§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (Sir Thomas Dugdale)
Today the House will discuss the issues arising out of Sir Andrew Clark's Report on the public inquiry into the disposal of land at Crichel Down. I am thankful that this day has come. First, I think that it might be helpful if I gave the House my own review of the course of events affecting this land. I will then turn to certain general issues of policy that arise out of this particular case.
By way of background, may I remind the House that the Air Ministry purchased this area of 725 acres of chalk down-land before the war for use as a bombing range. The land was not requisitioned. It was bought outright from three owners: 328 acres were bought from the late Lord Alington's Crichel Estate; 382 acres were bought from Mr. Farquharson's Langton Estate, and the remaining 15 acres from the late Mr. Hooper's farm. The three owners were paid £8,346 for the value of their land. Over and above that, Lord Alington and Mr. Farquharson received £3,760 for injurious affection arising from the severance of the land from the farms of which it had previously formed part.
When in 1950 the Air Ministry no longer required the land, the Ministry of Agriculture took it over for agricultural use. My predecessor, the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams)—whom I see in his place opposite—in 1950 placed it under the management of the Agricultural Land Commission, the members of which are independent persons and not officials. I would ask the House to take note of that. It was the Commission's statutory responsibility to decide what would be the best method of managing the land in the future. It had to consider whether it would be better to let it off as bare land to the neighbouring farms—that is, those farms of which it had originally formed part—or to keep it as a compact block, and equip it as one farm, that is, as a self-contained unit.
1179 This is the kind of problem which the Land Commission has to consider, and clearly the main considerations which it must have in mind are, first, what would be likely to result in the most productive use of the land, and secondly, whether the expenditure involved could be justified. In this case the Commission, in the exercise of its statutory function, decided that the right course, from the agricultural standpoint, was to equip the land as one farm. This was in no way a reflection on the farming abilities of the neighbouring farmers, nor indeed on their capacity for dealing with the land had it been let to them.
The plain fact was that the Commission at that time came to the conclusion that, however good the neighbouring farmers were, and whatever equipment they had on their land, this area of 725 acres was likely to be more productive as one farm with a resident farmer than if farmed as the outlying land of neighbouring farms. Clearly this decision must be a matter of opinion and different experts might well hold different views, but, having regard to the potentialities of this chalk down land, a good case could certainly be made for equipping this land as one farm. Indeed, in his Report Sir Andrew Clark states that there were ample grounds for coming to that conclusion.
The Land Commission then had to consider whether the cost of equipping this land was justifiable, and what sort of return it would give on the investment. Its estimate, which was different from and lower than the estimate subsequently made by Crown Lands, was that the capital expenditure required would be some £22,500. It was also estimated that the rent which the equipped land might then command would be of the order of £3 an acre, assuming that agricultural conditions did not materially worsen. After allowing for depreciation and maintenance, this rent would give a net return of nearly 5 per cent. on the total capital invested, including, of course, the valuation of the land at the time of transfer. This is a very good return for agricultural investment.
Even if the estimated cost of capital works proved to be too low and the rent of £3 an acre were not maintained indefinitely, the Commission took the view that financially the scheme was justified. 1180 As I have already said, the Commission had already taken its decision in 1950, before any question arose of a possible resale of the land to Mrs. Marten and the other successors of the original owners.
When Commander Marten approached us in June, 1952, the matter had to be considered entirely afresh, this time from the angle of possible resale to the successors of the former owners. Here I would like to say that the Land Commission is not itself empowered to buy or sell land. That is for the Minister of Agriculture of the day. But one of the Commission's statutory duties is to advise the Minister on matters of estate management which he may refer to it. When the question arose of the possible resale of the land, the Commission was asked to make a further inquiry and to give me its advice.
The Commission reconsidered the matter and its advice was the same as its conclusion in August, 1950, namely, that on agricultural and financial grounds the right course from the point of view of management was to equip the land as one farm. It concluded that to split the property must necessarily reduce its production, and it was not, therefore, concerning itself with the wishes, the farming capabilities or the equipment of the neighbouring farms.
I think it only fair to the Land Commission to point out that, in reaching its conclusions, it did not rely solely on the reports of officials. Before reaching its decision in 1950, Mr. Geoffrey Bourke, at that time a member of the Commission, personally inspected the area. Mr. Bourke has been President of the Land Agents' Society and a Vice-President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and has the highest reputation professionally. When the decision was reconsidered in 1952, following Commander Marten's application, the area was again visited by a member of the Commission, Mr. Watson Jones, a large-scale farmer and of the very highest repute.
To continue, and to give the House a picture, I would say that the Commission is an independent statutory body. Its principal function is to manage, on the Minister's behalf, agricultural land placed at its disposal, and this is by no means an easy task. Many of the properties that it deals with are "problem" 1181 areas from the point of view of management. I am completely satisfied that, in the general conduct of its affairs, the Commission paid full regard to financial considerations, given the nature of its task. Its other main function is to advise me on matters relating to agricultural land management, and it was in this connection that it was asked to advise on Crichel Down.
In deciding what advice to give me, it had to assess all the relevant factors, and for this purpose it is naturally supplied with information and advice by the officers serving it. The Commission has all this information and advice before it when discussing and formulating its own conclusions, but—and this is the important point—having decided upon the opinion which, as a Commission, it wishes to give to me, it is no part of its duty to supply me also with the material which it has considered in reaching its conclusions.
After all, one of the advantages of seeking the views of an independent body like the Commission is that it can sift the evidence and reach a considered opinion in the light of that evidence, and, in accordance with its normal practice, the Commission did not attach to the considered opinion in this case which it sent me any of the material which had been placed before it, whether it was in favour of or contrary to the views which the Commission expressed. I am satisfied that there was no question of the Commission deliberately withholding information from me which it was part of its duty to pass on.
After receiving the Commission's advice, I thought it right, in the circumstances, to ask Lord Carrington, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, to go down and make a personal inspection to see if he concurred in the views expressed. This he did, and again, looking at the matter purely from the point of view of agricultural management, he came to the conclusion that the proposal to equip the land as one farm was right.
This was the position towards the end of 1952 when I had to take my decision whether to go ahead with the proposal to equip the land as one farm or to sell or let it as bare land to the adjoining occupiers. It is true that at that time both the Land Commission and I were under certain misapprehensions about 1182 both the condition of the land when the Air Ministry acquired it in 1937 and the form of acquisition of most of it. These questions, though clearly important, do not, I think, affect the core of the agricultural management problem which had to be decided in 1952.
I decided that I had no reason to reject the advice that I had received on the agricultural and financial merits. As I have said, Sir Andrew Clark states that there were ample grounds for coming to the conclusion that this method of dealing with the land would result in increased production. Regarding finance, it seemed to me that the estimated return of about 5 per cent. was certainly satisfactory. To sum up this part of my remarks, both the Commission and Lord Carrington, after a personal inspection, had advised me that on agricultural and financial grounds the land should be equipped as one farm. That advice I had accepted.
I had now to decide whether, in spite of that, I should nevertheless sell the land back to the successors of the former owners because of the claim that Commander Marten was pressing for the return of his wife's property. The moral aspect of this claim was fully argued before I reached my decision. It is true, as I have said, that I was told incorrectly that the land from the Crichel and Langton Estates had been sold voluntarily, but I did not at the time regard the difference between voluntary and compulsory purchase as decisive. I recognised that the land owners concerned would have known that, failing agreement, compulsory powers could be exercised. Indeed, I knew that Mr. Hooper's 15 acres had been compulsorily acquired. Accordingly, I weighed this claim against the agricultural case.
Here I must remind the House that at the time I took my decision there was still an overriding need for maximum food production. When this Government took office at the end of 1951, there was a shortage of food and a grave crisis in the national balance of payments, and although my colleagues and I came into power with the firm intention to free the economy, restore liberty and encourage private enterprise, it was impossible in the circumstances existing at that time to proceed as rapidly as we would have wished.
1183 In fact, during the last two years we have been able to make very substantial progress in these directions. We have now dismantled the major part of the apparatus of rationing and controls of the nation's food, and it is our policy progressively to get rid of emergency powers which permit private interests in land to be overridden. With this freeing of the economy, and the material improvement in the food situation today, it is possible to contemplate taking actions in the interests of liberty and free enterprise which the national economic situation would not have permitted two or three years ago. I shall announce later in my speech a change in the Government's policy regarding the sale of land, but I am now dealing with 1952.
In 1952, when I had to determine the future of Crichel Down, the food shortage was still serious, and in the national interest the necessities of maximum production had to prevail. I decided that the right course was to go ahead with the equipment of the land as one farm, and I gave instructions accordingly. I accept full responsibility for that decision, and I have endeavoured to explain to the House the reasons which led me to it.
Now I come to the next part of the story. I come to the sale to the Commissioners of Crown Lands. As the House will know, the Commissioners are in effect a body of trustees whose duty it is to administer the hereditary estates of the Crown. The capital remains the property of the Crown, but the income is surrendered to Parliament in exchange for the Civil List. Their Statutes provide for the reinvestment in land of any money which they receive from the sale of land. At that time I knew that they were looking out for land to purchase. I knew also that if they bought the Crichel Down land on condition that they equipped it, they could be relied on to observe that condition. They were approached, and their officials went into the whole question.
Although I am, ex officio, a Commissioner of Crown Lands as well as the Minister of Agriculture, the two offices are quite separate, and I need hardly say that I did not in any way intervene in these investigations to influence the recommendation that the officials would make. Crown Lands wanted to find out the cost of buying and equipping the land, 1184 and the rent they would be able to get for it. They were naturally not prepared just to accept the previous estimates by the Land Commission. Their first step was to approach a possible tenant, who said that he would be ready to pay £3 an acre for the land equipped in an agreed way. In the view of Crown Lands, the cost of this equipment worked out at £32,000. The sale price of the land was agreed by the district valuer at £15,000.
On these figures, the net return on the investment, after allowing for depreciation and maintenance, was nearly 3½ per cent. It is not easy to get more than this on an agricultural investment, and management created no problem—that is an important point here—since Crown Lands already owned another estate nearby. They felt, therefore, that the proposition was a reasonable one. Crown Lands, therefore, decided to accept the proposal, and I approved of it in my double capacity as Minister of Agriculture and Commissioner of Crown Lands. The proposal went forward with Treasury consent.
As there has been criticism of this decision, I should like to read to the House from Conclusion No. 9 of Sir Andrew Clark's Report in which he states:certainly the best, and probably the only certain way of ensuring that the purchaser implemented the Government policy was by a sale to Crown Lands, whose policy the Minister himself was in a position to control by virtue of his office as ex officio Commissioner.I admit at once that it was most regrettable—and I make no attempt to excuse it—that the promises made on behalf of the Land Commission to previous applicants for the land that their applications would be considered in due course were not brought to the notice of those handling the matter until after Crown Lands felt that they were under a moral obligation to the prospective tenant. Had Crown Lands not taken this view, it would have been possible, even at that stage, to have advertised the tenancy, although such a procedure would have been unusual, because Crown Lands had not at that time decided to buy the land.
I now come to the question of the dilapidations allowed to the tenant, Mr. Tozer. This subject is complicated and highly technical, so I thought it desirable 1185 to get independent professional advice about it. I accordingly asked the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to nominate a suitable person to advise me on the propriety and competence of the actions of the Crown Receivers. The President nominated for this purpose Mr. Charles Walmsley, a Fellow and Member of the Council of the Royal Institution, a Fellow of the Land Agents' Society, a Member of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, and a partner in the Manchester firm of Meller, Speakman and Hall. Mr. Walmsley went into this matter very thoroughly and provided me with a full report. I am most grateful to him for giving his services for this task at very short notice. I am arranging for a few copies of the report to be placed in the Library, so that hon. Members who are specially interested in this subject can study it alongside the transcript of evidence and the other relevant papers which were put there earlier.
Mr. Walmsley considers that in two respects there is evidence of faulty judgment on the part of Messrs. Sanctuary and Son, but that this did not result in any prejudice to the interests of their clients, Crown Lands. In all other respects, he considers that the Crown Receivers showed a high level of competency in this matter and that the propriety of their actions cannot be questioned.
I have considered very carefully, in the light of Sir Andrew Clark's Report and the comments made by Mr. Walmsley, the firm's position as Crown Receivers in Dorset. I have decided that other arrangements must be made for managing the Crichel Down land, but that I should not make any immediate change in the management of the one other Crown property in Dorset. I shall be referring again to the position of Messrs. Sanctuary and Son a little later on. I have given the House a plain account of the history of this case so that hon. Members can see for themselves the reasons which led to the various actions taken, and now I should like to turn to certain matters of a more general nature, but directly related to the circumstances of this case.
First, I should like to say a word about the conduct of the civil servants concerned. General issues of great constitutional importance arise in this regard. My 1186 right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs will deal with them when he speaks later in this debate. I am quite clear that it would be deplorable if there were to be any departure from the recognised constitutional position. I, as Minister, must accept full responsibility to Parliament for any mistakes and inefficiency of officials in my Department, just as, when my officials bring off any successes on my behalf, I take full credit for them.
Any departure from this long-established rule is bound to bring the Civil Service right into the political arena, and that we should all, on both sides of the House, deprecate most vigorously. I shall have something more to say about Ministerial responsibility before I sit down; I would only add, at this stage, that it should not be thought that this means that I am bound to endorse the actions of officials, whatever they may be, or that I or any other Minister must shield those who make errors against proper consequences
When, in October of last year, I decided to arrange for a public inquiry, it had been brought to my notice that rumours of corruption and personal dishonesty were circulating. It was this information which finally led me to the conclusion that an independent inquiry should be held into the whole circumstances of the case. Sir Andrew Clark reported that he had found no trace of anything in the nature of bribery, corruption or personal dishonesty, and in the short statement that I made in the House on 15th June I said that the inquiry had thus achieved my main purpose.
Since then I have been much criticised for seeming, in that statement, to attach too much importance to the dismissal of any suggestion of corruption, and too little to the other faults which have been brought to light. This was very far from my intention. I never sought to obscure the fact that mistakes and grave errors of judgment were made which undoubtedly merited severe censure and reprimand.
The accusation has been made publicly that officials wilfully misled me. Although there were certain inaccuracies and deficiencies in the information given me, when I took my decision, I had the main facts before me, and my advisers 1187 were certainly not guilty of wilfully misleading me. I underline the word "wilfully."
I now turn to the question of disciplinary action. The conduct of the civil servants concerned has been the subject of a public inquiry and of a report and, as a result, they have received public censure and reprimand. This in itself is a most severe punishment. I still hold the view which I expressed in the original statement I made in this House on 15th June, but there does remain the question as to what action may be necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of Departments. The Government thought it right that the need for any such action should be further reviewed. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister arranged for a small advisory Committee of experienced persons to review this aspect of the matter. They have completed their task swiftly and presented a report. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who were they?"] If the House will wait one minute, I shall give the names.
The Committee was asked to consider whether, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of Departments, any of the officers whose conduct was called in question in Sir Andrew Clark's Report should be transferred from their existing duties to other posts. It was asked to take into account both the public interest and the efficiency of the public service and fair treatment of the individuals concerned. It was not, in any sense, asked to review Sir Andrew Clark's findings, or to conduct an inquiry leading to further disciplinary action.
The committee consisted of Sir John Woods, a former Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade and now a director of the English Electric Co. and other companies, Sir Maurice Holmes, a former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, and Sir Harry Pilkington. The Report of the Committee will be available in the Vote Office when I sit down, but it may be convenient if I indicate briefly its substance.
The Committee states that there are five civil servants whose actions are criticised with varying degrees of severity in Sir Andrew Clark's Report. Having studied the Report, read the observations submitted to me by these five officers 1188 and interviewed them, it reached a conclusion in the case of Mr. Eastwood, the Permanent Commissioner of Crown Lands, that his usefulness as a public servant would be impaired if he were to remain in his present post. It recommends, therefore, that he should be transferred to other duties. Three of the four other officers involved are not now employed on the work on which they were engaged when dealing with the Crichel Down case, and the Committee recommends no action in regard to them.
I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the three members of this Committee for undertaking so swiftly the task of familiarising themselves with the details of this matter and for tendering their considered advice on the action that should be taken. The Government fully accept this advice and are taking steps to give early effect to it. They are confident that Parliament and the public, as well as the Civil Service, will accept the review by this Committee of experienced and impartial persons as disposing of this aspect of the matter in a proper and fair manner.
When the new Permanent Commissioner of Crown Lands is appointed one of his first tasks will be to study what has happened in the Crichel Down case. It will then be for him—
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
The Minister has announced the fate of four of these civil servants. He said there were five concerned. Can he say what has been done about the fifth?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I would ask my hon. Friend to await the Report. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am only saying that the Report will be available, and that it will be written out in very great detail.
§ Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)
The remark my right hon. Friend made was inaudible to some of us. Will he say it again?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I said that the Report will be in the Vote Office when I sit down, and all these details are contained in the Report.
When the new Permanent Commissioner is appointed, one of his first tasks will be to study all that has happened in the Crichel Down case. It will then be for him to consider whether Sanctuary 1189 and Son should continue as the Crown Receivers for the remaining Crown properties in that area.
I have already announced that there is to be an independent review of the organisation for administering Crown Lands. In addition, I am arranging for a thorough examination of the organisation and methods adopted within the Ministry and the Agricultural Land Commission for dealing with transactions in agricultural land. This examination will include the work of the Agricultural Land Service both at headquarters and in the provincial centres and counties.
I am very glad to say that Sir Arton Wilson and Mr. F. W. Allam have agreed to undertake this task. Sir Arton Wilson recently retired after a distinguished career in the Civil Service. He was for a number of years the Principal Establishment and Organisation Officer of the Ministry of Labour, and he was subsequently Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions. Mr. Allam is a practising land agent with wide experience in estate management, and is a past member of the Council of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and has acted as chairman of its agricultural and forestry committee, and he has also been President of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers. In the light of this examination, it will be necessary to consider further the organisation of the Department and the functions and organisation of the Land Commission.
I turn to the question of the disposal of agricultural land. In the past the conception of the Agricultural Land Commission has been that it would retain the management of properties even after improving them. It is no part of this Government's philosophy that the State should continue to own and manage any agricultural land suitable for sale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] After discussion with the Commission, I decided early last year that, after any necessary improvement, land should be sold wherever this can suitably be done. It will not be possible in all cases. For instance, much of the land on airfields or intermixed with Forestry Commission properties would not be suitable for sale. Nevertheless, the decision is an important one and will progressively take effect.
1190 This leads me to the general question of the policy which the Government have had under consideration for some time, namely, the disposal of agricultural land which was acquired compulsorily or under threat of compulsion and is no longer required for the purpose for which it was acquired. The extent of this problem should not be exaggerated. Departments do not normally buy land outright unless they expect to need it permanently. The question of releasing it, therefore, seldom arises, except when there has been extensive acquisition on threat of war or during war. Current cases are mostly concerned with acquisitions immediately before the war or during the war. The long-term problem should be a very small one indeed.
The Government have decided that where agricultural land which was acquired compulsorily or under threat of compulsion is no longer wanted by the original acquiring Department or immediately by any other Government Department possessing compulsory purchase powers for a purpose for which the use of those powers would be justified, then the land will be sold. This means that transfers of such land from one Government Department to another will not be made in future unless at the time of transfer the receiving Department could and would have bought the land compulsorily if it had been in private ownership.
Let me give an example to the House of how that will work. Suppose the War Office had compulsorily acquired agricultural land for a training area and no longer wanted it for that purpose. If the Air Ministry currently wanted it for a bombing range and would have taken steps to acquire it compulsorily for that purpose, if the land had been in private ownership, the land in that case would be transferred to the Air Ministry.
It is a matter for consideration whether, except in time of emergency, provision ought not to be made for some form of public inquiry in the event of objection to the transfer by the former owner or other persons interested. Considerations of national security and the possible need for quick execution of essential defence plans would, of course, naturally be important factors, but the land would not be transferred to one of the Agricultural Departments to manage as agricultural land because those Departments would 1191 have no power to buy such land compulsorily.
There is one exception which we must make to this rule, and that is where agricultural land has been so substantially altered in character while in possession of a Government Department that if it were sold it could not be used for agriculture in the same way as when it was originally acquired. The obvious example of this is where an airfield has been made with concrete runways, hangars and other buildings, and the original ownership boundaries have been obliterated. The problem of making the best use of the remaining agricultural land on such an airfield is not an easy one. Often such work as drainage, and fencing, and sometimes the provision of buildings, is necessary.
In such circumstances the land may need to be retained in public ownership, at any rate while being rehabilitated, and would be transferred for management to the Agricultural Department concerned. Subject to such exceptions as airfields, these new arrangements will in future preclude the transfer to the Agricultural Departments of agricultural land which was acquired compulsorily or under threat of compulsion by any other Government Department, and this will mean that such a transfer as took place at Crichel Down from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Agriculture will not happen in future.
Where land is to be sold in accordance with the general policy I have just outlined, the Government have considered what attitude to adopt towards claims by former owners or their successors to buy it back. The Government recognise that the former owner or certain of his successors may fairly claim that they should be given a special opportunity to buy such land. There may be cases where this cannot be done. The whole character of the land may have been altered, for instance, by the erection on it of buildings other than agricultural buildings, or, as I have said already, by the laying down of concrete runways on an airfield, in such a way as to make it impracticable to restore the former boundaries: or it may have been compulsorily acquired under the Agriculture Act, 1947; or, again, there may be small parcels of land left over from land acquired for, say, 1192 trunk roads or forestry which may not be suitable for resale to the former owners. There are also cases where Departments have statutory powers of acquisition for the purpose of ensuring that land is used in a particular way, and in order to ensure such use they may have to sell it for special purposes. This is true, for instance, of acquisitions by the Board of Trade under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945.
These are only some examples of the circumstances which may relate to a parcel of land and so make any rigid rule impracticable. It will also sometimes be a matter of difficulty to decide whether the successor in title has a special personal claim.
Nevertheless, the Government will in future consider each case on its merits with the desire that, where circumstances show that the land can properly be offered to a former owner or his successor who can establish his claim, this will be done at a price assessed by the district valuer as being the current market price. This procedure cannot be applied retrospectively; it can only apply to future disposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The Government have given further consideration—
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying, ire effect, that property will be sold to a former owner at a lesser price than someone else is prepared to pay for it?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
It will be at the current market price as assessed by the district valuer. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at this in print, he will see how it is proposed to work.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
No, it will be at the current market price as assessed by the district valuer.
The Government have given further consideration to the future of the land at Crichel Down. I have already explained to the House how I reached the decision in 1952 that, on agricultural grounds and with proper regard for financial considerations, the right course was to equip the land as one farm. I have already explained that I considered very carefully the claim advanced by 1193 Commander Marten, but came to the conclusion that this did not outweigh the agricultural case.
