HL Deb 31 July 1918 vol 31 cc136-43

EARL RUSSELL rose to call attention to the discussion on Lord Ribblesdale's Motion on the 20th March last with reference to Government appointments, and to the White Paper, dated the 16th April, with regard to expenditure, and to its failure to give the full information then asked for; and to move for a further Return.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I regret that circumstances make me stand between your Lordships and the important business down for this afternoon, and it is only a slight consolation to remind myself that, after all, this is Wednesday, and that it is not so much my Question as the Government's business that is the exception on the Paper today. I ought perhaps also to express some regret to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for raising for the third time practically the same question. He must, I fear, be weary of it, but I think that perhaps he must to some extent take the blame for its being necessary to raise this subject again. It interests several members of your Lordships' House, and I have somewhat reluctantly agreed to be the person to call attention to it on this occasion.

But I have stolen to some extent the position which belongs by rights to my noble relative Lord Ribblesdale, who raised this matter in the first instance—first by asking a Question, and, on a subsequent occasion, the one to which I refer in my Question, by putting down a Motion for a Return. What was asked for was, I think, in a fairly simple and fairly intelligible manner—although very difficult to couch in exact language—some information as to the various persons of authority under the Government, particularly those in new offices who exercise authority over the public at this time. We wanted to know who they were, what their titles were, and, as far as possible, what their powers were, and what the authority was that they exercised.

On March 20, when the last discussion took place, the noble Earl the Leader of the House complained, and I think possibly with some justice, that there would be a difficulty in making a Return for the three years 1916, 1917, and 1918; and he also pointed out that changes would have taken place in those three years. I feel that there is a great deal in that complaint, and that it is of no practical interest to us at this moment to know who was Controller of something or other in 1917. All we want to know is who he is now; and therefore I shall only ask the noble Earl to give us a Return for the year 1918 which I think ought to make the compilation of that Return rather easy. In his answer on that occasion the noble Earl said— The greater part of the information for which the noble Lord asks is already given, and is accessible to any one who knows where to look for it, in certain Parliamentary publications. He also referred to a Parliamentary publication, which was then about to appear, as giving us all the satisfaction we should require. That Paper has appeared, and it is Cd. 9,031, dated April 16, 1918.

I have been looking at that Paper for several days now, and to say that the information is "easily accessible" is, I think, perhaps putting it a little too high. There is a great deal of information in it about salaries and payments, but it does not contain names. The noble Earl dealt with the question further in the course of his reply, and he said that it was unusual that names should be given in Papers presented to Parliament on expenditure. That may be so; but the actual words he used were— The names have never yet been given in any Return of this character presented to Parliament relating to the Public Service. But it is not exactly a Return of this character that we are asking for, or that we wish to have. We want to have what I think was very aptly described by the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, who took part, in the debate on that occasion, and who said towards the end of his remarks— What we want is a few sheets of simple print, which will tell us the names of our governor and rulers today. I think on the previous occasion when this matter was discussed I myself said something of the same sort; I suggested that all we really wanted to know was who were our rulers. That does not seem to me to be a question which it was improper to ask, or which it was improper to expect to be answered; and in view of the assurances of the noble Earl last night, borne out by his conduct in his readiness to give this House all the information he can, I am sure he will be ready in this case to meet what I think is a legitimate demand and not an idle curiosity, to know something that is extraordinarily germane.

If I take this Command Paper to which I have referred, I find under the Air Ministry, one Secretary of State, £5,000, but without a name; one additional Member, Vice-President, £2,500, but without a name; four Air Members, also without their names; one Director-General of Aircraft Production, without a name. Now, I think those are precisely the names which interest the public, and which the public is entitled to know. I can give some further examples from another portion of the Paper. If I take the Ministry of Munitions—an enormous Department—I find that there is a Member of Council in, for example, the Finance Department; there is a Member of Council in the Steel and Iron Department; there is a Member of Council in the Explosives Department; and there is a Member of Council in the Guns Department, with a salary stated—£3,000. I do not know exactly what a Member of Council is, but I suppose he is a Member of the Council of the Ministry of Munitions. That seems to me to be a sufficiently important office for the public to be entitled to know by whom it is filled. These Members of Council are presumably chairmen of those various committees, and I suppose they exist somewhat on the system that the noble Earl explained so fully the other day with regard to the Cabinet.

Then there are some further offices towards the end of the Paper—some of these miscellaneous offices. There is the National War Savings Committee, for instance; the Department of Information; the Food Production Department. In the Food Production Department I find, under the headquarters establishment, one Director-General, one Deputy-Director-General, and seven other Directors, at various figures, two unpaid, and one loaned. These are surely all officials of considerable importance; and in this particular case they are officials, who, as I understand, come into constant touch with the public, who exercise considerable powers over the public, and I think it is not asking too much that the public should know who they are.

Then there is another Return which I have consulted—namely, a Return made to an Order of the House of Commons of Members of the House of Commons who are placemen under this Government. The interesting feature of that Return is its length. It consists of a very large number of names. Now, all those names are names which I think should be given in any Return of this character, and, indeed, I think the names of any members of this House who occupy positions of this importance should be given. It has been suggested to me that there may be some committees or some officials of some importance as to whom it is not desirable to make information public. I need hardly say that this is a matter which I leave absolutely and with confidence to His Majesty's Government. I should not dream of pressing for any information which it is not desirable to make public. But I am talking particularly of the kind of official who is in constant touch with the public in this country, and who influences our daily life; and the kind of Return that I would suggest to the noble Earl, if it could be granted, would be one which would, in fact correspond to what was in the old days a Return of the Cabinet and of the principal officials who exercised authority under the Cabinet. But, of course, that number is, so enormously swollen now. There is a Petroleum Controller, who is no doubt a person about whom it would interest us to know. There are Controllers of all sorts of things. There is a Shipping Controller. My noble relative was chaffed a little by the noble Earl, when he put his original Question, for asking about semi-Departmental and semi-Ministerial appointments; but it is very difficult to define these appointments. The public happens to know from the newspapers that the Shipping Controller is Lord Pirrie, but whether he is a Minister, or whether he is not a Minister, or what exactly his technical position is, I think it is perhaps a little difficult to say.

