HC Deb 09 December 1964 vol 703 cc1735-84
Mr. Houghton

I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 1, line 14, after "to", to insert: the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and to".

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J. C. Jennings)

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if this Amendment and Amendment No. 36, in page 1, line 17, to leave out paragraph (c), were discussed together.

Mr. Houghton

Because of the dwindling numbers on the benches opposite, and the modest and uncontroversial nature of the Amendments, we might make a little speedier progress. The Amendment would enable the Prime Minister to have the same degree of flexibility in determining the salary of the Chief Secretary as he has in determining the salaries of Ministers of State. It was the Conservative Government who created the office of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but it was not necessary for them to create a separate paid office of Chief Secretary because they used for that purpose another office already provided for—the Paymaster-General.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has appointed to the office of Paymaster-General a right hon. Gentleman who is not the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so it was necessary to make separate provision for the Chief Secretary for the first time. That was done by relying on the definition of, and provision for. Ministers of State in Section 13(1) of the House of Commons Disqualification Act. 1957. When the Government framed the Bill they decided that it would be appropriate to set out in it, for the approval of the House, just what the Prime Minister had done—no more; no less. Therefore, the office of Chief Secretary was separately provided for.

It is provided for in subsection (1,c) and, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will see, the reference to Chief Secretary to the Treasury is to be found on page 5, line 9, in Schedule 2. Since the Chief Secretary has been appointed at a salary of £4,500, as provided for in subsection (1,c) he is distinguishable from Ministers of State, for whom there is provision in subsection (1,b) for the salaries to be fixed by the Prime Minister at an amount not exceeding in any case £5,000. In that respect the Chief Secretary is distinguishable from Ministers of State, because Ministers of State may be given salaries not exceeding £5,000 a year, whereas the Chief Secretary has a fixed salary of £4,500.

In looking at the Bill which implements the Report of the Lawrence Committee—the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill, which was introduced today—we find that it will be necessary to distinguish the Chief Secretary from all other Ministers, in respect of salaries. It now seems that it would be more convenient to include the Chief Secretary in the provision for Ministers of State. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] So that the Prime Minister can have the same flexibility in fixing the salary of the Chief Secretary as he already has in fixing the salaries of Ministers of State.

I would also refer to the comments made by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in the Second Reading debate about the office of Chief Secretary. He said that he thought that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury should be in the Cabinet. He also said that he must deal with his senior colleagues from a position of equality, and that in this change the Minister is deliberately downgraded, and so on. It would be impossible to include the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the Cabinet if he remained in a position on the salary list below that of Minister of Cabinet rank. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am not suggesting for a moment that my right hon. Friend has any intention of putting the Chief Secretary in the Cabinet at present. I have no means of knowing what his wishes or intentions may be, but if the Committee accepts the Amendment, then for this and subsequent Parliaments a Chief Secretary thus appointed would be in a position to go into the Cabinet if the Prime Minister wished, because the Prime Minister has the power, under Clause 2(1,b), to fix the salary of the Chief Secretary at an amount not exceeding £5,000 a year, which is that of a Minister of Cabinet rank—

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Houghton

No, no, no, no.

Mr. Hirst

Give way.

Mr. Houghton

The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Sir O. Crosthwaite-Eyre) has just come into the Chamber and I will certainly not give way to him.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwin) rose

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The hon. Member knows quite well that if the Minister will not give way he must resume his seat.

Several Hon. Members rose

Colonel Sir Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest)

On a point of order. I have been present at the debate for a long time.

The Temporary Chairman

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Houghton

I hoped that the Committee wished to make some progress.

Mr. Hirst

Stop being arrogant.

Mr. Houghton

I was in the course of a perfectly reasonable argument. If hon. Members have questions to ask, we can deal with them during the debate.

Sir O. Crosthwaite-Eyre rose

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Houghton

See what humbug we have all been listening to about wanting to make progress. What wretched hypocrites hon. Members are. They never intended to make progress.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The right hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the Amendment.

Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)

On a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Jennings, whether the word "hypocrites" is customary Parliamentary language.

The Temporary Chairman

It is a regrettable word to use and I think that the right hon. Gentleman should be magnanimous enough to withdraw it.

Mr. Michael Foot

On a point of order. Is it not a fact that you are called upon to rule on order, Mr. Jennings, not on what may be your opinion on magnanimity?

The Temporary Chairman

The word "hypocrites" is one of the proscribed words in the House. On that basis I gave my Ruling. It was not an opinion, it was not a thought. It is the tradition of the House that the use of the word is proscribed.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Further to that point of order. Is not the use of the word "hypocrite" proscribed only when it applies to an individual? If that is so, in view of the fact that my right hon. Friend attributed it to all hon. Members opposite in general—

Mr. Michael Foot


Mr. Loughlin

—and accurately—is not the word in order?

The Temporary Chairman

If the hon. Member looks at page 471 of Erskine May he will find that the word "hypocrites" is used in the plural. I am, therefore, perfectly justified in my Ruling.

Hon. Members


12.45 a.m.

Mr. Houghton

As I was saying, I was in the course of explaining to the Committee not only what the Amendment proposes to do—

Hon. Members


Sir H. Butcher

Having ruled, Mr. Jennings, that "hypocrite", in the plural, is not permitted, may I ask you to request the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw it?

The Temporary Chairman

I have so ruled that the word "hypocrites", used in the plural, is a proscribed word, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Mr. Houghton

I did not use the word in the plural.

The Temporary Chairman

Order, order. If the word was not used in the plural, then the case is made much worse. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw it and let us try to get on with the business.

Mr. Houghton

Since you have now formally asked me to withdraw it, of course, I most readily do so.

I was saying, when this most unhappy interlude blew up, by way of explanation of this Amendment, why the Government had thought it proper for it to be put down. We hope that it will appeal to the Committee as a convenient and suitable course to take.

When hon. Members study the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill, they will see that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is out on a limb. He is specially listed, and has a separate salary arrangement fixed for him, and it would be more convenient if he could be listed with other Ministers of State. It would certainly give the Prime Minister more flexibility. That is all. There is nothing sinister about this at all. It is not imperative that the Amendment should be made, but it would be convenient and appropriate if, in the circumstances, it is made.

The present Chief Secretary has a salary at present below £5,000 in order to distinguish him from other Ministers of Cabinet rank who are receiving £5,000. Existing provisions limit the salary which the Prime Minister may make to Ministers of State to £5,000; although it can be £5,000, and can then be an office of Cabinet rank. However, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury could not be included in the Cabinet, in accordance with the conventions of the matter, if he remained on a salary which was permanently below that for Ministers of Cabinet rank.

I hope that the Committee will now feel that this is an appropriate Amendment, and allow us to add it to the Bill.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I welcome the fact that the Chancellor of the Duchy has moved this Amendment and, incidentally, I am glad that reinforcements have appeared on the Treasury Bench, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who will, we hope, bring to our business that moderation and sense of calm deliberation for which he is famed. I should like to know why £4,500 was ever put in the Bill to begin with—

Mr. Houghton

I should like to answer that straight away. It was because the salary of the Chief Secretary is £4,500, and it was thought better to include in the Bill the existing position of the Chief Secretary.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

That is not quite an answer to the question. I understand why it was put in the Bill, but why was the salary ever fixed at £4,500? That was not the case before. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, when my right hon. Friend was Chief Secretary he was also Paymaster-General—and we are all grateful that the present Paymaster-General is not also Chief Secretary. That does not quite dispose of the point of having it put at £4,500. We are surprised that it was done, and that the salary was ever fixed at that amount.

I think it an improvement to move the Chief Secretary up to paragraph (b). It gives him the hope of better things, but I must say that it only puts him in a position in which his salary is fixed by the Prime Minister. I cannot believe that to be satisfactory. Whatever may have been the practice under any Government before, I do not think that it is right that the salaries of Ministers should be decided by the Prime Minister according to their personality and not according to their position. It is an interesting point, but it is an important constitutional one, and I do not think that it means the position of Chief Secretary is necessarily improved.

What we sought to establish on Second Reading was that this was an important post; that its purpose was to relieve the Chancellor of the Exchequer of some of his heavy responsibilities for dealing with his colleagues over matters of public expenditure. Now that the right hon. Member for Belper will not have the Chancellor on the National Economic Development Council, the Chancellor may perhaps have more time to deal with matters of public expenditure.

I cannot believe that it is an improvement, or that the right hon. Gentleman means it to be a permanent set-up, but it makes nonsense of the N.E.D.C. that the Minister responsible for monetary and fiscal policy not to be a member of that Council. Perhaps it is a matter for debate on another occasion but, up to the present, the right hon. Gentleman has got his way and has succeeded in excluding the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I believe that the responsibility of the Chancellor for individual items of expenditure has, in the past, made it difficult for him to attend to this as much as he attends to his other duties of dealing with economic policy, fiscal policy and monetary policy. It was a substantial improvement in the organisation of the Government for the Chief Secretary to be a member of the Cabinet, and to be able to deal with his colleagues on a basis of equality over matters of expenditure. I do not think that it is satisfactory to have the Chief Secretary in a degraded position as compared with his colleagues with whom he deals.

