HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc418-39

Order for Second Reading read.

12.54 a.m.

The Minister of State, Civil Service Department (Mr. Robert Sheldon)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The broad purpose of the Bill is to make changes in some of the existing restrictions on the number and pattern of salaries payable to the holders of ministerial office. The Bill makes no change in the present levels of ministerial salaries, but makes changes in the eligibility of particular office holders for these. I should like to start with the general background and go on to the particular reasons for the urgency of the Bill, and then say something about its effects.

The Bill makes a number of amendments to the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1972. It is that Act which at present governs the payment of ministerial salaries. The 1972 Act embodied the recommendations of the first report of the Top Salaries Review Body—which was under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Boyle—in respect of Ministers of the Crown and made a number of changes in the pattern of ministerial offices at the same time. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) made clear when he introduced that Bill in 1972 that the pattern and distribution of ministerial offices for which it provided was intended to match the pattern of Government Departments which resulted from the reorganisation in the autumn of 1970 under the previous administration. That reorganisation was based on the merging of a number of existing Departments which led to fewer and larger Departments.

Since the 1972 Act there have been changes in the pattern of Departments, as a result of which it is now proving unduly restrictive. First, later in 1972 events in Northern Ireland led to the establishment of a separate Northern Ireland Office. Secondly, under the previous administration a Department of Energy was created. Under the present administration, the Departments of Industry and Trade, and the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, have been established. Thus, in the place of the single Department of Trade and Industry which existed at the end of last year we now have four separate Departments. In addition, it is intended to arrange for the Minister of Overseas Development to be in charge of a separate Department. At present, the Overseas Development Administration is, in formal terms, a part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

These changes, since the 1972 Act, in the departmental pattern for which those provisions were designed, have made it difficult to operate within the limitations which the Act introduced. As hon. Members will be aware, the present restrictions have meant that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has not been receiving a salary since his appointment. The strains created by the restrictions in the framework of the 1972 Act are now made worse by the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and the need, in consequence, to augment the ministerial team in the Northern Ireland Office. This need was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his speech in the House on 4th June. The immediate and urgent purpose of this legislation is to enable that to be done.

As a consequence, there will be one or two additional appointments in Northern Ireland which the Government intend to make as soon as the Bill becomes law. This legislation will also make it possible for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to receive the salary to which he is properly entitled.

Apart from the changes in the numerical limits laid down in the 1972 Act the Bill makes a number of changes in the pattern of salaries which are payable and contains provisions related to the establishment of a separate Department to deal with overseas aid and development, together with other ancillary provisions which can conveniently be included in the same short Bill.

It may be helpful if I describe the effects of the various provisions contained in the Bill. The changes in the present pattern of ministerial salaries are effected by Clause 1, which amends Schedule 1 to the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1972. There are three main changes. The first concerns the offices of Minister of State and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury—better known to us as the Chief Whip but who also used to be known as the Patronge Secretary, although, as my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has informed me on many occasions, the patronage which he has to distribute is not that which his forebears used to have. But the Chief Whip among others will now be allowed to take his part, if required, in the new group of ministerial offices which are to be paid at the higher rate of £13,000, so long as the holder is a member of the Cabinet. That is a crucial distinction. As long as the person is a member of the Cabinet he can be paid that salary.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

The Chief Whip has never been a member of the Cabinet since 1715. I take it that my hon. Friend means that a change is now to take place.

Mr. Sheldon

Not at all. The Chief Whip attends the Cabinet as is naturally required by virtue of his office, but he is not actually a member of the Cabinet. If the Government, now or in the future, were to decide that the Chief Whip should be a member of the Cabinet, joining in the deliberations and taking responsibility for the decisions of the Cabinet as much as any other member of it, he would be paid £13,000. At present the holder of one of these offices, even though a member of the Cabinet, only could be paid the lower level salary.