In the circumstances at that time, when maximum production was essential, I am confident that my decision was right, but today, two years later, the food situation has materially altered for the better, thanks to the work of the present Government. Moreover, as I have just said, the Government have now made the important new decision that where a former owner or his successor can establish a special personal claim, he will, where possible, be given a special opportunity to buy land back when it is no longer wanted for Government purposes.
The Government would be prepared, so far as lies within their power, to apply the new procedure to Crichel Down, even though it cannot in general be applied retrospectively. There are, however, practical difficulties in applying the policy at Crichel Down. The land there is already let to a tenant, and there is an obligation to equip it. The land could be sold with vacant possession only if Crown Lands were justified in giving the tenant notice to quit or if the tenant were ready to surrender his tenancy. In my opinion, Crown Lands could not justifiably serve a notice to quit on the ground that this was in the interests of efficient farming or estate management—which in this case is the only ground on which my consent to a termination of the tenancy could be sought and given under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948.
The sale of the land would, therefore, only be possible subject to the tenancy and to the obligation to equip the land on the scale proposed. So long as the present tenancy stands, such a sale could clearly be to only one individual and not to the three successors of the former owners. It is possible that the three successors of the former owners could agree among themselves that one of them should be the sole purchaser of all the land. If so, I should be prepared to sell the land, subject to the tenancy and the obligation to equip, to one of the successors of the former owners.
I have nearly finished, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that I have detained the House rather a long time—
§ Mr. Thomas Williams (Don Valley)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves 1194 that point, does he imply by his suggestion of a possible sale to a successor and not the original owner—since two out of the three owners are now dead and the other is not interested—that the Government would be willing to amend the 1948 Act to make it possible for him to agree to a notice to quit?
§ Sir T. Dugdale
No, it does not mean that; we should not have to amend the 1948 Act.
I have nearly finished. I have tried to accomplish my duty to the House, which was to give an accurate account of the history of the Crichel Down case. I have told the House of the action which has been taken, and which will be taken, in the design to make a recurrence of the present case impossible. I have announced changes which the Government intend to make in land transaction procedure. I have told the House of the offer of resale of the Crichel Down land under certain conditions. I have no regrets at having ordered a public inquiry, for I am certain that good will come out of it. I have been able to get well under way the action necessary following Sir Andrew Clark's Report.
Having now had this opportunity of rendering account to Parliament of the actions which I thought fit to take, I have, as the Minister responsible during this period, tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister, who is submitting it to the Queen.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The last sentence of the right hon. Gentleman's speech obviously makes this moment—as it must for those who have known him longer than I have: I have known him for 10 years—a very uncomfortable one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have had occasion to speak to the right hon. Gentleman from this Box in recent months a little roughly at times, perhaps, for a younger man to an older man, but I have said repeatedly—I said it in the country last Friday and perhaps I may repeat it now to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that the Government will have difficulty in finding from their own benches a Minister of Agriculture who will be as good for their purposes as the right hon. Gentleman has been.
The task of a Minister of Agriculture in any Government that in this country 1195 of 54 million people, where so few are engaged on the land or connected with it, is necessarily not an easy one. I believe that the task of the right hon. Gentleman in the present Government has been an even more difficult one than in the normal run. I hope that Government back benchers will take no credit unto themselves for what the right hon. Gentleman has now done. They have given him the minimum of support when he has been in trouble, which has arisen very largely because of the demands which have been made on him and not by his own will. They have hunted and harassed him. Whatever we feel about what has led up to this case, it must be a very sad moment for us all, more on the Government side of the House than on the Opposition side.
I wanted to say some things of a vigorous nature this afternoon. Obviously, one now feels less willing to do so. On the other hand, as the right hon. Gentleman said, many really important issues arise in the course of this case, and even now I do not agree with some of the conclusions which he has drawn. I certainly do not agree with the main tenor of the last part of his speech. I feel that the House will forgive me if I try to take into account the new personal situation, particularly on this day, which must be an unhappy one for the Minister, and put things differently, but I hope the House will not mind if I say that I feel it my duty to put our case as I see it none the less for that.
The only other personal thing which perhaps the Minister will permit me to say to him is this. His announcements about new policy, in so far as I could follow them, frightened me very considerably. He told the country that the food position was so materially altered that the best agricultural use of the land no longer mattered. [Interruption.] Hon. Members will find that I cannot be shouted down. He said that the best agricultural use of land no longer mattered. [HON. MEMBERS: "He never said that."] I think that he said it, and I am entitled to put this conclusion to the House. The Home Secretary can clear it up when he replies if my deduction is wrong.
This is the reason I think it. The Government now want to transfer land to a body specially set up to look at the agricultural considerations before deciding 1196 what to do with it. They will simply decide to sell it just because no one wants it for the purpose, or a similar purpose, to that for which it was requisitioned. To say that on top of a speech at Newcastle, not two months ago, when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who sits in another place, told the farming community that the cost of maintaining and 'supporting British agriculture at its present level was already too high and must 'be reduced—what does this add up to? This is the Kettering speech of Mr. Chamberlain back again—food production and maximum production no longer matter.
How does the Prime Minister expect the farmers outside, and the farm workers outside, who are wondering whether to stay on the land for a wage nearly £3 less than is being paid in the towns, and the landowners, wondering what to do with their land, will feel now that the position has so materially altered that maximum food production is no longer the order of the day? Which tenant is now going to involve himself in greater capital expenditure on somebody else's farm? Which landlord is now going to put money into land preservation to get a return on it? Which farm worker, faced with the chance of getting off the land, is going to stay in an industry which the Government have told him no longer matters so much in this new changed situation?
It does not matter that I believe that their judgment is wrong. It does not matter that I believe that they are playing a most stupid game in counting upon a temporary surplus of grain in North America, when already the acreages in North America are being cut for this year's production. It does not matter that I think that their judgment is wrong in counting upon getting barley from Iraq at £10 a ton on the basis that Iraq will go on accepting the very low standard of living which makes this possible. What matters is that they have declared that, in their view, this is the situation.
I say frankly that I am very sorry that the Minister, in what for a large part was the finest speech I have heard him make in this House, did not stick to his guns to the very end. I regret more than anything that the men on the Front Bench opposite, who must have forced this 1197 policy on him, do not have their names tagged to this instead of his. This is a sad sell-out for agriculture. Last night I spoke on the telephone to a very successful Dorset farmer who is not concerned in, this Crichel Down case one way or the other. What he said to me last night had great significance in the light of what we have heard, and although I did not take a great deal of notice of it at the time, I can repeat what he said pretty accurately. He said, "I cannot tell you any more about it than you already know; but I say to you, cut as had as you can at this Government because they are being an unmitigated disaster to British agriculture." He said, "They are destroying our confidence." [Interruption.] This is not a giggling matter. The hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) can go into his constituency and I will go with him let us put this to the farmers of the County of Southampton and see what they feel about it. This fellow said: "They are destroying our confidence and lowering our morale. We are losing the chance of producing more."
I believe that, in fact, what the Minister has done today in the name of his Government has been to prove how right that chap was, and to show how much danger there is for agriculture while this Government last. I hope that the Prime Minister, who has now left the Chamber, will now. as a result of Crichel Down—I see that the hon. and gallant Member for Bedford (Captain Soames) is here and he will 5e able to report to the right hon. Gentleman—and as a result of what has happened to the Minister, take into account the damage that he is doing, as representing this Government, so far as almost our most important basic industry is concerned. I hope that he will think very seriously about it.
I now turn to this story which forms the background of our debate today. It is a very sad and a very sorry story. There can be no doubt about that. What- ever the views of the right hon. Gentle- man—and I do not take all the same views as he does—about the way in which things have gone, as the result of a long story of delay, indecision and muddle, I think that they culminated—and I am surprised that the Minister did not make this point—in perhaps the most curious public inquiry that has ever been set up it circumstances of this kind.
1198 I will say a word about the form of the inquiry and about the Report in a few moments, but there is no doubt in my mind that the whole history of this thing really reflects the failure of the Government at every level to know what they want to do. This cannot be shuffled off on to civil servants. I shall have a word to say about civil servants and what I feel about the particular ones who figure in this Report. But to try to shuffle, as back benchers opposite have tried to do, the whole responsibility on to civil servants instead of where it ought to be, on the Administration, is I think quite wrong.
I think that what has really happened in the Ministry of Agriculture is that the civil servants there have been, because of the switches and changes of policy and because of the repeated intervention of other Departments—[Interruption.]—I am not putting the onus on the Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "You are."]—I am putting the onus on his colleagues. It is no use thinking that by getting rid of the right hon. Gentleman, as some other hon. Members who sat on the benches opposite were got rid of—as Sir John Gilmour or Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith were got rid of—will solve the problem. The next Minister will be in the same trouble as the right hon. Gentleman, the same trouble as his predecessors in that part of the House, the same trouble as Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith and all those pre-war Tory Ministers were in. The civil servants in the Department have found it impossible to follow a consistent policy because all the time there have been these interventions, pressures from outside, and moves from other Departments that have completely messed about all the decisions, even when they have been taken. It is that to which the Prime Minister has got to devote his mind.
In the case of Crichel Down, it is not only the Minister at the head of the Department who has some heart-searching to do on the question of delay and indecision. In fact, the Minister has rather less to do than most. I notice from Sir Andrew Clark's Report that on one occasion it took the Parliamentary Secretary seven months to reply to a letter, and when he did get round to it, it was only because the much-maligned Mr. Wilcox discovered from some correspondence that in courtesy the Parliamentary Secretary ought to send a letter to the hon. 1199 Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) for him to, pass on to Commander Marten. So the muddle is much more than muddle and delay by the Minister himself. All those in the Department are considerably involved.
Let me go straight to the question of responsibility for the Crichel Down muddle; I will come back to the civil servants presently. Let me look for a moment at the official responsibility. As the right hon. Gentleman quite fairly said, the decision to farm Crichel Down as one holding, to equip it as one holding and to farm it by one tenant, was a decision to which each of the three Ministers concerned—that is to say, the right hon. Gentleman and his two Parliamentary Secretaries—has committed himself. It has been in the hands of each of them at different times.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary who is a Member of this House had it in June, 1952. We know that the Minister had it a month later. The noble Lord the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in the House of Lords had it in November, 1952. They all personally had it; I do not mean they had it because it was in the Department, but because letters or references on it were sent to them. They each permitted the subsequent delay to continue. They all of them permitted the subsequent changes and switches in policy to go on and they finally, all of them, approved of the decision. That comes out quite clearly in the volume of evidence in which their appearances before Sir Andrew Clark's tribunal, if that is the right word, were considered.
May I say this about the two decisions? The decision to transfer the land from the Air Ministry to the Agricultural Land Commission for management was, in my view, perfectly right. What would have happened otherwise? The land would have been sold back not even in the condition it was in when it was bought. It would have been sold back with all the infestation and rubble and with all the over-growing that occurred while the Air Force were bombing it. The successors of the former owners would not have wanted to buy the land in that condition. What would have been the valuation price?
I am now accepting the view of Commander Marten and of other gentlemen 1200 concerned about the condition of their land when it was bought from them. There was some argument before Sir Andrew Clark about that. I accept the opinion that Commander Marten in due course gave upon it. But when it was finished with by the Air Force, it was not in that condition. It has taken the Land Commission three years to pull it round. So the Department could not even have offered back to Commander Marten at that stage land capable of being used as a sheep run.
There are the same ill-considered policy decisions taken in panic time after time. If hon. Members opposite want to make their own policy effective, they cannot offer the land back for sale until the Land Commission or somebody has had it in order to rehabilitate it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because at that point it is of no use to anybody. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If hon. Members opposite think that the position of the country is such that the nation is entitled to take agricultural land in everyday use, turn it into rabbit- and rat-infested gorseland and scrub and then to say, "We are not going to pull it round. We will now sell it back to you and you can do it," they are going even further than the Minister went just now.
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot give way. The hon. Member can make his case presently. I am saying it as it occurs to me, and it will not worry me if the hon. Member thinks I am wrong.
I say from this Box that when this decision, taken so hurriedly and announced so shortly. comes to be put into practice, it will not be worked in that way. There will be rehabilitation first—of course there will be. I am sure that that is how it will work out. It is ridiculous to announce panic decisions of this kind in that way.
I believe that it was right, and must always be right, to transfer land of that 1201 kind to the Agricultural Land Commission for investigation as to its agricultural state and the best way of managing it. An awful lot of foolish mistakes have been made about Crichel Down and the Land Commission. Transferring the land to the Land Commission does not prejudge what is subsequently to be done with the land by way of managing it.
It is open to the Land Commission to recommend a variety of things. They can directly farm it themselves, something which, to the tribute of Sir Fred Burrows and these other very distinguished members of the Commission, they have been very reluctant to do. They can farm it themselves directly, if that is the right thing to do in the early stages, or even in the long-term stages. The Commission can recommend sale or letting either as bare land or as equipped land.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) transferred this land to the Agricultural Land Commission for management, he did not settle any of those things. The management of the land falls to be done afterwards. What the Government are now doing is to prevent anybody from even considering what is the best thing to do in the light of the requirements of the land. I think that the first decision to transfer it was absolutely right.
§ Mr. Brown
It is not for me to say whether the second decision was right. I am not a Minister these days and I do not have access, except now through Sir Andrew Clark's Report and the transcript of evidence, to all the considerations. It is for the Ministers to say whether the recommendation that they got from the Land Commission—that this land would be best managed by being equipped and let as one holding—would have been the right thing to do.
As Sir Andrew Clark says in his Report, there were ample grounds for so deciding. That seems on the whole to be a fairly wide tribute from a gentleman who showed no tenderness necessarily to public ownership. If he is prepared to say that, there must be a good deal in it. I feel that what the Minister said was the right thing to do, and that 1202 nobody has the right to treat the Crichel Down case as though the first decision to transfer the land for management meant that something sinister was brewing in British agriculture.
Mr. J. B. Godbei (Grantham)
§ Mr. Brown
No, I cannot give way.
What I think intolerable was the interference with the Agricultural Land Commission in the carrying out of its duty through the Minister being subject to enormous political pressure from the party machine behind them and in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, and may I say something else, for which I hope hon. Members will forgive me.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman should stop interrupting because he cannot jump up, talk and listen all at the same time. Those are too many things to do at once. He may be able to do one of them, and I suggest that he listens to what I have to say.
If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will read the transcript of evidence—not Sir Andrew Clark's part, but the shorthand note of the proceedings—it will be instructive for them. I have only got a small piece of it here because it stands a considerable height when placed on the table and it took me many hours to get through it. However, it is worth doing because one cannot understand what has happened in this case until one has read all the evidence, including the questions and answers, the correspondence and the minutes.
If hon. Members opposite would read the transcript they would find that every time a decision was taken by the Minister to enable the A.L.C. to take over, a party organisation, through a number of back benchers opposite, asked the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for an explanation, and he brought back all the files and other items which held up all the work while the whole thing was reconsidered. This went on for months, for years, and that is how it is that the Agricultural Land Commission, which would have had this land equipped and ready to let to a private enterprise farmer by Michaelmas, 1952, is still burdened with it, and has not started to lay a single brick, even in 1954.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he read through the transcript. So have I, and I absolutely challenge what he has just been saying. There is no evidence whatever in the transcript of evidence that any party organisation interfered at any time.
§ Mr. Brown
Hon. Members opposite will have to draw their own conclusions. [Laughter.] I can always tell when the House is ready to interrupt, and I think it is better to draw it first because it can than settle itself.
If the right hon. Gentleman reads the evidence of Commander Marten's intervention and stories of the protest meetings in Dorset he will see that heavy pressure was put upon hon. Members from that part of the country, particularly upon the hon. Member for Dorset, North, and that was how the pressure was organised. They are entitled so to organise it, and, of course, that is the sort of pressure that the farmers down there would be likely to organise. The pressure was organised by the party which hon. Members opposite are bound to support.
Therefore, I say it was political pressure transmitting itself through the Minister to the A.L.C., which has been responsible for this land not being equipped and not being under cultivation as it would have been by Michaelmas, 1952, had this pressure not been exerted.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) cannot interrupt if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) does not give way.
§ Mr. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had read the transcript, and he was saying that I had repeated my view of some of it. That is why I am on my feet. I am here expressing my view on this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to repeat his view later. All I have done is to invite hon. Members who have not yet read the transcript of evidence to do so when they will see that what I am saying is right.
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot go through six volumes of evidence just now, because I do not wish to detain the House. I know that what I have said is there, and all one has to do is to read the evidence, particularly that of Commander Marten and Mr. Wilcox, including their cross-examination, to see that what I have said is correct.
I now turn to something else. Not only has this delayed the cultivation of the land, but it has cost a good deal of public money to go into something which would otherwise not have been necessary, and it has resulted in frustration and in the lowering of the morale which falls largely on the Civil Service.
May I say something about the inquiry itself. I want to put some questions to the Home Secretary which are all the more serious in the light of what the Minister has said. This inquiry was not set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, as were some others in recent times. This inquiry was, in fact, set up by the Minister with none of the protections of that Act. The inquirer was told to exclude policy considerations from his Report, something which he does not seem to have done very well. Individual civil servants were not referred to as subjects or objects of the inquiry.
I want to ask the Home Secretary what was the position of Sir Andrew Clark if this inquiry was not set up under that Act. I see in the transcript and, I think, in the Report, that he is frequently referred to as "the Commissioner." Did he hold the Queen's commission? Was he, in fact, in that position or was he not? I do not think that this is a quibble because a great deal turns on it in regard to the position of the people who went before him. Who gave him the Queen's commission, and how did that affect the position of those called?
It is rather interesting to note that none of those who cast reflections upon the ability of the neighbouring farmers gave evidence. At the beginning of his Report Sir Andrew Clark says that two 1205 people did not give evidence, hut, by the time one reads through the Report, one finds that four did not give evidence. They were all people who cast doubts on the farming ability of the neighbouring owners. Did they not give evidence because there was no protection for people who were called? Would there, in fact, be little or no defence to a charge of slander or libel if somebody went there and sought to justify opinions expressed elsewhere?
What about the legal representation for the people who were sent there, or who volunteered to go? I think that the whole position in relation to this rather curious inquiry is in no way paralleled by any other which has been set up. It is no use hon. Members opposite saying, "They were civil servants who appeared before it, and we know what bureaucrats are.", I doubt whether any hon. Member in any part of the House really takes that view, because it is most important, as the Minister said, that the traditions of our Civil Service should be protected and its standards maintained. At no time is that so necessary as when we have reason to think that somebody has transgressed them, because perhaps the most important thing is to maintain our standards in order that there shall not be any reflection upon the Civil Service generally.
I gravely doubt whether the form of inquiry set up gave any of the protections which those civil servants ought to have had if the Commissioner was to get at the facts. I wonder whether the Home Secretary, in the light of all this, thinks that a one-man inquiry is ever a good thing for this purpose, or whether we are not putting a strong weapon in the hands of one man, particularly if, like most of us, he has strong views himself.
I am bound to say that the evidence gets at the facts rather well—if one reads the transcript, they can be picked out—but I am not prepared to say the same for the Report. I regard this as a very partial Report, full of partiality from the beginning, very prejudiced and very argumentative where it is supposed to be factual, and inaccurate. May I give evidence of what I regard as partiality?
At the foot of page 10 there is reference to a figure given by Mr. Brown, which was thought to be inaccurate and which subsequently misled everybody and to 1206 which the Minister has paid attention. In the transcript of evidence, however, it is clear that the figure of 170 acres of rough downland, existing on the Hardings' farm at the time when it was being considered in 1952, is taken bodily by Mr. Brown from the Hardings' own agricultural return to the Ministry. That is stated quite clearly and not disputed in the evidence. The mistake is to accept as accurate the Hardings' own statutory return. But does the Commissioner say that in his Report? No, he does not. He says that Mr. Brown obtained from obsolete records the information that was inaccurate.
In my view, the phrase "obsolete records" is not a reproduction of Mr. Harding's current agricultural return, and the phrase is chosen because it is likely to mislead people into believing that the records of the Ministry were obsolete. If this Report had been impartial, it would have made clear that the 170 acres error arose because Mr. Harding had put on his return, for some reason or other, that he had more downland than he had.
§ Mr. Brown
I think that an impartial Report would say that there was an error in Mr. Brown's report but that, since that error was because the farmer misrepresented his own acreages, Mr. Brown could not be blamed for that. But that is not said, and it is made to look as if there were something wrong with the records in the Department.
There is one other thing which shows partiality. Everywhere in the transcript of evidence where there is a reference to an official estimate, by the time that gets into the Report it is always guesswork—in every single case. Any estimate made by a Ministry official, made by a member of the Commission, made by a farmer member, is always referred to there as guesswork. That, again, is anything but an impartial way of referring to it.
If one looks at the report of Mr. Eastwood's evidence about the estimate of the rent that could be got and about 1207 the estimate of what the land used to be worth, it will be seen that the Commissioner said in his Report, in paragraph 78, page 21:It is regrettable that a responsible official in the position of a Trustee, as Mr. Eastwood undoubtedly was, should have answered questions relating to authority for the expenditure of Trust moneys in this light-hearted manner.That is rather stinging, but here is the next sentence:In point of fact, however, no harm can have been done since the evidence clearly showed that Mr. Tozer was a first class farmer, and the rent of £3 per acre was a very good one.That is exactly what Mr. Eastwood says it was, and for which he is regarded as being light-hearted and irresponsible. On the 7s. 6d. which the Commissioner thinks is light-hearted and irresponsible, he goes on to say:It also appeared that the estimated rental value of the land pre-war at 7s. 6d. per acre, though low was not altogether unreasonable.So that the things which are irresponsible and light-hearted in both respects in the same paragraph he finds are accurate.
Now may I refer to the former owners: because one man has lost his job, three others have been transferred to other duties and the Minister has now lost his job, so we are entitled to look at this Report simply to show whether it is an accurate one to begin with. I would have thought that a man whose Report was to have this serious effect would be careful about the terms he used, but in paragraph 8 on page 28 he says:(b) The previous owners were anxious to repurchase their respective holdings and would have paid a total of about £21,000 for the land in its then condition.(c) The previous owners were all first class farmers and could have been relied upon to farm their respective areas properly"—But all the previous owners were dead. [Laughter.] This is more than just funny; this is a tragic report that has put one Minister, at any rate temporarily, out of public life, one civil servant out of his job, and heaven knows what has happened to the other three.