I admit that this is an improvement, but I should have been much happier had there been a clear statement that it is the intention of the Government that the Chief Secretary should be a member of the Cabinet. I acknowledge that the Government have come some way to meeting my point of view and, subject to the many questions that my hon. Friends will no doubt have to address to the right hon. Gentleman on this interesting point, I should be disposed to advise them not to vote against the Amendment.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has advanced the very strange argument for giving the Prime Minister an option in the matter of wanting the Chief Secretary to come into the Cabinet, and that no Chief Secretary could be a member of the Cabinet unless he was paid at least £5,000 a year. That is a new doctrine, and one which we do not understand. No doubt the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with his long knowledge of English constitutional history, will recollect that from 1841 until 1846 the Duke of Wellington was a member of Sir Robert Peel's Government without taking any salary at all, and it did not seem to inhibit him from giving the views and accepting the responsibilities that the Duke of Wellington normally did.

I do not know why a man cannot be a member of the Cabinet if he is receiving only £4,500 a year. That was the right hon. Gentleman's chief argument, and if ever there was a feebler argument than that I should like the Committee to name it. There is no special quality, no charismatic quality, in a salary of £5,000 in order to be in the Cabinet. Some get more, and no doubt in the past some have had less. If that is the only argument, it is not enough. To increase the number of people whose salary is at the whim of the Prime Minister is an extremely dangerous constitutional state of affairs.

I do not know why Ministers of State should be able to have their salaries varied by the Prime Minister, but no doubt I should be ruled out of order if I were to elaborate that, which I would be perfectly happy to do and will proceed to do unless I am ruled out of order. I can hang this argument on the peg of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, whom we all admire and like very much. As is well known, he is a dedicated European. He believes strongly, and has said so on many occasions, that we should join the European Economic Community.

The Temporary Chairman

I hope that the hon. and learned Member will get back to the narrow path of the Amendment, and leave Europe alone.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Bowing to your Ruling, Mr. Jennings, I am trying to imagine circumstances in which the Prime Minister might be so angry with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that he might seek to reduce his salary. The Amendment would give him power to do so. It would give him power to punish the Chief Secretary if he were to revert to his European ideal and therefore I think it is extremely relevant—

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Might the Prime Minister not wish to punish the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for not being present in the Committee when the Committee would have liked to have seen him?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

It might well be that the Chief Secretary might revert to his previous loyalties to the European ideal and might wish to promulgate his previous ideas. I am glad that the deputy Prime Minister is here, because this is a matter dealing with the machinery of government. We have been most surprised, on this side of the Committee, that the deputy Prime Minister, who is at present carrying on the burdens of the premiership, has not been here at all, as far as I know, during the course of the afternoon and evening on a Bill that concerns the machinery of government. It is interesting that at one o'clock in the morning he should decide to come here. [Interruption.]

Mr. Loughlin

On a point of order. Is the word "renegade" in the list of words which it is out of order to use in this Chamber?

The Temporary Chairman

I did not hear the word used, but to my knowledge it is not on the list of proscribed expressions.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

It is a dangerous principle that the Prime Minister may vary either upwards or downwards the salary of a Minister according to his whim, and this is what the Amendment seeks to permit. It seeks to add to the number of Ministers whom the Prime Minister may either promote or reduce in salary without presenting the matter to the House or in any way amending legislation, and without even laying an Order.

It seems to me that we should not increase the numbers. If anything, we should reduce them. If we are urged, as we are by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, that the only reason for doing this is that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury may be asked to be a member of the Cabinet, which I would very much welcome, it seems to me a very inferior and inadequate reason. I therefore oppose it.

1.0 a.m.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Flexibility of salary is applicable least of all to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, because I understand it to be his function to ensure that the budgets of the various Departments are strictly adhered to. If his own salary is not fixed, but is under the control of someone who is not under the control of the Chief Secretary, this puts him in a most embarrassing position. It is disappointing that the hon. Gentleman is not here. If it is asked why he should be, I answer with this analogy.

Later in the Session, the House will probably have to discuss the salaries of individual Members, and, if the same precedent is followed, there will not be anyone in the Chamber to discuss them. Apparently, it is the policy of the Government not to have anyone on the Front Bench who can speak with firsthand knowledge of the subjects under debate. This does not augur well for progress either on this Bill or on any other which may be presented in this Parliament, short though we hope it will be.

We understand that Amendment No. 36 is consequential on No. 35, but we have yet to perceive the consequences on which it is sought to justify No. 35. We have heard the proposition that, constitutionally, people without salary or people with lower salaries cannot be in the Cabinet, but this was based on nothing but the desire of the Chancellor of the Duchy to produce an argument, however hollow. He has not justified it at all. The Prime Minister is paid a lot more than other members of the Cabinet. Does this mean that the other members must now be brought up to his level?

No case for flexibility in this respect has been made out. A very good case has often been made for greater control over public expenditure, and this, I promise the right hon. Gentleman, the Government will hear about increasingly from this side of the Committee. Already, there may well be something amiss in the way of unauthorised expenditure. An Amendment moved specifically to enable public expenditure further to be increased, without the sanction of the House and, presumably, without even a Royal Warrant—I am not sure how it will be done—augurs badly for the task which the Chef Secretary has specifically in his charge.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can hardly blame us if we take a little time in asking for elucidation. He ought to know that it is no good making a rather brief exposition and then making Hitlerian gestures across the Floor in order to try to silence critics. If he does that, he must expect questions and speeches afterwards. If he had given way, I for one should not have wanted to ask some questions now. [Interruption.] Interjections of that kind from "Mutt and Jeff" below the Gangway have not the slightest impression on me, except that they make me more assiduous in probing these matters than I otherwise would be.

Where is the constitutional rule to be found in history, statute or common law which lays down that a Minister must have a certain salary if he is to be a member of the Cabinet? If the right hon. Gentleman wants this stage of the Bill to be passed, he must give an explanation.

Why are the Government having this Amendment at all? Presumably they have given the Bill the same careful thought that they have given to all their Measures so far. All their Measures have been carefully thought out and discreetly handled at home and abroad so that everybody is satisfied with the diplomatic way in which the Government have handled them. Why is there, then, a sudden Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman? What has happened to make the Amendment necessary?

It has already been remarked that the Chief Secretary, who will benefit from this, is not here. We do not know the arrangements, but I should have thought that the Minister who is the subject of this keen and eager debate might have been here to hear his fate decided. This brings me to my next point, that we understand that even if the right hon. Gentleman were here and heard his salary decided, we could give him only an approximate figure because apparently the Prime Minister is able to vary it at any moment he wishes to do so. Is that salary to be altered annually, quarterly or monthly, or in what circumstances? Will it be according to whether the right hon. Gentleman is doing a good or a bad job? In what circumstances, as the Prime Minister can fix it, is the salary to be fixed or varied?

Unless these questions are answered, I shall have great delight in contemplating, during the next few minutes, whether there are other questions to be asked before we can make progress.

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

May I ask you, Mr. Jennings, whether it would be in order to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question relating to paragraph (c), which appears in the Bill in italics, and its relationship to paragraph (b), which is not in italics? Would it be in order for me to ask that question now, or should I leave it until we reach the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", in which case I can go out and prepare a longer speech?

The Temporary Chairman

If it is relevant to the Amendment, it is all right. Otherwise, it will be all right on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".

Mr. Grant-Ferris

I am sure that you will stop me if I ought to stop, Mr. Jennings, and I shall gladly sit down and wait. I was about to ask the right hon. Gentleman why the words in paragraph (c) are printed in italics. I believe—I do not know whether I am right—that it means that another place cannot amend the paragraph. If so, what is the subtle difference in the case of the words in paragraph (b) which are not in italics? Am I to understand that they can be altered in another place?

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy will appreciate that there is a very serious point behind this Amendment. The Opposition appreciate very much that the seriousness of the Amendment has been shown by the fact that we have the First Secretary of State with us. He has been here on many occasions late in the evening when matters like this have been discussed. We are delighted that he has taken over the duties of the Leader of the House. He has obviously been summoned here to take charge of our proceedings.

At an earlier stage I wanted to move an Amendment to make it inevitable for the Chief Secretary to the Treasury automatically to have a salary of £5,000, but it would probably have been outside the terms of the Money Resolution had I moved it at that time. I wanted to do it because I thought that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury had been very unfairly treated. I say this on two counts. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) is the first Chief Secretary to the Treasury ever not to have been made one of Her Majesty's Privy Councillors. It is a very serious point.

The second reason why the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has been unfairly treated is because he has not been given the same salary as so many of his more senior colleagues. But my illusions were somewhat shattered when we came to the Committee and Report stages of the Finance Bill and had the privilege and pleasure of listening to some of the Chief Secretary's speeches. Any Hon. Member present then would agree that it is doubtful whether the Chief Secretary did earn the salary of £4,500 he is to be paid to come to the House.

The serious point in this, regardless of the practice of the previous Government, is whether or not it should be proper for the First Lord of the Treasury to be able to fix the salaries of the junior Ministers who serve beneath him. I do not know whether junior Ministers would like their departmental Ministers to be able to fix their salaries. I hope we shall have some justification for this, because it seems to me to be totally reprehensible.

