HC Deb 29 April 1958 vol 587 cc289-99
Mr. Amery

I beg to move, in page 5, line 26, at the beginning to insert: The Secretary of State may make to all or any of the chairman and other members of any manœuvres commission such payments by way of remuneration or allowances as the Treasury may approve, and". This Amendment provides for the payment of a fee or allowance to the chairman and members of a manœuvres commission, and as such corrects a minor omission in the original draft Bill. Paragraph 4, subsection (4) of the Second Schedule to the Bill provides specific statutory authority to make a similar sort of payment to a person appointed to hold an inquiry. Unless, therefore, statutory authority is also given, as in this Amendment, there could be doubt whether the Secretary of State could validly pay the chairman or a member of a commission for carrying out his functions. It might be held that he could only reimburse him for his out-of-pocket expenses, and this might well not be enough.

Before the war, membership of a manœuvres commission was not a very onerous duty, and suitable persons were prepared to give their services free, but since that time conditions have changed a good deal. The present Bill makes considerable changes both in the duties and in the composition of a manœuvres commission. The changes in procedure to which it will lead will tend to increase the volume of representations with which the commission will have to deal. There will be considerably more work for its members to do. It would besides—and I think the Committee would agree to this—be a matter for regret if Ministers were unduly restricted by financial considerations in their choice of suitable persons to appoint to a manœuvres commission. The best man for the job may not always be in a position to give his services for nothing.

I would, however, add that this Amendment is only designed to provide an enabling power. It is not our intention to invoke it automatically; but the power may well be needed, and we thought it best that Parliament should deal with the point now.

Sir F. Soskice

Speaking for myself, I can well understand the necessity for some power such as the Government are now seeking to introduce into this Bill. Indeed, it was perhaps a little surprising that it should have been left out of earlier versions of the Bill. I must confess that I was considerably mystified by the argumentation in the Minister's speech based upon an analogy with some provision in one of the Schedules. I cannot quite understand why a doubt should be engendered by reason of the fact that there is provision in the Schedule for payment for persons holding an inquiry. I should have thought that if there were no enabling provisions in the Bill authorising the Minister to pay fees to members of a manœuvres commission he could not do so, but I cannot understand how the doubt arises as to whether he had a power to pay other out of pocket expenses.

However, perhaps that is a piece of legal subtlety upon which it is scarcely profitable to embark, but I must say that my mind is in some state of doubt as a result of what the Under-Secretary has said. I do not know whether the Solicitor-General would feel able to add something on that aspect of the matter. Perhaps what is much more to the point is that, I think the Committee would desire from the Minister some kind of indication, at any rate, in general terms, of the scale upon which these payments are to be authorised. As I understood him, he is simply now seeking power to make payments, and he says that the object of such power—which I can well understand, and which seems to me a useful object—is to widen the scope of persons from whom members of the commission may be appointed.

I think that the Committee would not desire to part from the Amendment without having some kind of idea of the sort of remuneration which will be paid, and, if it is not always to be paid, the sort of circumstances which are to justify its payment in the eyes of the Government. Perhaps the Under-Secretary would be good enough to enlighten us on that. I should have thought that my hon. Friends would not seek to oppose this Amendment, but I think they would desire some enlightenment along the lines I have ventured to point out.

Mr. Amery

On the first point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, subject to anything that my right hon. Friend may wish to add, I would say that the reason it was held—and, I think, as far as I understand these matters, soundly—that, if it is provided in a Schedule that there should be remuneration in certain cases and no similar provision exists in another case, the omission in the one case might be held to mean that no expenditure would be incurred in the first case. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, as an experienced lawyer, will understand that more than I do, and I would not dream of pursuing that matter further.

As to the size of sum that would be paid, the Government's view is that it would be a matter of hundreds of pounds and not—probably £300 or £400, that sort of thing; it might be less or it might be more, according to the circumstances. The circumstances of the person invited to serve on the commission could obviously be one element to be taken into consideration; the chairman's responsibility would no doubt be heavier than that of other members of the commission. The Bill itself states that any expenditure would be fixed by the Treasury, and I would hope that that would be accepted as a sufficient guarantee that it will not go very far.