Secondly, a new general category of ministerial office is established. At present the office of Secretary of State can be and is held by more than one ministerial head of Department. It is therefore possible to pay a Cabinet-level salary to a Minister appointed to take charge of a newly-created Department. The same flexibility does not exist in relation to the payment of lower-level salary to a Minister who is not in the Cabinet but who is appointed to take charge of a new Department. The new provision remedies that and avoids the need to make separate provision in primary legislation in cases of this kind. This is the provision which will cover the salary of the Minister of Overseas Development as a head of a separate Department.

Thirdly, the amendments in Clause 1 ease the restraints governing the number of Ministers who can be paid at various salary levels. The number of Part I salaries which may be paid is increased from 19 to 21. The number of Part I and Part II salaries taken together will be increased from 46 to 50. In place of the present separate limit on the number of Parliamentary Secretary salaries paid under Part IV of the 1972 Act a new overall limit of 83 is established for Part I, Part II and Part IV Parliamentary Secretary salaries taken together. This limit of 83 includes all the Part I, Part II and Part IV Parliamentary Secretary salaries taken together. This means that we can increase the number of Parliamentary Secretaries to take the place of some of those Minister of State salaries if that is required.

This limit of 83 represents an increase of seven over the effective overall figure of 76 under the 1972 Act. This new arrangement will make it possible to pay more than 33 Parliamentary Secretary salaries if the full complement of senior appointments is not filled and this reflects the methods already employed in the 1972 Act to control the number of Part II salaries.

The changes that we propose should be made to the numerical limits of Ministerial salaries will increase by seven the ministerial salaries which may be paid under the 1972 Act. But the number of salaries which would be payable as a result of the Bill would be one less than the number which was payable at the time of the Ministerial Salaries Consolidation Act 1965. To take account of the increase we propose should be made in the number of salaries payable under the 1972 Act, it woqld be right to raise by Clause 2 the limit in the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1947 on the number of Ministers, paid or unpaid, entitled to sit and vote in the House of Commons.

The new category of Ministers outside the Cabinet in charge of Departments introduced in Clause 1 is brought within the scope of the 1957 Act by Clause 3(1). Clause 3(2) applies to the new category of Ministers the provisions set out in Schedule 1 to the Ministers of the Crown Act 1964. Among other things these provisions authorise a Minister to make necessary arrangements for the maintenance of his department.

There are other general provisions in Clause 4(2) and Schedule 2 which should help to facilitate future transfers of functions between Government Departments which are headed by Secretaries of State. This will fill a gap in present law. These are the more general provisions which the Bill contains.

In addition, the later provisions of Clause 3 are related to the re-establishment of a separate Ministry of Overseas Development. This Ministry was established by the previous Labour Government in 1964 but by 1970 was merged by the previous administration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. When the present administration took office it was announced that it was intended to reverse this change. Since then my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has delegated to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development his administrative responsibilities in this field. The provisions in the Bill deal with the substantive transfer to the Minister of these responsibilities. It may be necessary for additional functions to be transferred at a later stage by order under the Ministers of the Crown (Transfers of Functions) Act 1946 but this would simply constitute a tidying up measure. I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends will welcome the provisions to assist in the re-establishment of a separate Ministry of Overseas Development.

This is a short but necessary Bill. The greater flexibility which it will provide in relation to the structure of ministerial offices should be of help not only to this but to future administrations in making the necessary dispositions of their ministerial forces. The Bill increases the number of ministerial salaries payable, but in doing so does no more than return to the position of some years ago, and reasonably so in the light of changes in the pattern of Departments which have taken place since the 1972 Act.

1.7 a.m.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

The House will thank the hon. Gentleman for the thorough way in which he has presented the Bill. As one who has on similar occasions in the past been fluent, I should also like to congratulate him on the fluency of his explanation.

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has met all the questions which seem, from the ominous gathering of numbers at this time of night, to be pending, but our 18th century predecessors who would have turned out in enormous numbers, but not at the same time of night, to deal with this enormous increase in the payroll vote of Ministers, would have been gratified by the attendance.