The Chief Secretary has important functions. He should be placed on the same level as other Ministers of State. They should not be able to have their salaries arbitrarily fixed. They should have fixed salaries and the same sort of salaries as members of the Cabinet. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he replies will deal with this constitutional point.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

I am reluctant to take part in this debate at all. Frankly, I could not care less what public money is wasted on these Ministers of the Crown, because I am convinced that it will not be for long. I think that we shall be able to put this right in due course.

On the other hand, the Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster packed so much nonsense into such a short time, that I really did feel compelled to make some observations on what he said. The first thing I wish to, refer to is his astonishing statement about parity of salaries in the Cabinet. This is really carrying union rules too far. The Chancellor of the Duchy has only got to look at the past records of Government after Government for a large number of years to find out that members of the Cabinet have had different salaries and have been none the worse for that. His is the shop steward outlook instead of the statesman's and I deeply regret that the right hon. Gentleman should have followed that.

I do not think that our efforts to try to improve a bad Bill justified the reaction of the wolf howls, such as I have never heard before from a Minister, coming from him. I must say I enjoyed them and hope that I will hear more again. I was terrified, however, that the right hon. Gentleman was going to sling the water bottle across the House before his neighbour on the Treasury Bench had a chance to pour it over him and cool him down. We cannot really encourage this sort of attack which, I consider, would be unparliamentary.

The other point I wish to bring up is that to allow salaries to be varied up and down at the will of the Prime Minister is not just constitutional nonsense, but constitutional treachery.

1.15 a.m.

Mr. Swain

On a point of order. Whilst appreciating the limited vocabulary of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), and sympathising with his apparent impediment, may I ask whether the word "treachery" is a proscribed word in the House of Commons?

The Temporary Chairman

I did not hear the word "treachery", but if I had it would not have applied to any particular person. Therefore, I rule it to be within order in the term used.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Further to that point of order. It would be greatly to the benefit of the Committee if you could read out the list of proscribed words, Mr. Jennings.

The Temporary Chairman

If the hon. Member will see me I will give him a list of proscribed words.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Further to that point of order. Would it be in order, during the course of the speech I hope to make if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, to read out the list of proscribed words purely for the guidance of hon. Members and not about anyone in particular?

The Temporary Chairman

Not on this Amendment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross

If, Mr. Jennings, you did not hear the word "treachery", how do you know the term in which it was applied?

The Temporary Chairman

Hypothetical powers.

Mr. Wise

I think, whatever the limitations of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain), he is just capable of reading the list himself, but possibly only just. I see no reason why he should not be encouraged to do his own homework, although I would listen with pleasure to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) reading out the list of proscribed words to which I hope that, shortly, the word "leper" will be added.

The suggestion that salaries can be varied up or down is astonishing. It is reducing the Committee to saying, "Ours but to do the Fhürer's will" in this matter. The Prime Minister has already reduced half his party to voiceless slaves and the Bill completes the process—unless, of course, next year the Prime Minister takes all the hon. Members below the Gangway into the Government as well.

Mr. Swain

They would be more intelligent than the last Administration.

Mr. Wise

The hon. Member suggests that this assemblage of 120 Members is more intelligent than the last Administration. I would be prepared to admit that it takes at least 120 hon. Members opposite to have the equivalent I.Q. of about 10 of ours.

We have not had from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster replies to many of these pertinent questions. First, there is the constitutional problem which I hope he will deal with. Secondly, there is the question whether there is or is not to be any limitation of the Prime Minister's powers to vary salaries up or down, according to the state of his liver at breakfast time. I do not know whether the First Secretary of State can speak for his Führer in this matter, but I hope that somebody will be able to do so.

There is another explanation I should like. The Bill was introduced less than five weeks ago. Surely those who drew it up—those who are supposed to be so much more intelligent than their predecessors—could have thought of the Chief Secretary's salary while doing so. Probably they forgot, or did not realise there was a Chief Secretary or something of that sort. Why, after five weeks, is it necessary to introduce an Amendment to a Bill which, presumably, was thought out before it was brought in? Or was it not thought out? Does this represent just one mad rush to pacify the intransigent element by giving them office at the earliest possible moment and then remembering afterwards that the mess has to be cleared up?

These are pertinent questions and I hope that we are to have some answers to them before proceeding to the next Amendment. I also hope that the Committee will have the opportunity to divide twice—on the first Amendment and the second. Having defeated the first, we should vote for the second quite firmly in order to deprive the Chief Secretary of any salary. That would be just about as much as any right hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite is worth.

Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst

We have fixed by Statute the salaries which are paid to Ministers, Ministers of State, Secretaries of State and Parliamentary Secretaries. That there should be a fluctuation in salary of up to £5,000 for a particular Minister is a complete departure from our practice. I would not quarrel with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as some of my hon. Friends would, about withdrawing paragraph (c), because I agree with his second thought that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury should have the £5,000 which we customarily pay to members of the Cabinet.

What I find repugnant, and what would be a great embarrassment, is the provision that the Prime Minister of the day should be able to chop and change the rate for the job for a specific appointment, so that a new Chief Secretary would not know until appointed whether he was to get more or less than his predecessor. I always thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite stuck rigidly to the principle that a man or woman should be paid the rate for the job.

I can imagine the embarrassing circumstances which might arise if a Chief Secretary were promoted or went out of office and someone were appointed to succeed him. It would be no compliment to and no expression of confidence in the successor if he were to be paid less. He would be placed in an extremely invidious position in relation to the other members of the Cabinet who would know that they were to get £5,000 a year, or whatever might be the future fixed rate for the job.

A very small category of Ministers would be at the disadvantage of having their salaries fixed by the Prime Minister of the day instead of being laid down by Statute, as has hitherto been our practice. Paying a newly appointed Chief Secretary a lower rate than his predecessor would place the unfortunate successor in an invidious position and it would be a departure from tradition. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his proposal.

Mr. Bowden

May I, at this point, in rather calmer atmosphere, say that we have had discussions through the usual channels about further progress with the Bill, and I think that we have reached a reasonable compromise—that we should tonight complete Clause 2—the Clause now under discussion—and tomorrow, as first Order, take the whole of the remaining stages of the Bill by eight o'clock, which is the agreed time. After that, we would take the remaining stages of the Severn Tunnel Bill. If that is acceptable to the Opposition, I am quite sure that it is workable, that the Amendments could be discussed in detail, and we shall all get home rather earlier.

The Temporary Chairman

We are discussing an Amendment. We are in the middle of one. If this is to be discussed, the right hon. Gentleman will have to move to report Progress.

Mr. Bowden

Then I formally beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I cannot resist saying that had the Leader of the House adopted this attitude a little earlier in the day a good deal of time might have been saved. I certainly would be disposed to agree that it would be for the convenience of the Committee to try to complete Clause 2 tonight. In my judgment, four hours later today should be sufficient to conclude the remaining stages of the Bill.

Mr. Grimond

I think that everybody will be obliged to the Leader of the House for his announcement. I am interested in the business due to come on last tomorrow, that is, the Motion on the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services. Is it intended to take that or not?

Mr. Bowden

Yes. It is the intention to take that Motion.

Mr. Hirst

If this arrangement has been made, there is not a great deal which I, as an ordinary back bencher, can say about it. As I said to the right hon. Gentleman earlier—firmly, but, I hope, respectfully—I appreciate his willingness to meet the Committee in this matter. I would like to make an appeal, none the less, for the future. If this arrangement is to be made—as it often has to be made by Governments with the Opposition—it should not be made so suddenly. It is very inconvenient to many hon. Members to be suddenly faced with a change of business on the same day—though not the same parliamentary day—in a matter of this kind. It should have been arranged for Monday.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give rather more consideration in future to the convenience of the House. It is extremely inconvenient for many hon. Members to be suddenly faced, at 1.30 in the morning, with the announcement that the business, effectively on this day—though not a Parliamentary day—is to be changed. This is a constitutional Bill. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) will not mind my saying that he should not have agreed to this arrangement. I hope that he, too, will have more consideration for ordinary hon. Members in the future.

I am deeply disturbed that this arrangement has been made, though I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intended courtesy to the House. I think, however, that he should also show more consideration for other hon. Members. He will find, I believe, that this arrangement is inconvenient to the majority of hon. Members here.

The Temporary Chairman

Mr. McLoughlin.

Mr. Loughlin

May I point out, for the purpose of the record, that my name is Loughlin? I do so with deep respect to you, Mr. Jennings.

The Temporary Chairman

I apologise to the hon. Member for my mistake.

Mr. Loughlin

I left the Chamber for a moment or two. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider the question of reporting Progress when we have got Clause 2. Many of us on this side have been more than patient with hon. Members opposite, who have persistently obstructed by speeches—

Mr. Wise

On a point of order. Am I not correct, Mr. Jennings, in saying that the use of the word "obstructed" is disorderly and should be withdrawn?

The Temporary Chairman

I am sorry, but I cannot hear the hon. Member.

Mr. Wise

Am I not correct, Mr. Jennings, in saying that the word "obstructed" is unparliamentary and should be withdrawn?

