HC Deb 19 June 1973 vol 858 cc566-76
Mr. Ross

I beg to move Amendment No. 274, in page 118, line 13, after 'fit', insert 'and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we can also discuss the following amendments:

No. 275, in page 118, line 14, leave out from 'area' to end of line 15.

No. 276, in page 118, line 18, leave out from 'concerned' to end of line 19.

No. 277, in page 118, line 19, at end insert: '(3) The convenor of each region shall by virtue of his office be one of the Lord Lieutenants for the region concerned'.

No. 278, in page 118, line 20, leave out 'and lieutenants'.

No. 279, in page 118, line 34, leave out subsection (6).

Mr. Ross

At least we are getting a change of subject and are moving away from local government and into the upper strata of lord-lieutenant. The Government decided, rather belatedly, to put this into the Bill. It was not there on Second Reading. I made it my job in Committee to do the Second Reading of it. The Government must have been relieved when I did not move to vote against the clause, because I do not have the slightest doubt that we would have won.

There are some things here which merit amendment and discussion. Now we have a new breed of satellite lord-lieutenant. The lieutenant is now to be called officially lord-lieutenant. But there are now to be people just below that called the lieutenant. We still retain the appointed vice-lieutenant who acts for the lord-lieutenant and we also retain the order of deputy-lieutenant. It is a bit ridiculous—lord-lieutenant, lieutenant, vice-lord-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenant. For the life of me I still do not know what they all do.

I do not know whether the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Education, Scottish Office, is to reply to this debate. I believe that he has just become a deputy-lieutenant—just to show how non-party these people are, with no connection with politics! I can understand the Minister having been a deputy-lieutenant before becoming a Minister but I find it quite inconsistent with all that has been suggested as the rôle played by deputy-lieutenants that a Minister should be so appointed. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman who is the son of a lord-lieutenant can tell us whether this is usual and has nothing to do with the uniqueness of Perth.

Mr. David Steel

I read with interest the right hon. Gentleman's comments in Committee. From his researches is he able to say how many deputy-lieutenants there are on the other side of the House and how many on this side?

Mr. Ross

There is one on this side who is a former lord provost and who was appointed by virtue of his office. I remember another hon. Member on this side becoming a deputy-lieutenant, I think for Edinburgh. For experience of this office we must look to the other side. In Committee we learned that a number of hon. Members opposite were deputy-lieutenants, sons of lord-lieutenants or had some considerable connection with the office.

The most satisfactory position in Scotland obtains in the cities where, by virtue of his office, the lord provost—,this applies in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow—becomes lord-lieutenant.

Her Majesty has to appoint for each region such number of lord-lieutenants as she thinks fit". As I do not desire to rob Her Majesty of the right of appointment and of choice, I suggest that one of the lord-lieutenants for the region should be the convener of that region. If there are any more, it is purely a matter of appointment by Her Majesty.

There is no indication that lieutenants are to be appointed. If they are not to be appointed, they are not needed. It has not been explained to me why they should be there. We should get rid of them. They will not do anything unless they turn up resplendent in a uniform with a distinctive badge to explain that they are the new breed of lieutenant whenever the Queen descends upon an area.

The deputy-lieutenant never acts as a deputy-lord-lieutenant. It is always the vice-lord-lieutenant who acts as the deputy of the lord-lieutenant. I was at a ceremony not long ago at Newmilns where the Queen's Award for Industry was presented. The original intention was that the award was to be handed over by the Queen's Lieutenant—the lord-lieutenant. As he was ill, along came the vice-lord-lieutenant.

I do not know exactly what a deputy-lieutenant does. We could well do without him. However, I would leave them for the present. For the moment we content ourselves with our proposals in respect of separating the right of appointment by virtue of office, the convener of a region being a lord-lieutenant and the removal from the territorial scene of the new breed of lieutenant.