The official Opposition do not seek to object to the Bill. Some parts of the Bill flow from arrangements made during the previous Government and others from suggestions made, because of the Irish situation, by the Leader of the Opposition

We therefore wish to make no objections or inquiries about this Bill, although we are aware that others may be doing so.

1.8 a.m.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

My hon. Friend will be glad to learn that I intend to say only a few words, but I do not think that a Bill of this kind ought to pass on the nod.

I welcome first the legalisation of the independence of the Ministry of Overseas Development, which was one of the commitments we undertook considerably before the last election. I am only sorry that it had to be done only in practice and not legally, until now.

On the main part of the Bill, I want first to take the opportunity to sweep away a lot of the flummery and the old-fashioned titles which still attach to some Ministers and quasi-Ministers.

It does not make sense, in this day and age, for us to refer to Ministers or quasi Ministers—by whom I mean Whips—as "Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentleman at Arms" or "Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard", or "Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household"—where the very word has to be spelt wrongly—or to "Vice-Chamberlain" of the Household. There is no need for this nonsense. People do not understand it.

Every time such a measure comes before the House we should not only make the essential changes but should get rid of the flummery which confuses all our doings. I saw the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) shaking his head, but now he has started nodding it. He seemed to be disagreeing with me. I hope that more and more hon. Members who have spent a short time in this honourable House will cooperate in getting rid of such nonsense as these titles, the hat under the chair of the Serjeant at Arms, and other such irrelevances in an institution which is supposed to be a place of work and not a circus.

On the more substantial point, there could also have been some tidying up of the different rates of salary for quasi-Ministers at the lower level. I do not see that we can justify a Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard receiving £5,000 a year whilst a Lord in Waiting receives £4,000. I believe that very few gradations of seniority are required among Ministers. At present there are probably at least half a dozen levels, and they could have been simplified down to two or three.

Finally, and most seriously, the House should look very carefully at what has been in recent years the growing gap between the remuneration of private Members and the remuneration of Minissters. That gap is extremely serious for parliamentary democracy. It is increasingly anomalous as the job of a backbench Member demands full-time work. If a private Member is doing his work, he should be spending most of his time in the House or on parliamentary duties. If he is, there ceases to be much justification for paying Ministers of any category much more than is paid to Members of the House. I am told that the gap between the remuneration of a private Member and that of Cabinet Ministers is greater than in many other countries.

The reason for the desirability of the practice is obvious. It is undesirable in a parliamentary democracy that a Minister should be reluctant to resign his office. The greater the gap between the pay of a private Member and that of a Minister, the more reluctant he will be to resign. I believe that there is no posibility in the Bill of making any corrective step against the trend of recent years, but the House should watch the matter. If we are not careful, it will become almost unknown for Ministers to resign office and revert to the back benches. We should be moving in a direction which encourages that, rather than the reverse.

1.14 a.m.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

I do not want to keep the House too long at this time of night, particularly as I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. West) has certain questions he wants to put regarding the proposal about the increase in the number of Ministers required for the Northern Ireland Office.

In general, on the main purpose of the Bill, which is to increase the number of Ministers, I am inclined to be eighteenth-century in my attitude. The 1957 Act, which is referred to in Clause 2, laid down the limit not at 91 but at 70. Since then we have seen an increase in the number of Members who are entitled to be on the payroll of the executive. That is a bad general principle, affecting the independence of Parliament as against the executive.

We should be careful about increasing the limit and we should be equally careful in inquiring as to how long the limit shall remain increased. We must be clear whether this is intended to be a temporary measure and whether, after the Northern Ireland emergency situation is over and when a proper constitution has been worked out, we shall return to the limit that we are now extending.

Reference has been made to the difference in salaries. Not only is there a salary gap, which is not good for Parliament; it is not good for Parliament as a general principle to increase the number of Members on the payroll.

