary of State sid in an intervention when my hon. 510 Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) was speaking, that the new Minister is going to be in charge of education. But it was a grievous omission on the part of the new Minister in another place, when he knew that all eyes would be turned on his speech, to miss out education, one of the most important functions of any Minister either in Scotland or the United Kingdom as a whole, and we, of course, regard that as a reflection of the attitude of the party opposite to the value of education. The declared functions of the Minister of State, according to the Secretary of State in "The Scotsman" of 10th November, are as follows:The Minister of State will concern himself with industry and development, the Highlands and Islands and general aspects of local government, plus matters of education.He is going to be a very busy man, especially if included in those duties he is going to tamper with the nationalised industries as well.
We on this side agree, of course, that another Minister is necessary, but if the Government are to follow the matter out to its logical conclusions, then they should also agree to the suggestion put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Wheatley), this afternoon, that we should have an extra period during the week for Scottish Questions in this House. In any case, if an extra Minister is desirable, it would surely have been infinitely better to have had that Minister in this House where he could be questioned.
We know, of course, the reasons why that appointment was not made from this House. We have only to look at the back benches on the Government side to find adequate reason for that, and, of course, another explanation is that the small majority of the Government in this House explains the lordly appointment. As "The Scotsman" quite admirably put it on 2nd November,The Earl of Hume will be able to attend to Scottish business here without the Conservative Whip becoming anxious about the Government majority.As I say, we have to wait and see what this Minister is going to do. A "breeze through St. Andrew's house" is no policy at all, and the Ministers now sitting on the Government Front Bench will be sitting on that egg until next Easter. We must wait and see what develops between now and then, and, meanwhile, we will 511 accept the assurance of the Minister of State Designate given in the other place that he means well.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wheatley (Edinburgh, West)
On this occasion when we are discussing for the first time in this Chamber, the establishment of a new Minister in Scotland, it is rather surprising, and perhaps disturbing, that so little information and support have been forthcoming from the Government benches. We started off with what I might describe as a rather jejune statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was certainly characterised by a lack of circumstantiality, and there has been a very limited and certainly not vocal support from a few of the back benders opposite who do not normally intervene in constitutional matters.
Those of us with experience in previous Parliaments waited in vain for a flood of oratory from certain notable Members on the Government Benches, and I wondered where was the militant nationalism of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel GommeDuncan), a nationalism which apparently is not appreciated by official national parties in Scotland. And where was the voice of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), himself a previous Secretary of State for Scotland and a Member who took on his broad but unfortunately unofficial shoulders the responsibility a fortnight ago of explaining his party's policy in the House with particular reference to the new Minister of State?
Remarkably silent was the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), whose racy contribution was greatly awaited, bearing in mind his staunch Conservatism which frowns upon anything new and untried. But most significant of all perhaps has been the nonintervention of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), whose discursive reviews of the debates are of great assistance to those charged with the duties of winding up; and I am sure the Secretary of State for Scotland will be very much regretting that he did not have the assistance of his hon. Friend.
We heard nothing even from the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. 512 Moore), whom we are glad has been able to return to his Parliamentary duties along with my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, Central (Mr. Manuel). We were surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr was not here to give us the benefit of his views. The Committee knows that at this time of the year he cannot plead a headache which necessitated his taking an Ascot powder.
Why should there be this silence? Is it because of some new discipline in the Tory Party, or is it because in their heart of hearts they have no confidence in the creation of this new Office? We on this side are not prepared to condemn this new creation out of hand. We think it right to give it a fair trial, reserving our right to criticise or approve it or, if occasion arises, to applaud it according to the results.
But to get a proper judgment we must know more about it. Not only we here but the people of Scotland are anxious to know more about it, and I hope we shall get the information from the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with my hon. Friends that when this proposal was first put forward by the Tory Party in Scotland it seemed to be in pursuance of an effort to allay criticism and to solicit support from the nationalist body in Scotland. Doubts were entertained as to whether this was merely a piece of window dressing or a serious attempt to improve the administration of the Government in Scotland.