I hope that the Secretary of State will appreciate that I am in earnest. This is an anachronism. All the considerations of pageantry, and so on, will aptly be met by what will be left.

12.45 a.m.

My hon. Friends have probably heard of the Deputy Lieutenant of the city of Glasgow. As far as I recollect, deputy-lieutenants are appointed by lord-lieutenants. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) perhaps knows a few of them, but over the years a number of deputy-lieutenants have been appointed. It shows the extent to which there is no great contact with the reality of public life by these people, though there may be some social attachments.

This kind of thing is offence to the modern trend. Until I met him, I could not name the vice-lieutenant of Ayrshire. I could not name any of the deputy-lieutenants. I could probably make a stab at doing so, knowing some of the county families and knowing that there were likely to be one or two among them, but I find it crazy, at this stage in the development of our democracy, that we should not merely be restating the position but reinforcing it and introducing this new and unexplained breed of lieutenant.

If we are not to use them, and if we have not been able to justify their use, they should not be there. It may be that some of my drafting is not complete, but I should be happy to know that the Secretary of State is prepared to accept the spirit of my amendments.

Mr. David Steel

I confess to being puzzled that there is not more interest in this subject than was shown in Committee or has been displayed tonight. I suppose I can claim to represent more lord-lieutenants than any other hon. Member does, because I have three in my constituency. It so happens that I know all three quite well and have a great regard for them and the ceremonial duties which they perform, but, like the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I could not blame any of the vice-lieutenants and, again like the right hon. Gentleman, I could not name the three lists of deputy-lieutenants, but I have noticed whenever I have come across somebody with the letters DL after his name that he is a fairly firm supporter of the Conservative Party.

There is a serious point here. It appears that over the years, possibly for good historic reasons, a network of socially important patronage has been built up in parts of Scotland. I understand that lord-lieutenants are themselves appointed by the Queen, but presumably on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, and they in turn appoint all the deputy-lieutenants. These deputy-lieutenants are chairmen of the JP advisory committees, and in their turn they appoint all the justices of the peace. One can soon build up a whole chain of patronage which may or may not be abused, and which may or may not be biased, and if we are talking about reform—and that is what the Bill is about—it is inappropriate to continue this system, let alone elaborate it.

If a lord provost is automatically to be a lord-lieutenant, as happens now, then the right hon. Gentleman has a fair point. Why should not the conveners of the new regions, with all their responsibilities, which, I presume, would include ceremonial responsibilities as well, not automatically be lord-lieutenants? I think the right hon. Gentleman has been excessively moderate in his amendment.

If we are to continue the system it is incumbent on the Government to explain rather mare than they have how it works and what these people do, and whether there is any determination on the part of the Government to see that it is, as it ought to be, rather more broadly based than it is at the moment.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

With these amendments which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed he seeks to make changes in two fields. First of all he proposes that convenors of the regions, nine of them, should be lord-lieutenants. Secondly he seeks to remove the subordinate office of lieutenant.

In his remarks he said he finds the system offensive, but I think his criticism is mainly, as is that of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), with the system of deputy-lieutenants and how they are appointed by lord-lieutenants. That is not dealt with in this clause. I note what has been said about it. The concern at the moment is with the appointment of the lord-lieutenants themselves, not the deputy-lieutenants.

I will take each of the suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman has made in the order in which he raised them. The first is the one about convenors. There are some practical difficulties about this because the proposal would add nine lord-lieutenants to the number whereas the proposal in the clause would keep about the same number of lord-lieutenants as there are at present. There would be difficulties, till vacancies arose, and negotiations would be necessary as to which part of the region should become the convener's lieutenancy, and which of the existing lord-lieutenants should concede territory to him.

It is, I think, accepted, whether one approves of the system or not, that it is part of the duties of lord-lieutenants at present to know well their own areas where they have certain duties to perform, particularly when there is a visit of Her Majesty the Queen. There would be difficulty on the part of the regional convener, who might have experience of one area of his region but might not know about another area and there would then have to be negotiation about who would take over as lord-lieutenant. So there are practical difficulties about the suggestion, whereas the fact that at present the lord provosts of the cities are automatically lord-lieutenants does not raise difficulty because there we are simply continuing a system which already exists.