The Temporary Chairman

I do not consider that unparliamentary. If we do no worse than that, we will get along happily.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Loughlin

I am surprised that the hon. Member takes exception to a word which I used in a gentle manner. He should know, because he sometimes attends debates in the House of Commons—not very often, but sometimes—that my choice of language can be a little stronger than the word "obstruction" as used in that context. Hon. Members opposite have been making speeches that were unnecessarily long and were not always as closely related to the Amendments and the discussion as they should have been.

Sir H. Butcher

On a point of order, Mr. Steele. Is not that a reflection upon the conduct of your predecessor in the Chair, and should it not be withdrawn?

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Steele)

I am sorry, but I did not clearly hear what the hon. Member said.

Mr. Loughlin

I merely said that the speeches of some hon. Members opposite were not as closely related to the Amendments as they should have been. I recollect that on a number of occasions this point has been raised in Committee and has been discussed.

I cannot see why we should suddenly decide to go home at an early hour, at an hour which we have passed on a number of occasions when right hon. and hon. Members opposite occupied this side of the Committee, when they wanted to get the business through and they were prepared to keep us here until breakfast time. On a number of occasions in the last Parliament, when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in charge of legislation, I well remember being here until breakfast time. In view of the remarks made by hon. Members opposite about the importance of tonight's legislation, the legislation that we discussed on those occasions was certainly, if I may take the word of hon. Members opposite for it, not as important as this legislation.

I am rather surprised that the Leader of the House—

Hon. Members


Sir F. Bennett

The hon. Member will not get a job.

Mr. Loughlin

I not only will not get a job, but I will not get knighted, either. The services for knighthood have not yet been defined. I should like to know what they are. When I look at the benches opposite, and see the number of knights there—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. We are discussing another kind of night.

Mr. Loughlin

I thought that it would be a long day's night, but, unfortunately, it appears that it is not to be. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend would give us the opportunity of carrying on our debate until we reached some of the Clauses in which hon. Members on this side are particularly interested. We have been patient with hon. Members opposite in listening to the debate on the Clause in which they have been interested.

I should like my right hon. Friend to reconsider the arrangement which, apparently, has been made. Instead of conceding to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are obviously so tired, the opportunity of going home, as they want to do, I do not see why we who are not so tired should not continue with our work. I do not see why we should be sent home simply because the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) is fatigued as a result of the way in which he has been jumping up and down and shouting. I do not see why we should be treated in this manner.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be too impetuous. The night is young. I would ask him not to succumb to the blandishments of hon. Members opposite, but, instead, decide that we shall get the Bill. If the Bill is necessary, as in the earlier part of the evening we said it is necessary, we ought to go all out to ensure that we on this side intend to govern completely. We ought to say to the people of Britain that certain legislation is necessary, that the situation with which we are faced is one of urgency, and that we are prepared to work, and to work additionally long hours, to carry out the mandate which has been given to us.

I see no reason at all why this important Measure should not be got tonight—through Committee, Report, and Third Reading.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

The hon. Member is not getting much support from his own side.

Mr. Loughlin

I hope that some of my hon. Friends, having been so patient for so long, will be prepared to ensure that their voice will be heard and that even if we do not get the Bill hon. and right hon. Members opposite will still be here at breakfast time, because what they are worried about is that all their troops are going home, as one can see in Division after Division—

Sir D. Glover

On a point of order. It seems to me, Mr. Steele, that though, as I admit, this was started by the Leader of the House, we are wildly out of order, As I understand, we are halfway through a discussion on an Amendment to Clause 2.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Thomas Steele)

The question whether this is out of order or not is a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Loughlin

My hon. Friends are urging me to keep going. We are in Committee, and one may make 10 speeches. I have made 10 speeches in Committee before on a matter when it was necessary. [Interruption.] I can wait till hon. Gentlemen have finished their private committee meeting. I am quite prepared to stand here and wait till they keep order. I want, finally, to say that hon. Members opposite are desirous of finishing now only because of the reduction of their numbers here, as can be ascertained in each Division. The only reason they want to go home is that they do not want to be exposed further as unable to maintain real opposition. They are not an Opposition. They are as incapable in opposition as they were in Government. Let us forget this nonsense about going home. Let us stay and complete the proceedings on the Bill.

Mr. Robert Cooke

While the Leader of the House is considering what to do about that somewhat hysterical outburst from the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) perhaps I could ask him to put the record straight. I assume that it needs to be put straight. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some of the issues tomorrow being concerned with the Severn Tunnel Junction Bill. I was not aware that any such Bill was before the House. I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman has had some experience of waiting at that unpleasant railway station, but surely the Bill in question deals with the Severn Road Bridge, a vital matter started by my right hon. Friends? I hope that he will make it clear that this is the Measure to be taken, and that perhaps even tomorrow will be an opportune moment to take it.

With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, the Severn Road Bridge is designed to connect the civilised territories which I help to represent with the somewhat barbarous land represented by him.

Mr. Bowden

I stand corrected. I was referring to the Severn Bridge.

My hon. Friends, many of them quite new to the House, may not have appreciated that the usual channels make the working of Parliament possible. They may not have appreciated, too, that it is part of my duty, as Leader of the House, to see that the Government get their business through. It is extremely important for the Government to get this Bill through all its stages before the end of the year.

We have reached agreement through the usual channels. We would have preferred to have got all the stages of the Bill through yesterday and during the night. It is obvious that that could not have happened. We have reached this agreement, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will adhere to it so that we can get Clause 2 of the Bill and continue with the debate, as I have suggested, at half-past three tomorrow.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely

As a result of the arrangement to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, to which I take no exception, presumably the Motions on the Army and Air Force Acts will have to be stood over. They were to be taken formally so that we could have a general debate on the Armed Forces. I hope that we shall not lose the opportunity of having that debate.

Mr. Bowden

There is no intention of losing that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Hon. Members


The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Thomas Steele)

The Question is—

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am somewhat unfamiliar with the usage of the Committee, and I should be obliged for your guidance, Mr. Steele. When the football began to be kicked around the Chamber, a few minutes ago, it seemed that we were discussing the Bill now before the Committee, and, in particular, the Clause dealing with the salary of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I am a little lost as to where we have got to, and before continuing I shall be obliged if you would give me some guidance.

The Temporary Chairman

We have got to the point where I have to put the Question. There was some objection to the Motion being withdrawn, so I must put the Question.

Question put and negatived.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)

If we are back on the Amendment which we were discussing before we got on to the Motion, perhaps I might put a point to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which, I think, it may be worth looking at carefully. If he will look at subsection (2,b) he will see that it deals with "any Minister of State", and that subsection (2,c) deals with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. If he then turns to Schedule 2 and looks at the list of ministerial offices he will see that the Minister of State comes in line 24 and the Chief Secretary in line 25. In the Amendment he proposes to delete subsection (2,c), so that we shall have subsection (2,b) reading: to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to any Minister of State which will mean that the Chief Secretary will come before the Ministers of State, whereas in Schedule 2 the Ministers of State come before the Chief Secretary.

This seems to indicate that whoever drafted the Amendment it was somebody other than the person who drafted the Bill. It will look peculiar if we find the Chief Secretary coming before the Ministers of State in the Clause and following them in the Schedule. In those circumstances it may be that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on Report, will want to alter the order of Ministers, either in the Clause or in the Schedule.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

After that remarkable repudiation of the Leader of the House we resume consideration of the Amendment. I want to remind the Committee of one of the main arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman—who might address himself to my remarks. If I remember rightly, he suggested that the Bill, as it was, was a reflection of the action which the Prime Minister had taken and a reflection of the Government as it was actually constituted.

Mr. Houghton indicated assent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The right hon. Gentleman nods assent. That was his justification for making an alteration so early in the life of the Bill. Will he cast his eye a little further along the Clause? Right at the end he will find mention of a person called the Secretary for Overseas Trade. As I understand, the Prime Minister has not appointed a Secretary for Overseas Trade. I cannot go into the matter in detail at the moment, but at a later stage this morning—probably much later—we shall be able to have a detailed discussion on it, because there is an Amendment dealing with it.

The point is that on his own argument the Bill is not a reflection of the Government as constituted by the Prime Minister. There is a significant variation in it, and that significant variation is the one to which I have just drawn attention. We are, therefore, entitled to ask why, so early in the life of the Bill—so soon after it was drafted—it was found necessary to make a major change from a fixed salary for the Chief Secretary to one that makes it dependent upon the whim of the Prime Minister of the day.

Throughout the right hon. Gentleman's remarkably good-humoured remarks—in view of the long innings he has had on the Government Front Bench today—he used the phrase "enables the Prime Minister to fix the salary of the Ministers of State". As we are now discussing the Chief Secretary to the Treasury I should be grateful for some clear guidance, when he replies, on the question—it has been asked before, but it should be re-emphasised—whether it is his understanding, as the Bill is drafted, that it also enables the Prime Minister to vary the salaries.

Is that the right hon. Gentleman's reading of subsection (2,b), as it will be amended if the Committee accepts the Amendment? Is it possible for the Prime Minister to vary it? My reading is that it is possible, but we should like to have the right hon. Gentleman's authoritative confirmation. It seems to my hon. Friends and myself very undesirable to add yet further, in a very important particular, to the lists of those whose salaries can be varied by the Prime Minister. The arguments have been fully deployed and I will not repeat them, although in the light of recent events we can take the subject leisurely. We should like to hear authoritatively whether variation is possible.