That having been said, I turn to the question of the Northern Ireland Office. I understand that it is the Government's intention, if they are empowered by this measure, to increase the number of Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office by two. I have no quarrel with that as a general proposition. If Northern Ireland is to be properly administered it cannot be done by the Secretary of State and by one Minister of State alone. I think that the Secretary of State requires at least two extra Ministers. I have heard the names mentioned of two Labour hon. Members as possible Ministers. If they be so appointed, they would start out, at any rate, with our good will. We should wish them well in the task of administration. We would give them that good will because they would have a job primarily of administration.

The Ministers who will be appointed as a result of this measure will not be the makers of the Government's policy towards Northern Ireland. They will be appointed for a job of administration. That will be a difficult job, and I know my right hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone will refer to some of the tasks that they may have. It will be a difficult job, and I assure them that in the task of setting about good administration they will have our good will and co-operation.

Before we allow the limit on the number of Members who may be in the Government's payroll to be increased, I ask the Minister whether any term will be set. It cannot be imagined that it will be the Government's will, in the light of all that has happened in Northern Ireland, to continue direct rule for any length of time. I presume, therefore, that the Government have something in mind to replace the present Northern Ireland Constitution Act.

What will be put in the place of the Executive, which has now collapsed and disappeared? I ask the Government to give us some idea of the timing. We are talking about appointing two new Ministers to the Northern Ireland Office, but we have not heard anything recently from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Since our last debate he appears to have sunk without trace. Something soon must be said because not only will Ulster become impatient but so will the House.

We cannot leave things in a vacuum for very long. When shall we hear from the Government about their future policy? It is plain to me and it is plain to all those who represent Northern Ireland that the Government cannot proceed to compose a new constitution for Northern Ireland without having elections to the present Northern Ireland Assembly. If the Minister can give us some idea when the Government will be able to tell us this, we shall say, "Good luck" to these new appointments. It is necessary in the meantime that the Northern Ireland Office should have sufficient Ministers to carry on business, but we are entitled to ask how long this process is to take. How long do the Government see this Northern Ireland set-up lasting?

Very important decisions have to be made. As we said in the debate, an awful state of affairs exists in Northern Ireland. The events of early this week showed that they are not likely to be confined to Ireland if they are permitted to go on for very much longer. Today, there have been no less than five serious bomb explosions in Ulster. One bomb was of 900 lbs.—a pretty substantial size. In the light of all this, I say to the Government that time is not on our side. I see the Patronage Secretary taking the point.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)

I understand it.

Captain Orr

I was about to correct myself. I thought at first that the right hon. Gentleman was agreeing with me, but at least he understands me. As I was saying, time is not on our side in Ulster, and the Government will have to make up their minds quickly what the policy is to be. The right thing to do is to have elections for the Assembly, or at least to set the date for them. In the light of that, I should be prepared to allow the Bill to go forward on the understanding that it is temporary in terms of the Northern Ireland Office. I hope that we shall hear something about the time scale envisaged.

1.24 a.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I wish to follow exactly the questions asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr): My qualms are simply based on the realities of the situation of seeming to impose English Ministers for more than a given length of time on Northern Ireland. I put it to my right hon. and hon. Friends from Scotland what would be the position if the Scottish Office were to be manned entirely from Ministers whose constituencies were in England. We can all imagine what kind of resentments that would evoke.

It is the feeling of resentment in Northern Ireland that I want to refer to in asking to what extent there will be a time limit on this arrangement. In a sense, if there is to be an unlimited time, I suggest that the whole exercise really is a kind of "Mission Impossible."

Frankly, I do not think that this House of Commons has understood the burning kind of resentment that now exists in Ulster, rightly or wrongly, against things Westminster, against things Scottish and against things English. Any solution which looks like being imposed from here is almost doomed from the start.

I have good will to whoever is appointed, but with the best will in the world they ought to be asked whether it is right that they should have to operate from offices in Stormont Castle.