Were civil servants one fraction as careless of writing their minutes as that, they would receive violent animadversions. This was evidence of their suitability. I assume he knew the previous owners were dead, but he does not even 1208 take the care to describe the people concerned properly as their successors. Yet, because everyone says that the previous owners were good farmers, how does it follow that the successors would have been good farmers, successors who, in some cases, were not even their descendants? How does it follow that the Commission was wrong to take the view that it did? There are many other examples to which I could draw attention if hon. Members wished, but perhaps those are enough.
May I give one example of what I think is contradiction but which is interesting? On page 29, in conclusion 9, there is a paragraph beginning:The second course (b), although the one originally determined upon by the Land Commission when the possibility of a sale was thought to be excluded, was financially unsound and a sale of the land was clearly preferable.Now, passing to conclusion 10, which discusses the possibility of the Crown Commissioners, who are also a public body, doing the same thing, he said:…yet, accepting (as of course I must) the policy decision that the land must be equipped and farmed as one unit, it may well have been justified as the only feasible method of implementing that policy.If the only feasible method of implementing that policy when the Crown Commissioners own the land is to farm it as one unit, why has it become financially unsound and unpreferable when the Agricultural Land Commission, which is responsible to the right hon. Gentleman, owns it and does it? All that is changed in the agency. It is the same job, it is still equipping it, it is still owning it publicly, it is still letting it to a tenant.
All he is saying is that once it has gone to the Crown Commissioners, then it may be the only feasible way of doing it, but that if it stays with the Agricultural Land Commission it is, in his view, financially unsound and should not happen. I regard that as a contradiction. The only argument—and he could not argue about it because it was not in his terms of reference—is whether the Crown Commissioners are better at doing it than the Agricultural Land Commission.
I will not argue now about what the Report says of Ministerial responsibility or what flows from the Report in that respect. I pass over that and come to the question of the Civil Service, particularly in view of what has been said today. I 1209 have no doubt at all that certain members of the Civil Service have failed to present the case adequately to the Minister. I think they failed to see that the Minister realised the implications of what was happening or of decisions that were to be taken. I certainly think they have treated some of the outsiders much less well than I should like to think anybody would have done when I was in the Department.
I do not condone or shield any of them, but do not let us have any misunderstanding, in view of the nature of the Report itself, about what everybody was contending with in this case. There is a lot of talk about lack of courtesy on the part of officials and of their not treating outsiders properly. It is quite likely that they had quite a time in some of the meetings that took place. There is an instance in the transcript where Commander Marten refers to the fact that he pressed his case on the Department well beyond the bounds of civility. That may mean a lot of things. I wonder how far he went. I saw a reference to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in a public speech which Commander Marten made. Everybody knows that friendship in this House has certain limits and that I would talk quite roughly about the hon. Gentleman at times, but I ask the House to listen to this extract as evidence of the other side in this case. It does not appear in the Report, but it is in a document or in a file of stuff which went to the Commissioner.
Commander Marten is referring to his interview with the Parliamentary Secretary. He says:I said to Mr. Nugent, 'But I applied for our land back, or if you wished, the whole 700 acres, nearly two years ago.' 'Yes,' he said, but your application was to buy, and the land isn't being sold publicly.' 'But,' I said, 'I applied to buy the land to instal the Hardings as tenants.' 'Ah,' he said, 'that hardly constitutes an application on their part.'I thought to myself"—he is making this public and he sent a copy to the Minister with his compli-ments—' you smooth creature, you're so slippery, you'd slide through the kitchen keyhole'.That is Commander Marten referring to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary who, at every stage, as far as I could see, had done his best to see that Commander Marten had no grounds for complaint.
1210 If Commander Marten is willing to refer in that way to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who had done him no harm but had given him a great deal of help, one might have a little bit of an impression of what he might well have done in the case of the Civil Service. This lack of courtesy which the Report attributes to one side only might very well have been very much a two-way business.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary a question on the subject of this wriggle about the transfer to the Commissioners of Crown Lands. I find it very difficult to discover why it was ever done. Neither the Commissioner, if that is what he is called, nor any of the people who went into court, asked the Ministry nor did the Ministry volunteer why this land was ever sold—so-called—to the Commissioners of Crown Lands.
What was the point of it? Up to this time it had been the responsibility of the A.L.C. and all the argument had been as to whether it should be let as one holding or broken up. Then somebody discovered this wonderful idea of transferring it, calling it a sale—because no money seems to have passed—to do the same thing with it. What was the point of that? What did it achieve? How did it improve the situation in any way?
If this had not been done, this trouble would not have arisen. The Agricultural Land Commission would have let by tender after advertising in the ordinary way. Part of this trouble came out of the decision to transfer and nobody, not even the Commissioner, has yet asked why it was done. Will the Home Secretary tell the House why it was done? I see no point in it at all. Has the land ever gone? The Commissioners of Crown Lands have received rent for the first year. Somebody has paid the dilapidations to the Commissioners of Crown Lands, who have paid it to Mr. Tozer. Have the Commissioners of Crown Lands yet got the land for which they have received rent? I still suspect that the land is with the Air Ministry and not even the Ministry of Agriculture. Therefore, it looks as if that muddle still exists or is not completely cleared up.
In fairness, the House must ask itself what happens now. I had intended to start by saying that I hoped to heaven that this business did not mean that there 1211 would be interference with the 1947 Act. No matter how important we feel it is from some other aspect, agriculturally Crichel Down could not justify that change. It is no use my saying that now, because we have had the statement that it will interfere with the 1947 Act. Is it too late to appeal to the Minister, or to the Leader of the House, to communicate to the Minister's successor, that there should now be no interference at all with Crichel Down? What is done is done. Whether it is well done, badly done, wrongly done, or rightly done is a matter of opinion.
The land has now been let to a good farmer, a young man who wanted a farm of his own. He is a man in good agricultural standing in the district, a member of the National Farmers' Union County Executive and, I believe, a member of a sub-committee of the A.E.C. Last month a seeds demonstration was held on his family farm. He is in possession. He is waiting for equipment to get the holding going properly and to live on it. It is not fair now, because of the way these things have been done, to mess him about any more or to put him in jeopardy as a farmer.
I appeal, therefore, to the successor to the right hon. Gentleman to start his tenure with the courage which I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman to have used, and to say to his back benchers, "We have done our best to inquire into this and to meet criticism. We do not propose to interfere any further with the arrangements at Crichel." The equipment must go up there soon.
Reference has been made to the possibility of the three successors to the owners of Crichel agreeing among themselves as to who should have it. I should think that that would be a very unhappy thing to do. A lot of feeling must have been stirred up there by now. Public campaign meetings have been held and speeches have been made by Commander Marten. If the three were to agree, an obvious risk is that Commander Marten would be the one agreed upon. Mr. Tozer is the farmer who is in Crichel, having stayed in possession when he was asked to withdraw and having stood firm by what he thought were his rights when asked to withdraw, not only by the Crown 1212 Commissioners but by Commander Marten. Having stood there firmly, I think it would be a quite improper thing now to sell that land to the ownership of Commander Marten so that Mr. Tozer became the tenant.
Whatever we do about the rest of the land, which we on this side of the House do not like doing, I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us tonight that he will see there is no interference there. I hope, too, he will say that something more has to be done about the Crown Commissioners. On reading the transcript of evidence it looks to me as though the whole business of the Crown Commissioners and the way in which they run their affairs ought to be inquired into. The employment of part-time gentlemen in private practice as Crown Commissioners is a very arguable proposition. It would be very much better to have a complete review.
We must wait for the White Paper to see what is to be done about the civil servants. I am very unhappy, not that action has been taken against them—a strong Minister would have taken action a long time before—but that it should be done after this tribunal and they should be left feeling they have a real grouse about the way in which it has been held.
This matter throws up serious issues but there have been many misunderstandings, particularly in the Press. Many newspapers, if not all, have been quite off the beam because they relied on the rather partial Report rather than reading, as perhaps they could not be expected to read, the whole transcript of evidence. This matter really throws up the way in which a Department of State has muddled, delayed and messed about over a very long period through lack of adequate direction. I believe that the moral of this case is not for an individual Minister, nor for civil servants, but for the whole of this Government. Repeatedly, and again today, they have been driven from behind; and they have been unable to put forward a coherent, effective policy under which civil servants could know how to do their job.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Hurd (Newbury)
The House is apt to find the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) rather exhausting and he has given us another knockabout turn this afternoon. I will 1213 be briefer, in the circumstances, than I intended to be. It has taken this day's debate to establish principles which should not have been in doubt since the day the Conservative Government took office. They should have been perfectly well understood by civil servants in the Ministry of Agriculture and elsewhere.
I think that all of us who have felt unhappy about the course of events in this Crichel Down case were reassured by what the Minister of Agriculture told us this afternoon, particularly on three main points. The first was that the State should not continue to own or manage any agricultural land which is suitable for sale. Secondly, where agricultural land has been compulsorily acquired by the Air Ministry, the War Office, or any other Department which no longer requires it for the purpose for which it was acquired, it should then be sold and the previous owners should have an early opportunity of resuming their property at a valuation set by the district valuer. That to me, and I think to most of my colleagues, is just good plain common sense and it is just plain justice.
The right hon. Member for Belper suggested that such land, which had been used by the Air Ministry for a bombing range, or by some other defence Department, could not be handed back to the original owner or occupier because it was in a bad condition. In practice. it very often happens that land can be handed back and does not need any intermediary treatment at the hands of the Agricultural Land Commission. In my part of the country there are thousands of acres of farmland which were de-requisitioned after the War Office or the Air Ministry had had it for five years, or sometimes 10 years, and it was not necessary for that land to go through the hands of the Agricultural Land Commission. We would have had just as much confidence in the grade A farmer doing the job as in the Agricultural Land Commission.
I am cutting out a great deal of what I intended to say, but I think I should say this. From the welter of criticism of the Minister of Agriculture and his Department three points stand out. The first is that the Minister himself called for this independent inquiry into the procedure that was adopted in the Crichel Down case after the Air Ministry had 1214 decided it no longer wanted the land. Sir Andrew Clark, who is well versed in sifting evidence, reached certain decided conclusions. Some hon. Members may think they were almost too decided, with one particular bias, but Sir Andrew has a clear mind and has given us his decided conclusions.
Having received that Report, the Minister was unwise to allow himself to be persuaded that the civil servants implicated deserved no further censure than the Report contained. That worried us a great deal when we heard the statement of the Minister in this House on 15th June. I wonder who persuaded the Minister that discipline should not be exercised on the civil servants who had been found at fault?
The Minister is a kind-hearted man, but I think this was carrying his Ministerial responsibility really too far. I think we should be told whether the Minister was over-persuaded and, if so, on what grounds that pressure was exerted on him. We have heard of the offer of the Minister's resignation this afternoon. If there are to be resignations we want to be quite sure where the cap fits.
Secondly, it is abundantly clear to those who have read all the evidence and the minutes that, as the right hon. Member for Belper said, have been available to hon. Members in the Library for the last few days, that the Minister has been badly served. It may be said with his knowledge of public affairs he ought to have realised more fully the limitations of those who serve him. Or is this a duty which falls primarily on the Permanent Secretary to the Department? In this case the Permanent Secretary was comparatively newly appointed.
Thirdly, I think it must be abundantly clear that in recent years there has been no one in the Ministry of Agriculture, who, while this case developed, has ever had a practical grasp of the problems involved, or who has been asked to apply such a grasp to them.
There were the men in the field, the assistant Agricultural Land Commissioners, and the staff of the Agricultural Land Commission, and so on. But lit appears to me—and I have read all the documents—that inside the Ministry itself there was no one who said, "Hey! What is all this about? It is no longer 1215 war-time. Individuals have some rights again, even if the Agricultural Commission has other ideas."
I recall that for some years, during the last war, it was my privilege to serve under the present Lord Hudson in the Ministry of Agriculture. My work lay in the office of the Chief Agricultural Adviser, Sir William Gavin, who was brought into the Ministry from outside by Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, who is well known to hon. Members of this House. Sir William Gavin continued to serve under Lord Hudson, and, indeed, also under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for at least two years I think it was, after the war.
The main function of Sir William Gavin was to guide and advise the Ministry, not only at the top level—he had access to the Permanent Secretary and the Minister—but also to stop rash things, ill-considered things and unbalanced things from being done at a lower level. Indeed, papers came through his office on the way up to the Permanent Secretary and to the Minister. I am fairly certain that the right hon. Member for Don Valley would confirm my impression that on major matters of policy he would want to see what view Sir William Gavin had expressed, and Sir William was not a man who would look merely at the top page on the file.
I think that the procedure of having a Chief Agricultural Adviser brought in from outside, and independent of the regular civil servants, saved the Ministry of Agriculture in those days from making mistakes. It is, of course, true that conditions in 1949 and 1950, when this Crichel Down case began to develop—when the first steps were taken—were very much conditions of war-time shortages. Now, when the final stage is reached in 1953 and 1954, and when we have a much greater abundance of food—in part produced at home and in part produced abroad—the necessity for the strict control of the use of land is no longer so insistent as in 1949 and 1950. I doubt—
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
How does the hon. Member justify that remark when it is applied to an industry that is now taking—still taking—£200 million a 1216 year out of the pockets of the taxpayers by way of subsidy?
§ Mr. Hurd
I will repeat what I said, because perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not get the purport of my remark. I said that conditions are such today—with the more ample supply of food being produced at home and coming in from abroad, which, thanks to our better circumstances, we are able to buy in the world—that it is no longer necessary to exercise this close control over the use of land which was considered necessary during the war, and, indeed, up to 1949 and 1950. That is what I said, and I think that a good many of the hon. Friends of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) would agree with me. You cannot continue to inflict rigid control—I do not think that the hon. Member for Wednesbury would wish to do so—on any industry through Whitehall indefinitely when conditions become much easier than they were.
I am cutting out a good deal of what I had intended to say, but I wish to say this. My right hon. Friend has been grappling with many major problems and has reached many important decisions in recent months. He and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food have done well to bring freedom into the food markets while safeguarding home agricultural production. The country will appreciate that more as time goes on, and so will some of my hon. Friends on these benches.
§ Mr. Hurd
It has been my privilege to work closely with my right hon. Friend since I came into this House. I did not know him before, and I have learned to respect his sound judgment and to know that nothing will deflect him from doing what he considers to be the right and proper thing to do. No amount of political pressure in this Crichel Down case, or in any other case that I know of, has deflected him from his own impartial view.
It is sheer nonsense for the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) to say that Commander Marten used undue 1217 and improper political pressure. Commander Marten wrote to his Member of Parliament. I have read the letters, and I think that they were very restrained letters. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) was very polite and patient in his dealings with the Ministry of Agriculture, because he was not getting what he wanted.
It is perfectly normal and right that an individual, who felt that he had a grievance, should pursue his case through his Member of Parliament up to the Minister. That is how democracy works. We do not have pressure groups on our side of the House—
§ Mr. Hurd
I believe that my right hon. Friend has served the country well since 1951, when he became Minister of Agriculture. He has served the agricultural community well, and he has served the public well. I am sorry, having reached these decisions in policy—particularly those affecting the administration of his Department—that he has felt that he must offer his resignation to the Prime Minister. I am sorry that the Prime Minister has felt bound to submit that resignation to Her Majesty the Queen. I should like to have seen—dearly liked to have seen—my right hon. Friend finish his job at the Ministry of Agriculture. Is it too late for that decision to be reconsidered?
I know that my right hon. Friend carries the personal good will of all of us in this House. I believe that the best interests of the country will be served, now that these major decisions of policy have been taken by the Cabinet, if my right hon. Friend remains at the Ministry of Agriculture for some time, to complete the task which he started, and which he has carried out so well hitherto.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
I was unusually interested when the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) said that there were no pressure groups on his side of the House. I hope, therefore, that negotiations with Egypt will be quickly concluded. From the point of view of this debate, I was even more interested when the hon. Member was asking questions about the quixotry—I think that 1218 would be the correct way of describing it—of the action of the Minister in casting the shelter of his probity around the alleged evil-doers in the Civil Service. But I would like to begin what I have to say at the beginning, and make the different points in due time, and I will come back to that point of his in its proper place in what I wish to say.
I have been absorbedly interested in this whole matter since the Report was published, partly because I have had a certain amount of personal experience of this kind of thing. I have been a very large landowner in my own right; the National Trust has been so generous as to allow me, entirely informally, to have some insight into the land management problems which they have found on two of their large estates. And, of course, during the period of the second Labour Government, I was the Second Church Estates Commissioner—in fact, I was one of the head men—administering, I think, a great deal more land than is administered by the Commissioners of Crown Lands or by the Agricultural Land Commission.
On top of that, I have been fascinated by the public reaction to the Report. Since its publication, I believe that it has done great damage because of the sustained onslaught which has been released upon the public service, whose servants have been castigated in all the journals of middle-class and upper-class opinion as incorruptible tyrants, secretive conspirators, and discourteous nonentities, contemptuous alike of the rights of individuals and of the real public interest. I believe that great damage has been created by the resulting ill-odour which has been spread upon every organ of public control, especially in relation to land.
I have been fascinated too by the author of the Report. It has been mentioned before that he was a Conservative candidate. He was a very remarkable Conservative candidate. I believe that it was said locally at the time that he was the only man who could perform the miracle of losing Barnet for the Conservative Party. I am sorry that the Barnet Press was short of newsprint at the time, because we have had preserved for us relatively few of the gems of wisdom 1219 which fell from him. Fortunately, however, one or two are available.
For example, he said on 16th June, in his campaign, that…the people want freedom, not nationalisation with State control which is the slippery slope to slavery.On the same day he said:The Conservatives want to see every man living happily with his family, with time to enjoy his leisure."This," said the brigadier, "is impossible under nationalisation." I appreciate that these are legitimate views. I should be as ready as any democrat to fight to the death to defend the eminent Q.C.'s right to hold them, but when a man believes that a postman is a slave or that a B.O.A.C. pilot cannot enjoy his leisure, or that the Governor of the Bank of England—who, after all, is a worker in a nationalised industry—finds it impossible to live happily with his family, I only say that such a man is not exactly the man that I should have chosen to conduct this one-man court of inquiry on an issue involving the alleged malpractices of Government servants.
It may be said from the other side of the House that I hold some opposite and equally curious views about nationalisation, but nobody on that side—and, amazing as it may seem, nobody on this side—would appoint me to sit as a one-man court in judgment on issues involving the behaviour of Labour Party Ministers and directors of large privately-owned companies.
I come to some of the issues in the Report. Here is a point which has not been drawn to the public notice. Up to June of 1951 the Alington Estate had no serious objection to the proposal that the Crichel Down area should be retained by the Land Commissioners as one unit equipped as a farm and put up for public tender. That is clear from paragraph 15 of the Report, which says that in that month the Crichel Estate made an agreement to supply water for the purpose. I think that that evidence is conclusive, judging from my own experience.
Hon. Members will perhaps know the beautiful view which one gets northwards from the top of Dunkery Beacon. Bang in the middle of that view there were in the 1930s five fields of glebe 1220 which certain authorities, all of them now passed to their retirement or to eternal rest, wished to exploit and to sell off in building lots, each building lot to have a house upon it incongruous with its surroundings and with its neighbour. The only thing which they needed to carry this fell design into execution was water, and the only place from which they could get water was from me; and I would not give them any. I thought that their purpose was socially immoral.
It is axiomatic that no landlord, no estate, will give water for a purpose which is regarded as socially immoral. I do not want to exaggerate the point too much but, since the publication of the Report, we have had a lot of talk about the immorality of conspiratorial robber bureaucrats, and it is right to put it on record that at least in June, 1951, the Alington Estate had no serious moral objection to this proposal.
I now come to what I believe to be the real issue which public men ought to consider. It is not the issue raised by the hon. Member for Newbury, who now seems to have disappeared. Ever since the Report has been published we have bad the middle-class Press asking the great question: Should we allow our noble but misguided Minister quixotically to take upon himself a purely technical responsibility for the crimes of his civil servants and thereby to shield them with his virtue from the dismissal which ought to be their just reward?
That is the question which the middle-class Press has asked the House to examine today. I think that we must examine a quite different question in the realm of social psychology. It is: How can it happen that a trained Q.C., a leader of Chancery, can release a pent-up organism of vilification and abuse over civil servants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is what he has done, first on his own behalf, and then with the reinforcement of his like-minded friends and colleagues, when all the time the facts make it as clear as the nose on my face that the effective cause of the whole business—and I am sorry to say this after the Minister's concluding phrases, but one must—has been the direct positive and personal incompetence of three menthe Minister, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary here and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in another place.
1221 I set out to prove that that is the issue which we need to consider. I start from the moment when the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) sent his first letter of complaint on 13th June. Speaking from some experience of being among the head men in an institution managing large areas of land, I ask myself what does such a man do when he receives a complaint. It is a matter of ordinary complaints drill like sloping arms for a private in the Army. One informs the members of one's own staff of the complaint which has been received and one asks far a report; and one does that at once. But that was not done. Three weeks and four days after the hon. Member's letter had been received, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary wrote as follows:I am still unable to give you a considered answer because the inquiries that I am having to make are taking rather longer than I expected."Are taking longer." In fact, they had not started, because the Minister had not started them. On that date he had not written the first letter asking for a report. I want to know how it happens that a lynx-eyed Q.C. going through the facts in this document can pass over without a word a letter from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary which came as near to lying as a man can get without actually lying.
That is what it was. He said, in effect, "Our inquiries are taking longer than I had expected," when they had not even started. This is the relevant problem: if he had got off his request for a report in the normal time, which any one in his position ought to be able to do, his request for a report would have reached that very sensible fellow Mr. Lofthouse, before he went on leave, and therefore we should never have had a report drawn up by the underling Brown, who no doubt did his best but who, as I am sure he himself would agree, found that the job was too big for him. It it had reached the very practical-minded Mr. Lofthouse., a great deal of what followed might not have taken place. I want to know whether this four weeks' delay and this "I-cannot-let-you-know-because-the-inquiries-are-taking-longer"—whether all this is part of the courtesy and care with which, the eminent Q.C. found, the Ministers always treated Commander Marten.
Mr. Percy Daises (East Ham, North)
On a point of order. My hon. Friend has made a direct accusation against the Joint Parliamentary Secretary—that he wilfully misled an hon. Member by stating that he was having inquiries made when, according to my hon. Friend, no such inquiries were being made. Surely it is up to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary either to refute that or to give the House an explanation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There is no point of order. I heard exactly what was said. The hon. Baronet did not accuse anybody of being a liar; he said that some document was lying.
§ Mr. Pannell
My hon. Friend has made the direct allegation that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, now sitting on the Front Bench, came as near to mendacity as is possible. I submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that at a time when we are trying to remedy grievances—which was the original intention of the House—it behoves the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to give a reply now.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have already said that that is not a point of order. I wish hon. Member would not insist on putting as points of order what I know in advance will not be points of order.