I have put upon the Paper a Notice to move for a Return, but I desire not to do that at this stage of the session; and I also desire, as far as possible, not to stand in the way of the discussion which your Lordships are expecting. If I have succeeded in making clear for what I am asking. I hope that the noble Earl will now find it possible to give some simple Return, which, I think, even with the vast number of officials we now have, need not occupy more than from four to six pages of print, giving some names of these officials, their positions and salaries if any. Should he do so it would be unnecessary to move a Motion. I am reluctant to move at this stage of the session, but I think it will be recognised that the request for a Return is reasonable, and I hope that the noble Earl will accede to it. I beg to put the Question standing in my name on the Paper.


My Lords, the noble Earl has made himself, as he always does, perfectly intelligible, and I am grateful to him for the brevity and clearness with which he has placed his remarks before the House. His reference to what happened on the last occasion is quite, correct. I did state at that time that there were certain sources of information from which a good deal of the facts that were sought by the noble Lord and by Lord Ribblesdale could be obtained. I alluded to the information which is forthcoming in the Civil Service Estimates, to the full particulars of the total expenditure of Departments which is published at the end of each year in the Appropriation Accounts of the Vote of Credit, and also to the Paper which had not at that time appeared, but which I promised, of the total salaries and costs of the various Departments, with particulars of the number of posts carrying salaries in excess of £300 a year in each Department, but without giving, for reasons which I stated, the names of the holders of the posts; and I added that I hoped from these sources noble Lords might obtain the bulk of the information which they desired. The noble Lord has just alluded to a fourth Parliamentary Paper which has since appeared, which gives the names of members—"placemen" I think was the phrase he used—of the present Government who belong to the House of Commons, but not including any members of your Lordships' House.

The noble Earl, in his speech, has stated that he—and I dare say he respresents the feelings of others—is not satisfied with the information which he has been enabled to cull from these various sources, and he has narrowed and clarified his demand very much in the speech which he has just delivered. I took down the words which he used. I gather that what he wants now—and I presume he is speaking for his friends as well—is some information as to the various persons of authority particularly in new offices of the Government, with their names, titles, and remuneration, if any, and he sums up his demand in a phrase which fell in the last debate from my noble friend Lord Harcourt, who said that what noble Lords really desires is the names of our governors and rulers," so that they may know the names, positions, and emoluments of the persons who are assisting to manage our affairs in the present war.

My Lords, thus defined and circumscribed I think the request is a perfectly reasonable one, and one with which I see no difficulty in complying. I think I can even carry the matter a little further than the noble Earl has been disposed to do. With almost an excess of courtesy, in his desire not to place any burden upon overworked Departments and officials, he has said he is reluctant to move a Motion himself and is willing to accept an assurance from me that the kind of information which he desires shall be forthcoming. I am, however, quite willing to agree to a Motion. I have been thinking over the matter this morning, and have indeed discussed it with representatives of the Treasury, and having an idea of what the noble Earl had in his mind I drew up a form of words which I think will give him what he desires, and I shall either be prepared to have a Return made in fulfilment of an assurance now given, or, if the noble Earl likes to make a Motion, I shall be glad to hand over the terms to him for such action as he thinks fit to take.

The Return which I think might be given, and which I believe will satisfy him, might be defined as follows— A Return of the various new Departments or new sub-Departments of permanent Offices that have been created since the outbreak of the war and are now in existence, with the date at which they were created and a statement of the names, rank, and remuneration, if any, received from public funds by the heads and principal officers of each such Department.


I am sure, my Lords, that we shall all be grateful to the noble Earl for the manner in which he has met an extremely reasonable request. I have risen to ask one question—namely, Does the term in time noble Earl's proposed Motion of "new Departments" apply to new sub-Departments of old Departments—for instance, to the new Department attached to the Admiralty. Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to answer my question.


Would it also include the Controllers of various Trade Departments?


The word "Controller" is a subject of some difficulty and controversy, because whereas a Controller in some Offices is an officer drawing a large salary and having high responsibility, there are other Departments in which the person who is called a Controller occupies only the position of a clerk. Therefore I would not care to define too closely the meaning of "Controller." I think the answer to the noble Marquess's question is to be found in the terms of the Motion which I have just read. They are as follows— A Return of the various new Departments or new sub-Departments of permanent Offices that have been created since the outbreak of the war. That refers clearly not to the permanent Offices but to their sub-Departments.


I think, perhaps, it would be more convenient that a Motion should be made. One of my difficulties in making it was, of course, the difficulty of knowing how to express it. The noble Earl, with great kindness, has provided me with a form of words to which he assents, and I am very much obliged to him for assenting to it. I am sure it will gratify the House, and I am glad to make the Motion in that form.

Moved, That a Return be made of the various new Departments or new sub-Departments of permanent Offices that have been created since the outbreak of the war and are now in existence, with the date on which they were created and a statement of the names, rank, and remuneration, if any, received from public funds by the heads and principal officers of each such Department."—(Earl Russell.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.