I should also be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would confirm whether a minimum value is stipulated anywhere by the Bill. Does he feel that the correct interpretation of subsection (2,b), even as it will be when amended, is that there is no statutory minimum at all? Does he feel that that is a satisfactory position?

This leads me to ask for a simple explanation why Governments in the past and the present Government have wanted to perpetuate the method set out in subsection (2,b). The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with that. He merely said that it gave the Prime Minister greater flexibility. There may be very good reasons why he feels that the Prime Minister should have this flexibility. Particularly for new hon. Members like myself, it would be useful to know why it is felt, and why the structure of Government is such, that it is helpful to have flexibility in this way, and why, in particular, it should be necessary to make it flexible in the case of the Chief Secretary. Clearly, it does not hang on the question whether he is in the Cabinet.

Those are three serious questions in connection with the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps reply.

Mr. Houghton

I will do my best to answer the questions asked, although it is a little difficult to recall some of them, in view of the intervening debate on the Motion, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again".

I was asked about the significance of Clause 2(1,a) and (1,c), which are in italics. I was asked whether Clause 2(1,b), if amended, would be open to amendment in another place whereas, as at present drafted, subsections (1,a) and (1,c) would not. I am informed that there is no significance of that kind in the different printing of the several paragraphs. Apparently subsection (1,a) and (1,c) would impose a new charge and therefore had to be printed in the Bill in italics until a Money Resolution had been passed by the House to cover the additional charge. That Money Resolution has been passed by the House and, therefore, there is no need to continue the italics for the two paragraphs. It makes no difference to the power of another place to amend the Bill.

I was asked about the Minister of State. The Prime Minister has always had the power to fix the salary of the Minister of State ever since the Reelection of Ministers Act, 1919, which first gave statutory authority to their salaries. This practice has continued under the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) asked about the Prime Minister's power to fix the salary. "Fix," in a Parliamentary sense, is a colloquial term, because it means that the Prime Minister has the power to decide what salary shall be included in the Estimates to be presented to the House. As I understand the position, the Prime Minister, having fixed the salary—that is, in theory, because the House really fixes it—the House may vary it. The constitutional answer would appear to be that, when the House has fixed the salary at whatever the figure may be, it remains the salary for the rest of the year. The Prime Minister could vary the salary but putting it into the Estimates for the following year, but I do not think that it is open to my right hon. Friend to vary it when the matter has been settled through constitutional procedure and been passed by the House.

This Clause does two things which have never been done before in relation to Ministers of State in that whereas, there was previously no limit on their number, we are now fixing a limit—and that, I hope, will be thought to be to the credit of the Government—and the second thing is that never before has there been fixed a maximum salary. So, although hon. Members opposite are taking a renewed interest in Ministers of State since the Bill came before the Committee, the truth is that during the whole 13½ years they have been in office there has not been a maximum number, nor a maximum salary.

Section 13(1) of the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, states that Minister of State' means a member of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom appointed at a salary, who neither has charge of any public department nor holds any other of the offices specified in the Second Schedule to this Act".

Sir K. Pickthorn

Are they appointed at a salary?

Mr. Houghton

What does the hon. Member mean? What does he think they are appointed at?

Sir K. Pickthorn rose

The Temporary Chairman

If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.

Mr. Houghton

I think that mine was a rhetorical question, needing no answer.

Sir K. Pickthorn rose

Mr. Houghton

It is very difficult to get matters clearly in one's mind if interruptions continue, but I want to say that the 1919 Act provided for payment of Ministers of State. I presume that prior to 1919 Ministers of State could be appointed in any number, but without salary. However, since then a Minister of State has been a Minister appointed at a salary, neither having charge of any public Department nor holding any other office specified in the 1957 Act.

Now we propose a maximum salary and a maximum number. Successive Conservative Governments have varied the amounts paid to Ministers of State—varied, that is, with the importance of the office—so that it is clear that a fixing of salary by reference to persons or functions has been within the power of the Prime Minister of the day at least for all those years. Ministers without Portfolio have ranked as Ministers of State and received £5,000; but Ministers of State in several Departments, including Education, Science, and Defence, received £4,500, while others received £3,750. So there have been three distinct salary ranges paid to Ministers of State.

2.0 a.m.

No Ministers of State have so far ever been paid more than £5,000 a year, so the Bill provides that that should be the limit, subject, of course, to the variation in the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill. The highest salary yet paid to a Minister of State is put in the Bill as the maximum that shall be paid to a Minister of State. But the Prime Minister should be able to recommend to the House a salary lower than £5,000 where-ever he thinks fit. That flexibility is in Clause 2.

We now propose that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury should be grouped with Ministers of State. However, by the Amendment he will be separately named, because Clause 2(1,b) will read "to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and to any Minister of State". He is separately named, although he will rank for the purpose of the limitation of salary as a Minister of State, for he will not be included in the number of Ministers of State—that is a separate matter. The Chief Secretary will rank as a Minister of State for salary purposes, but will not be included in the number of Ministers of State. Therefore, the reference to him in Schedule 2 in page 6 will still be in order. There will still be the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and whether he appears in the line below or the line above the Ministers of State does not matter; he will appear alongside Ministers of State.

I have been asked why there have been second thoughts about this. I should say at once that the argument I used earlier about the facility to include the Chief Secretary in the Cabinet if his salary were £5,000 was an argument—a perfectly valid one—that I thought might win the heart of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), because in a speech he made on Second Reading he was rather concerned that the Chief Secretary was not in the Cabinet, but at least I could put the Chief Secretary in a position to be put in the Cabinet without any inconvenience or difficulty.

I know enough constitutional history to realise that there is no statutory proviso that a member of the Cabinet shall receive remuneration appropriate to a Minister of Cabinet rank, but it has become the tradition, the convention, that members of the Cabinet do receive the salary of Cabinet Ministers, and other Ministers outside the Cabinet are defined as Ministers of Cabinet rank. So it was not really the Cabinet argument that led to the Amendment, but a bit of makeweight, if I may say so, that I hoped would weigh with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

It has had to be thought of afresh because of the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill which, when translating all this into a new Schedule, led to the Chief Secretary being a Minister out on a limb, so to speak, on a different salary from any other single Minister, and separately from Ministers of State who could receive remuneration up to £5,000 a year. That seemed to be anomalous, and not a suitable position for the Chief Secretary to be in. When we come to revise the salaries of other Ministers who receive the same salary as the Chief Secretary they will be included in the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill as Ministers of State with the maximum salary prescribed for them, which will be the amount adjusted in accordance with the recommendations of the Lawrence Committee, as modified by the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

In reply to the hon. Member for Wokingham, the reason why the Secretary for Overseas Trade is mentioned in line 26—right at the end of Clause 2—is that the office is now in existence, and it was originally thought right that he should be continued there in case it was necessary ever to take up the office again.

The curious thing is that in the 1957 Act, I think, the Conservative Government provided for an increase in salary to be given to the Secretary for Overseas Trade even though there was not one and even though there has not been one since. It shows how curiosities creep into Bills dealing with Ministerial salaries and the machinery of government.

The Committee will find from the Notice Paper that we are quite ready to meet the point on the obsolesence of the Secretary for Overseas Trade and there is probably no need to continue to include him in the Bill. I hope that what I have said has been satisfactory to the Committee. This is just a desire to make the whole thing now look tidy and rational and not to leave the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in a position which would be lower than his prestige and position in the Government. If we include him within the scope of the salary adjustments of Ministers of State it will be open to the Prime Minister at any time to submit to the House that his salary should be varied. If we do not do so, his salary will be written into the Bill which is to follow this Measure and it will be troublesome then to vary it.

Sir K. Pickthorn

I cannot think that I could make a useful speech at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not think that that is my fault. The wisdom of others has landed us in a situation in which it is not possible to make a useful speech, but I do not think that the Committee ought to allow to pass the question of what a Minister of State is and when is a Minister of State not a Minister of State, and when he should be paid and when he should not be paid.

I must mention it now, perhaps in the hope of being allowed to say rather more about it tomorrow. I wanted to try to be sure that I was not going to be then met with a ruling that it was too late. The principle of unripe time and the point at which it meets the principle of too-lateness is a very dangerous one.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told us that a Minister of State is a Minister appointed at a salary. So he is by statutory definition, but I remind the Committee, if my memory is right, that we have been told on other occasions that there are now considerable numbers of Ministers of State who are not paid a salary and who were not appointed at a salary. We have had nothing yet, and the Attorney-General ought now to give us full explanation, unless he is sure that he will find an explanation and give it us tomorrow, how it can be that the only positive statutory qualifications of a Minister of State is that he is appointed at a salary, and two negative ones—he may not be the top Minister and he may not be the bottom Minister.

Are there now Ministers of State not appointed at a salary? If so, in what sense and on what authority are they Ministers of State? I am sorry if this is an inconvenient moment.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

The right hon. Gentleman is out of order.