§ Sir R. Acland
I hope that my hon. Friends will appreciate that these are quite small offences on the Minister's part compared with those to which I am coming.
I now come to the charge—this is the sad complaint from our defeated Tory candidate Q.C.—that the Ministers were not told the truth about compulsory acquisition. Whose fault is that? From my experience on the Church Commission, I say that it is the fault of Ministers. It is, again, a question of going through the recognised motions of complaints drill. The drill is this: you get a complaint, you look at it, you pass the complaint to your staff and ask for a report. Then what? You get the report and you look at the complaint vis-à-vis the report and you look at these two for the purpose of spotting whether there are any contradictions on fact. If you find any 1223 contradiction on fact, you write a polite letter to the complainant and an almighty rocket to your own Department asking for 101 per cent. confirmation of the point on which there is contradiction. If the head men do not do that piece of elementary administrative work, it is no use blaming the underlings because the Ministers did not know.
In all this business, through all these sorry months, there have been only three men who have ever had simultaneously and steadily before them the original letters from Commander Marten and from the hon. Member for Dorset, North and Mr. Smith's report based on Brown's inquiry—and those three men have been the Minister, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary here and Lord Carrington.
Oh, Lord Carrington! His part is really astounding, and the way in which Andrew Clark treats him is absolutely amazing. I asked a Question for written answer and I therefore know that Lord Carrington, when asked to go down and to settle this matter of Commander Marten's complaint, had in his hands Commander Marten's letter of 13th June and the letter from Mr. Smith based on Brown's report. He also knew from the Minister that Commander Marten, on 7th August, had written offering, if the total area were not to be divided, to purchase the whole.
When Lord Carrington went down to Crichel Down in November the issue which he had to decide, therefore, had nothing whatever to do with whether the total Crichel Down area was to be divided or not. The great issue which Lord Carrington had to decide was this: whether Crichel Down be divided or undivided, do we give any consideration or any special consideration to Commander Marten's desire to become the purchaser or the tenant of the part or the whole as the case may be? I am sure that Commander Marten would be the first to agree with me, and that the hon. Member for Dorset, North will agree with me, when I say that that was the issue which Lord Carrington had to decide.
In those circumstances, what does Lord Carrington do? He goes down there. He does not notice the contradiction about the way in which the land was acquired and therefore asks no question 1224 about that. He does not see Commander Marten. He does not look at the adjoining land. He does not consider whether any of the other tenants are good tenants or bad tenants. In short, he makes every single one of the mistakes alleged to have been made by the underling Brown. And what a difference in the report! Two-and-a-half pages of vilification, ridicule and contempt are poured out upon this little man, this newcomer to the Service. Mr. Brown, and upon those who instructed him, for making exactly the same mistakes whereas the Q.C. speaks of Lord Carrington only in a single paragraph of nine lines, in the course of which I find words to this effect:He did not visit any of the adjoining owners for some reason which I did not appreciate.I wonder why this impartial, defeated, Tory brigadier did not see fit to ask him.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
The hon. Member must read the paragraph. It says that Lord Carrington seems to have thought thatit would have been improper for him to do so.It does not say that the learned gentleman in charge of the inquiry had no clue as to the reason, but that apparently Lord Carrington thought it would have been improper.
§ Sir R. Acland
If Lord Carrington had been a junior Civil Servant instead of a Tory Minister, this impartial Q.C. would have chased him up hill and down dale as to why—[Interruption.] I have many more points to make, and some of them are going to be even more provocative—
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
On a point of order. How far is it in order for the hon. Baronet to continue levelling these serious charges—
§ Mr. Peyton
—against the integrity of an eminent man who was appointed to carry out this inquiry, and, as far as my information goes, did so in an impartial manner?
§ Sir R. Acland
I now turn to the report which Lord Carrington made. He was 1225 sent down to determine the issue between Commander Marten and the Minister. Will anybody believe that he does not mention this issue in his report at all, beyond saying—"The moral issue, of course, remains"? That is all he says about it, and then he turns to make some observations on the question whether the property should be divided or not. That is supposed to be a Ministerial report.
I think it is a bit hard that Sir Andrew Clark cannot answer me. I do not mean that it is hard on him; I mean that it is hard on me. I should like him to be here to answer, and therefore I will say this. If Sir Andrew Clark will come into a public place where I may ask him questions, and will there answer the questions which I will ask him, I will there repeat verbally or in writing that I charge him that, in making this Report, either he was inhibited by his political preconceptions, or he was not competent. And one of the first questions I want to ask him is, how can we explain the fact that, in a report which condemns civil servants with an almost loving ferocity, he has not seen fit to write one word on the fact that Lord Carrington, sent down to settle Commander Marten's complaint, turns in a report which does not deal with the complaint in any way, except to say that the moral issue remains? I find myself baffled.
I am very sorry that, for the purpose of making my next point and substantiating my whole outlook upon this Report, it is necessary for me to make certain criticisms of the Minister, whose speech seemed to me to be entirely inconsistent with the resignation which came at the end of it unless that end were a response to various pressure groups which we are told have been dissolved. I come now to the transcript of evidence, and on page 45 I find that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), was answering and said:…you must understand that after September when the original draft was submitted to me to send to Mr. Crouch on behalf of Commander Marten, I then submitted it to my Minister and ceased to be then in charge of the main stream of the business. It was then passing direct to my Minister…I quote that in order that we may see that in September the Minister was taking a personal responsibility for this correspondence. At that time, that is, in September, the Minister had already been 1226 a quarter of a year in arrears in replying to the letter from the hon. Member. Two months later, Lord Carrington went down, and, after Lord Carrington's visit, another three months went by before we come to February, the final answer to the hon. Member being sent in March. I am now talking about the quarter of a year between Lord Carrington's visit and a certain meeting which I will describe and which took place in February. During that quarter of a year, no step was taken by any Minister to make any further inquiry, to get any more information, to hold any meetings or to have any consultations. Nothing was done, and the letter from the hon. Member still remained unanswered. I suppose this again is an example of the "courtesy and care" which the eminent Q.C. has found always to have been shown by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary in their dealings with Commander Marten.
Now we come to 17th February, when the Minister, with Commander Marten's unanswered complaint still on his desk, held a very carefully prepared meeting with Sir Frederick Burrows, chairman of the Agricultural Land Commission. Many civil servants took part in the work which led up to that meeting, and many civil servants took part in the work which followed from it. Some, when their records are picked over with a fine tooth comb, may be found to have erred this way or that, and some of them did. At this crucial moment on 17th February, when the fate of Crichel Down was being decided, there was only one man who both knew that there was an unanswered complaint from a Member of Parliament about Commander Marten on the file and had the duty to answer it; and that man was the Minister. No civil servant both knew of the complaint and had any duty to deal with it at all.
What did the Minister do on that occasion? There he sat in his capacity as buyer and seller of the land, deciding in that moment what was to happen to it. By his positive act of selling it or agreeing that it should be sold to Crown Land, he decided that it should not be sold to Commander Marten. By his neglect—gross neglect, surely—[Interruption.] If he knew about the unanswered plea from Commander Marten to be allowed to have some interest in his land, and if he 1227 knew that he was passing over the land into the hands of an organisation which had no knowledge whatever of Commander Marten's standing in this matter, I would have thought that the minimum obligation placed upon the Minister at that moment of decision was to make a firm minute and to see that it passed downwards to all the relevant officers of Crown Lands, and thus to ensure and see to it that Commander Marten got a full and fair opportunity of tendering for the tenancy of this land, which the Minister had already decided not to sell him. The Minister did not take that step. What is there left, in the light of all that, of all the talk we have had about a "conspiratorial network of civil servants" who had conspired to deprive Commander Marten of his father-in-law's property?
I want to pass back now to my original question, which is the interesting question in social psychology. How does it happen that this eminent Q.C., and, following him, practically the whole of the middle classes, have gone off into whoops of joy and in full cry are in pursuit of the civil servants? It has been a psychological phenomenon, as anyone will agree who looks at the matter objectively. It deserves a social and psychological explanation, which I will now offer.
Most hon. Members of this House, and most of the hon. ladies and gentlemen outside this House who read, and for whose benefit are written, "The Times," the "Daily Telegraph" and the "Economist," are in their 50's or 60's. They were little boys and girls of five or 10 in their nurseries in middle-class homes in the concluding years of the reign of Queen Victoria or in the first years of the reign of King Edward VII. During those years, it was a veritable heaven on earth to be a member of the British middle classes. My father, having little more than the salary of a Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the War Office, when I was a boy of four, employed a nanny, a housemaid, a parlourmaid and a cook. Britain was top nation of the world; and the middle classes had five million families living in squalor and longing for the chance of serving the middle classes on almost no wages at all.
1228 All that has passed away. Britain is no longer top nation: not financially, not industrially, not militarily, Meanwhile, thank God, we have not five million families living in squalor. Therefore, for inexorable reasons which cannot be reversed, the glorious, spacious liberties which were enjoyed in the British middle classes when hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches were little boys, in middle-class nurseries and were laying down the basic, principal suppositions of their lives, have inexorably slipped away.
Now I would quote on this subject from a book by Dr. Norman Maier, called "Psychology in Industry":Instead of seeking causes, however, when things go wrong, we usually blame someone, and therefore, sometimes unconsciously, attempt to protect ourselves from criticism for perhaps having helped to bring about the undesirable results.That is how it is with the readers and writers of the articles in the "Daily Telegraph," "The Times" and the "Economist." They cannot bear the inexorable facts which will not allow the British middle classes to have the same spacious liberties as they used to enjoy. They have to blame someone; and whom do they blame? The civil servants. That is the explanation of the political blindness shown by the eminent Tory Q.C. and brigadier who was responsible for this Report. That is why the publication of this Report has been followed by a pent-up outburst of vilification and abuse against civil servants.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Bucks, South)
The hon. Baronet's explanation is very interesting in relation to the political blindness of Sir Andrew Clark, but there is a rather simpler explanation. The terms of reference of the inquiry specifically excluded:…all questions of governmental policy and. in particular, any question of whether preferential treatment should have been given to any applicant on the ground of previous ownership or occupation of the land.
§ Sir R. Acland
The last words of the terms of reference of course excluded Sir Andrew Clark from considering whether Government policy on "sell land" or "not sell land" was right or wrong, but they cannot exclude from him the duty of inquiring what part in the events leading up to the decision on Crichel Down was played by the direct personal incompetence of Conservative Ministers.
1229 The Civil Service have taken a much greater part in the activities of the community in the last three decades. We claim great credit for it, on this side of the House, but hon. Members on the Government benches have taken their share of credit for what is happening. An increase in the duties and responsibilities of an organised community is a common purpose among all parties. That, of course, has involved an enormous increase in the duties and responsibilities of the Civil Service. Though civil servants are not perfect, yet amongst them, in the Post Office, the employment exchanges, the Public Assistance Board, the Ministry of Pensions, the hospitals, and wherever else we find them, I should have thought that in the last 20 years there had been an enormous increase in the willingness and friendliness of civil servants to treat the public as human individuals and pay proper attention to them.
I think we have everywhere got away from the idea of the robot and the steamroller riding rough-shod over the claims of the individual. The amount of consideration shown for the individual by civil servants is far greater than the consideration shown by the minions of private enterprise when they have the whip hand. Of course, if the minions of private enterprise want to sell me something they are polite even to the point of obsequiousness, but when any representative, any minion, of private enterprise has the whip hand—
§ Sir R. Acland
Certainly, I was right about that, and I will take any criticism. But I would point out that, in this whole sorry story of Crichel Down, there is one man more than all others who is resolute to bulldoze his own opinions through, no matter what it may mean to anyone else, and he is not a civil servant at all but an estate agent, a typical product of private enterprise. When hon. Members opposite consider the ways in which individuals may have their rights ridden over by civil servants, have they forgotten that cottage tenants on scores of privately-owned estates, big and small, are every day and every year living under the risk of being pushed around by the little local Mr. Thompsons, and that they have no power to complain to anyone? The middle classes do not see that. They 1230 smell blood, and they are all out to curb the power of civil servants and to hand back land to nominees and the owners of big private estates.
I will conclude with just one little event of recent weeks which passed almost unnoticed. It is highly relevant to this argument of whether there is greater danger from public land being in the hands of civil servants or whether there is greater danger from leaving it in the hands of private ownership. It was reported in "The Times" of 23rd June, and it said:The Buckinghamshire village of Chenies, with its surrounding farms and woodlands…the buyers were Metropolitan Railway Country Estates, Limited, of London. Sir Bernard Docker is chairman…they have been responsible for much building development. A spokesman of the company said that opposition from the planning authority was expected, but we feel in due course they will have to admit that a considerable area in the Green Belt will have to be developed.'That is what private enterprise can do if it is not restrained by public servants, men as disinterested and conscientious as Mr. Hole and Mr. Lofthouse, and some of the others who have been pilloried in this Report.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Crouch (Dorset, North)
I consider that this is the most important debate we have had in this House on home affairs for a very long time. The debate is on Crichel Down, but the principles involved go very much wider. They affect every man and woman in the country. Since the Report was issued, I have received hundreds of letters from all over the country encouraging me to fight this matter to the bitter end, and this I intend to do. Many battles have been fought in the past against oppressors and have been won. Charles I lost his head for no less than this. Today it is the battle against the bureaucrats, who must also be beaten. I feel that I must say a word about Mr. Tozer. He is a good farmer, and he came out of the inquiry, as he went into it, unblemished. In my opinion, he has been the victim of circumstances.
I wish to refer to one or two things said by the Minister in his opening speech. One thing dealt with in paragraph 17 of the Report is the offer made by Captain David Taylor of £2,000. I was never able to understand why, after an expenditure of £34,000, £2,100 was considered a 1231 better offer than £2,000 for just the bare land. I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the way in which he apologised to those men who were promised an opportunity to tender for this land, but who, owing to the neglect and other things going on in the Department, never had the opportunity to do so.
I welcome the statement made by my right hon. Friend regarding the sale of land in the future. I hope that an opportunity will be given to Commander and Mrs. Marten, together with the others, to purchase this land. It is sheer nonsense for anyone to suggest that the land could not have been sold because of a tenancy agreement. I suggest that 99.9 per cent. of all property sold in this country is sold subject to a tenancy agreement. I have never been able to understand why this piece of land could not have been sold subject to a tenancy agreement.
I now wish to deal with the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), which made no contribution to this issue. I thought that his speech was obviously a Transport House speech suitable for a mass party meeting. He said that political pressure was brought to bear in North Dorset. I wish that I had brought with me one of the hundreds of letters which I have received. Unfortunately, I have not got it with me today, but I think that I can remember what it said fairly well. It came from a gentleman who said how pleased he was that I had fought this case for Commander Marten, and that he, in his capacity as a member of the Dorset County Council, was daily being frustrated by people of this sort who spin not and toil not, but who live entirely on other people's efforts. In a P.S. to his letter he said words to this effect, "It will interest you to know that I am the president of the North Dorset Labour Party, and that thougn I have never agreed with what you have said or done before, I am fully behind you in this matter."
The Hon. Michael Portman, who is the prospective Liberal candidate, said that we should be indebted for having "our Member, Mr. Crouch," insisting on the inquiry. That discounts any suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Belper that there was any political pressure in the matter.
1232 During the Whitsun Recess, I spent practically the whole time going through these papers. I read every letter which had been written that mattered, and the whole of the evidence. It was worth reading, and I thought it my duty as the Member of Parliament for the area in which this took place to do so. I must say that when I came back after the Whitsun Recess, I was very disturbed at the reply I received from the Minister on 15th June. I am fully aware of the responsibility which the Minister has for his Department, but why, after the inquiry which was conducted by an eminent lawyer, my right hon. Friend should tell the House that he did not take such a serious view of the actions of his civil servants as brought out in the Report, I fail to understand.
I was very pleased indeed to hear the Minister say that Mr. Eastwood is going to another Department, although I am not sure that that completely satisfies me. Some of this trouble has been due to the fact that there was a doubt about the power to sell land acquired by the Crown for the defence of the State. If someone had gone to Volume 1 of the Statutes and had turned to Chapter 25, on page 358, he would have found it stated that in the reign of James I the King was given power to hold land taken by his predecessors for the protection of the State and was himself empowered to take land for that purpose. His successors were authorised to do likewise. But when such land was no longer required for the purposes for which it was taken, then it was to be handed back to the previous owners. If only that research had been carried out we should not have had this very sorry story to which we have listened today.
The inquiry has brought to light many serious and disturbing practices— letters written without foundation—
§ Mr. Crouch
—and deliberate lies, being told about honest and upright men Let me refer to two instances.
It was said in a letter that Commander Marten would be a most unsuitable tenant on account of his behaviour and the way he had blazoned the whole matter in the Press. It was admitted 1233 under cross-examination that it was untrue, and that not one word of it had appeared in the Press until more than a month after this letter had been written. Is this man, the writer, fit to continue in his present post? Who will believe anything he may say in the future? The other instance appears in paragraph 94 of the Report. It there says that a letter written on 20th September, 1953, commenced:'Here with a long tale of woe from one Commander Marten' and going on to say that it seemed trouble was going to be stirred up.Furthermore, it states:…that the Agricultural Committee had always taken the view that the land owners concerned had neither the will nor the ability to farm the land and that they held this view strongly.The letter was written by Mr. Trumper, liaison officer to the Minister at Exeter. He did not appear to give any evidence.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
I do not wish to interrupt, but, in fairness, I think that it should be said that Mr. Trumper, whom I know, did not give evidence because he was not invited to do so neither, I understand, did he know that any inquiry was in progress.
§ Mr. Crouch
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend.
It seems that something again went wrong. There is still something wrong about this letter. I know that the opinion of the Dorset A.E.C. was never sought, and since the Report has been issued that Agricultural Executive Committee has written to the Minister requesting that Mr. Trumper should go before it and explain his conduct. All that has happened so far is that the Minister has acknowledged receipt of the letter. It so happens that I have known the chairman of the A.E.C., Mr. Gifford, all my life. He is an honourable man. In one letter Mr. Thomson said of him:Gifford is one of our tenants, I can square him.I would like to meet the man who could square Humphrey Gifford.
The Minister no doubt was badly advised in some ways—information was kept from him—but why he did not probe more deeply into it, I do not know. The Committee in Dorchester will not rest until this matter has been cleared up.
1234 Another disturbing fact brought to light is that the Commission for Crown Lands never meets. Occasionally the permanent Commissioner may contact the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that with a new Commissioner being appointed the Crown Lands will be run very much more efficiently. This is a very lax way of going on. If the Minister is to be responsible surely he should be kept properly in touch with what is happening. We are well aware that there is a big job to do and he cannot possibly go into every detail, but on major matters he should have all the facts. I think that all this wants going into very carefully indeed. Here we have one man, the Permanent Commissioner, responsible for no less than 379,000 acres—a very large area of land.
Over the last 50 years the powers and numbers of civil servants have increased a thousandfold.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Is it in order for an hon. Member to read every word of his speech from a prepared script?
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that the hon. Member who was addressing the House was reading extracts from some documents. It is not customary for hon. Members to read speeches. The practice. is deprecated in this House.
§ Mr. Crouch
Members of the House have some responsibility in regard to the increase, for they have made so many extravagant promises that to carry them out needs an army of civil servants—to make sure that the laws that have been passed are properly carried through. Today we are rapidly approaching the position where, unless we take heed, we shall have more civil servants than we have those who toil to provide the means by which they live. And may I remind the House that the more they grow in number the more their powers increase.
The Civil Service as a whole is a good and honest body but, as in all ranks of society, some members fall below standard. In my opinion, it is not fair to the majority that no disciplinary action is taken against the few. Why should the Civil Service be in a class by itself? Why should not civil servants be subjected to disciplinary measures in the same way as other sections of the community? Members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces are 1235 subject to court-martial and, if found guilty, are fired. Members of the legal, medical and other professional bodies are subject to disciplinary measures and in the case of misconduct are dealt with in the proper way. Why should not the Civil Service form a disciplinary body to deal with the type of person who has been mentioned in this Report?
As the result of war-time restrictions much power was placed in the hands of civil servants. As the result of the return of a Socialist Government after the war these powers were extended by nation-alisation. Care from cradle to the grave encourages the setting up of little commissars in many places. They hide themselves in security, imposing their will on the people who keep them—the hard-pressed community.
§ Mr. Pannell
On a point of order. You expressed the view, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Member was reading copious quotations, but we should know the source of these quotations. Can we know where that last passage was quoted from—or is it really the hon. Member's opinion?
§ Mr. Speaker
When my attention was first called to the matter, I thought that the hon. Member was reading something from the Report. After all, we have a report before us. I can only express the view that, although it is not strictly out of order to read a speech, it is not proper according to the practice of the House.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Further to that point of order. Is it more in order for the hon. Member to read the peroration than it is with regard to the rest of his speech?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is no distinction between exordium and peroration. I find that it frequently happens that speeches which closely follow notes are sometimes shorter, especially if allowed to continue uninterruptedly.
§ Mr. Crouch
We should be grateful to Commander and Mrs. Marten for the time, money and courage they have spent in fighting bureaucracy. They have lit a torch, they have kindled a fire which will run throughout the country. I know that there are many little Crichels and there 1236 would have been more but for the courage of these two citizens.
This land, acquired by compulsion for war purposes should be put up at public auction so that those who wish to buy it may compete for it. As I have previously said, it would not in any way disturb the present tenant. This land must not be the last to be extorted, but must be the first to be redeemed, and justice should be done to Commander and Mrs. Marten.
Just over 100 years ago a great injustice was done to six Dorset farm workers. They were known as the Tolpuddle martyrs. Tolpuddle is not 15 miles away from Crichel Down. As a result of that crime, a Dorset man gave the whole of his public life to the benefit of the working classes. He was responsible for the introduction of the first Factory Acts. It was he who brought in the first legislation to enable trade unions to be formed. He was in fact the greatest friend of the working classes. He was Lord Ashley, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. For 15 years he sat in this House as the Member for Dorset. His great great-granddaughter is Mrs. Marten.
I regard this Report as a challenge not only to Commander and Mrs. Marten and her friends and supporters who have been behind her in this great battle, but to every freedom-loving man in this country. Millions of men and women are unaware of the freedom which we enjoyed 15 or 20 years ago. Let a message go out from this House tonight that we will cut their bonds and set them free. Let them have for the first time the opportunity of using their talents to the full and enjoying the fruits of their labours. Thus can we be assured that the people of this island home of ours, once the citadel of freedom, can become greater in the future than ever they have been in the past.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
agree with the hon. Member for Dorset. North (Mr. Crouch) that this matter has aroused an interest far beyond North Dorset and Crichel Down. That is because the Government and the civil servants who work for them are interfering today more and more with private citizens. Undoubtedly there is raised here a question of far wider importance than the actual facts of Crichel Down, and it is one which is of constitutional importance.