That no detailed consideration had been given to the status, powers and responsibilities of the new Minister is evidenced by the lack of information on those topics on each and every occasion this appointment has been discussed. I would repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Fife. West (Mr. Hamilton) said, that even the Minister himself yesterday in another place was obviously quite deficient in knowledge of what was involved in this appointment when he said:I think we shall have to work out this scheme as we go along."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, House of Lords, 20th November, 1951; Vol. 174, c. 396.]We have been told the new Minister has been charged by the right hon. Gentleman with certain particular responsibilities for the welfare of the Highlands and Islands.
513 In two interventions which came from the Government back benches, one from the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll and another from the hon. Member for Inverness (Lord Malcom Douglas-Hamilton), an effort was made to suggest that the appointment of a Minister of State was necessary in order that the proper stimulus should be given to the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel—a stimulus which they said was lacking in previous administrations.
Might I remind them and all hon. Members opposite—since they are not here, presumably they will at least have the courtesy to read in the OFFICIAL REPORT what I am saying—of what the "Inverness Courier" said on this subject in 1948. May I also, for the benefit of hon. Members who do not know very much about the various newspapers in Scotland, impress upon them that the "Inverness Courier" is not a Labour paper. It says:We consider it only fair to state that the present Secretary of State for Scotland "—at that time my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn)—and his two predecessors in office, all of them Socialists, have proved themselves much more genuinely interested in the welfare of the Highlands than any of their predecessors in the last 50 years.It ill becomes these two Members who pretend to have an interest in the Highlands to close their eyes to the great work which has been going on in the Highlands during the past six years under the administration of the Labour Government, and to suggest that the Highlands and Islands were so neglected by Secretaries of State in the Labour Government that the appointment of a Minister of State was necessary in order to provide proper attention for that purpose.
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas - Hamilton
Since the areas of Inverness and Ross and Cromarty were allocated as an industrial site, how many industries have been brought there?
§ Mr. Wheatley
The responsibility for taking industry into the Highlands under the development plan is that of private enterprise—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members ought to familiarise themselves with the structure of these schemes before they dissent from what I am saying.
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas - Hamilton rose—
§ Mr. Wheatley
May I just finish? Accordingly, if the responsibility lies anywhere it lies with private enterprise which was not prepared to go into that area. There is an aliveness and a virility in the Highlands and Islands today which were seriously lacking under previous Tory administrations. However, I think that what I have said is sufficient to indicate quite clearly that the charge that it was necessary to have this Minister of State with special responsibilities for the Highlands and Islands because of the neglect of duty in the past by Socialist Secretaries of State, is completely unfounded.
According to the information which we can obtain from devious sources and as a result of much research, it appears that the further duties of the new Minister-Designate are to ensure the orderly development of Scottish industries. We would like a little more information on how he is going to do that, in relation not only to the nationalised industries but also to private industries. One also gathers that the new Minister is to ensure close relations with the local authority and he is to be largely resident in Scotland so that he will be an the spot. I would just repeat my right hon. Friend's comment on the unfortunate ambiguity of that particular phrase.
There seems to be some doubt even in the minds of hon. Members opposite as to where this Minister is going to be, because according to our information from the Press and other sources, he is to be largely resident in Scotland, in St. Andrew's House, to meet deputations, to deal with the various Departments and to carry out in St. Andrew's House the duties which would otherwise be carried out by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Highland Members of the Government party seem to think he will spend his time peregrinating about the Highlands.
§ Mr. Wheatley
I am not sure how he will get about, and a bicycle has a rather unfortunate connotation. I presume that he would have some other form of locomotion. He cannot be in both places at one time, and what we want to know 515 from the right hon. Gentleman is this: will the new Minister spend a considerable part of his time traversing the country or will he spend the bulk of his time in St. Andrew's House?
Great publicity has been given to the creation of this new office. My right hon. Friend exposed the weakness of all that Press information. Had it taken place in America it might have appropriately been described as ballyhoo. I am surprised that one surprising item of publicity has been omitted. A former Secretary of State for Scotland, many years ago, said that the normal habitat of the Secretary of State for Scotland was a sleeper between Edinburgh and London, the only additional furnishings being two geranium pots and a framed motto on which were inscribed the words, "Home sweet Home." I understand that the geranium pots are now to be found on either side of the entrance to St. Andrew's House and the framed motto, "Home sweet Home," on the outer door of the Minister's office. There is some dispute whether the wording will be more appropriate if painted in blue or if done in fretwork.