One can go to Northern Ireland and see the resentment which is bred by the physical circumstances of that remote Stormont, in which events take place. I can give an example in this regard. It is striking, when one goes to Ulster, to detect the feeling among people there that they got the British Parliament recalled from recess. This seemed to be regarded not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Triumph! People there talk about having brought the Leader of the Opposition back early from his visit to China. They say, "We brought Ted Heath back early". Success! They also feel that they brought a hard-working Prime Minister back early from a well-earned holiday in the Scilly Isles. Victory!

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. I do not wish to interfere unduly with the hon. Gentleman's theme, but I think it would be more appropriate for him to confine his remarks to the contents of the Bill, rather than the more political overtones involved.

Mr. Dalyell

This is simply a judgment as to the likely success of my hon. Friends who are appointed. What I have been describing is the kind of attitude they will encounter. The Bill is seen as a foistering of English Ministers on the Irish situation—and this is after all the events of the past five years. If I may say so with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, your intervention reveals in a sense the way that many of us have perhaps not understood the depth of feeling in Northern Ireland.

To go to the women's prison in Armagh, as I did with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), and to be told by a spokeswoman of the provisional IRA: "If Mr. Paisley was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland that would suit us", was absolutely incredible to a British politician. That was the first thing the spokeswoman said to us—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the Chair in this matter. I was trying to ensure that the hon. Gentleman relates his remarks to what is contained in the Bill, which deals with the appointment of certain additional Ministers. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wishes to broaden the scope of the discussion, but it has to be fairly narrow in context.

Mr. Dalyell

I did not want to broaden the scope of the discussion or parade my views about Northern Ireland.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I am not accusing him of that, but he must confine himself to the subject at issue in the Bill.

Mr. Dalyell

In the light of the facts, may we have an assurance that there will be a time limit relating to the extra Ministers? I do not ask for a time limit in terms of months, but rather an assurance that it will be a temporary and not a permanent expediency in this critical situation.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Harry West (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I do not wish to detain the House for long at this late—or early—hour. I shall speak briefly about the position in Northern Ireland and about the two Ministers who are to be appointed to positions in Northern Ireland. I support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr) in inquiring of the Minister whether he can tell us what will happen at the end of the four-months' period.

Are we to have an election for the Assembly at the end of that time? I ask this now because, presumably, the House will be in recess at the end of the four-months' period. I sincerely hope that in the interests of Northern Ireland the Secretary of State or some other Government spokesman will make a statement before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

I come now to the responsibilities of the two Ministers. As a former member of two Northern Ireland Governments I have some knowledge of the problem of administering Northern Ireland generally. In my opinion there are two matters there which require the attention of Ministers. One is the security situation and the other concerns the basic industry of the country, which now finds itself in grave crisis, namely the agriculture industry. Agriculture is, of course, facing a grave crisis throughout the United Kingdom.

Turning first to the question of security, I was deeply shocked to see that this famous building had been in some way damaged by the bomb incident yesterday. I saw the extent of the damage today. It may bring home to some hon. Members how we in Northern Ireland have suffered in the past four or five years. It is good that the damage here was comparatively slight and there was no loss of life.

Contrast that with what is going on in Northern Ireland. There, people are unable to sleep in their beds at night for fear of being blown to pieces. There is a need for a Minister who will bring a political influence to bear on the security situation. I was in my constituency this morning. In one small town I witnessed the result of a 600-lb bomb. It was put in there last night, in a hi-jacked car, and exploded in the centre of the town. A constituent of mine was there this morning, gathering up the fragments of his drapery store for the fifth time since the crisis began. He told me that he will give it one more try. He has a heart like a lion. There is a great need for a Minister to devote a large part of his time to the security situation in Northern Ireland.

I have made representations to the Secretary of State. I know that he has a heavy burden on his shoulders. I asked him to receive a deputation, two and a half months ago, comprising responsible business and professional people from the five towns along the border. He was unable to find the time. In the meantime, an attack was carried out by elements from across the border. They shot at a UDR station and killed a young woman in one of the villages that would have been represented in this deputation. This is why I say that it is absolutely essential for a Minister to have some kind of responsibility for security.