1237 There is not one of us in this House who does not desire to express sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman—I suppose I should call him the former Minister of Agriculture. We are very sorry that circumstances are such that he has found that the right thing to do is to tender resignation to the Prime Minister. It is always a matter of regret when a Minister finds that he has to take that action.
I should like to bear out what has already been said by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), that the right hon. Gentleman has probably had a much more difficult task as Minister of Agriculture than almost any one of his predecessors. It was much easier for a Minister of Agriculture to take over at the time war broke out, for at such times we surrender all our rights, the Minister takes full responsibility and nobody is in a position to question his actions.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just resigned had the much more difficult task of following the principles of his party, namely, to release the land from the restrictions and controls that had been put upon it and upon those who owned or worked it, and give it back to them again. The right hon. Gentleman has done that with considerable skill, and I think he deserves not only credit but our praise.
A number of things have happened this afternoon which I do not understand. I do not think that the question whether the agricultural situation is easier or not is relevant to the subject that we have to discuss. I should have thought that whether there is more production in the world at present bears no relation whatever to the obvious need in this country of producing all the food that it is possible to produce. I do not think that can be doubted in any way. The policy which should be adopted to get that production of food is another matter. I realise that there is a very strong difference of opinion on that matter in the House, but I should have thought that today was not the moment to debate that subject. We are debating something entirely different. Moreover, a retiring Minister has been chosen as the instrument of the Government to declare for a new policy or to emphasise a policy already in existence. That, again, I 1238 should have thought, was quite extraordinary and unexpected.
It is as well that we should realise what is the matter which has aroused our interest. Was the matter rightly handled or not? Let us go back and see how it started. It began after the land had been taken over by the Air Ministry as long ago as 1949, when the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was the Minister of Agriculture. Any charge that is made against the present Government about any delay might equally be made against the late Government. The Air Ministry said that they no longer wanted this land, and in the meantime it had largely gone out of cultivation. It was then handed back to the Ministry of Agriculture, who worked it through the Land Commission.
Then came the question what was to be the future of the land, and at once there were two opinions. A local man, the Dorset County Agricultural Officer, probably knowing much more about this land than anybody in London, said, "Those who used to hold this land are very capable, and I should think that the best thing that could be done for production would be to hand it back to those very people." That was the opinion of Mr. Ferris.
The Land Commission took another view. They thought that this would be a great opportunity for an experiment, and they decided that instead of handing the land back to the original owner or to the original tenants who were apparently very good—everyone has nothing but praise for the Hardings, who farmed the greater part of this land—the best thing to do with the 725 acres was to farm them as one unit. Obviously, if it were to be farmed as one unit it would have to be equipped. These facts would have become known locally in a very short while. There was no need to put expensive new buildings upon the land because the Hardings had sufficient buildings. If it had been handed back to them all would have been well. I can well imagine what was happening locally when the news about these new plans became known. There must have been a considerable amount of talk.
That is how the matter first arose. It became quite obvious that the plan to retain the land as one unit was the one which was likely to be carried out. After 1239 that, 13 or 14 farmers put in applications to be given a chance of tendering for the land as tenants. That fact then became general knowledge locally. Then there were all these inquiries and the long delay, and, ultimately, Mr. Tozer was chosen as tenant.
It was then asked how he came to be considered when so many other people had made offers. A Captain Taylor had offered to pay as much as £3 an acre, which was the most Crown Lands could possibly have hoped to get for the land after they had spent £20,000. According to Mr. Thomson, even if Crown Lands had spent as much as £40,000 or £50,000, the land, as land, would not have borne more than £3 an acre. Captain Taylor was prepared to pay that for it unequipped and had offered to equip it out of his own pocket. Then there was Commander Marten, who had also made application and was prepared to buy back his portion, and had been trying to find out whether it could be let to him. He ultimately offered to buy the whole lot.
Thereupon, after letters had passed between Commander Marten and the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch)—who, I dare say, had also received letters from other interested persons—the matter at last came before the Minister, who decided to hold an inquiry. Then a curious thing happened. When the Minister received the Report he repeated, in the House, that the main reason why he instituted this inquiry was because rumours had reached him that there had been a certain amount of bribery or corruption.
That allegation was refuted in Sir Andrew Clark's Report. Incidentally, whatever may be said about him by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), Sir Andrew Clark is a very respected Member of the Bar, having the confidence of his colleagues who have had experience of him which the hon. Baronet has not. I do not think that this is the place to make accusations about prejudice, although the hon. Baronet rightly offered to repeat them outside. I shall leave that aspect of the matter there.
At the end of his Report Sir Andrew Clark said:There was no trace in this case of anything in the nature of bribery, corruption or personal dishonesty.…1240 If that had been the main purpose of the inquiry I should have expected the Minister to have put it in the forefront of the terms of reference, but if we look at them we find that no reference whatever is made to bribery or corruption.
Sir Andrew Clark was askedTo inquire into the procedure adopted (a) in reaching the decision that land at Crichel Down should be sold to the Commissioners of Crown Lands; (b) in the selection of a tenant by them; and the circumstances in which those decisions were made, but excluding from the inquiry all questions of governmental policy…and if corruption were the main point I should have expected the Minister to have added the words:and, in particular, whether there was any bribery or corruption.I cannot understand how anybody with those terms of reference before him could have directed his attention otherwise than to exactly how it came about that this property was transferred to Crown Lands, and how the eventual tenant came to be selected.
Sir Andrew Clark set out in detail what he found, together with his conclusions. I shall not now refer to his conclusions; I shall follow the example of other hon. Members and refer to the evidence. Before I do that, however, it is as well to mention the White Paper which has been issued only this afternoon. It is the production of three very respected members, or ex-members, of the Civil Service—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
As far as I know, Sir Harry Pilkington was never a member of the Civil Service.
§ Mr. Davies
Then I am wrong. At any rate, they are all men for whom we have the very highest respect. One paragraph, which sets out their views, is very significant. They say:There is no defined set of rules by which the confidence of the public in the administration of Government Departments can be secured and held. Incorruptibility and efficiency are two obvious requirements.I want to say here and now that not only do we expect incorruptibility and efficiency from our civil servants, but that our experience has been that we invariably get them. Perhaps "invariably" is putting it a little too 1241 high, but it is so general that we can almost regard it as invariable. The Report continues:In the present case corruption has not been in question inefficiency has. Beyond that it is difficult to particularise. But the present case seems to us to emphasise one further factor which may be less self-evident but which we regard as of the highest importance. In present times the interests of the private citizen are effected to a great extent by the actions of civil servants.I pause again there to say that that is the important matter which we are really concerned about this afternoon.It is the more necessary that the civil servant should bear constantly in mind that the citizen has a right to expect, not only that his affairs will be dealt with effectively and expeditiously, but also that his personal feelings, no less than his rights as an individual, will be sympathetically and fairly considered. We think that the admitted shortcomings in this respect are the main cause of such loss of public confidence as has resulted from the present case.When one reads the evidence which came before Sir Andrew Clark one feels the strength of the statement made in the last sentence of that paragraph. I should think that every hon. Member, on whichever side of the House he sits, would agree with that. There may be differences of opinion on the question whether this land should have been treated as one unit or separate units. I can well imagine my view being different from all others, because I believe in small rather than big units. I think the time is coming when there will be a revolution in our agricultural methods in this country. There will have to be more intensive cultivation, and, therefore, smaller holdings—
§ Mr. Davies
—rather than large holdings. But that is by the way; there can be that difference of opinion. What is so necessary is that the Minister who has to decide should have all the facts before him. What is quite obvious is that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary or even the Permanent Secretary had not at any time the full facts before them. That is disclosed in this evidence. There is the real defect in the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, and it is a very serious one.
As I said earlier, 13 or 14 people applied at an early stage and asked whether they could be considered as tenants. The answer sent back to them was, "The position is not 1242 ripe yet, so we can give you no definite decision, but the time will come when you will be considered. The matter will be put up for public tender. It will be published in the public Press, and then you will have your opportunity, and we shall then be able to choose."
What happened? Nothing of that kind ever took place. There was no public tender. There was nothing published in the Press. Mr. Tozer was chosen by Mr. Thomson, the agent for Crown Lands. He made up his mind that Mr. Tozer was going to get it, and he ignored anyone else. At that moment a new man enters, Mr. Middleton, who had been employed to succeed another man whose name I forget and which does not matter. Mr. Middleton finds that 13 or 14 people have put in their applications, and rightly, at once called attention to this.
It ultimately reached the hands of Mr. Eastwood, who was the active trustee in whose power really lay the decision with regard to the Crown Lands, and this is what really disturbs me. I quote from page 17 of Sir Andrew Clark's Report:On 23rd March, Mr. Eastwood replied and I quote verbatim from this extraordinary letter "—which are Sir Andrew's own words—this extraordinary letter: 'I quite appreciate that you have gone too far with Tozer to make it easy to give the land to anybody else and I am not suggesting that we should, in fact, do so. But I think it would be well that you should ask Middleton to send you particulars of all those who have applied for the land and exactly what promises have been made to them. You may then be able to judge whether any of them are likely to have been serious competitors and we can then decide, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, what if anything we need to do, at least to appear to implement the promises made to them.What does that mean? It means, "We can decide what letter we can write which will put these people off." It means, "Agree upon a dodge so that they will not think about complaining." This is about as near a thing to fraud as I have seen. [Interruption.] Does the hon. and learned Member want to defend this type of action on the part of a civil servant?
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Not in the least. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman said was "fraud." A fraud, I have always understood, is defrauding someone of a right he possesses. I cannot see how any fraud came in here.
§ Mr. Davies
The word I used or, perhaps, should have used, was "deceit"—writing letters which would hide the truth and deceive people.
§ Mr. Davies
That is bad enough from Mr. Eastwood. Be it remembered that Mr. Eastwood had been in the Colonial Service for many years. He was new to this, but it does shock me to find that a man who is promoted to this very important position should have that kind of attitude towards the general public.
Then came Mr. Wilcox. It was because Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Eastwood met at a club that this all came out. It was Mr. Wilcox whom Sir Andrew Clark quite obviously thought an unsatisfactory witness. That is not putting it as high as I might. What does Mr. Wilcox do? He is another civil servant, and in the Ministry of Agriculture. He wrote:It is, of course, a pity that Middleton did not let Thomson have earlier information about the promises given to various farmers on behalf of the A.L.C. that they would be given an opportunity of tendering if it were being let by the Agricultural Land Commission. Clearly, if you buy a property then you are in no way bound by these promises, and I appreciate it may be too late for Thomson to go back on anything he may have arranged provisionally with Tozer, but I am very glad that you asked Thomson to get hold of the list of names from Middleton so that we can consider whether there is anything that could be done with a view at any rate to appear to be implementing any past promises.It is those letters which shock me. I think they have shocked us all. Those are the facts which should have been brought to the attention of the Minister himself. What is worrying us is the big constitutional question, that all the time greater and greater powers are being handed over to Ministers, and they interfere more and more with private citizens. What is our position? True, Ministers take responsibility, and the right hon. Gentleman has taken the whole burden upon his own shoulders and has now departed and retired honourably. But is he the only one that should suffer? Where are these men?
If a civil servant is carrying out the policy of the Minister and if the Minister knows exactly what the civil servant is doing, then the Minister himself is indeed responsible, and probably solely responsible, because the civil servant is acting 1244 only on his behalf and with his knowledge; but when the Minister does not know what is happening—and there is no Minister, least of all the right hon. Gentleman, who would have approved of such a thing as is suggested in those two letters—when what is done is done without his knowledge and done by trusted civil servants, the Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and the head of the Crown Lands, no wonder we are so disturbed.
That is the main question. How it is to be dealt with I really do not know. We have such a high regard for the civil servants, such faith in them, that this type of thing shakes our confidence. Were it to shake our confidence in the whole Service, that would be entirely wrong, and the whole thing would get out of proportion. It may be that this very debate, and certainly the action of the right hon. Gentleman, will be a warning in all Departments that a high degree of honesty and of true, decent behaviour is expected from every civil servant wherever he may be, so that our confidence may still be unshaken in our great Civil Service and in the Administration.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I should not have intervened in the debate except for the fact that for some years I had the honour to hold the position of Minister of Agriculture. I share that honour with the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and also, if I may say so, with yourself, Mr. Speaker, but your lips are sealed in this matter and you can take no part in this debate, although many thoughts must be passing through your mind.
We have now gone very thoroughly over many of the issues concerned, and I think that we should, if possible, pick out one or two of the more important features. It seems to me that what we are suffering from is the enormous strain and pressure under which both Ministers and civil servants are working at the present time. I do not think the load can continue to be carried without something blowing up at some point or another. We have seen many experiments done on the Comet to see whether a hull which is compressed and expanded, compressed and expanded, compressed and expanded, suffers from metal 1245 fatigue. Even metal is fatigued under constant strain. But consider the strain under which Ministers and civil servants are working; it is a very great strain.
I have had a certain amount of experience of this pressure, but it was nothing like the pressure which is now going on. While it was difficult enough at the time of the right hon. Member for Don Valley, and of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), he did not have the difficulties of a Minister of Agriculture who finds himself in a period when the country is passing from shortages to surpluses. That was the big task which this Minister and the civil servants to carry out—the enormous readjustment of agriculture between those two periods, passing out of a period of shortage, when the cry was, "Anything to eat at almost any cost under almost any circumstances, however uneconomic," into the present circumstances, where we have to balance agriculture against so many of the other of our great capital investment programmes which need to be carried out.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) has pushed this point strongly to our notice on many occasions, and it is true that we are now beginning to have to choose whether the first priority should be given say, to the equipment of the coal mines or to the equipment of agriculture. We are having to choose how far our limited resources should be diverted along one line or along another line. That is the point on which the Minister and the civil servants continually face the difficulty of an agonising choice.
The point which I never could understand about this Crichel Down farm was why the idea was undertaken at all, because to make a farm out of nothing, to build up a farm on a bare hillside. is not only a very expensive business but at the same time is not always very good for food production. I was interested to note what is said in paragraph 102 of the Report:All the professional estate agents who gave evidence, including Mr. Ingram and Mr. Thomson himself, agreed that the proposal to equip Crichel Down as a self-contained unit was so unattractive financially that they would never have recommended it to a private client; but there was a marked divergence of opinion as to whether it would or would not result in increased production.It will be seen that it was not even proved that there would be increased production.
1246 The Minister and the civil servants were working on the great problems of the Price Review and the amount of our national effort which should be spent on agriculture—both great issues; and this was, after all, one of the less pressing issues. We all know—at least anyone who has been a Minister knows—that this is a case of "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Some slip on one point at which somebody did not bring some document before you—we have all had it, and everybody in business has had it in the same way. Sometimes you are saved by the skin of your teeth, and sometimes you are not; and this applies both to Ministers and to civil servants.
The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) asked, "Are not the civil servants to suffer?" They are suffering enough in this Report. Undoubtedly disciplinary steps have been taken, and rightly so, but both these disciplinary steps and the mention of the civil servants in the Report are heavy punishments. The Minister has paid forfeit with his political life. I do not believe that he could have carried out those disciplinary steps unless he had been willing to resign when he had carried them through. This was the duty of the man at the top—to clear up the mess and then to say. "My responsibility is also overriding, and with that I go."
My right hon. Friend was right. He could not have taken those steps otherwise, nor could a new man have taken those steps, without an accusation of vengeance of some kind or another or of unfair pressure being brought to bear upon civil servants. I did not like the speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland). I preferred the much more guarded, cautious and, if I may say so, more statesmanlike remarks of the right hon. Member for Belper, who said that mistakes had been made, that these things fall below the high standard expected, but that these mistakes are on the way to being remedied.
On what instance are they being remedied? On the Report. I have helped to write reports and I have been chairman of committees which have produced reports. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was chairman of a committee which produced a report which recently received a great deal of criticism in what the hon. Member 1247 for Gravesend would call the middle-class Press. I was chairman of a body which produced a report on Kenya, which received a good deal of condemnation both from the extreme Right and from the extreme Left.
But we have to take the rough with the smooth, and this is the important thing, this is the point on which the Minister is to be congratulated: the Minister set up this inquiry. This report does not weaken our position; it strengthens our position. We have all thought more highly of Dr. Nkrumah in the Gold Coast as a result of his recent inquiry. When there was an accusation against his Ministers or his servants he held an inquiry which revealed certain things which were wrong. But because he had held the inquiry we said to ourselves, "This is not a totalitarian State; this is a State on a model which we know and like and which we understand."
The Minister of Agriculture set up the inquiry and the inquiry was held—whether we like the Report or not. The Summary may not be wholly as accurate as the transcript—that was the important thing. But we also had the transcript. I have worked through it—seven great volumes—and through the file of letters; and I can say to myself, as indeed the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that I know as much about this matter as, and perhaps more than, any of the people who were handling it at the time.
As long as that can happen, this House is safe and we are safe in our Civil Service. From time to time these rough, raw and odious things have to be done. This rough, raw and odious debate has had to be held. From time to time there has been a note of almost hysterical laughter in the House. I know when the House is not happy in its conscience, when it is not at ease; there is then a note of almost hysteria which enters from time to time.
We are here analysing something which ought no more to be analysed in public than ought the relations between a man and his wife. This is the question of the relations between a Minister and civil servants—the closest, the most intimate and, if possible, the easiest of all relations. They must always remain so; but from time to time something like 1248 this arises and we have to examine these relations. It is the divorce court procedure. I do not like it. It is an unsavoury proceeding, as divorce court proceedings are unsavoury, but if we do not have a safety valve the thing blows up, and if we had not had this safety valve this thing would have blown up.
I believe that this has been a safety valve, that it has been of great service. I believe that we shall forget this matter and shall remember the great achievements of the Minister, of his Parliamentary Secretaries and of the civil servants in carrying through these tremendous alterations which have been carried out—these alterations from scarcity to surplus. Those are the things which will remain and stand out. Above all, in the Minister, we shall remember his courage. It required courage to set up that inquiry and to have that Report. It required courage to come before the House and to make the speech which the Minister made today. That is the cardinal virtue of politics. He has shown it, and for it he deserves our thanks.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
I am not going to give the House one of my well-known dissertations on the advantages of being a farmer, but there are one or two aspects of this matter on which I should like to comment very briefly. It seems clear to me that there was an intention on the part of the Minister of Agriculture to make Crichel Down a show place for efficient farming in this part of the country. Once that decision had been taken, I can well understand that those concerned would fight to maintain the opportunity to demonstrate to that part of the country what high-efficiency farming could mean.
I think that this trouble springs more from an excess of zeal than from any real wrong-doing. I think it is true that Mr. Tozer found sanctuary in Mr. Thomson. I can see that the Minister has to go. I think that perhaps his two assistants ought to go with him. I do not accept that this has come about through any lack of opportunity of the political heads of the Ministry to know what was going on. I think that there has been some failure in the hierarchy of the Ministry. Clearly if the Minister has to bear all these responsibilities, he must 1249 lean somewhat heavily on his higher civil servants.
I would have thought that if there is anything to which the House should give attention, arising out of this unhappy business, it is the extent to which the Minister has failed to receive correct advice, not from the Eastwoods and the little Browns, but from the higher servants of his Ministry. From them, of course, should not be exempted the deputy chief secretary. No one could read this Report without misgivings. He was in East Anglia on one occasion when something was taking place. Good gracious, East Anglia is not East Asia. I should have thought that there ought to have been much closer liaison.
I take the view that the chief civil servant in the Ministry is as an adjutant to his colonel. It is his place more than that of anyone else to keep the Minister fully-posted of what is going on. As I have said in this House a good many times, without very much support, I do not think it is a good thing that the three political heads of this Ministry should be farmers. I think that is undesirable. I think that it may have contributed to this unhappy business in some degree. Clearly, the Minister, to some extent, is the victim of his own procrastination. A decision should have been arrived at in this matter long ago.
I want to say something about the political aspects of this matter which are not inconsiderable. If the Ministry had decided that they were going to create in this part of the world a farm which, in the matter of high-efficiency, high-productivity, high-yields, first-class breeds and first-class farming—would be an example, if they were out to create a shop window, as it were, to which the backward members of this somewhat backward industry would be attracted—then I think that would have been something to which I would have subscribed. But I must say that a capital investment of £44 an acre in buildings on land which before the war had been sold for £11 an acre seems to me to be very heavy.
Even so, if that were the intention, I would support it. The problem in this industry is not a handful of misfits and those who are work-shy, but 100,000 honest, decent, hard-working farmers who are hard to teach because they are too 1250 hide-bound to learn. If we could have a living demonstration in the middle of them of what could be done by efficient farming, I would be prepared to spend a lot of money on a project of that kind, and I cannot help but think that was the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture.
In spite of all the evasions—it is not a very pretty story, and one gets the impression occasionally of a word which has not yet been used, "conspiracy"—I am not going to challenge the motives of these people. They were out for something which they thought to be in the national interest. There was excess of zeal. I can see how it came about. Those who think the pre-eminence of their own ideas is synonymous with the national interest [An HON. MEMBER: "Who does not?"]—are quite likely to believe that they are entitled to be absolved from normal standards because the impeccability of their motives is such that the ends they seek must be held to justify the means. That is a doctrine of which we have had some experience in Europe over the last 20 years. It is not a doctrine to which I subscribe. I do not think that they quite understood the enormity of what they were doing. I believe that. I think that here we have excess of zeal rather than something deserving of a more scathing description.
I turn for a minute to aspects of this matter of which we must not lose sight. I do not accept that once the Marten family had sold the land in 1937 they had any prescriptive right to have it back. Would they have wanted it back had the price of land halved? Had this industry, at vast public expense, not become so prosperous, would they have wanted it back? I doubt it. So I do not accept that these people had the right to have it back.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Is it not the case, not that they had the right to have it back, but, having been offered by the Government in good faith to be given a chance to bid for it, they were cheated out of that chance?
§ Mr. Evans
Surely, if the object of the Ministry is as I have set out, it was their duty, and the only chance they had to make a success of it, to get a tenant in whom they had complete confidence. Tozer filled the bill. Here they had a man 1251 who was already farming, and they did not have to place this proposed experiment in the hands of someone who was not so happily circumstanced as Mr. Tozer.
Really, there are other aspects. The Minister, in a way, is a victim of the same kind of thing that caused the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) to resign from his party. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the connection?"] I will connect it. It is important for us all to understand the outstanding development of post-war politics.
We on this side have accepted a mixed economy. We have for many years accepted the necessity for a part publicly-, part privately-owned industry. The Tory Party has accepted the reality and the permanence of the Welfare State, but what it has not accepted is the idea of a mixed economy.