We want much fairer and fuller information on various points. We want to know more fully the place of this new Minister in the Government heirarchy. We want to know his responsibilities and functions. We want to know more fully his powers and we want to know about his answerability to Parliament, either direct or vicariously. My right hon. Friend has posed questions about the new Minister's status in relation to the Cabinet and the Cabinet committees. If both he and the right hon. Gentleman are present at the Cabinet—he in his own right, as the Prime Minister indicated this afternoon, and the Secretary of State in his own right—which of them speaks for Scotland; and if they have divided voices, whose voice will carry the day?
I can only repeat the question posed by my right hon. Friend. Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the Committee in what respect the duties, responsibilities and powers of this new Minister differ in any way from those of an Under-Secretary of State? An endeavour has been made to place him somewhere between the junior and senior Ministers, 516 and it seems to me that the only description which would tit is a sort of Ministerial teen-ager, but we have to know exactly where to any extent his duties and responsibilities differ from those of an Under-Secretary.
We also want to know whether he has power to make independent decisions. If so, has he the power to do so in all cases? If he has not the power to do so in all cases, but only in some, we want to know which. If he makes decisions on the spot, which apparently is the idea which has been percolating through the various channels, and these decisions are contrary to the views of the right hon. Gentleman or the Government, what is the position? Will there be prior consultation between him and the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretaries of State on matters of policy before he makes these decisions? Or is he to be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, indicated, an ambassador at large with plenipotentiary powers? We are entitled to know these things, and to know exactly where the answerability lies.
If at conferences he makes decisions which are to be challenged in Parliament, is the right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. Gentleman alone, the person who will be answerable in Parliament for them? This will put the Secretary of State for Scotland in a very awkward position—or may do so—because, by giving these alleged powers to the new Minister it may be that not only are the Government derogating from the existing powers of the Secretary of State, but making him responsible for decisions which were not his decisions but those of a Ministerial colleague of an apparently co-equal status.
If he is to have meetings with the local authorities in Scotland to discuss matters such as housing, health, education, local government, or with the National Farmers' Union in Scotland to discuss agricultural matters, or with the various fishery associations to discuss fishery matters, is he going to relieve the right hon. Gentleman and his Joint Under-Secretaries of all responsibility in these matters, or are they still to retain the responsibility of meeting delegations from these bodies?
If the result of this appointment is to make the one Minister in Scotland who 517 meets these bodies the new Minister of State, that system will deprive the Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretaries of the direct and intimate contact with these bodies and their problems which are of inestimable value to any Scottish Minister, and particularly when these Ministers have to come to Parliament to discuss in Parliament these particular problems. They will be deprived of that intimate knowledge which is so invaluable, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, in the circumstances, this is wise. There is just the danger that this new procedure may isolate the other Ministers, and particularly the Secretary of State, from real contact with Scotland.
It has been said that he will have close contact with industry in Scotland. That will embrace, presumably, not only the nationalised industries but private industries. We know that the new Minister has already attended a meeting of one board of a nationalised industry in Scotland. If he is acting as the Government representative, and as a Minister with full power, at those meetings, putting forward Government policy, is he then representing the Secretary of State for Scotland or some other Minister in the Government? If he attends meetings of the Gas Board or the Electricity Board, is he representing the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Fuel and Power? We are entitled to know that.
If he goes to a meeting of one of the other various industrial bodies in Scotland is he there representing the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Labour—or, perhaps, the Minister of Supply or the President of the Board of Trade? These things are important for this reason, that we are entitled to know whose representative he is on these occasions, because if there is answerability to the House of Commons we want to know whether to put Questions down to the Secretary of State or to these other Ministers. Has this point been thought out, or is that something that will be discussed as things go along and take their course?
So, too, with the question of transport in relation to the Highlands and Islands. If, as a result of his meetings with the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel, the new Minister-designate puts forward Government policy that is accepted and carried out by that Panel in pursuing 518 their investigations into Highland matters, will the person who will have to accept responsibility for that in the House of Commons be the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Transport, or will they both have to await the decision of the Co-ordinating Secretary of State in another place?