The Temporary Chairman

I am not sure that this arises at this point. We are dealing with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. If the right hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) wishes to continue I hope that he will address himself to the Amendment now under discussion.

Sir K. Pickthorn

I cannot feel very guilty, but I am sorry if I have not understood the point we are at. I thought that we were on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I apologise in that case.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 1, line 17, leave out paragraph (c).—[Mr. Houghton.]

The Solicitor-General (Sir Dingle Foot)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, to leave out "eighteen" and to insert "nineteen".

The Committee will be delighted to hear that this simple Amendment raises no possible point of principle and that I can commend it in a very few words. Its purpose was fully explained by the Attorney-General during the Second Reading debate. As he then pointed out, there is one rather strange feature of the 1957 Act, that there is no limit on the number of Ministers of State who may be paid, nor is there any limit on the salaries which they may receive. By the Bill, we propose to introduce, for the first time, a limit upon both the number and the salaries, but it should be understood that the effect of the Amendment will not be to add to the number of Ministers.

At present, my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) occupies the post of Economic Secretary to the Treasury. That office we propose by the Bill to abolish, and, as the Committee will have noted, we abolish his salary by subsection (2). It is envisaged that, in future, there will be only two Treasury Secretaries instead of three, so the effect of the Amendment, put shortly, will be that my hon. Friend will cease to be Economic Secretary and will become Minister of State for Economic Affairs. Thus, we do not add by this part of the Bill to the number of Ministers.

Mr. Robert Cooke

The Solicitor-General was most ingenious in what he told the Committee about the Amendment, and I thought it all good political stuff when he said that no increase in the number of Ministers was involved. I hope that what I have to say will be strictly in order. If it is not, perhaps an expanded version of it might be necessary on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill".

I should not favour the proliferation of Ministers, but there is something to be said for giving the Ministers who are necessary the right status. It appears from what has been said already that the title Minister of State is something of a status symbol, though not the salary which goes with it, which can be rather the reverse if it be one of the lower ones. It might be argued that, because there are so many more of them now, some of the glamour is removed. It will not have escaped attention that the present Government have had to have their names printed in small type in the official list which appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT in order to fit it into half a dozen pages.

It may be appropriate to have Ministers of State for the various Departments which are listed, but there are other Ministers who might merit, or who do merit, the same status.

2.15 a.m.

It would appear that the Amendment might prevent a sufficient number of Ministers being given the status of Minister of State. Last Friday, the House debated the important subject of leisure, the arts and sport. It has several times been suggested in the House that the subject of the arts would merit a special Minister, a Minister of State, to deal with it, and perhaps sport might be included with a separate Minister of State, perhaps equally important, certainly so in the eyes of many hon. Members. Here are two important subjects newly recognised by the Government. They were recognised by the previous Government but have been recognised again by the present Government by the appointment of Ministers with special responsibilities, but merely with the rank of Parliamentary Secretary. It would appear that if we passed the provision in its present form it would prevent the Government from giving these people the right status.

This is a real point of concern. It would seem important to clear up the position of these Ministers, especially in view of the very considerable changes which have been taking place. I am sure that the Committee would not want the Prime Minister to be stuck with a rigid and perhaps rather bloated pattern for his Government, and perhaps when the new Minister for Technology gets to work with his work studies and organisation and methods he may find that the pattern which we are setting in the Bill will be an unduly rigid one.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy the Committee on this point, because I would not want the Bill, although it is so unsatisfactory in so many ways, to do anything to impair the remaining vestiges of efficiency in the present Administration.

Sir J. Hobson

We ought not to let pass the event which has occurred. It is the first intervention since his assumption of office by the Solicitor-General. He has been able, with his usual clarity of mind and diction, to explain to us how 18 has become 19, and we are very grateful to him for doing so.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Houghton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, to leave out "subsection" and to insert "section".

This is purely an editorial correction.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 25, at the end o insert "and".

The Temporary Chairman

I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the Committee to deal, at the same time, with the next Amendment, in line 26, to leave out from "General" to the end of line 27.

Mr. van Straubenzee

If I understood the earlier comments of the Chancellor of the Duchy, we can dispose of this quickly. The Amendment that I move is a short and simple one taken in conjunction with the next, and the object is to remove from the Bill reference to the Secretary for Overseas Trade. As I understood, the Chancellor of the Duchy was in sympathy with the object and was able to "pull the leg" of the Opposition gently by saying that they had fallen into the error at an earlier stage. I am sure that we do not want to argue about this at this late hour. It will probably be a better Bill if we remove this reference.

Mr. Houghton

We are willing to take the purpose of the Amendment, but unfortunately it is defective and, indeed, will produce a result quite opposite to that which the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and the Committee now desire. I feel sorry for the hon. Gentleman. He is now suffering all the anxiety we have had for some time, in trying to draft an Amendment that is watertight to achieve the purpose he has in mind. I am advised that the effect of the Amendment is to allow the payment of up to 36 paid Parliamentary Secretaries, plus a 37th paid Minister—the Secretary for Overseas Trade.

I was very puzzled about this when I was advised that this was the effect, but I think the hon. Gentleman will see that when he has simply deleted the words "and the Secretary for Overseas Trade" the Clause will read: … Parliamentary Secretary includes any Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Assistant Postmaster General. But unless we clear away all the last vestages of the Secretary for Overseas trade, all that this Amendment would do would be to provide an additional post as Parliamentary Secretary, because it is not to be adhered to by Secretary for Overseas Trade. I am sure that was not the intention of the hon. Gentleman. A lot has to be done to make his purpose foolproof. For example, the hon. Gentleman has failed to put down an Amendment to repeal the provision that the Secretary for Overseas Trade which is in the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, as amended by the Transfer of Functions Act, 1946, and the Ministerial Salaries Act, 1957. All this tidying up has to be done.

I am going to make the hon. Gentleman a fair offer. If he will withdraw his two Amendments, then I will undertake that we will submit to the Chair tomorrow, at the Report stage, a manuscript Amendment that will achieve fully the purpose that the hon. Member has in mind and plunge the Secretary for Overseas Trade into oblivion. In anticipation that this might come on during the Report stage, I have arranged for numerous copies of the manuscript Amendment that I am prepared to move to be available to hon. Members so that they can see the full text of the manuscript before it is offered to the Chair. It is not a long Amendment but it does, I am advised, do the job that it is intended to do.

The Attorney-General

The Amendments have to be accepted.

Mr. Houghton

I have now got some further advice. I overlooked the fact that Amendments must be accepted. If the Committee accept these Amendments, we can then put the matter right. If they were withdrawn we would have to embody in our Amendment more than there is now there. I will therefore recommend the Committee to accept the Amendments and undertake to put them right when we offer a manuscript Amendment tomorrow. I am sorry about my mistake, but it is getting a bit late.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It would be easiest for the Committee if I co-operated with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and placed myself entirely in his hands. I therefore think I have said all I can say and should sit down.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 26, leave out from "General" to end of line 27.—[Mr. van Straubenzee.]

Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Sir Martin Redmayne (Rushcliffe)

I find that I have even less enthusiasm for making this speech than I had earlier but there are still some points which should be raised and some on which the Government might still have second thoughts about.

As an ex-Chief Whip, I think perhaps I have had a more significant insight into what may or may not have happened at No. 10, Downing Street in late October. I do not doubt that, before the election, the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council, in their previous capacities, had considered very carefully all the manoeuvres that were necessary to form a Government which would not at once disrupt the Labour Party.

I think that the existence of this Bill in this form is due to the fact that they had not foreseen, or had disregarded, that rather irritating pro forma which is thrust at once into the hands of any Prime Minister who is making a Government or thinking of reforming it. It is given to him by the permanent staff at Downing Street and I am fairly familiar with it, as are all Chief Whips. It sets out the existing offices of the Government and at the end of the second page says, … of whom not more than 27 shall be in the House of Commons ". At the end of page 5 it says, … of whom not more than 70 … I know very well, as does my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) and, indeed, as the Lord President, if he lasts long enough in the job, will know, that that pro forma, now to be amended by the Bill, adds enormously to the difficulty of completing the jigsaw of Government.

Of course, the Prime Minister did not obey the rules. He did not accept the advice given to him. I can well imagine the mounting irritation with which he and the Lord President and the Patronage Secretary found that, if they were to include, as they hoped, A, B and C, X, Y and Z, and Tom, Dick and Harry in the Government, they had to break the rules. So the Prime Minister, with a little arrogance—perhaps I must not use too strong a phrase now after such a pleasant evening—told his P.R.O. to go out and chat about Queen Anne and chose to do as he pleased.

But, his having stepped outside the bounds, there was no holding the Prime Minister. That is the secret of the Bill and this Clause. I think that on Second Reading, the Attorney-General said there was no magic in the figures before 70 or 60 in these days—in other words, that we need not show a decent restraint as to how large the Government should be. Of course, there is no magic in the figure of 91 either, for 91, I gather, is a mistake anyhow. But it was done to keep the party wolves from the door and it kept the Labour Party happy—all except one hon. Member who went to Downing Street expecting a job and went away without one. But he is now Second Church Commissioner, so all ended happily there as well.