The bombs which exploded today in Northern Ireland practically wrecked six towns. These bombs weighed up to 900-lbs—practically half a ton of explosives. That gives some idea of the extent of the damage in Northern Ireland. Most of these explosives come from across the border in Eire. The border is wide open.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. I am doing my best not to interrupt the right hon. Member. I hope he will not try to widen the debate to take in the tragedy of Ulster, because there are other occasions for that.

Mr. West

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House for trespassing upon your patience. I wished to make the point that one of these two Ministers should be put in charge of security. We have suffered grievously in the past five years. The suffering is now coming to this side of the water, and it would be a tragedy if it were extended. There is a feeling, which is hardening in Northern Ireland, that the British nation is going soft on terrorists. We want to see the terrorist eliminated in the whole of the United Kingdom.

I should like to see one of these Ministers in charge of agriculture in Northern Ireland. Agriculture is our biggest and most important basic industry. It is deplorable at the moment. Beef, pigs and potatoes are our most important agricultural products. There is a serious crisis in these commodities. The latest crisis has occurred in the marketing of potatoes. The ban on the export of potatoes to the Continent has left 40,000 tons of potatoes in the hands of the Northern Ireland farmers, for which they will receive compensation in respect of 10,000 tons. That is a very serious situation. If a Minister was in charge of this industry in Northern Ireland it would help the situation.

I agree there is a crisis in the agriculture industry in the United Kingdom. A thorough review of the whole industry is needed.

I welcome the appointment of the two Ministers to Northern Ireland for the short time they will be there.

I noted the common-sense remarks made by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Tam Dalyell). He gained the impression he spoke of after a visit to Northern Ireland. I hope that more hon. Members will visit Northern Ireland and allow us to show them what has happened there during the past four or five years. It is not a question of burning resentment towards the British people but a burning resentment of the fact that schemes have been imposed from here upon us that are not suitable for Northern Ireland as a whole.

1.37 a.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

I congratulate the Government on the creation of the separate Ministry of Overseas Development. I join the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) in saying that the time has come to separate this important work from the office of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The more we concentrate upon the overseas development activities the more we put our own problems in perspective. We can direct our attention to the natural tragedies occurring abroad and see how people are suffering abroad, and realise how in Great Britain we have so much for which to be thankful. I congratulate the Government on the creation of that office.

I am not certain whether I can agree wholeheartedly with the description of the Whips by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

I see in the Press that the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) is mentioned as a potential Minister. Perhaps he will be made a Minister as a result of this Bill. He is a Vice Chamberlain of the Household. I shall miss him coming into this Chamber dressed in a black jacket and striped trousers, carrying his wand of office. Perhaps he will find greater comfort in attending to the series of administrative tasks which he would have to take on in Northern Ireland if he became a Minister there.

The word "flummery" may be used about Lord Arran. I wish to refer briefly to him. He has castigated the Irish. He has condemned all Irish people. Lord Arran himself stands condemned.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not know how Lord Arran comes within the terms of the Bill. The hon. Member will no doubt leave the noble Lord and return to the Bill.

Mr. Kilfedder

I dragged in Lord Arran because he might be created a Minister. I should like to say—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Not about the noble Lord, I hope. The hon. Member could go through the United Kingdom suggesting people who might be made Ministers. I should be grateful if he would leave the noble Lord and return to the Bill.

Mr. Kilfedder

I always follow your wishes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am happy to leave the noble Lord and his insulting remarks. The only good thing about him is that he bears an Irish title.

I regret that although the number of Ministers will be increased there is no provision to increase the number of Northern Irish Members. The Executive numbered 70 in 1957 and will now be 95. This is a dangerous trend, especially unwelcome when Northern Ireland is not propertly represented here.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) talked about the likely success of the new Ministers and about the foisting of English Ministers on Northern Ireland. We have always argued that the sooner we have fresh Assembly elections the better. We can then get down to working out some constitutional arrangement for the province without conditions imposed from Whitehall.