There is only one other point which I should like to ask in relation to the Estimates themselves. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to look at the Estimates, he will see that there is an Estimate of £1,260 in respect of the salary of the new Minister, less a saving on other salary items of £1,250, leaving a net amount of £10. Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the Committee where the savings on the other salary items are taking place?
Finally, may I say that before we can approve of this Estimate we must get a much clearer and comprehensive picture as to the functions, duties, responsibilities and answerability of the new Minister? If the experiment proves successful, then in the interests of Scotland we shall give it all due credit. If it advances Scottish administration, then no doubt, as in the case of other improvements which have been tried and found worthy of carrying on, this will be carried on by successive Governments—such as the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel—because at the end of the day we are all thinking what is the best for Scotland, and we want to give this a fair trial.
If the right hon. Gentleman should succeed, we shall be very pleased indeed in the interests of Scotland, but we reserve the right to exercise fair and full judgment on the experiment, and, in order to do so, we must have an answer to the various questions which have been posed in the course of this debate.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I think that we have had quite a full discussion on this Estimate. I have endeavoured frequently to explain the intention of the Government in appointing this new Minister of State, but I will, of course, do my best to answer the questions put to me during the course of the debate.
I would say, at the outset, that the real point, I think, in having this new Minister may be defined by saying that in him we hope to have a Minister resident in Scotland, as I said in my opening 519 remarks, because, for well-known reasons, the Secretary of State cannot always be in Scotland himself. We do, therefore, genuinely hope and believe, not that this is a bit of window-dressing, but that it will lead to better administration and to more speedy decisions in many realms of our Scottish affairs. I must, however, reiterate that in all these things the Secretary of State for Scotland, whoever he may be, must and does retain the responsibility for all the Departments which come within the Scottish Office.
I would like to clear up one possible misunderstanding with regard to my noble Friend, which was referred to earlier, I think by the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil). I do not wish to misinterpret anything he said in any way about the unfortunate fact, in his view, of the debate in another place taking place before this matter had been first discussed in this House. I say, quite frankly, that it was not the desire of my noble Friend, and that the debate in another place was due entirely to the fact that a Motion was put down by a noble Lord, Lord Calverley, who sits on the Labour benches, and it was, of course, necessary to make a reply.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. Perhaps he will correct me if I was wrong. If there was any attempt by the normal methods to have a debate on a Motion put down by a noble Lord on our side of the House deferred then, of course, I owe the right hon. Gentleman an apology.
§ Mr. Stuart
I did not mean that. I do not want it to be thought that my noble Friend was trying to stage a debate in another place in order to discuss his own functions. It came upon us in that way because this Motion had been put down for discussion yesterday.
A number of points have been raised this evening, some of which I should like to answer. The presence of the Minister of State in another place has been referred to, and I think it is right and proper that a Minister for Scottish affairs should be able to report and handle them in the other place. It is an additional advantage to have my noble Friend occupying his new position there. It has not always been possible to achieve this, and it is very satisfactory that it should be so now.
520 The right hon. Gentleman, in talking about my noble Friend's responsibilities and functions, seemed to indicate as did other speakers, that he was in the position of an additional Under-Secretary. I want to make it quite clear that that is not so. The two Joint Under-Secretaries of State are sitting on the Front Bench with me tonight. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) has been charged, as has been the case in the past, with housing, health, police, fire and those particular aspects of our administration. My hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) is dealing with agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.
My hon. Friend the noble Lord omitted yesterday to refer to the fact that he is responsible for education; but he was charged with that originally. He has had a number of discussions and conferences already in the Scottish Office on the subject. It is unusual for a Government to be criticised for acting with speed in carrying out its programme, and as Secretary of State I am content that I should suffer the criticism that in the Scottish Office we are making headway already.
§ Mr. Wheatley
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the functions of the Joint Under-Secretaries and of the Minister of State, will he explain what is the difference between the functions in regard to their respective Departments?