I say to my hon. Friends, from masters I have served, that a little discipline is good even for Prime Ministers and this pro forma, which is a common factor on these occasions, has served at Downing Street to prevent the unlicensed patronage which comes easily to Prime Ministers and prevents that peculiar kind of political gimmickry, the creation of new offices, although, in a real Administration, that is not fatal. In this Clause the Government have shown themselves to be very guilty of that crime.

2.30 a.m.

I do not want to go into detail about this business of the numbers and the pay of Ministers of State. It is perfectly certain that the uses of that office have very greatly changed in the comparatively few short years since it was first set up. It is perfectly certain that the uses to which it is being put today by the present Prime Minister are a long way from its beginnings. It must clearly be said that he has used the office of Minister of State in this present Government too much as a form of patronage and with far too great an eye to the personalities involved.

One looks at the list of Ministers, now printed so small that one can hardly read it. This list, again, is one of the work papers of a Chief Whip. I could read it with the naked eye in my day, but now I have to use the very strong glasses which I have to wear.

Mr. Houghton

Growing old.

Sir M. Redmayne

I am growing old. We are growing old together and the right hon. Gentleman need not throw that kind of thing across the Committee to me.

Looking at the list, one wonders why it should be necessary to have four Ministers of State at the Foreign Office when we had three, and three Ministers of State at the Board of Trade when we had two. I cannot really think that—I should not like to think that—Ministers appointed by a Labour Prime Minister are necessarily so less efficient that it needs three to two and four to three.

We have dealt with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but I must say that that was a peculiar initiative. I can forgive the Lord President of the Council. I know that when Governments are set up, everybody gets very heated and the whole thing is always rushed and one cannot really blame the Government for making so many mistakes.

I am very sorry that a fault, which I think was made by the preceding Government, has now been carried into permanent form. We were wrong in our time to make a special salary for the Defence Ministers under the new arrangements. This is what created the precedent for what are now to be three levels of Minister of State and even more for the Prime Minister to exercise this special discretion which he has. There can now be a Minister of State in the Cabinet paid £5,000 a year and what is called a "Senior Minister of State". We have still not learned who the senior Ministers of State are and I ask the Attorney-General to make that clear. On Second Reading, he said that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury had a status comparable with that of a senior Minister of State. Who are the senior Ministers of State?

I do not want to weary the Committee by repeating arguments already used quite shortly, but the office of Chief Secretary is quite pointless unless he is in the Cabinet. The whole aim and object of that office when it was originated by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Macmillan, was that he should be in the Cabinet to provide support for the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the importunities of the spending Departments, and in that form the office has some use. If he is outside the Cabinet and not a Privy Councillor, which he must be, he is no more than an upgraded F.S.T. The office of F.S.T. has been perfectly honourable for a great many years, but I do not see why there was any need to upgrade it to Chief Secretary.

There is another strange bird in the list which has not been noticed in these debates. He is the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence and Minister of Defence for the Army. I am very intrigued by this character. What is a Deputy Secretary of State? I have not heard of one before. The essence of the office of Secretary of State is that those who hold it—and they number eight, by Statute—are interchangeable in their responsibilities. With whom is a Deputy Secretary of State interchangeable? Is it some magic office which enables the holder to have a certain interchangeability with the existing Secretary of State, or is he interchangeable with himself? I think that the Attorney-General should tell us the answer.

Much more important, at what rate is he to be paid? He seems to be a very senior Minister of State. Being a Deputy Secretary of State, I should have thought that he would be paid more than the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who ranks as a senior Minister of State. If the answer is not satisfactory to the Chief Secretary, he too must form up and say that he must be paid a higher rate. In this class of Ministers, the Prime Minister has left himself a very wide area of financial patronage. I do not complain about that, but it is bad Government, and certainly not good form.

In this matter of Ministers of State, if the right hon. Gentleman had really been a reformer—and the rather grandiose title of this Bill merely exaggerates any reform in it—he would have scrapped the rank of Minister of State altogether. I would have scrapped the rank of Parliamentary Secretary altogether, too. That is what has been the structure of Government in the past. I would have built a Government on a structure of Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Then one would have the set-up of having to employ fewer men for less money, who would really share the full responsibility of their Departments. All of us who have been in Government know that the situation of the Parliamentary Secretary is hopelessly out of date.

I see no excuse for increasing the number of Parliamentary Secretaries by this Clause. The object of the Bill brought in by Prime Minister Macmillan was to enable the creation of Parliamentary Secretaries, particularly in the Lords, so that in the Lords, Departments could have better, and better informed, representation. All that has gone by the board, and I will not weary the Committee by retailing the ways in which the Lords have been robbed. That will be discussed in their Lordships' House with much more fire and in much better time than we could do it now. The effect of this is twofold—the Prime Minister, by robbing the Lords, has provided more jobs for the boys in the Commons, and must further increase the number of Parliamentary Secretaries in the Bill to provide more jobs still.

I should like to turn to another part of the Bill which has not been mentioned today, though it was on Second Reading. That is the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales, and the increase of the number of Secretaries of State to nine. The number of Secretaries of State has been eight for many years. The Committee should bear in mind that although the number was eight, the defence reorganisation left two Secretaries of State free, and in the last Conservative Administration there were seven Secretaries of State, one under the limit. When the Attorney-General a little innocently and quietly said, "… as another Jones", which is a nice expression—" Jones the Attorney"—he joined in the enthusiastic reception for the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales. That enthusiasm is not so heartfelt in Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: "How does the right hon. Gentleman know?"] Because I can read. Even though I was a Chief Whip for so long, I can read.

He played it a little quietly. Although the statutory limit on the number of Secretaries of State is eight, he said, "We are just adding one more." In fact, they have added two more from the situation under the last Conservative Administration. That is understandable, of course, because they had, by hook or by crook accumulated this mass of people who had to be kept satisfied. They had to find jobs for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), so they resurrected the Secretary of State-ship for the Colonies, an out-dated post. That is not a shrewd move.

Lastly, I should like to deal with the much more domestic problem of Assistant Whips. The Attorney-General said that six had been the customary number for some years. That is not strictly true. The number has for some years been three, four or five. When the last Labour Government were in power, the number of Assistant Whips was three, then for a time it was four or five and for the last two years it was six.

In any event, the number of Whips on the Government side—or in any party, for that matter—must be related to the size of the party, and particularly of the back-bench party. Since the Government have reduced the number of their back benchers in proportion to the total size of their party to the minimum in any party in political history, it means that if the Government consider that they want 14 Whips in addition to the Chief Whip, they are providing one Whip for every 16 back-bench Members. Some hon. Members opposite look somewhat cowed from time to time, and I do not blame them if one Whip is looking after 16 of them. I hope that the Government are selective in the 16. I could look after that lot with my left hand while dealing with other Members in another way. That, however, is being a little severe.

I was attracted by the well-informed arguments used on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), who was for a long time a colleague in the Whips' Office. He realises, as I do, that there are considerable advantages in having three, four or five Whips who have not wholly sold their souls to the devil, the devil being me or my opposite number, as the case may have been.

If the Assistant Whips are volunteers, they are regarded with much greater tolerance by their colleagues on the back benches. There is the additional advantage, whipping not being a pleasant job and the task of a junior Whip being very hard work, that these amateurs, these unpaid volunteers, can resign if they find the job distasteful without all the fuss that inevitably accompanies the resignation of a Minister, however junior.

I think I am being fair, although I do not doubt that some of my former colleagues will think that I am being a little severe about it, in saying that I doubt very much whether any Whips have quite the same claim to a Ministerial scale of pay as other Ministers, because for more than one-third of the year, when the House is in recess, they have no function, certainly not the Assistant Whips. The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury have, of course, to sign the warrants and be available to go round, and so on, but the six Whips whom the Government now propose to pay will have literally nothing to do for one-third of the year. This should be carefully reconsidered.

Although it is not immediately and directly in the Bill, the difficult question of the payment of the Opposition Chief Whip is relevant to what I am saying. I admit that my opposite number in the last Parliament thoroughly deserved it. I suspect that I would have done in this Parliament and I am sure that my successor would have done also. I am still not sure, however, that it is other than what my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) described as an absurdity, because one just does not know where to stop.

Indeed, in another Bill which has been published today I see that there are propositions about paying Opposition Members—the Chief Whip, I think, and the Leader—in the Lords. Already, therefore, we have gone another step forward. If it were a choice between paying six Assistant Whips in Government and paying the Opposition Chief Whip, I would pay the Opposition Chief Whip and not the Assistant Whips in government. That would be the fair and proper thing to do. On consideration, however, in spite of the fact that I have admired the hard work which is done for nothing by people who hold this office, I think that it is wrong to pay the Opposition Chief Whip also.

We are to have the truncated Report stage later today. The Government have admitted that they are prepared to put down an Amendment. I ask them particularly to think, even overnight, about paying Assistant Whips, whom I wish no harm, and see whether it would not be wiser to go a little slower in adding to the endless payroll of both the Government and the Opposition, in the Commons and in the Lords. After all, why should not our Whips be paid? There are only six or seven or eight of them, rather fewer than the Government have, and probably working much harder, because we do not have a great mob of Whips, as the Government have, If they are to be paid, why not the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee and what have you?

2.45 a.m.