§ Mr. Evans
The Tory Party cannot have it on a limited liability basis. Hon. Members opposite cannot expect a Tory Minister of Agriculture to act in traditional Tory Minister of Agriculture ways at the expense of the national interest—and that is what is happening here. The acceptance by us of the mixed economy and by the Tory Party of the Welfare State has taken out of the arena two juicy bones about which the boys could always have a fight: it has blunted the sharp edge of political controversy. A consequence of that is the internal tension within the Tory Party.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Member has said that I was in the same kind of position as that of the Minister on this issue. I hope he is not suggesting that the main feature of the Egyptian economy has its equivalent in the Ministry of Agriculture, because, as I remember it, the main feature of the Egyptian economy was backsheesh.
§ Mr. Evans
In this back-seat driving we have had the same thing with this agricultural business as with Suez. It is this tension within the Tory Party which has caused the Minister to go. The original conception of the Ministry of Agriculture that this land should be a 1252 show-piece of agriculture in that part of the world, so that others could see it at close quarters and emulate the efficiency and low costs that this unit could be confidently anticipated to reveal, was a worthy object. The argument has gone on for so long because, apparently, the Minister thought it was a worthy object, and the Parliamentary Secretaries thought so too. It is only at this last stage that the Tory backwoodsmen insist that the Tory Minister of Agriculture should act as Tory Ministers of Agriculture have always acted—that is, to have regard solely to the interests of the land-owning class. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes; it sticks out a mile.
The Minister was right. I wish he had not been so long in making up his mind. I wish he had said 12 months ago, "There has been enough of this controversy. This is what is going to happen. I have decided." I wish that he had then called upon the Cabinet to back him. Had he done that, this matter would have been resolved in the manner that would have best suited the national interests, As it is, it reflects very little credit on the benches opposite that this good man should have been hounded from his post.
On the other hand, none of us can be unaware of the unfortunate exhibition that has been put up by certain civil servants in this connection. If there is one thing that the world envies us, it is our civil servants. From Madagascar to Valparaiso, I have listened—[Laughter.] Yes, I do a lot of travelling—at the taxpayers' expense when I can contrive it. If there is one institution in this country that commands universal respect for its incorruptibility and efficiency, it is the British Civil Service. I am bound to say that in this connection there has been a decline in the high standards that the nation and the world have come to expect.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), in his closing remarks, said some things with which I am bound to agree, but I assure him that he has got the principle behind this debate completely wrong if he thinks that it is anything to do with backwoodsmen or the interests of landowners.
1253 The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) is just leaving the Chamber, and in the circumstances I do not blame him. My colleagues and I who sit on this bench as Members of the Liberal-Unionist group in the House believe, as do my hon. and right hon. Friends who also sit on this side, that a very important principle has been involved throughout this whole problem. That is, the straightforward right of the individual to his own property. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not his property."] If we once lose sight of that essential principle, we are giving away almost everything for which this nation has fought and stood in the years gone by.
It is not necessary to go into the details of what has today been a not very pleasant debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) put the whole thing in its proper perspective, but it is necessary to see what has come out of the whole discussion. My main reason for speaking is that it was reported in the Press a short time ago that my Liberal Unionist colleagues and I had asked the Minister to resign. The Minister knows that that is not so
§ Mr. Maclay
I have reason myself to know that decisions on resignation, whether for health or for any other, reason, are decisions that should be made only by the individual concerned. I do not think that it is right at any time for Members of this House to press Ministers to resign, although they can criticise their policies. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Wednesbury was exerting some deliberate pressures for resignation when he spoke. Ultimately, no one but the Minister himself or the junior Minister knows the various processes of reasoning that go to make up a decision. If policy goes wrong, a Minister may have to resign, but the decision should be left to himself. Possibly his colleagues may talk to him about it—I do not know—but the pressure from this House is nearly always based on the wrong reasons.
There are three things that matter this afternoon. First, the Minister has made it clear that the original owners of the land or their successors will have the chance of buying back the land in the best way they can. That gives great 1254 satisfaction, particularly to those of us who share this bench with me. We realise that the complete handing over of the land for working may not be possible because of the contract already entered into, but it is extremely satisfactory that the position has been established that the original owners or their successors can get their land back.
The second main point is that we have had a clear statement of policy for the future; that is very important indeed. I can understand hon. Members opposite, who have completely different views about how the country should be run, objecting to the statement that was made this afternoon. No Liberal or Conservative can be anything but extremely grateful that the Minister has made clear—
§ Mr. Maclay
Lloyd George, if he were still alive, would be the first person to fight for the proper rights of an individual when he had lost his land through no fault of his own. Let us get this absolutely clear—and I am glad the Minister stressed it: it makes not one whit of difference whether the land was compulsorily or voluntarily acquired.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Surely, if Lloyd George were alive he would be surprised at a Minister, who had just resigned, stating new policy on behalf of the Government he had just left.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is a different issue.
On the delicate issue of the status of the Civil Service in relation to the Minister, we have heard from my right hon. Friend an explanation which for one, am absolutely prepared to accept—that the maximum that can be done in a case of this kind has been done. I would deplore direct pressure exerted by the House of Commons resulting in action against any member of the Civil Service. The whole status of the Civil Service would change immediately such a thing started.
In this instance, however, from the moment that civil servants appeared, as it were, in the public dock and had the opportunity to answer for themselves, consequences were inevitable. I think that the less that is said about it now that we have had the Government's view on the unfortunate difficulties that arose 1255 through the Civil Service falling below its usual standard the better it will be.
We have these three things clear. First, we have the assurance that the owner can buy the land back subject to the tenancy agreement; secondly, we have had future policy made clear; and, thirdly, I believe, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), that we have come out of this very delicate situation in relation to the Civil Service as well as can be expected after a very unfortunate episode.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) has just said that this matter concerns the right of an individual to his own property. That is a statement which surprised me. I thought we were concerned with the right of a gentleman to land which had been farmed when in the possession of his father-in-law, which about 15 years before, as downland, had been scrub land with rabbits running wild on it, for another period was a bombing range, and had then been turned by the Land Commission into good farming land, and now that this good land is claimed by some curious right of heritage. That seems to me to be very great nonsense.
Personally, I have never been a National Liberal but I was brought up a high Tory, and the point of view of a high Tory was that land was never possessed for an individual's enjoyment: it was possessed as a trust for the community. That was certainly the point of view which my father held. Now we are informed that there is to be a new policy, that the national estate is no longer to be used in the service of the community, but what is preferred to the benefit and use for the community is the rights of people who maybe 20 years, 30 years or even half a century ago owned the land.
That seems to me to be a gross retrogression of policy. I can understand National Liberals approving it because their policy, as I have always understood it, has been to prefer the right of the individual to the benefit of the community. I find it difficult to understand Tories approving such a principle, because I should have thought that it ran exactly contrary to every principle which they previously held.
§ Colonel Ralph Clarke (East Grinstead)
I should like to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman this question. As a countryman—and he is a countryman—does he believe that to spend £32,000 on re-equipping this farm, when there are buildings on an adjoining farm which would do equally well, is in the interests of the country?
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking me to anticipate my speech. If he will wait a little that is a point with which I shall deal in no uncertain terms.
May I say that I deeply regret the departure of the Minister. He is one who has been greatly respected on both sides of this House and one who is deeply interested in farming. I do not feel that we shall benefit by an exchange. After all, his is an unhappy Ministry. Let us remember his predecessors as Conservative Ministers of Agriculture. I just recollect a few of them. Here they are: Griffith-Boscawen, Sanders, Guinness, Gilmour, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), Mr. Speaker and Dorman-Smith, one after another of dismal failures, broken not because they were not men of outstanding ability—many of them were—but broken because they were given an impossible task. They were required to carry on an office in the face of a policy which was fundamentally destructive of the industry they were to nurture and that has been the case with every Tory Minister of Agriculture since the betrayal of Peel.
The conflict is, on the one hand, the interests of the countryside which is based upon a stable level of high agricultural production, and, on the other, the interests of industry. Those two are in fundamental conflict. There is a demand for free trade, for a free market and for all that sort of thing. When a Tory Party is the Government it is the industrial power which eventually triumphs and it triumphs at the expense of agriculture. The industrial interests require an agriculture with a far lower level of production than that which we have created for our agricultural system.
It is a policy fundamentally in conflict with the whole idea of the Agriculture Act, 1947, and the following out of that Tory policy has meant the destruction of one unfortunate Minister after another. The only trouble is that the agricultural 1257 Members on the other side of the House seem to be prepared to accept the sacrifice of successive Ministers without realising that it is not the Minister but the policy that is destroying their industry.
Having expressed my personal regrets at the departure of the Minister whom we all respect, I am bound to say that I think he has been right to go. I also think that he was in a considerable degree the architect of his own downfall, and it is on that that I want to say something about Ministerial responsibility. I noted from the Minister's speech his statement that any departure from the principle of Ministerial responsibility involved bringing the Civil Service into public controversy.
What else has his actions done? Ministerial responsibility is a two-way traffic. It involves two profoundly important principles. First, the civil servant must be able to trust his Minister. He must be put in a position where he knows that his Minister will protect him or punish him, but that nobody except the Minister will punish him. If he is to serve properly, the civil servant must know that he has only one man to fear—not all Parliament together, not the Press, not the yells of the crowd, not the 1922 Committee—but one man, and one man alone, the Minister. He must also know that if he does wrong the Minister will be ruthless in punishing him. Ministerial responsibility has this other function: the public must know that the Minister will be ruthless with his servants if they go wrong.
In both of these the Minister broke down. He had no right to shelve his responsibilities over what had been the job of his Department by having a public inquiry. It was a grave mistake, it was undermining the confidence of the entire Civil Service and it ought never to have happened. The Minister can bring in an outsider if he likes, as his servant, but this ought to have been an inquiry by the Minister and by the Minister alone so far as the Civil Service was concerned, from which he could ascertain whether or not, or how, he should discipline the men, his servants, who had gone wrong.
The Minister did not do so. Instead of that, he threw them to the television camera. That was an abdication of his responsibility. Then, upon the other aspect, when the time comes he fails to 1258 discipline them. He has broken the confidence not only of his civil servants, but of the public to whom he is also responsible. He announces that he proposes to take no action and, when there is a yell for blood from the benches opposite, he again abdicates his responsibilities and accepts the appointment of a subcommittee to do his job and to discipline his servants.
That was the point where he ought to have resigned. It was an indignity which no Minister should have suffered. What can be the morale in the Ministry of Agriculture now? I do not envy his successor in a Ministry whose morale has been destroyed to that point. It was observed in the Press recently that after Steven-son's surrender to McCarthy, the only man in the American Army who had any morale left was Private Schine. In the Ministry of Agriculture there will not be even a Private Schine now. That is the first charge I make here.
Now I come to what I regard as the serious aspect of the disclosures here, the outrageous mismanagement of the public estate which has been displayed. Public property differs from private property in this respect, that the question of financial advantage of any particular course is not the sole criterion but it is still the first criterion.
When we have to consider how we use the public estate, the first question to consider within a money economy is how we use it in the manner most profitable to the community in money terms. That is our first consideration, or ought to be, and if we reject the most profitable course then we have to justify our choice. We have to show that there is some other consideration which outweighs the financial disadvantages of the course which we choose.
Let us see what happened here. The first course decided upon was that this land had to be put back into health after having been used as a bombing range. I do not think that anybody will doubt that this was a proper decision. Then, when we come to 1952, the decision at that point is that it is to be equipped as a single holding at a cost of £20,000 to earn £1,400 a year; upon which a Captain Taylor comes along and offers to pay £2,000 a year and equip it himself. That was an offer which in financial terms was worth about £30,000 better than the 1259 intention—£10,000 for the extra £600 a year rent—£20,000 saved by not having to equip.
That offer of Captain Taylor was never even considered or investigated. From the food point of view there might have been a case for rejecting it. We do not know. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) said, there might have been a case for using it as an exhibition farm. We do not know whether Captain Taylor was going to equip this in a more admirable way than the Commissioners. Nobody knows, nobody investigated that offer. It is remarkable, but we still have not heard who Captain Taylor is. We hear all about the grievances of Commander Marten—and, frankly, I am rather sick of them. The chap who I think has a grievance here is Captain Taylor. Why was his offer turned down?
Secondly, if that financial offer was to be turned down, one had to see whether it was financially so much more beneficial. One had to see whether there would be sufficient additional value from the benefits resulting from making it an exhibition farm. There may have been. I do not know. However, if one decides to spend about £34,000 of public money not to earn, but to show other farmers in the neighbourhood how to produce more food, one should at least consider what one wants to exhibit. Not a single agricultural institute was even consulted, their views of what should be exhibited, what should be demonstrated in that district, what should be shown to be the faults in organisation in that district, were never even considered.
The equipment of this farm at this cost was left to the surprising Mr. Thomson, of Sanctuary and Son, to do as he fancied, apparently from what he had seen on other farms, at a maximum commission to himself. Is this really the way to create an exhibition farm?
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I have been surprised and interested to hear both the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) refer continually to the idea that this might have been used as an exhibition or a model farm. I do not think that it was ever suggested, at least from my reading of the Report. Where 1260 does the hon. and learned Gentleman get that idea?
§ Mr. Paget
I cannot go through the Report now. That appears in the Report in several places.
My next point is that I am sorry for the unfortunate Mr. Eastwood. I am not sorry that he is being removed. I am extremely sorry for him that he was ever appointed. What on earth was anybody thinking he was doing in appointing to the sole charge of a public estate of 137,000 acres a civil servant whose only experience has been in the tropical department of the Colonial Office? Through a trust which owns a great many farms, I have had experience of land management for many years of my adult life. It is not a simple job. It is not a job that one can do without experience, and it is not a job without importance.
When England led the world and created the great breeds from which the rest of the world still has to draw, it was the time of the great estates, of the ideal agricultural organisation, of landlordism through the proper organisation of the estate, and farming on the best scale practicable. To manage a vast estate of that kind, instead of bringing in somebody like Lord Lonsdale, or the father of the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), or Lord Balfour of Burleigh, men who have proved capacity to manage and develop an estate and have had the experience, there is brought in an unfortunate civil servant who knew absolutely nothing about it and, of course, Messrs. Sanctuary and Son took him for a ride. They had a mug customer and they treated him as a mug customer.
They kept roughly within the rules. They proceeded to plant upon him a development cost of £34,000 on which they charged the maximum commission for everything, and which he was totally incapable of checking since he knew nothing about it. They then proceeded to foist a claim for dilapidation. To anybody who has had any experience in land management, the idea that where one lets a farm in hand to a new incoming tenant one pays dilapidation must seem as much nonsense as it appears to me. That is what happened to the unfortunate Mr. Eastwood.
I believe that landlordism has become impossible, that the job of the agricultural landlord, through no fault of his 1261 own, has become impossible and that sooner or later the State will have to take over the job. For heaven's sake let the State use competent people to do it. That is one of the first lessons. Do not let us have an inexperienced civil servant in landlordism as a successor to Mr. Eastwood. Let us have somebody who knows something about managing estates.
As regards the new policy, the desperate effect on agriculture of this debate will be the impression that more food production is no longer the objective of the Government. Do not let us be committed to this desperate "throwing to the wolves" declaration of policy of a retiring Minister. Let us make it perfectly clear that land which is owned by the Queen and that land which is owned for the nation must be used for the very best benefit of the nation, that the nation will see to that and that the rights of individuals, whether they be previous owners or not, will only be considered in so far as they do not conflict with the interests of the nation.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
Before I say anything else, I want to say how deeply I regret the happenings of this afternoon, culminating in the Minister saying that he had tendered his resignation. Not only is he a personal friend of mine, but I believe that he is also a personal friend of many hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and is acknowledged to be a good countryman in the best sense of the word. I am very sorry that this has happened.
live in Wiltshire, not very far from Crichel Down, and since my earliest childhood I have known that area, though not particularly well. I am one of those who are responsible for land ownership and farming on a similar type of land. I believe that it was the hon Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) who said that this country has a Civil Service which is still the envy of the world. I agree with the hon. Member. Long may that continue to be so but, as is apparent from the Report of the inquiry into this matter, there are strong criticisms of individuals in this case.
Ii was quite right that those criticisms should have been made in the interest of individuals, not only in this case but in many others. I hope that the moral and lesson of this difficult day and debate 1262 will be an acknowledgment of the need to investigate the increased powers of the Civil Service and the question of their further jurisdiction. As the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said, it is important that the rights of the individual should be maintained.
I follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in his point that one wonders whether, however distinguished his scholastic career may have been, the best training for a Commissioner of Crown Lands is a period of work in the Home Office and the Colonial Office before taking the job. I do not think it is right, however, to bandy names of civil servants across the Floor of the House, because those concerned are not in a position to answer for themselves. Therefore, I do not intend to follow that subject any further.
Despite the painful outcome of this debate. I believe that the British public and this House owe a debt of gratitude to Commander Marten for his tenacity in bringing this matter forward, as he felt it was his moral right to do. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Minister in that he saw fit to have a public inquiry. I disagree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton opposite on this issue. But for the public inquiry this situation would not have been known as fully to the general public as it now is. The Minister has been badly served by his advisers in many respects.
The outstanding point is that the Agricultural Land Commission first took the view that it was necessary to spend what was much too much money on this very light land. The idea was to be an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, it has ended in a very difficult one. I do not believe that it will be in the long-term interest of the Crown Commission, or the heirs of the previous owners—if they are prepared to buy it back, as I understand they are willing—or of Mr. Tozer, the tenant—whom I do not know personally, but who comes of a good sporting Dorset family—that this money should, in fact, be spent.
If this money is spent on this light land it cannot continue indefinitely to grow crops or barley, heavily artificially manured it may be, as it is at present. I believe that it will result in uneconomic 1263 investment on behalf of the Crown Commission, or too great a cost for whoever buys it and too great a rent for whoever rents it. I believe that that is still the fundamental issue.
I would hope that it is not too late for those in the area concerned, the heirs of the previous owners and the Crown Commissioners, despite all difficulties, to get round a table and come to a sensible solution. Then the buildings outside the area concerned, which have hardly been mentioned in this debate so far, could be used.
The land could be made to produce economically and properly by utilising existing building by agreement between the existing tenant and heirs of the previous owners. Then the nation would be saved unnecessary expenditure of capital which otherwise could only be over invested. At the same time, whoever farms the land would not be saddled indefinitely with what I believe would be an uneconomic rent.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
This has been an extremely useful debate in many respects. It has given the House an opportunity, which does not often arise, to consider the relations between the civil servants and Parliament and between civil servants and the Minister. That is a matter of interest to both sides of the House.
A party, like that to which I belong, which desires a greater measure of public control and ownership, is a party which has a particular interest in this whole subject and must recognise its importance. We on this side of the House want an extension of public ownership and public control. It is therefore of quite distinctive importance to us that we should be confident that we have an efficient Civil Service and that satisfactory relationships exist between Ministers and their civil servants. We should feel sure that the civil servants are as uncorrupted by power as it is known they are uncorrupted by anything else.
In my view it is a mistake to think that the events of Crichel Down revealed defects inherent in control by Government Departments. I am relieved that that point has not been made in the debate. It has been made occasionally 1264 outside. It is quite true that Crichel Down has revealed bad administration in a public Department, but bad administration can occur in public business just as it can in private business. The task is to ascertain how best it can be dealt with and to cure it, and for that task Parliament is in the very best position.
Good administration by Government Departments must depend on three things particularly. The first is skilful and sensible recruitment, the second is an effective and alert Minister at the head of the Department and the third is an effective method of disciplining civil servants by the Minister when that is appropriate, and effective methods of disciplining the Minister by Parliament when that is appropriate. The House of Commons is the ideal arbiter to decide when the Minister should be disciplined. The action of the Minister in tendering his resignation is respected on all sides because, if he had continued in office, the main sufferer from such a departure from the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility would have been the House of Commons. That has been avoided, and it is a good thing that it has been avoided. The House and the country are indebted to the late Minister because it was avoided in that way. But that does not alter the fact that the House of Commons is the ideal arbiter to decide when there is just that degree of urgency and importance in a matter to determine that the full price should be paid of a Ministerial resignation.
I feel that in considering what, constitutionally, should be the action of a Minister in this connection, it is quite wrong to insist that the Minister should be in jeopardy because of minor failures by his Department. The House of Commons is the arbiter in the matter of determining whether a Minister should be required to resign or not in a given situation, and it has to ask itself two questions. The House has to ask itself: does the Minister's act or omission have the result of lowering confidence in the Minister's capacity to manage the affairs of his Department? If the answer is in the affirmative, the Minister has to go.
The other question I suggest which should be asked is: is the difficulty which has arisen and the matter which has gone wrong and given rise to disquiet one which the Minister could have foreseen 1265 and dealt with? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, then also he should go. This is placing a high standard before Ministers, but they have great privileges and they must accept great responsibilities. They are under a duty to be on the alert to give the directives which are necessary on important matters of policy from the word go. To show how non-partisan our consideration of this topic is, I would remind the House of the way in which the Prime Minister started his duties at the Admiralty when he took up the duties of First Lord at the beginning of the war. There was no lack of directives on that occasion.
§ Mr. Irvine
They were good directives.
It is with these principles in mind that turn to consider the Report on Crichel Down and the events which have followed.
When one looks through the Report one asks, with those vital principles in mind: have things occurred here arising out of this immensely important relationship between civil servants, their Minister, and Parliament, which justify a Ministerial resignation and the amount of concern and anxiety which Parliament has manifested? There are certain matters revealed by the Report which, taken by themselves, do not, in my view, justify a resignation. There are others which made resignation necessary and inevitable, unless there was to be a notable departure from our constitutional practice principles.
The failures committed by the Minister and his Department acting together can be classified under four separate heads. First of all, there was the situation as it developed up to June, 1952, when most of what was going on appears to have taken place without reference to the Minister at all, and when the officials concerned appear not to have known what the Minister's powers were or what Government policy was. Officials in very important positions were unaware that there was a power in the Government to sell, and they were unaware what the 1266 policy of the Government and of the Minister was. That was the stage of the story when the decision was made to deal with Crichel Down as a single fully-equipped farming unit. It culminated in the decision to turn down Captain Taylor's offer to rent Crichel Down at £3 per acre.
That is a stage in the story when the conduct of the Department was so unsatisfactory that the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility is inevitably invoked, unless there is to be a very alarming departure from principle and practice. Although the Minister did not know what was going on, the state of confusion and ignorance which existed was the consequence of his lack of directive and his failure to make Goverment policy clear.
The second stage of the story is the failure in August and September, 1952, to give an acurate report upon which the Minister could rightly judge the situation and come to a correct decision. That was the stage when the unfortunate Mr. Brown, for whom all of us must feel sorry, was required to make his report. That was the kind of administrative failure which is apt to happen in the best managed concerns. Taking that stage of the story by itself, lamentable though it was, I would not regard the circumstances there divulged as justifying or necessitating a Ministerial resignation.