§ Mr. Stuart
The new Minister of State has an over-riding or full supervision under the Secretary of State. He is now being asked specially to handle education and the Highland and Islands' problem. We have not yet come to the end of the improvements which we hope to make in connection with our Scottish administration, but I do not think that it would be in order for me to go into them at this stage. I can assure the Committee that we have other proposals in view which we hope will further improve our affairs.
I know that this is all new and we are anxious to understand it, but if the Minister of State has a disagreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) as head of the Scottish Home Department—[HON. MEMBERS: "That is hypothetical."] It is not. It happens in all kinds of administration. Does the 521 Minister of State, in that case, take the decision as Minister of State or does he by-pass himself and go to the Secretary of State? How can he supervise and be Departmentally responsible at the same time.
§ Mr. Stuart
I did say that the Secretary of State must retain responsibility, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that very well because he had to do it himself. The Under-Secretaries of State handle specific subjects, and in the event of any difference arising between the Minister of State and an Under-Secretary of State the matter would, of course, go to the Secretary of State for decision.
§ Mr. Stuart
The Minister of State is not equal to an Under-Secretary. He is a Minister of the kind whom we used to call "above the line." He is a Privy Councillor and he has access to Cabinet Ministers. He is there to help in handling affairs in Scotland as expeditiously as possible.
It does not mean that he takes major decisions without reference to me, any more than it would be possible for me, as Secretary of State, to take certain major decisions without reference to the Cabinet. It seems to me that a great many difficulties are being thought up. I have a sincere belief that this arrangement will lead to quicker decisions and to an improvement in administration. It is too early to say. We must see how the thing works, but I have no reason to suppose there will be any more friction between the new Minister of State and the Secretary of State than there has been in the past between the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State.
I was asked whether the Minister of State would handle all deputations in St. Andrew's House himself. I am going North at the end of this week, all being well, and I have meetings to carry out there myself. If an Under-Secretary were in Scotland at the time, and there was a meeting with the National Farmers' Union or the Scottish Development Council, there is no reason why he should not be present, as well as the Minister of State or myself, if I were there. It will help in meeting on the spot deputations or representatives of local authorities, so as to handle these matters more expeditiously.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are other features about this new office of State which are not before the Committee and which may emerge at a later stages, Does he not think it is very improper and wrong to bring an incomplete scheme of this kind before the Committee, and should it not be postponed until all the definitions of the appointment are made clear?
§ Mr. Stuart
I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I was not referring to the new Minister of State but to other possible improvements, quite apart from them.
I was asked whether the Minister of State had any particular functions with regard to industry, and to whom Questions should be put. He will meet and acquaint himself with the various problems. He is not to be confined and imprisoned within St. Andrew's House, but he will go round the country and have meetings outside so as to acquaint himself with our problems. I hope to do as much of it as I can myself in such periods of the year as the Sittings of Parliament will permit, but, for obvious reasons, it will not always be possible for me, in present circumstances, to leave London in the middle of the week.
As regards transport Questions, until legislation is passed by this House affecting any of these industries, whether they be nationalised or otherwise, Questions asked on those affairs will be put down to the appropriate Minister in the ordinary way, as has been done up to date. There is no legislation or anything else before the House at the moment in any way affecting that.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman has adumbrated some further developments consequent on the proposed change. Will a comprehensive picture of all the consequent developments proposed for Scotland be produced, in due course, in the form of a White Paper?
§ Mr. Stuart
I have not thought about that. This is only one step—"one step enough for tonight"—but we may reach that stage later. I shall be very glad to consider such a proposition.
I hope that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), will forgive me if I say that I thought he was unduly pessimistic. I do not foresee innumerable 523 disagreements among the Scottish team. We have all worked together in the past and I hope and believe we shall be able to do so in the Scottish Office in the future. At any rate, I sincerely believe that the proposal is well worth a trial, as I personally think it will be helpful.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), asked whether the Minister of State dealt with all Departments. The answer is that he will interest himself in, and assist in the handling of, all Departments. I believe I have already answered that point.
§ Mr. Manuel
With regard to United Kingdom Departments for transport and other matters relating to the welfare of the Highlands and Islands, how will the right hon. Gentleman approach problems when the ultimate responsibilities are outwith Scotland?