Sir F. Soskice

I assure the Under-Secretary that I am not suggesting otherwise. I am sure that the Treasury would act with its usual discretion in these matters. I am just wondering whether, after the hon. Gentleman's speech, we have had enough to enable us to feel easy in our consciences at agreeing to this Amendment. Can he not give us a little more general idea of the sort of work involved? How long is a manœuvres commission to sit? How often a week is it to meet? Is it to sit for a matter of months, years, weeks or days?

The Under-Secretary mentioned in general terms that he thought it would be "a matter of hundreds of pounds and not", and then he hesitated. I do not know whether he meant thousands or single pounds. We are rather left in the air about this. Can he not tell us what he envisages as to the sort of task involved, in terms of magnitude and length of time which members of the commission, and, in particular, the chairmen, will be asked to undertake when they accept appointment? Can he not give us something a little more than simply saying that he would have thought it was "a matter of hundreds of pounds and not", and then a mysterious blank? Does he mean 100 guineas for so many sessions, or what?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think I am being difficult or cantankerous about this, but it is, after all, our duty to know what we are being asked to put on the Statute Book. While I think that we would all recognise that people undertaking public service should receive appropriate remuneration — generally speaking, at any rate—we should, I think, be told more precisely what the Government have in mind in this respect.

Mr. Amery

I do not in the least resent the right hon. and learned Gentleman pressing me on this, as I quite understand his natural interest in the matter. I did not seek to give the Committee full details of what the work of the commission would entail because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his Second Reading Speech, and I myself in Committee, dealt at some length with the number of months during which the commission would be in session, the kind of problems it would have to consider, and the importance of fairly frequent meetings and giving plenty of opportunity to public and private bodies to make such representations as they thought right to the commission.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would refresh his memory on what was said on Second Reading and in Committee, he will find all the information that is necessary. I said that hundreds of pounds might be involved. It is extremely difficult to fix the figure in advance, partly because, as I say, this is an enabling power. We do not wish to have to pay money in all cases, but if a suitable person is found, for instance—the question of the importance of having representatives of the farm labourers, and so on, on these commissions has been raised—it might well be that he could not afford to do it unless he was paid the equivalent of the work that he would not be undertaking while he was serving on the commission. The Government would rather like to limit the definition to "an appropriate sum" and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that. As I say, it might be 100 guineas or 200 guineas, but not, I would have thought, either a two-figure or four-figure sum.

8.30 p.m.

Sir F. Soskice

I am sorry to intervene again, but I do not think that we have had the information for which we have asked. The Minister has said very hesitatingly that he does not know what the sum is. It might be 100 or 200 guineas, but he did not think it would be a four-figure sum. It might correspond to the lost wages of a person employed. The Government must have had some thought about this matter and I hope the Minister can tell us a bit more. He has not told us much yet. He has been very hesitant, and, with great respect, he produces the impression, at any rate, on my mind that he has not much information about this point. I hope that he has and I hope that he and his ministerial colleagues have given thought to this matter.

The Government have done a great deal to meet our objections on this Bill and we feel extremely grateful for the trouble that they have taken over a number of points which we have raised. Therefore, we are all the more disappointed at the Minister's answer to the question that I have put to him. I hope he will have one more try to try to satisfy us. If he cannot, I shall be bound to advise my colleagues not to agree to the Amendment. I hope he will try to say what the Government mean. What sort of remuneration do they propose to pay, and to what sort of people? The Government must have some sort of scale in mind.

If the Minister wishes to obtain information or sustenance from his advisers, I will go on talking while he does so, but he does not seem to be making any move to do that. If he has more information at his disposal without further reference to his experts, I hope that he will give it, but I feel very dissatisfied with what he has said and I shall be obliged to give that advice to my hon. Friends on this side unless we can obtain some more illuminating information than we have had so far.

Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

May I give the Under-Secretary of State a little more time to find out what we want to know? We are told that there are to be 12 people on this commission, drawn from all kinds of occupations and professions. Some will suffer hardship by having to serve on it. Some, as I understand, will be doing it on an amateur basis. I am against the mixing of amateurs and professionals on a body of this kind, and I hope that all of them will get the rate for the job, whatever it is.

We are not sure what the job is or who will serve on this commission. The Minister spoke of a remuneration of between £200 and £1,000. Would each member receive that, or is that the total? If he proposes to pay someone £1,000 for being chairman for two or three months in the year, that chairman will be grossly overpaid. On the other hand, if he proposes to base the payment according to the job from which the man comes, that is also wrong. If he proposes to pay an agricultural worker or a barrister what he would lose by attending, it seems to me that the scales will be all wrong.

I hope that the Minister can meet our difficulty by making the payments that the Treasury may approve subject to affirmative or negative Resolution procedure by making regulations under the Bill which the House would then have a chance of seeing and upon which it could base its judgment before the Bill finally becomes law. Perhaps that is the way out.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I am rather alarmed at the inability of the Minister to give anything like a precise figure. I have spent most of my life in local government service. If a chairman of one of my local committees came to a committee meeting and was unable to answer a simple question about the cost of a proposal, he would have had a heavy rap over the knuckles and would have deserved it.

Mr. Amery

I cannot enlighten the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and his colleagues much further. This is an enabling power. I think that there is a minor difference of principle between the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) and the Amendment that I commend to the Committee. We are not seeking to lay down a definite scale at this stage. We only seek the power to make payments if it proves that payments would be desirable.

As I said earlier, I do not in the least resent the interest of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this matter, but the Schedule that we discussed in Committee was a similar provision to the one that I have just proposed in the Amendment. At that stage, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any of his hon. and right hon. Friends showed any concern on this aspect of the matter. The essence of the matter is that we are seeking

Division No. 102.] AYES [8.[...]39 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Barlow, Sir John Body, R. F.
Alport, C. J. M. Barter, John Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Baxter, Sir Beverley Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Beamish, Col. Tufton Boyle, Sir Edward
Arbuthnot, John Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Braine, B. R.
Atkint, H. E. Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)
Baldwin, A. E. Bidgood, J. C. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Balniel, Lord Biggs-Davison, J. A. Browne, J. Nixon (Cra[...]gton)
Barber, Anthony Bishop, F. P. Butcher, Sir Herbert

an enabling power. Payments would be of a comparatively minor character. They would be related to the amount of work that would have to be done and to the number of sittings of the commission, and so on. I cannot enlighten the Committee beyond that.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

I have a great deal of sympathy with the Under-Secretary of State. He was not expecting to have to answer this series of questions, because they were not raised in Committee or on Second Reading. I can understand his difficulty in giving an answer. However, I thought that the Solicitor-General might have tried to back up his hon. Friend. After all, he gets a fabulous salary and he has had a rather easy passage on this Bill. He might have been able to cite a formula or precedent from the past to show what is paid to members of commissions of this kind.

The Solicitor-General and others could have told us this. That is what we wanted to know. Reimbursement of time lost in serving on a commission of this kind is not enough. We understand that the commission may sit, as the Under-Secretary said, for many months. Some people could not spare the time to serve on a commission of this kind.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State for War will say something about this point. He must know something about it. We never saw him, quite understandably, during the Committee stage, or on Second Reading, when, unfortunately, he went down with influenza. This is an opportunity for him to tell us what will be paid to the members of the commission. These are serious points of view. Surely there is a formula in existence which could be given as an example.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 197, Noes 166.

Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Partridge, E.
Campbell, Sir David Holland-Martin, C. J. Peel, W. J.
Cary, Sir Robert Hornby, R. P. Peyton, J. W. W.
Channon, Sir Henry Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Chichesler-Clark, R. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Cooke, Robert Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Pitman, I. J.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hulbert, Sir Norman Pitt, Miss E. M.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hurd, A. R. Powell, J. Enoch
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Crowder, sir John (Finchley) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Ramsden, J. E.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Iremonger, T. L. Rawlinson, Peter
Currie, G. B. H. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Redmayne, M.
Dance, J. C. G. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Remnant, Hon. P.
Davidson, Viscountess Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Renton, D. L. M.
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Ridsdale, J. E.
Deedes, W. F. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Kershaw, J. A. Roper, Sir Harold
du Cann, E. D. L. Kimball, M. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Duncan, Sir James Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sharples, R. C.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Leavey, J. A. Shepherd, William
Elliott, R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.) Leburn, W. G. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Finlay, Graeme Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fisher, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Gammans, Lady Linstead, Sir H. N. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Garner-Evans, E. H. Llewellyn, D. T. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
George, J. C. (Pollok) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Storey, S.
Glover, D. Longden, Gilbert Studholme, Sir Henry
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Ch[...]swick) Summers, Sir Spencer
Godber, J. B. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Goodhart, Philip McAdden, S. J. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Gower, H. R. Macdonald, Sir Peter Teeling, W.
Graham, Sir Fergus McKibbin, Alan Temple, John M.
Grant, W. (Woodside) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Green, A. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Grimond, J. MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Vane, W. M. F.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Markham, Major Sir Frank Vickers, Miss Joan
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Marshall, Douglas Wade, D. W.
Crosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Mathew, R. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Gurden, Harold Mawby, R. L. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Wall, Patrick
Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mott-Radolyffe, Sir Charles Webbe, Sir H.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Nabarro, G. D. N. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Nairn, D. L. S. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Neave, Airey Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Oakshott, H. D. Wood, Hon. R.
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. C. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Woollam, John Victor
Hesketh, R. F. Osborne, C. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Page, R. G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wytnenshawe) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Mr. Bryan and Mr. Gibson-Watt.
Hirst, Geoffrey
Ainsley, J. W. Champion, A. J. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Chetwynd, G. R. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Clunie, J. Grey, C. F.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Coldrick, W. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Awbery, S. S. Collick, p. H. (Birkenhead) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Bacon, Miss Alice Collins, V.J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hamilton, W. W.
Bents, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Corbet, Mrs. Freda Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)
Benson, Sir George Cove, W. G. Hastings, S.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Crossman, R. H. S. Hayman, F. H.
Blackburn, F. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)
Boardman, H. Deer, G. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Delargy, H. J. Holman, P.
Bowden, H. W. (Lel[...]ester, S.W.) Diamond, John Houghton, Douglas
Boyd, T. C. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Dye, S. Hoy, J. H.
Brockway, A. F. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness(Caerphilly) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Hunter, A. E.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Fernyhough, E. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Burke, W. A. Foot, D. M, Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Forman, J. C. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Carmichael, J. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Janner, B.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Gibson, C. W. Jeger, George (Goole)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pncs. S.) Mort, D. L. Short, E. W.
Johnson, James (Rugby) Moss, R. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Moyle, A. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Sparks, J. A.
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Oliver, G. H. Storehouse, John
Kenyon, C. Oram, A. E. Stones, W. (Consett)
Lawson, G. M. Orbach, M. Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Ledger, R. J. Oswald, T. Sylvester, G. O.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Owen, W. J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Padley, W. E. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Lindgren, G. S. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Logan, D. G. Palmer, A. M. F. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Thornton, E.
McAlister, Mrs. Mary Pargiter, G. A. Tomney, F.
McCann, J. Parker, J. Usborne, H. C.
MacColl, J. E. Paton, John Viant, S. P.
McGhee, H. G. Pentland, N. West, D. G.
McGovern, J. Popplewell, E. Wheeldon, W. E.
McInnes, J. Prentice, R. E. Witcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Willey, Frederick
McLeavy, Frank Probert, A. R. Williams, David (Neath)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Proctor, W. T. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Rankin, John Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Mahon, Simon Redhead, E. C. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brlgg) Reeves, J. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Reid, William Winterbottom, Richard
Mann, Mrs. Jean Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Mason, Roy Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Mellish, R. J. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Zilliacus, K.
Messer, Sir F. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mi[...]chison, G. R. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Moody, A. S. Ross, William
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.