I do not reject the right of any fellow citizen of the United Kingdom, whether English, Scottish or Welsh, to comment on events in Northern Ireland. But Scots, and no doubt those in other parts of Great Britain, would probably agree that decisions made in Whitehall are not in their best interests. I agree that English Ministers are administering Northern Ireland affairs without being acutely aware of local conditions.

Northern Ireland is again under direct rule, and we remember what happened last time. I hope that the present Ministers will not treat Northern Ireland as the previous Ministers treated it then. I hope that orders will not be produced without proper consultation with Members or adequate explanation to the public, because such communication is essential to democracy. Nothing was worse than the way that the previous Government brought forward orders which could not be amended but which had to be accepted or rejected in their entirety—unless it was the way that they arranged for them to be debated late at night or early in the morning, as we are debating this Bill. Debating orders early in the morning does not provide the right atmosphere for a reasonable and searching discussion on a Bill which may have wide ramifications in Northern Ireland.

When I came to the House this week I felt as though I were returning to Northern Ireland, because of the dastardly destruction caused to the Palace of Westminster. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me to say that such activities, either here or in Northern Ireland, will do nothing except stiffen the resolve to beat the terrorists.

Many people long for the stirring times of old which witnessed great and dramatic events, but they forget the hardships of all those years. They remember only the glory. Having seen so much anguish, death and destruction in Northern Ireland—my right hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. West) referred to this—I would opt—if option I had—for an Ulster that was devoid of any event worthy of being reported in the history books. However, that choice is not mine, and neither I nor the people of Ulster who wish to remain part of the United Kingdom will shrink from meeting the challenges that face the Province today, and we are determined that the crucifixion of the Province will come to an end.

I hope that the new Ministers who will be responsible for Northern Ireland will make their contribution not only by being constantly in Northern Ireland looking after their administrative duties but will see to the security of the Province and to the preservation of life and property in a land which has been ravished for five long years.

1.43 a.m.

Dr. Michael Winstanley (Hazel Grove)

I want to make one brief but general point about the Bill which I hope will be as much in order as those which others have managed to sneak through the net.

I understand the reasons behind the Bill, I accept the need for what is in it, and therefore I do not oppose its provisions, but I agree with the view expressed earlier that one of the effects of the Bill will be to increase still further the disparity between the financial situation of Ministers and ordinary Members. It is right that that should be a disparity, but it is also right to say that the size of the gap can be due to two things—not only the height of Ministers' salaries, but the lowness of Members' salaries.

The Bill will also increase the disparity—and there is one—between the financial situation of the Government party as a whole and the Opposition parties in general. I do not have the exact words, but the Gracious Speech said that Her Majesty's Ministers would be bringing forward proposals for giving financial assistance to Opposition parties to enable them more effectively to discharge their functions. I do not recall the Gracious Speech saying that the Government would bring forward proposals to give financial assistance to the Government party.

The Bill will, in a sense, further increase the disparity, because we shall end with a situation—we have almost arrived there now—in which almost one-third of the Government party will be Ministers of one kind or another, and one category or another.

The fact that the situation of the Government party is so very different financially from that of the different Opposition parties is a matter of which this House should take note. I mention that as a matter which is every bit as relevant as others about the comparative situations of ordinary Members and Ministers. Had we received specific assurances about when that part of the Gracious Speech was to be implemented I might have had more enthusiasm for this proposal. But, if it is to be carried through, it becomes even more urgent that the other matter should be dealt with as well, so as to narrow the gap which here we are beginning to widen.

1.50 a.m.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Berwick and East Lothian)

I intervene as an hon. Member representing a Scottish constituency. I welcome the Bill because, in Scotland, since the General Election we have been under-represented and we have felt this very severely.

In Scotland, we have faced two serious industrial crises recently, one in the petrochemical industry and the other in the cement industry, and the inactivity of Ministers at the Scottish Office can be explained only by the fact that there were not enough of them. Opposition Members should support the Bill, because, for the first time since the election, at last we may find that we have proper representation in our Ministers at the Scottish Office.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman explain precisely what he means by inactivity over the Grangemouth and BP strike?