§ Mr. Stuart
As the hon. Member knows, there is the Panel, and the Minister of State will meet its members at a very early date. That is very important. If, as the hon. Member said, so many of these matters are for Ministers outside the Scottish Office, it is not in any way—both my predecessors will agree—outwith the realms of possibility that a Secretary of State for Scotland should endeavour to bring some pressure to bear on other Departments.
§ Mr. Stuart
The Minister of State can discuss his views with me, and I hope we shall find ourselves in accord upon such matters. I was coming to that point and had not meant to omit it.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), referred to the omission of reference to education from the speech of the Minister of State yesterday. I have dealt with that. I can assure her that the Minister of State was informed some time ago, because I was responsible for informing him. The hon. Lady also asked if the Under-Secretaries need go to the Minister of State before going to the Secretary of State. The answer is that when the Under-Secretaries and I are in London, as we are at the moment, it is much simpler and speedier for them to come to me. There is, therefore, no need for them to go to the Minis- 524 ter of State before going to the Secretary of State, but the Minister of State will he informed of any decisions which are made.
I hope I am answering the various points to the satisfaction of the Committee. As one hon. Member remarked, I have not had a great deal of practice in the art, but I took some notes and the Committee will be glad to hear that I am gradually ploughing my way through them. The hon. Lady, who is not now present, also referred to the educational qualifications of the Scottish Members on this side of the Committee. I do not wish to go out of order, Sir Charles, but I only say to her that I believe it is possible to be educated outside of Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only just."] I am not claiming to be a highbrow myself, but I know many hon. and right hon. Members in the House who have been very well educated, even in England. I do not think that that is a terrible disaster—at any rate, let us hope for the best.
In so far as the handling of educational matters in Scotland is concerned, as I have already indicated, we have not yet completed a scheme for the re-organisation and improvement of Scottish administration, and I hope that before we are very much older we shall be able to bring another improvement before the House.
§ Mr. Stuart
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) for his sympathy. I always welcome sympathy and good wishes, as I feel that I may require a good deal of them.
I hope I have answered, in the main, all the points which have been raised. I do not want to repeat myself, but I do not see many points which I have not answered. The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Wheatley), in winding up the discussion from the Opposition benches, referred to the fact that my hon. Friends behind me and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) had not taken part in the debate. But surely hon. Members opposite do not want approval to be repeated. I am glad to say that right hon. and hon. 525 Members on this side approve of the suggestion which is now before the Committee, and we do not want simply a repetition—I am trying to avoid it myself. The right hon. and learned Member asked me some very fair questions on the subject, and I have, I hope, endeavoured to answer most of them.
It is as well that a great many of my hon. Friends did not speak, otherwise it would have taken us a very long time to get this Supplementary Estimate. We have already had a considerable debate, of great interest. One thing, however, I must repeat: I believe that this proposal we are making is a good one and that it will help in the better administration and control of our Scottish affairs. At any rate, I am sure that it is well worthy of being given a fair trial, and I hope that the Committee will now agree to give us the Supplementary Estimate.
The right hon. Gentleman has been very patient and courteous, and I am sure that I speak for my hon. Friends when I acknowledge that. May I press him upon one point, however, and upon one point only? The noble Lord threatened, or promised, yesterday, in the debate in another place, more legislation, more Measures, affecting nationalised industry in Scotland, and seemed to infer a relationship of his office to these changes. Are we right to assume that the Government are not anticipating at this stage any other measures affecting the nationalised industries than those about which we have already been told —steel and transport—and has the Minister of State, as presently anticipated, any relationship to these changes in Scotland?
§ Mr. Stuart
I think I can answer the right hon. Member. At present, there are no proposals for dealing with nationalised industries, apart from steel and transport, but the right hon. Member should not be surprised if, in the course of this Parliament, other proposals were produced at a later date affecting other industries.
§ That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1952, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of the Scottish Home Department, and the 526 salary of a Minister of State; expenses in connection with private legislation; expenses on, and subsidies for, certain transport services; grants in connection with physical training and recreation, coast protection works, services in Development Areas, etc.: grants and expenses in connection with services relating to children and young persons and with probation services; certain grants in aid; and sundry other services.
§ Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow.
§ Committee to sit again Tomorrow.