HC Deb 21 March 1957 vol 567 cc644-6
Mr. Willey

I beg to move, in page 4, line 22, to leave out: with the approval of the Treasury ". I move this Amendment to show that I still have much good will towards the Minister. I am endeavouring to help him. If he spurns my help, I say at once that I am not prepared to reinforce my help by having a Division.

No one objects that the Treasury should have a voice in determining the global sum, but we do not think it right and proper—and it is about time that someone should say so—that the Treasury should have its approval to these schemes written into a Bill. I know what it means in practice: an increase of the bureaucracy the whole time. The Treasury will get a herring man. It has an advantage, of course, when it comes to establishment. If they lose their battle with the Ministry they make sure they get a better herring man than the Ministry has so that they have the final word.

I am sure that the Committee is content to leave the matter to the right hon. Gentleman with the usual Governmental responsibility that an Order has to be laid. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at once accept my good offices and this Amendment. I have had previous successes in having Amendments accepted, but on the last occasion I regret that when I offered this friendly assistance to the right hon. Gentleman he was quite uncharitable and rejected it.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard

When my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary answered on the last Amendment he said that he did not want to insert words because he did not wish to be too particular. If that be the case, could not we do without the approval of the Treasury?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Among the words on the second line of the Clause are: a continuous and plentiful supply of herring, not a continuous and plentiful supply of money. If these were the words, I could understand the Treasury being dragged, however unwillingly, into the Clause. It is being brought in, not in connection with a plentiful supply of money but with the preparation of a scheme.

I fail to see why the Treasury should be brought into it at all. Why cannot the Minister have sufficient independence of character and confidence in his drafting to do the scheme himself without bringing the Treasury into it? Exhorting the Minister to show a little courage and to throw off the shackles of the Treasury, I support the Amendment.

Mr. Godber

My right hon. Friend is so overcome with gratitude at the help that has been offered him from the Opposition that he is quite speechless. He has asked me to say a word on his behalf in recognition of the kindness and forethought shown by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and other hon. Members in seeking to assist my right hon. Friend in this way.

In spite of these efforts, he does not, however, feel that the Amendment is necessary or desirable. The Treasury has the responsibility to see that schemes for the expenditure of public money are prepared with due regard to efficiency and economy. That does not mean that the Treasury dictates policy. Although we shall require to get the consent of the Treasury we feel sure, because of the cordial contacts that exist among Government Departments, that we shall have no difficulty at all.

Mr. Hoy

This answer is disappointing. It explains why we have now the Financial Secretary for the Treasury with us. I could not understand what had brought about his arrival, but it is obvious that he had no great faith in the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, or in the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, and was taking care that they did not give way on the Amendment. I know the Minister; if we can trust him, so can the Treasury. He might have given us a better answer. It is very disappointing. It is his last opportunity to accept a really first-class Amendment. If he refuses it, there is nothing more we can do about it.

Mr. Willey

I wonder what brought the Financial Secretary to the Treasury here. We all sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in his very difficult task, especially with the Treasury overlooking and demanding its right of approval of all that he does. If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept our help, I shall have no alternative but reluctantly to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Amory

I thank the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for his very helpful attitude. Consistency is a virtue, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been almost completely consistent in their helpful attitude. I assure them that my relations with my colleagues in the Treasury are so close and harmonious that I would not dream of putting forward a scheme which had not the approval of my right hon. Friends at the Treasury. I thank the hon. Member for Sunderland, North for his most helpful and friendly intentions.

Mr. Willey

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.