As I said, I think that this Bill arises out of a great deal of muddle and confusion which took place in the early days of this Government, and, indeed, is still taking place. I think it was put to the House in a very arrogant way. Although peace has now broken out apparently, I hope that in recompense the right hon. Gentleman will at least consider very carefully this main point of the payment of Assistant Whips.

Sir K. Pickthorn

I think I agree with almost every word said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne), and I agree with him particularly in his passing reference to the increase in the number of Ministers permissible in the House, and that 40 was not a magic number, 60 was not a magic number, 90 was not a magic number. But by the time we are getting there it is a different sort of thing: it is not merely a quantitative change; it is a qualitative thing compared with the 36 or 40 with which the escalation began.

Unwilling as I am to speak now I think it absolutely necessary to do so in order to ask, even if ineffectively, whether we are to get some explanation here of what my right hon. Friend hardly did allude to, and that is this. It is not only 40 or 60 or 90, but with the present doctrine about Ministers of State it is any number of Ministers of State provided they are not paid, and so far as I can understand it, if this Bill is passed, it will continue to be any number of Ministers of State provided they are not paid. That, plainly, cannot be right, and I think it could not be right that we should pass from this Clause without somebody saying that.

I would remind those hon. Members who are still present who may not have memorised it of what is the statutory definition of a Minister of State. The statutory definition is: A member of Her Majesty's Government appointed at a salary. I do not say it is not explicable by a lawyer. I do say that the Attorney-General did not explain it on Second Reading in a way which could be satisfactory to one who is not a lawyer. I think it is quite obvious, if I may say so, that the right hon. Gentleman, to whom I am devoted, who wound up for him on that occasion, was not going to be led by any cajolery or driven by any bullying into attempting to meddle with the question at all: he left it strictly alone. So, in spite of provocation and temptations, we have had no explanation of this.

I do not say that this is the right moment, but if it is not the right moment I ask the Attorney-General to tell us when he is going to have the right moment. If a Minister of State is somebody appointed at a salary, what are those persons at present purporting to be Ministers of State and not appointed at a salary? If they are Ministers of State then the Government are now in breach of the existing Statutes. The Government then have more Ministers of State in the House than is statutorily permissible.

What is more, the Government have not got a majority, because if these people are purporting to be Ministers of State, but who are really disqualified, they are not entitled to sit and vote in this House, and every Division that we have had for the last 50 days, or whatever it is, is therefore open to suspicion of illegitimacy.

The purpose of the Statute which the Bill purports to revise was to limit the numbers in this House. Unless we can be made to understand about Ministers of State better than any one yet does, there has been no such effect. In fact any number of Ministers of State may be appointed on top of the 90, so long as they do not take pay. The other way of looking at it is to say that they are not Ministers of State because they have not had a salary.

Those are the difficulties about the concept of a Minister of State which, in my judgment, have never been clarified in this House, and which I thought ought to be mentioned so that there may be some hope of some kind of clarification.

Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)

I should like to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) in his train of thought relating to Ministers of State. On Second Reading the Attorney-General said that Section 13(1) of the 1957 Act was statutory authority for paying Ministers of State, and, furthermore, that it was statutory authority for paying an unlimited number of Ministers of State an unlimited salary, and this has been reaffirmed several times during the debates today both by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Solicitor-General.

I should like the Attorney-General to tell the Committee how that view is arrived at. I know the wording of the definition. It must be imprinted on the heart and mind of every lawyer who has looked at the Bill and taken an interest in it, but what construction does the right hon. and learned Gentleman put on the definition in Section 13(1) which he says leads to the conclusion that it is authority for paying Ministers of State, and authority for paying them without limit on the number and without limit on the amount?

The Attorney-General

May I first be permitted to congratulate the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) on his maiden speech from the Opposition Dispatch Box. I confess that for me it was almost a traumatic experience and, junior as I am to him in experience in these matters, I should also like to congratulate him on his most helpful speech—helpful at least in several parts of it.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who have spoken at this late hour will forgive me if I make the point that whether the Bill constitutes any infringement of constitutional principle in regard to the increase in the number of Ministers will be the major subject matter of the debates tomorrow, arising from Amendment No. 8. Accordingly, I hope that I may be spared having to traverse all the matters which will arise on that matter tomorrow, including the question of the status and position of Ministers of State.

The right hon. Gentleman described the office of Minister of State as a form of patronage. Without, I hope, being provocative or controversial at this late hour, perhaps I might point out that the comparison between the present Administration and the last one is that there are 19 Ministers of State now, and there were 16 in the previous Administration, and one Economic Secretary, so that the difference is not substantial.

I noted the admission of the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his observations that if those who form, and have the responsibility of forming, Administrations find themselves confined within the Procrustean bed of an arbitrary figure on limitation, it is clearly a thoroughly unsatisfactory arrangement and one which has no basis or justification in principle at all. These are matters which will fall to be discussed tomorrow, and I hope that I may be forgiven for not pursuing them further at this stage.

There was the question referring to the Deputy Secretary of State for Defence. His position is that he is the Minister of Defence for the Army, and in addition, he is charged with additional duties as deputy to the Secretary of State for Defence. I understand that his salary is £5,000. As to the matter of substance, as the right hon. Gentleman described it, in regard to the proposed payment for six Assistant Whips, the principle that has influenced the Government is that they do precisely the same job as the other junior paid Whips, and it was felt right that they should be paid—borrowing a phrase from the trade union world—the rate for the job.

Sir D. Glover

There is another well-known saying from the trade union world, which is that an apprentice does not earn the same amount of money as the trained worker.

The Attorney-General

If the hon. Member knew the quality of the six unpaid Whips at present referred to he would not describe them as apprentices. They have had great experience and are rendering valuable service to Parliament in the performance of their duties. It was therefore felt just that they should be paid the same as the other junior Whips.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says they should be paid the rate for the job. In the Second Reading debate I asked whether, once the Clause had gone through, it would be possible for an Assistant Whip to be unpaid if the Prime Minister wished it, so that he would not have to sever any outside interests he had. In other words, could we still have an amateur if we wanted him?

The Attorney-General

I imagine that any Whip, or Minister of the Crown, can refuse to take his salary if he wishes to do so. It is an obligation that falls upon no man. If such a person desires not to draw a salary there is nothing to compel him to do so. It does not normally require any element of compulsion to bring it about.

I can say, as was said in the Second Reading debate with regard to unpaid Ministers of State, that there is no intention of creating unpaid offices in the Government. The Government have been established on the basis of a requirement of 91 Ministers in the House of Commons, and there is no intention of increasing that number, whether by way of unpaid Assistant Whips or any other officers of the Government.

Sir M. Redmayne

The Bill reads "There shall be paid …" Does that allow a Minister to refuse to receive his salary? What happens to his salary if he will not take it?

3.0 a.m.

The Attorney-General

If he refuses the cheque he can return it to the place from whence it came. There is an obligation to pay him a salary but there is no obligation on him to retain it if, out of an exercise of generosity, he wants to give it back again. There is no compulsion about that. If he desires to return the money, there is nothing to stop him from doing so.

Sir J. Hobson

There is a local government case in which a former councillor who could not be employed in a paid office, by Statute, offered to serve for a year without any salary, but the court held that he was disqualified because, though he was not accepting the salary, his status by Statute was that of a paid officer. Will not the same result eventuate here and should not further consideration be given to the fact that, even though the salary is not taken by the Ministers mentioned, they will become statutorily paid officers of the Crown and will be unable to escape from that position?

The Attorney-General

My understanding of the position is that there is a requirement that Members of the House shall be paid salaries, but I understand that one such hon. Member at least returns the salary which he receives. I fail to see that the language of the Bill creates any difficulties. The Bill creates maxima by way of salaries, and I understand that the formula used has been used previously, and it has never been construed as forcing a Minister to accept his salary. I should be surprised if any such construction were possible. I do not know whether there was any special local government provision in the case to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred. But it is not a matter which either complicates the Bill or ought to be allowed to complicate it.

Mr. Percival

I appreciate that the major discussion on Ministers of State will arise tomorrow, and that is why I was careful to limit myself to one simple question. It arises on Section 13(1)—a definition which is retained in the Clause. Even if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is good enough to answer me now, there is little time to consider the matter before we resume the proceedings later today. That is why I asked that one short question in order that there will be an opportunity to consider this construction between now and the resumption later in the day. I therefore repeat my question—for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether he would be good enough to explain what is the construction which he puts on Section 13(1) and which he says leads to the conclusion that it is the statutory authority for the payment of Ministers of State.

The Attorney-General

It has always been deemed to be so. The definition of a Minister of State is that it means a member of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom appointed at a salary … That has always been deemed to provide the statutory authority for paying a Minister of State. It has been accepted all along by the Treasury as providing the statutory basis. I should have thought that there was no problem of construction. A Minister of State is clearly defined as a member of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom appointed at a salary, who neither has charge of any public department nor holds any other of the offices specified in the Second Schedule to this Act". A Minister of State who is not appointed at a salary is not a Minister of State for the purpose of the disqualfication provisions of the 1957 Act.

Question put and agreed to.

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

To report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Bowden.]

Committee report progress; to sit again this day.