Mr. Ancram

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has referred to that. I was present when various Opposition Members tried to raise the matter, but we got little response from the Scottish Office. I am being generous when I suggest that the inactivity which we met from the Secretary of State for Scotland on that occasion was due to the fact that there were insufficient Ministers in the Scottish Office at the time.

Mr. Dalyell


1.52 a.m.

Mr. Russell Fairgrieve (Aberdeenshire, West)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Ancram) in welcoming the Bill.

We agree that there should be an increase in the number of Ministers, especially as this affects Scotland, where, apart from the oil interest that we now have, and apart from possessing between half and a third of the land mass of the United Kingdom, we have very important problems.

It grieves me to see no hon. Member present to advance the views of the Scottish National Party, which pretends to be interested in the affairs of Scotland. Apparently its representatives do not consider this debate to be important. Either the hour is too late or they are too tired. As a result, the Government and the main Opposition parties have to carry the greater part of the burden of the work of this Parliament. Even hon. Members from Northern Ireland are present. But we do not see here hon. Members who pretend that they are more interested in Scotland than others of us.

I welcome the Bill, and I support hon. Members who have spoken in favour of it.

1.53 a.m.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

With the leave of the House, perhaps I may reply briefly to some of the matters which have been referred to, especially those touched upon by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve), the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Ancram), and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).

Under the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may have an opportunity to add to the team of Scottish Office Ministers. It is an ability which my right hon. Friend has not had because of the restrictive nature of the system as it has applied until the passage of the Bill through its various stages.

Dealing with the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), it is not for me to go in any great detail into the extent of the "flummery", as he put it, that we should enjoy, be entertained by, or put up with, in the way that he described.

My hon. Friend raised a very important matter about the gap, as he sees it, between the remuneration paid to Ministers and that which is paid to ordinary Members of Parliament. He pointed out that certain resignations might result from that.

Whether that is true or not, the fact that there is this difference is capable of resolution. We have a body—the Top Salaries Review Body, headed by Lord Boyle—which is capable of resolving and intends to deal with the matter. That body has in the past reported on both Ministerial and Members' salaries. It will in due course take note of the changing circumstances, many of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend, and produce a report covering some of them.

Most hon. Members have referred to the problems of Northern Ireland. I should like, first, to deal with the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) who referred to the increases in the number of Ministers in recent years. He is quite right. Whereas the number of Ministers was in the middle fifties in the 1920s, we have seen a growth in post-war years, and an increased growth in the last 10 or 15 years.

The reason for that growth in the number of Ministers is clear. It is due to the increased use of interventionist powers by successive Governments. Whether a Government have warmly welcomed the use of intervention or have reluctantly accepted the necessity, as the previous administration did, the result has been the same.

If the Government are to be responsible, as Governments have been in the last 10 or 15 years, for greater determination of so many issues in this country, a greater number of Ministers will be required to carry out that policy. That is the basic reason for what has happened and that is why we come to the House tonight for a further increase in the number of Ministers.

A number of hon. Members asked: how long will these extra Ministers hold office? That is a fair question. However, I am unable to give a useful answer. It is a matter for the Secretary of State to make his own requests to the Government for an increase in the number of Ministers and to specify their responsibilities. Whether they be in agriculture, as was suggested, or in any other area, it will be a matter for both the Government and the Secretary of State to determine. Naturally, I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the points that have been made tonight, but clearly it will be up to him, in assessing the needs of the situation in Northern Ireland, to make his own dispositions on these important matters.

I can state with certainty that the Secretary of State intends to make a statement to the House before the Summer Recess. Hon. Members will then have an opportunity to question him on any of the matters that have been raised tonight.

I welcome the attitude taken by the Opposition and other hon. Members to the usefulness and value of the Bill and I look forward to it having a rapid passage through the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Golding.]

Committee this day.