The third stage is the failure, between January and March, 1953, to inform the Commissioners for Crown Lands of the applications made for a tenancy by previous owners. That is a lamentable failure but, taken by itself, would not justify anything so drastic as a ministerial resignation. One of the conclusions of fact at which Sir Andrew Clark arrived, one of the few conclusions of fact which raise any question or doubt in my mind, is that contained in paragraph 13 of the conclusions, that there was no obligation upon Mr. Thomson towards Mr. Tozer arising at the time when he was acting for the Commissioners for Crown Lands, between January and March, 1953.
I cannot discover in the Report or in the evidence a justification for that conclusion. At least there was enough in the attendant circumstances to justify the impression in Mr. Thomson's mind that he had an obligation to Mr. Tozer All 1267 these difficulties arose from the circumstance that negotiations were going on on behalf of the Commissioners for Crown Lands without their having received from the Ministry of Agriculture information about the applications for a tenancy by former owners of the land. I put that in the class of administrative mishaps which do not by themselves warrant a resignation.
The fourth and final stage of the story concerns the Minister's reaction to the whole affair, once it had been investigated and reported upon and the apparently small extent of the disciplinary action which he took. Just as there was failure at the first stage to give effective directives to the Department and to let it know what policy was, so there was a failure at the last stage. The Report revealed, beyond any doubt, a most unholy mess, and heads should have fallen. More than reprimands should have rent the air. There was a general feeling in the public mind, which was pretty much awake by this time, about the enormity of the matter.
The Minister's reaction was not severe and stringent enough. The impression was given that, as there was no evidence that corruption had been found, that was a matter for great relief and that no strenuous remedial action need be taken. Yet what was needed was very severe action in the Department. There was failure by the Minister to recognise that this was demanded of him, in the situation which had arisen.
I will conclude by reminding the House of what is already widely known, that these last few years have seen powers passing from the courts of law to Government Departments in ever-increasing numbers. The powers have passed from the trusted organs of the administration of the law, the courts, to Government Departments. Of course, in that process, considerable perils are involved. As these powers pass in that way, the only control over them is through Parliament itself, and the fact that delegated powers have become more and more extensive is a reason, not for less, but for greater vigilance by Parliament. I think that is a proposition which would be accepted on both sides of the House.
1268 There has been an element of personal sadness today, because it has seen the resignation of a respected and distinguished Minister, but there is also in what has occurred something reassuring and even inspiring. It seems to me that Parliament has once again asserted its recognition of the crucial point, that it must be master, and that if civil servants get out of control and behave badly—as they have done in this case—and the responsible Minister of the Crown does not resign, that is a very serious departure from what is best in our constitutional principles and traditions.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I think that the whole House will agree with me in thinking that this has been a very unpleasant debate. In fact, from both sides of the House we have had opinions expressing that common thought. I wish to say at once how much I agree with the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) in nearly everything he said. There has been a curious division in the type of speeches made from the benches opposite. There has been a marked contrast between the speeches made by hon. Members opposite who are also members of the legal profession and those who are not. Both the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. Member for Edge Hill have, I think, made as good speeches as one could ever hope to hear. The only thing one wonders is what their action will be later tonight in the event of a Division, because we have heard from them Conservative principles and sound sense.
§ Mr. Irvine
I can stand a good deal from the noble Lord, but I cannot permit him to describe the observations I have put before the House as being observations of Tory principle. The noble Lord may think they are, but I do not.
§ Viscount Lambton
I also noticed that certain right hon. Members of the Front Bench hold the same view as I do in this matter. Whatever principles they are, they are very welcome principles and they were very good speeches.
I wish to ask, first of all, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to put right a statement made, I am sure inadvertently, by the resigning Minister 1269 in his speech. He said that the first proposal made by Commander Marten to purchase Crichel Down was made in 1952. Had that been the case, it would, of course, have altered our opinion concerning Commander Marten's conduct, and we should not have felt that he had been so shabbily treated. I am sure the Minister will agree with me that the first proposal was actually made by Major Seymour, the agent for the Crichel Down Estate, in March, 1950. I think that is the detail which should be corrected if we are properly to understand Commander Marten's striking and worth-while action.
The only other thing I wish to mention about the Minister's speech is something which, coming from him with his undoubted good nature, struck me as a bit of bad law. He said that when civil servants are brought up before an inquiry of this sort, the inquiry and what is said at it are punishment in themselves. It is sometimes maintained that the censure of an individual at an inquiry is punishment in itself. If we carry that premise to its logical conclusion then any person coming before a court of law could argue that the unpleasant things said of him by the judge and opposing counsel were punishment enough for his actions.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
That is often argued and often is accepted as sufficient punishment.
§ Viscount Lambton
That is a matter of opinion. Whether or not it is often argued I could not say, but that it should be accepted would be a bit of bad law.
From that I should like to turn very briefly to certain remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). He had some rather hard things to say about Sir Andrew Clark's Report. In fact, so weak did the right hon. Member's case seem to be that his speech depended entirely upon discrediting the Report. We had given to us certain inaccuracies which the right hon. Member said considerably invalidated the effect of the Report. To show how useless was the Report and how unfit Sir Andrew Clark was to make it, he quoted from paragraph 78:It is regrettable that a responsible official in the position of a Trustee, as Mr. Eastwood undoubtedly was, should have answered questions relating to authority for the expenditure of Trust moneys in this light-hearted mariner.1270 The right hon. Member said what a ridiculous thing that was to say when one considers that Sir Andrew a little later on said:…that Mr. Tozer was a first-class farmer, and the rent' of £3 per acre was a very good one.The right hon. Member knows that he there left out the linking sentence in that paragraph. He left out what Sir Andrew Clark actually said, which was:In point of fact, however, no harm can have been done since the evidence clearly showed that Mr. Tozer was a first-class farmer…The right hon. Gentleman took the words out of their context and claimed that the conclusion of Sir Andrew Clark—following through a remark of his own—
§ Viscount Lambton
It had the effect that you tried to say that, as Mr. Eastwood had acted in a light-hearted manner, how ridiculous it was for Sir Andrew Clark to say it showed that Mr. Tozer was a first-class farmer, and you left out—
§ Viscount Lambton
But the right hon. Gentleman did.
He also made another comment that what has been done is done and that the present situation at Crichel Down should now remain. That what has been done has been done and cannot be changed seems to be a most remarkable point of view, and one which does not allow of very much social progress or change—an attitude of mind which, I should have thought, hardly belonged to the right hon. Gentleman himself. However, we can leave it at that.
I would very briefly like to go through what I consider to be the three features of this debate. If the Opposition is to divide the House, it will be of great interest to know what it will divide it on, because the origin of this plan, it must be quite plain, was in May, 1950, and the decision to equip the farm as a single 1271 unit was definitely settled in October, 1951. The General Election at which the Conservative Party came into power was held on 26th October, 1951, and that period—had anyone less efficient than the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) previously been Minister of Agriculture—might be described as the "hangover" period, when the policy of the late Ministry was still being carried out by this Government.
The next point to which I should like to refer is the attitude of the civil servants and how during the next four months they seemed to connive to prevent any true glimpse of the facts coming before the Minister. The first opportunity that the Minister had to bring about a change of policy in agriculture was in the summer of 1952, and then he inquired of his officials whether or not it was possible to sell land. He was not told until November that it was possible for his Ministry to get rid of land. The Ministerial relations with Commander Marten and with the Civil Service resulted from the fact that during nearly the whole of 1952 the Minister was informed by his officials that he was not able to sell the land, that that was the legal opinion, which must make us consider what a difficult position he was in.
In 1953 we had the entrance of Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Eastwood on the scene. I cannot help for a moment digressing on the status of the Civil Service at this time, and wondering whether or not the present action of the Minister will appear to result, in a curious way, in the vindication of the Civil Service's ability to make the grossest type of mistake and still maintain itself in office while the Minister accepts responsibility for those mistakes. It is true that we have lost Mr. Eastwood, but we have not lost any of the civil servants. We have, on the other hand, lost the Minister because he has made himself responsible in a noble way for those mistakes. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was responsible."] I agree that he was responsible, but I want to emphasise the extraordinary difficulty of the Minister, particularly when he is held to be responsible for the action of any civil servant.
In 1912 the number of civil servants was about 600. In 1923 it had risen to 2,300, but at present it has risen to 12,600. These 12,600 are not combined in a 1272 compact body. They are scattered throughout the whole length and breadth of the country. They are here, there and everywhere. There are some in remote places, and all of them are out of contact with the Minister.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
Is the noble Lord talking of the administrative class of civil servant, because there are far more than 12,000 in the Civil Service?
§ Viscount Lambton
Yes. I agree that there are other groups, which make the number even higher and, therefore, make the position of the Minister very difficult. I am not sure that we have realised that fact.
The question I want to raise is whether or not there remains any honour in the Civil Service or whether they are going to regard this day as won. I do not consider that the Civil Service has been treated nearly severely enough on this occasion. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) read two extracts from the speeches of Mr. Wilcox and of Mr. Eastwood. These letters are to be found in the White Paper. Those speeches completely condemn the civil servants for, at the very least, deceit. I make no attempt to condemn them myself, but it would be wise for us to look at some of the other deceits which were practised upon the Minister during his period of office.
I have referred to Mr. Eastwood. We then have Mr. Smith, who is in Greece at the moment. I understand that he is to retain his Civil Service status, despite the fact that he told what was, as far as one can make out, a deliberate untruth. Reference to that will be found in paragraph 36 (a) of the White Paper. Though he knew perfectly well that Commander Marten had stated that Crichel Down was acquired compulsorily, he omitted to mention this at a meeting. Then there is Mr. Hole, who connived, together with Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Eastwood, in preventing applicants from knowing what had happened to their applications.
These four men are to remain in the Civil Service, although they deliberately deceived the Minister. The worse case of all is that of Mr. Wilcox, who caused inquiry to be made about Commander Marten which, in another place, might very well have been compared to undue persuasion. He asked the Lands Service 1273 officers to find out whether Commander Marten had built his cottage on the speculation of obtaining Crichel Down. Sir Andrew Clark said that he could not accept the reason which Mr. Wilcox gave as being satisfactory. How could it be? This was a most unpleasant attempt to find out something—behind his back—about an individual with whom one was trading, in order to get that individual to adopt a course of conduct which suited one. I can see only the greatest discredit in this course of conduct.
I cannot believe that we have taken the right course in allowing these men to remain in positions of public trust. Those who have practised deceit remain, while the Minister, who takes the blame and the responsibility for their actions, goes. They merely shift to another position. Now that the Minister has resigned, we must review the whole scheme of Ministerial responsibility, and consider whether or not it is possible for a Minister to be fully responsible for all the people under him. Above all, we must see that the Civil Service does not in any way believe that it can make mistakes like this and, as it were, get away with it.
I cannot but think that those members of the Civil Service of whom I have spoken have done the whole movement a profound harm. Our Civil Service as a whole is undoubtedly the best in the world, and yet it is retaining men who have practised deceit and chicanery. Those men are exempt from punishment. In those circumstances the public cannot but take the view that the Civil Service will regard its members as above reproach and beyond punishment.
I would conclude by saying how sorry I am that the Minister has had to go, but, perhaps, taking all in all, it was the best course that he could take. I did not like the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper spoke about it. In this House it has always been considered a good action and a great thing in a Minister to resign in such circumstances as those in which my right hon. Friend has resigned, and when one remembers that my right hon. Friend brought about his own resignation by himself originating the inquiry in this matter, I think we should pay an especially high tribute to him on taking the course of resigning.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
The noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) has delivered some rather extensive warnings and criticisms about the Civil Service, and it is, perhaps, well that I should commence on that subject. There can be no doubt that a Minister of the Crown is responsible for all the acts of his civil servants—and all the absence of acts required. He is responsible for every stamp stuck on an envelope—if, in Government Departments, stamps ever are stuck on envelopes.
There can be no question whatever that Ministers are responsible for everything that their officers do, but if civil servants make errors or commit failures the House has a right to be assured that the Minister has dealt with the errors or failures adequately and properly, or that he will do so. That is a duty that falls on Ministers as well, and it would be wrong for a Minister automatically to defend every act of his officers or servants merely because they belong to his Department. Therefore, the House has to be satisfied that he is dealing with the matter adequately.
In this case, I think that the Minister, in his statement of 15th June, took the matter somewhat too lightly. He did not appreciate, I think, the gravity of certain incidents; though I think that some hon. Gentlemen opposite and some newspapers, on the other hand, have been making too much of them. Indeed, I think that the Report that we are considering today does the same thing. However, I think it right to say that on 15th June the Minister took it rather too easily. He said:I have, naturally, given to those who are criticised an opportunity of making to me such observations as they wished on those parts of the Report which referred to them. Having considered the observations and explanations I have received, I must in fairness say that I have formed a less unfavourable view of many of the actions taken by those concerned than appears in the Report. Mistakes and errors of judgment were made which those concerned regret as much as I do; and steps are being taken, so far as possible to see that these do not happen again. In view of the nature of the errors themselves and of the public way in which they have been exposed, I am satisfied that no further action by me in relation to them is necessary. I consider that the Agricultural Land Commission are fulfilling a useful function."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1954: Vol. 528, c 1759.]1275 With the last sentence we would all agree, but I think that in the earlier passages of his statement the Minister was taking the situation rather more lightly than he ought to have done.
We have to combine that fact with the fact that today we have a new White Paper before us, dealing with an inquiry which has been made at the instance of the Prime Minister. This White Paper was deposited in the Vote Office after the Minister's speech. I should have thought that it would have been better had it been deposited there before the Minister's speech. This is not the first time this has happened. It cramps the style of the House of Commons if these White Papers are deposited after the Ministerial speech instead of before it, and I should have thought that it would have been physically possible to have deposited it before the speech.
This has been an inquiry by two ex-Permanent Secretaries and one business man—I think the third was a business man. It is an arguable point whether two out of the three should have been former Permanent Secretaries in the higher Civil Service, but I do not feel like dogmatising about that point. It is arguable. In any case, it could not be said to be a tribunal which would be unduly biased against the Civil Service.
Notwithstanding that fact, the tribunal took a somewhat more severe view of the matter than did the Minister; it is not fair to go beyond that. There will be one transfer, namely, the Permanent Crown Lands Commissioner. It is likely that there would have been another transfer had it not been that the gentleman concerned was transferred to financial functions in the Ministry. The Minister has told us that that was before the inquiry began. Thus, in all probability there would have been two transfers. In three other cases it is not proposed that there should be any change in their position or duties.
It may be right, in exceptional circumstances, for the Minister publicly to criticise his civil servants. This is a delicate matter. I will give one instance from my experience, although I do not want to go into undue detail, because it is over and done with. I had given a specific order that something was to be done in a certain way and it was not done in that way. I 1276 had promised the House that it would be done in that way and the House was consequently after me, and was quite right to be after me.
In that case, where the specific Ministerial order had not been carried out, I thought it right to tell the House what had happened—that an officer had not carried out his instructions. I castigated him in the House. I did not like doing it. The poor man sat in the Gallery over there. I think that that was legitimate—good for him, and, what is more important, good for everybody else, because it teaches them that when the Minister gives the order, he has given the order and it must be carried out.
That is an extreme case. The truth is that there lies between the Minister and the civil servant a life between colleagues who together, in partnership, are running a great State Department; that they all have responsibilities to the public—both the Minister and the civil servants through the Minister—and that nobody should forget his responsibilities to the public. Minor issues arise from time to time—and there are bound to be annoyances. Sometimes the civil servant may not do a thing quite in the way in which the Minister would like it done. That is inevitable—and not only in the Civil Service; it happens in every business undertaking throughout the land. When these wholesale allegations are made against the British civil servant, especially by hon. Members who are engaged in private business, I wish they would remember the number of times they are annoyed by the gentleman below them in their private business. That is a common experience.
In such cases, the matter is better dealt with inside the Department, and that is the end of it. I remember one or two cases where it was thought that we had done something wrong and where I had admitted it and had said that the responsibility was mine. I said that if the House wanted anybody's head it was my head it should have. Hon. Members wanted to know who was the officer who had gone wrong and I stated that I was not disposed to say, that I would deal with him—and I did—and that if the House wanted anybody's head on a charger, mine was the head it should have. That is the right, constitutional doctrine. If we get away from it, we 1277 shall go wrong. Therefore, at the end of the day, the Minister is responsible.
In dealing with these matters, we must remember the other side of the picture. No one wants to encourage rudeness or discourtesy on the part of public officers whether in national service or in local government service. On the other hand, one has to be careful about discouraging frank, open and honest reports from civil servants to their Ministers if they have criticisms to make of people outside—I would not say about Members of Parliament, because that would be asking for trouble—and it is inevitable that, from time to time, comments should be made about persons with whom the Department comes into argument or conflict.
We can have two faults. We can have, in the case of the minority, aggressiveness, spitefulness, possibly a tendency to injustice as between public officers and the public outside. That is wrong. But it would be no less wrong that an officer, because he is afraid of possible repercussions, should not report frankly to his superior officers, and through them, to the Minister concerned. So we must be careful about this, otherwise we can demoralise the Civil Service that way as well as we can the other way. It is important to keep that in mind.
My criticism of the officers concerned would be that it would appear that promises to certain farmers about the right of tendering or of consideration for certain farming lands were not kept. There was partly a failure in the machinery of transferring the information from what we might call one national public authority to another which ought not to have happened; but it is also the case that, at one stage—unless one can upset the argument in the Report, and I will come to some of the other sides of the Report—when it was known that there had been these undertakings, there appears to have been a tendency or an endeavour to evade or to circumscribe the undertakings which had been given. That is a serious thing. It may have been right or it may have been wrong that the undertakings had been given, but in any case the authority was not bound to accept any of the tenders: it could have taken another course.
An undertaking had been given to give them consideration, and it is a most serious thing if public faith is not kept in 1278 a matter of that kind. In that respect, I think that the authority were wrong and there was evasion, an unpleasant evasion, at a certain stage in the process. Moreover, some of the reports to higher officers or to higher authority were incomplete or misleading. Some of the reports passed on even from the higher-ups to the lower-downs were incomplete, and the full file was not transferred. This was due either to incompetence or slothfulness—I doubt whether it was a wish to deceive—and it was unfortunate, and a bad thing.
Moreover, there was some confusion in the evolution of the story and the happenings between the Land Commission, the Crown Lands and the Ministry which ought not to have happened. All this must come back to the administrative competence of the Minister and of the Government themselves. If they were running the show properly, these things ought not to have happened.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) made a very fair and excellent speech. There would have been more aggressiveness in it had it not been that the Minister had resigned. Naturally, none of us wants to knock a man about too much when he is down, and if I criticise the right hon. Gentleman it will not be because I want to hurt him—we all sympathise with a Minister who has resigned; it is because I feel it a public duty to ventilate certain views
My right hon. Friend thought the same thing and acted accordingly; otherwise he would have made a more aggressive speech. That accounts for his restraint and conduct. He asked—and I hope that the Home Secretary will deal with this point in his reply, "Why Crown Lands?" I want to know about the transfer of responsibility from the Land Commission, which appears to us to have been the proper body to have handled this all the way through, to Crown Lands. Is it the case that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cut down or restricted the Minister's estimates, and that if they went on Crown Lands they did not have to appear in the Estimates but that had they stayed on the Land Commission they would have had to appear in the Estimates? If that is so—I want the Home Secretary to tell us—that would constitute an effort to deceive the House of Commons and to evade our financial control. We shall hear about that.
1279 Finally, among the gentlemen who made mistakes—the number is not all that great, but there are sufficient to take notice of them—I would say that one of the most serious of them, the one, perhaps, singularly most open to criticism, was not a civil servant at all. It would be fair on the part of hon. Members opposite that this point would have been made during their own speeches. I have not heard them all, but I have not noticed it said during the time I have been present.
I am referring to Mr. Thomson, who seemed to be a gentleman of great determination. He is not a civil servant; he is a professional man. He works for a private enterprise firm of surveyors and estate agents and he was a man of great determination, determined about what should happen. As a whole, Mr. Thomson won. He has to come into the picture as well as the civil servants.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day there was this administrative failure on the part not only of the Minister, but, not less, of both of his Parliamentary Secretaries, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in this House and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in the Lords. If one of those gentlemen gets the Minister's job, it will be the greatest injustice in the history of British public administration. However, I do not suppose that either of them will get it. No doubt there are other applicants. Any Conservative Member of Parliament who takes on the job of Minister of Agriculture in a Conservative Government knows that it is one of those cases where a man has gone up only to come down in due course. It is a most risky occupation; the mortality rate is very high.
§ Mr. Morrison
Never mind about that. I never heard such gentlemen as those opposite. I am used to my Cockneys. If I am talking about the Soviet Union somebody among them will shout, "What about the United States" or about somebody else who may have nothing to do with the question; we all understand each other and we enjoy it. But hon. Members opposite ought to take themselves more seriously.
1280 When all is said and done, these faults and errors—and I hope I have given them full weight as I think it my duty to do—provide no case for the wholesale and general attacks on the British Civil Service that have been made. I have worked in local government, in national affairs and I have mixed with public officers of all sorts and sizes. I have worked in a newspaper circulation department, and if anyone wants an exciting life that is the place to work-. There, mistakes were made. Sometimes trains were lost. We could not help it sometimes.
Mistakes are made in private and professional life all over the place. That is nothing about which to boast nor anything about which to be happy, but there is a class of politician—several of them are to be found on the other side of the House and even among Ministers and certainly among newspapers, bless their hearts: I would not be without them for the world—who, whenever there is the smallest mistake in the Civil Service, engage in a sweeping, wholesale denunciation of that service. During the period of the war many of them had to do strange things, but there was a fairly high degree of efficiency and they worked hard and quickly. In the Government that followed the war, as my right hon. and hon. Friends who were Members of it will testify, we ran them very hard indeed.
§ Mr. Morrison
We ran ourselves hard, too, and, as my hon. Friend says, they worked hard and they were adaptable and capable. I am taking the service as a whole. Here and there there were exceptions, but as a whole the Government, the House of Commons and the British people owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Civil Service for its ability, its capacity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We are getting on nicely. This is an example of how the art of persuasion should be pursued.
But, above all, what we are most proud of is its integrity, its public spirit, its incorruptibility, and its willingness to be loyal to one Government as much as to another. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We are still getting on nicely. Members opposite appreciate that and I hope they will appreciate it more often 1281 and show that praise instead of implying the opposite. The next time the Beaver-brook Press biff the Civil Service I expect about 20 hon. Members opposite to write letters of strong protest.