The right hon. Gentleman himself said that it was unlikely that all his amendments were not defective, but they show clearly what is intended, and the right hon. Gentleman's second proposal is to throw out the new post of lieutenant. The object of the Bill is simply to provide for Scotland what is already in the Act for England and Wales—a subordinate category of lieutenant who could on occasions assist the lord-lieutenant in his duties. We do not see a need for this in Scotland in the near future, but we think that there is merit in having uniformity in the United Kingdom as a whole and having this flexibility in case it should be found useful. That is the reason for taking this opportunity of incorporating it in this Bill, just as it has been done in the Act for England and Wales.

I understand the reasons for the two suggestions that have been made, but I do not think that I can commend them to the House. The first produces the practical difficulties that I have mentioned of nine extra lord-lieutenants and the question of which territories in their regions they would take over. The second deprives the Scottish Bill of the flexibility that has been introduced for England and Wales and the opportunities which might be found useful later for using this subordinate category of lieutenant.

Mr. David Steel

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him to explain one point? I understand there are to be four categories: the lord-lieutenant, the vice-lieutenant, the lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenant. If so, may I ask him to spell out the functions of each of the four categories? Although he passed over the point about the deputy-lieutenant, that is provided for in subsection (8).

Mr. Campbell

The lord-lieutenants would carry out the duties that lord-lieutenants at present carry out.

Mr. Robert Hughes

What are they?

Mr. Campbell

Other Acts—the Militia Act 1883, the Auxiliary Forces Act 1953, and the Reserve Forces Act 1966—cover these duties. I do not think we want to go into them now. A vice-lieutenant in each lieutenancy is the deputy to the lord-lieutenant. The new category that has been introduced in England and Wales, which it is suggested we take the opportunity of providing in this Bill, the lieutenant, would act in certain circumstances as an assistant lieutenant in a region. The deputy-lieutenants would be the same as the deputy-lieutenants who exist today. We have a new example on my left—my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Munro).

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no great change here. There is simply the introduction of a new category which will give flexibility in future, but for which we do not see an immediate need in Scotland.

Mr. David Steel

So we can say that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) is starting on the bottom rung of the ladder and will work his way up.

Mr. Ross

We are grateful to the Secretary of State for that explanation. I noticed that he could not forbear from laughter as he went from the top to the bottom.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the vice-lieutenant was the assistant to the lord-lieutenant—in other words, he took the place of the lord-lieutenant—and that the lieutenant assisted the lord-lieutenant or would be a kind of assistant lord-lieutenant. When he got to the deputy-lieutenant I think he—

Mr. Robert Hughes

Gave up.

Mr. Ross

—said the situation was as before.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

No change.

Mr. Ross

No change; the same as before. But one of the points was that there was supposed to be a change. There was a time when the deputy-lieutenant had to be connected with the Armed Forces. He had to have been in the Army, the Royal Air Force, and so on. That is why we have so many colonels and admirals in the right hon. Gentleman's part of the country and elsewhere.

It is some time since this change was made enabling the lord-lieutenant, without the restriction of service, to appoint deputy-lieutenants who, I presume, had rendered some kind of service in the lay sphere and were certainly not from the Armed Forces.

1.0 a.m.

One of the troubles is that one can never get information about this matter. When I first saw the new clause, after Second Reading, I tried to table a Question asking who all the lord-lieutenants were, who the vice lord-lieutenants were and who the deputy lord-lieutenants were. I wanted to know their ages when they were appointed, where they lived and what their normal occupation was. I thought that I should have an indication of whether they reflected the broad spectrum of life and employment in the country. I wanted to know how many miners there were.

The whole point is that these people are not representative of the nation. If we want to let these things just dissolve in riddle, we carry on with this caper. We are adding to it with this strange view that we must have this flexibility because they have it in England and that, although we shall not use it, we must have this flexibility. The Secretary of State must know that we shall not use this thing. I am sure that the thought of them coming into an area has made it almost certain that the lord-lieutenant will blow up with apoplexy.

The Secretary of State said that there are practical difficulties if we extend the democratic process and allow certain elected people to become lords-lieutenants. We have added so many at one time, but we could get over that difficulty by a transitional period. The Secretary of State has not told us about the practical difficulties that already exist and the overlapping that comes from local government reorganisation. Glasgow is to remain and has to retain its Lord Provost. But he is not the Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow; he is the Lord Provost of the new district of Glasgow, which takes in territory from Dumbarton, where there is a very good lord-lieutenant.

The same is true in respect of Lanarkshire. Part of Lanarkshire comes into the Greater Glasgow district. Who is the lord-lieutenant? Is it the lord-lieutenant who remains in situ, who was Lanarkshire's lord-lieutenant, or is it the Lord Provost who now takes over territory in which he had no standing at all? It is the Lord Provost. Does the Secretary of State appreciate the difficulties here?

We heard all about the lord-lieutenants who formerly reigned over these areas. I am sure that this was one of the things in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. John Smith) who was so concerned to take a certain part of Lanarkshire out of Glasgow. He was thinking of the lord-lieutenant, who would lose a certain amount of cherished rank.

There are certain difficulties here in respect of these changes. The same applies to other parts. The lord-lieutenant of Glasgow, the Lord Provost, has now swayed over a part of Renfrewshire. A former Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Muirshiel, was a lord-lieutenant there. It is not right for the Secretary of State to plead practical difficulty and say that it cannot be done. He has faced practical difficulties in the consequential changes of local government, and if he considers this not purely from a local government point of view but from the point of view of bringing up to date the lord-lieutenancy we shall get over the practical difficulties.

There is the point about the importance of this within the local government changes. One of the greatest changes is the abolition of the magistrates' courts in the burghs and the effect of this on the licensing courts where justices of the peace now have a new and important rôle. JPs are chosen by advisory committees that are chaired by the lord-lieutenant. Their recommendations to the Secretary of State have to be unanimous so that the lord-lieutenant can block any recommendation going to the Secretary of State.

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that certain lord-lieutenants resent that the Secretary of State should try to send back a list as unrepresentative and suggest that changes should be made. I can remember constant battles that I had with a particular lord-lieutenant who resented the Secretary of State, especially a Labour Secretary of State, trying to send these lists back. Bearing in mind the new functions for this office, is it right that this kind of responsibility should be in the hands of that kind of committee, ruled over by a non-elected person? I do not believe that it is. That is one of the reasons why we should modernise the lieutenancy. We will have to rely on JP courts. It is an important matter and it merits far greater consideration and discussion than it has been getting tonight.

It is a matter for levity in certain respects, but when we see how the office is now being woven into the new local government structure and assuming functions of local government that were formerly the responsibility of locally elected people, we can see how important it is. I was going to suggest that the Government should think about the matter and make changes when the Bill reaches another place. But that is probably the last place where we are likely to get the kind of change that I want. I hope that this new breed of lieutenants will get rough handling in the other place. I am sure that if there had not been a change in Fife—and there are probably more lord-lieutenants and people related to them in Fife than anywhere else in Scotland—they would have marched in strength to the House of Lords to deal with this encroachment upon their rights and privileges.

I hope that the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office particularly will adopt a more democratic outlook in these matters. It is not good enough to say that the same is happening in England, that we do not need it but that we shall embody it in the Bill and call it flexibility. I call it nonsense. Although I shall not press the amendment, I hope that the Secretary of State will think about it, because we should be doing justice to the position if we sought to modernise the system and bring it much more into line with the democratic systems.

Amendment negatived.

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