The morale and the efficiency of the Civil Service can be hurt in two ways. It can be hurt by a failure to check something which interferes with its work and it can be hurt by an unjust denunciation of the whole service. The Minister held that he was right to equip the land as one farm and handle it in that way. There is a good deal of expert and technical opinion on his side about that.
No question of a State farm is involved here. It was a question of how the show should be organised and how the community should set about finding an efficient farmer so that it could be farmed on modern and up-to-date lines. He did say that, but the Report has enough in it to cause many of us on this side of the House to suspect some bias. I say this with regret.
There are in the Report a substantially noticeable number of assertions which are not true. There is a little slip in nomenclature which I do not mind, but which indicates the political outlook of the gentleman who wrote it. Hon. Members will notice that in Conservative newspapers we are always referred to as the Socialist Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Are you not?"] Yes, certainly, but out official name is the Labour Party.
If an impartial legal gentleman were appointed by the Government to produce a report and he referred to the Tory Government, some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) would suspect that the gentleman was what they would call a Socialist politician. We are Socialists and proud of it. Nevertheless, when the language of the "Daily Telegraph" and of all the other Tory newspapers is used, it is a sign of the political outlook of the gentleman.
Moreover, in the Report there is a confusion between facts—the factual Part 1 of the Report and the conclusions. There are too many conclusions in Part II, not all warranted by the facts, and sometimes not enough facts in the factual part of the report. And although the Minister in appointing the gentleman to make this 1282 inquiry said that policy was excluded, nevertheless policy considerations come into the Report from time to time.
We are faced today with the resignation of the Minister and that is a fact. We can feel sorry on personal grounds but, in all the circumstances, in view of what I have said, I am not prepared to say that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in resigning in view of the story that I have had to tell and that others have had to tell also. I feel additionally strong on that ground for this reason, that I cannot understand why a Minister who has already tendered his resignation should come to that Box—I am not sure that he should come to that Box anyway, because he is on the way out—to announce and defend a policy with which we know in our hearts he does not really agree.
Would it not have been wiser for him to have stood his ground and said, "I adhere to the policy which I have been pursuing." And if the Prime Minister or the Government or, more properly, the 1922 Committee who now function as what the Soviet Union would call an enlarged Cabinet, almost an enlarged Prime Minister. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tammany Hall."] As this thing happened, it seems to me constitutionally wrong on the part of the Prime Minister and on the part of the Cabinet, that they should have forced, I suppose, the resigning Minister of Agriculture, in his last words as a Minister, to announce that he abandoned the policy which he had pursued, and almost to apologise for it. He should have stuck to his guns and resigned on grounds of policy.
What was the defence? That 1954 is not 1952. I say on any grounds, including grounds that should appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the principal economic co-ordinating Minister, that if it was right, as we held as a Labour Government not only in 1952 but in 1945—and right nobly did my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) fight for the policy, and did so successfully, assisted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and others—that in our balance of payments situation for one thing, but in the interests of the self-reliance of this gallant island for another, it was absolutely vital that we should grow every hit of food that we could at home and 1283 make every effort to that end. That view is just as right today.
The test of these policies, which the Minister had been pursuing, and the only crime he committed, is that in some respects he followed the policy of my right hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "No.") Yes. Hon. Members opposite and their Government will be ruined by their dogmas and doctrinaire beliefs. One of their dogmas is that if something was done by a Labour Government it must be wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] That is confirmed by at least one hon. Member, and it is so silly. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has had to resign and has been compelled to humiliate himself by announcing a change of policy in his last words.
This is a victory for the boys upstairs. This is a victory for the 1922 Committee. It is also a victory for backward influences in the Cabinet. Time after time this is happening. I will not go through all the instances. Television was not wanted. It was forced on the Government by not more than 20 hon. Members opposite. Then there was Members' pay. There was a Report by a Select Committee, followed by a free vote of the House, and that free vote was ignored by order of an irresponsible band of M.P.s upstairs. That has never happened under a Labour Government. [Laughter.] No, our liaison was more intelligently managed. Let hon. Members opposite make the most of that, if they like. We did not get into this situation in which, time after time, the Government are being driven by the gentlemen upstairs into policies which they ought not to pursue.
Now the 1922 Committee has the scalp of a Minister and has a new policy in agriculture announced by that Minister at the point of his retirement, during his last moments as a Minister of the Crown. Why did the Joint Parliamentary-Secretaries stay? They were handling this matter day by day. Their responsibility was not less than that of the Minister himself. Today, therefore, we condemn the Government on the following grounds: First, administrative incompetence; secondly, undue back bench pressure. I am in favour of a reasonable amount of back bench pressure. It is a 1284 pleasure to handle it. I say that there has been undue back bench pleasure. [Laughter.] As a matter of fact, there is undue back bench pleasure as well. Back benchers opposite are happy that they have the scalp of a Minister. Thirdly, we are against the Government because of the grave change of policy which has been announced today by the expiring Minister, with the result that now in agricultural policy we are ceasing to put production first. The Government are putting doctrinaire Tory politics first.
Finally, the very fact that the Home Secretary is to reply is conclusive evidence and proof that the Government have a weak case. Merely because he is, or was, a distinguished lawyer, the Government perpetuate the mistake that he can, therefore, defend any rotten case of the Government. We shall probably find that 11e will not make a good case, but the fact that he is to try is conclusive evidence that the Government have not a good case. For these several and sufficient reasons we feel it right to divide the House.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I am duly impressed by the inverted compliment that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was good enough to pay me. It reminded me and, as a good Dickensian, I am sure that this was the origin of the phrase, of the case of Bardell versus Pickwick, when the great slogan was enunciated, "Weak case, abuse plaintiff's attorney." I give the right hon. Member leave to use that as often as he finds it useful.
I echo the initial thought of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) in opening this debate, because I am sure that everyone who has listened to it must have had at least three thoughts in his mind. The first was a personal sorrow for the departure from the Government of my right hon. Friend. No one in this House, wherever he sits, will deny the complexity of the problems of increasing production and harmonising guaranteed prices with a freer economy with which my right hon. Friend has had to deal, whatever they think is the solution. I hope that no one will deny to his colleagues their gratitude for the magnificent way in which they think he has handled 1285 the problem. The second thought that has been in the minds of all hon. Members—I have in mind the speeches of the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) among others—was that it must be the prime concern of all of us, wherever we sit in the House, to see that what has taken place in regard to Crichel Down does not happen again.
Thirdly—here I re-echo the first part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, which I am sure he meant with all seriousness and sincerity—we have taken the opportunity, as a House, of examining keenly, but judiciously, in the light of these happenings, the position of the Government and the Civil Service, and of trying to bring up to date, and to state fairly and fully, the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility. It is because of the immense seriousness of this aspect of the matter and of this occasion that I repeat that I am in very great agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech.
There has been considerable anxiety, not only in the Press but given vent to by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, the hon. Member for Edge Hill and my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) and my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), as to how far the principle of Ministerial responsibility goes. We all recognise that we must have that principle in existence and that Ministers must be responsible for the acts of civil servants. Without it, it would be impossible to have a Civil Service which would be able to serve Ministries and Governments of different political faiths and persuasions with the same zeal and honesty which we have always found. I hope that answers the point made by my noble Friend.
There has been criticism that the principle operates so as to oblige Ministers to extend total protection to their officials and to endorse their acts, and to cause the position that civil servants cannot be called to account and are effectively responsible to no one. That is a position which I believe is quite wrong, and I think it is the cardinal error that has crept into the appreciation of this situation. It is quite untrue that well-justified public criticism of the actions of civil 1286 servants cannot be made on a suitable occasion. The position of the civil servant is that he is wholly and directly responsible to his Minister. It is worth stating again that he holds his office "at pleasure" and can be dismissed at any time by the Minister; and that power is none the less real because it is seldom used. The only exception relates to a small number of senior posts, like permanent secretary, deputy secretary, and principal financial officer, where, since 1920, it has been necessary for the Minister to consult the Prime Minister, as he does on appointment.
I would like to put the different categories where different considerations apply. I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that in the case where there is an explicit order by a Minister, the Minister must protect the civil servant who has carried out his order. Equally, where the civil servant acts properly in accordance with the policy laid down by the Minister, the Minister must protect and defend him.
I come to the third category, which is different. Again, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he agrees with me on this. Where an official makes a mistake or causes some delay, but not on an important issue of policy and not where a claim to individual rights is seriously involved, the Minister acknowledges the mistake and he accepts the responsibility, although he is not personally involved. He states that he will take corrective action in the Department. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that he would not, in those circumstances, expose the official to public criticism. I think that is important, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it should come from both sides of the House that we are agreed on this important aspect of public affairs.
But when one comes to the fourth category, where action has been taken by a civil servant of which the Minister disapproves and has no prior knowledge, and the conduct of the official is reprehensible, then there is no obligation on the part of the Minister to endorse what he believes to be wrong, or to defend what are clearly shown to be errors of his officers. The Minister is not bound to defend action of which he did not know, or of which he disapproves. But, of course, he remains constitutionally 1287 responsible to Parliament for the fact that something has gone wrong, and he alone can tell Parliament what has occurred and render an account of his stewardship.
The fact that a Minister has to do that does not affect his power to control and discipline his staff. One could sum it up by saying that it is part of a Minister's responsibility to Parliament to take necessary action to ensure efficiency and the proper discharge of the duties of his Department. On that, only the Minister can decide what it is right and just to do, and he alone can hear all sides, including the defence.
It has been suggested in this debate, and has been canvassed in the Press, that there is another aspect which adds to our difficulties, and that is that today the work and the tasks of Government permeate so many spheres of our national life that it is impossible for the Minister to keep track of all these matters.
I believe that that is a matter which can be dealt with by the instructions which the Minister gives in his Department. He can lay down standing instructions to see that his policy is carried out. He can lay down rules by which it is ensured that matters of importance, of difficulty or of political danger are brought to his attention. Thirdly, there is the control of this House, and it is one of the duties of this House to see that that control is always put into effect.
There is the other side of that on which I wish to spend a moment. The hon. Member for Edge Hill in the course of a very interesting and reasoned speech, used the phrase, "Heads should have fallen." As I have said, it is a matter for the Minister to decide when civil servants are guilty of shortcomings in their official conduct. Normally, the Civil Service has no procedure equivalent to a court-martial, or anything of that kind. There have in the past been a few inquiries to establish the facts and the degree of culpability of individuals, but the decision as to the disciplinary action to be taken has been left to the Minister.
I want to put to the House, and especially to some hon. Members who appear doubtful about this part of the matter, that at the time of the Clark inquiry no civil servant was charged with anything. 1288 When the Report reached the Minister, it contained criticisms of certain civil servants, and it was then only just—I cannot see how any fair-minded person can see any objection to this—that my right hon. Friend should bring these criticisms to the attention of the persons concerned and ask for their explanation and observations. After all, Mr. Speaker, you and I know that the two requirements of natural justice that have gone back to the beginning of civilisation are that a person who may be punished should know what the complaint is against him and that he should be given an opportunity to meet it. That is the basis of the rule of law throughout the ages. No one, I am sure, would deny it to civil servants. That is why my right hon. Friend took that line.
I want to make it quite clear—and, again, I answer a point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who earlier in the debate asked for an assurance which I now want to give—that there has been no attempt on the part of the Civil Service to cover up the faults that have been disclosed. All the civil servants concerned have at every stage co-operated fully in bringing the facts to light. The Service, as a service, is as shocked by the errors brought to light as anyone else. Their pride in their service, and its reputation and tradition for fair dealing and unfailing rectitude, makes them as determined as anybody that these errors should not recur. I want to make it quite clear that no civil servant in any Department sought to bring pressure to bear on the Minister when he was taking his decisions about disciplinary action.
I was as impressed as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery was with the passage in the Woods Report which deals with the general situation. I hope that the House will bear with me if I read just one part of it again:It is the more necessary that the Civil Servant should bear constantly in mind that the citizen has a right to expect, not only that his affairs will be dealt with effectively and expeditiously, but also that his personal feelings, no less than his rights as an individual, will be sympathetically and fairly considered. We think the admitted shortcomings in this respect are the main cause of such loss of public confidence as has resulted from the present case.1289 Again I want to say, because I have made inquiries and have been reassured by them, that the Civil Service since the war has tried very hard to inculcate a proper attitude of mind in civil servants, particularly because so many more civil servants have dealings with the public, or handle affairs in which private interests are at stake. That is the object of the training that is given, and this will go on and its importance will be emphasised.
On that basis, as I have tried to put it, the next point is: have the steps that were taken in regard to the persons involved been fair and equitable? I say that they have. I say that the Woods Committee was the right procedure. It did not seek to inquire afresh into matters covered by the Clark Report, but considered whether, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of Departments, any of the officers whose conduct was called in question in the Report should be transferred.
The criteria were public interest, efficiency of the public service and fair treatment of individuals. I believe that the blend of public service and private business experience in the Committee was one with which the right hon. Gentleman was not at any rate prepared to quarrel. I believe that the Committee's careful, judicial but practical weighing of the position with regard to those five men will command respect and confidence.
I now want to call attention, because I think it important and fair to do so, to one other point. The very last words of the Woods Report are:… we think it material to record our strong impression that some part of the deficiencies disclosed in the handling of this case may have been due as much to the organisational relationship between the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Service as to the faults of individuals.It is fair that that should be said, because that is an organisational matter.
My right hon. Friend has arranged for a thorough investigation to be made into the organisation and methods employed within the Ministry and the Agricultural Land Commission for dealing with transactions in agricultural land. It will include the Agricultural Land Service both at headquarters and at provincial centres, and the task will be undertaken by Sir Arton Wilson and Mr. Allam. In 1290 addition to that, as a result of the inquiry, further consideration will be given to the organisation of the Department and the function and organisation of the Land Commission.
I have a special reason for appreciating the importance of the Land Commission because, as hon. Members know, there is, the Welsh Sub-Commission which at the moment is engaged on most important work for me in regard to rural Wales. My right hon. Friend also mentioned that he was reviewing the organisation for administering Crown Lands.
As far as the people are concerned, I think we have come to a fair result. And the organisation, which the Woods Report says created difficulty, has also been dealt with.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the position of Messrs. Sanctuary and Sons. Again my right hon. Friend was right in saying that they are professional men with their expertise, and the proper person to inquire into their conduct was someone nominated by the President of the Chartered Surveyors Institution. That person gave a report on what I find—I state it quite frankly—a matter of great complexity, namely the proper method for approaching the question of dilapidations and the arguments on both sides. I tried to puzzle it out, as I am sure many people have done.
My right hon. Friend got expert opinion on that subject, and, in addition, despite the fact that that was favourable, he has taken into account what is stated in the Report. He has come to the conclusion—and I am sure that everyone would agree with it—that this firm should not deal with Crichel Down land in the future. It will be for the Crown Lands, who will have their new permanent Commissioner, to decide whom they should employ
I want to come to the points which were made by the right hon Member for Belper. One of them is connected with what has been called, erroneously, in my view—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
If I may interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman—and I am not doing it in a spirit of offence—I hope that he will answer the question why there was the transfer to the Crown Lands organisation.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I will do so now if that suits the right hon. Gentleman's convenience. I was going to deal with that point next. My right hon. Friend said that he wanted the Ministry to dispense with the ownership of this land. He also knew that Crown Lands were looking for an investment in land and that where their money has come from investment in land, they are limited to re-investing it in land. As is stated in paragraph 9 of the conclusions of Sir Andrew Clark's report, the Minister wanted to ensure that the land would be equipped, that a suitable tenant would be found, and that the land would be supervised. As Sir Andrew Clark says, these things being the combined needs of his policy, probably the only instrument to carry out that policy effectively would have been Crown Lands. That is the reason why it was done.
The right hon. Member for Belper first dealt with what he called the change of policy. I checked the words used by my right hon. Friend, and I commend the right hon. Gentleman to look at them tomorrow. What my right hon. Friend said was that there had been a substantial improvement in the food situation. He did not actually use the words, but there was a clear implication that we were not in the stage of a sort of siege economy, and siege prices, where it was necessary to get production at any cost and at any price. He went on to say that it was possible to contemplate taking actions in the interest of liberty and freedom.
That is not a new policy or a change of policy. My right hon. Friend said that it is no part of this Government's philosophy that the State should continue to own and manage agricultural land where it is in a satisfactory condition for private ownership. In that respect there has been no change of policy, and certainly no diminution of the importance of food production, or any attempt to infringe or eat into the provisions of the Agriculture Acts.
The second point made by the right hon. Member for Belper was whether selecting one Q.C. to conduct an inquiry without the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act was a suitable way of dealing with the matter. I can only say, from 30 years' experience, that I have been quite often in inquiries of that sort and I have never found that the 1292 fact that the privilege of a witness is theoretically a little more limited has ever prevented him from stating his views frankly and freely. Moreover, it has the great advantage of being more flexible and, if necessary, more informal than the procedure which is suggested as an alternative.
I would put this point and ask the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South to do no more than consider it. I think that it is one of the problems of Government, and I know that he is interested in them. When a Government appoint an inquiry, whatever the complexion of the Government, I think that they ought to be bound by findings of fact which the person who holds the inquiry comes to, unless some new evidence is discovered the existence of which he did not realise—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Select Committee on Members' Expenses."] If hon. Members had allowed me to finish, the occasion of their laughter would not have arisen, because I was going on to say that when the findings of fact are made nothing can deprive the Government of the duty and responsibility of forming their opinions and making the decisions which must be made.
I come to the third point the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper made, and that was, is there anything wrong with the change that is being made with regard to compulsorily acquired land. Every citizen of good will sees his land go in time of emergency for Government requirements with as much good will as he can muster; but it is taken for a specific purpose, for a specific need of the State. When that purpose is exhausted, when that need is past, what is wrong, on any consideration of morality or justice, in allowing the person from whom the land was taken to have the chance of getting it back?
It was made clear by my right hon. Friend that the price should be the current market price fixed by the same person who fixed the price at which the land was bought, the district valuer. I do not believe that that can be construed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they have time to think it over, as a sinister change. It is only the reinforcement once again of the need of justice to individuals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I put this to you, 1293 Mr. Speaker, that it is part of the public interest in this country that there should be justice to private individuals.
I want to say one further word, and that is with regard to the present tenant, Mr. Tozer. As my right hon. Friend said, I think it is right that opportunity should be given to Commander Marten to purchase the land, but it must be subject to the tenancy and the requirements of the tenancy. I have tried to deal with the three points with which I started. I believe that we have taken
§ the necessary actions, and I ask the House to accept them.
§ Mr. Herbert W. Bowden (Leicester, South-West)
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly. "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 266; Noes, 297.1297
|Division No. 204.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Adams, Richard||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Keenan, W|
|Albu, A. H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Kenyon, C.|
|Allan, Arthur (Bosworth)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Fernyhough, E.||Lawson, G. M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fienburgh, W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Baird, J.||Follick, M.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Balfour, A.||Foot, M. M.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Forman, J. C.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bartley, P.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Freeman, John (Watford)||Logan, D. G.|
|Bence, C. R.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||McGhee, H. G.|
|Benson, G.||Gibson, C. W.||McGovern, J|
|Beswick, F.||Glanville, James||McInnes, J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P C||McLeavy, F.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Greenwood, Anthony||McNeill, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Blackburn, F.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Grey, C. F.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bowen, E. R||Grimond, J.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hale, Leslie||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mason, Roy|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hamilton, W. W.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hannan, W.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hardy, E. A.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hargreaves, A.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Monslow, W.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.J||Hastings, S.||Moody, A. S.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hayman, F. H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Morley, R.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hewitson, Capt. M||Mort, D. L.|
|Chetwynd, G R||Hobson, C. R.||Moyle, A.|
|Clunie, J,||Holman, P.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Coldrick, W.||Holmes, Horace||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Holt, A. F.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J|
|Cove, W. G.||Houghton, Douglas||O'Brien, T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hoy, J. H.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hubbard, T. F.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Orbach, M.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oswald, T.|
|Daines, P.||Hushes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Padley, W. E.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Irvine, A.J. (Edge Hill)||Pannell, Charles|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Parker, J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Janner, B.||Parkin, B. T|
|Deer, G.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paton, J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Peart, T. F.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Porter, G.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Edelman, M.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Rankin, John||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Reeves, J.||Sparks, J. A.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Steele, T.||West, D. G.|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Rhodes, H.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Richards, R.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Wigg, George|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Swingler, S. T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Sylvester, G. O.||Willey, F. T.|
|Ross, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Royle, C.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Short, E. W.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Wilson, fit. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Thornton, E.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Timmons, J.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Tomney, F.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Turner-Samuels, M.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Yates, V. F.|
|Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Usborne, H. C.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wallace, H. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Snow, J. W.||Warbey, W. N.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Weitzman, D.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Deedes, W. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hope, Lord John|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Donner, Sir P. W.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Horobin, I. M.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Drayson, C. B.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Banks, Col. C.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Barber, Anthony||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Duthie, W. S.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Erroll, F. J.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fell, A.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Finlay, Graeme||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Fisher, Nigel||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Birch, Nigel||Fletcher, Sir Waller (Bury)||Jennings, Sir Roland|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Johnson, Eric (Bleckley)|
|Black, C. W.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Fort, R.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Foster, John||Kaberry, D.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Kerr, H. W.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Gammans, L. D.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Glover, D.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Godber, J. B.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gough, C. F. H.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Gower, H. R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Graham, Sir Fergus||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Carr, Robert||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Channon, H.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Low, A. R. W.|
|Churchill, Rt Hon Sir Winston||Harden, J. R. E.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cole, Norman||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Harvey, Ian (Harlow, E.)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Cooper, Son. Ldr. Albert||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hay, John||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Graddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Crouch, R. F.||Heath, Edward||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Pitman, I. J.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Powell, J. Enoch||Studholme, H. G.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Summers, G. S.|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Profumo, J. D.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Marples, A. E.||Ramsden, J. E.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Rayner, Brig. R||Teeling, W.|
|Maude, Angus||Redmayne, M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Maudling, R.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr S. L C||Remnant, Hon. P||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Renton, D. L. M.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Mellor, Sir John||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Robertson, Sir David||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Tilney, John|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Robson-Brown, W.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Roper, Sir Harold||Turton, R. H.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Neave, Airey||Russell, R. S.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Scott, R. Donald||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Nutting, Anthony||Shepherd, William||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Odey, G. W.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Ormsby-Goro, Hon. W. D.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wellwood, W.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Soames, Capt. C.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Spearman, A. C- M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Osborne, C.||Speir, R. M.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Page, R. G.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Partridge, E.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Wills, G.|
|Perkins, Sir Robert||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Storey, S.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Sir Cedric Drewe.|
Question put, and agreed to.