HL Deb 13 March 1940 vol 115 cc836-56

4.18 p.m.

VISCOUNT LEVERHULME rose to call attention to the policy of His Majesty's Government as expressed in the operation of the Central Register in recruiting persons to fill the requirements both of Government Departments needing additional administrative or executive staff and of those industries which are being expanded for war purposes; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it will no doubt be within the recollection of many of your Lordships that over a year ago a Central Register was set up by the Ministry of Labour with the object of compiling a list of persons possessing professional and technical qualifications, so that, in the event of war, their services might be made available for Government and other forms of national service. It was one of the many steps which His Majesty's Government very wisely took when continued acts of aggression were bringing the likelihood of war nearer. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time with any detailed description of the history and machinery of the Central Register. Many of your Lordships will have seen the Classification Guide issued by the National Service Department of the Ministry of Labour. It contains just over fifty sections, embracing over 1,700 occupational classifications. It may be said to cover all the various professions and skilled occupations which can be of special service to the country in time of war. In setting up the Register, the Ministry invited the guidance of an Advisory Council of which Sir Walter Moberly was appointed Chairman. This Advisory Council in due course appointed sub-committees, and most of the sections of the Register have a selection panel, the task of these panels being to advise on the suitability of applicants. The day-to-day work of the Register is done by officials of the Ministry of Labour.

Perhaps the first point to emphasize in regard to the Central Register is its entirely voluntary character. No person, however skilled, is obliged to put his or her name upon it or to accept any particular position offered through it. No employer is obliged to use the Register, although he is urged to do so. Government Departments, however, are to some extent an exception to this rule, for we find the Minister of Labour himself, on November 16, in reply to a question in another place, saying quite clearly that "Government Departments are required to use the Register to meet the staff requirements of the kind for which it caters." Of course, a Government Department wanting someone not on the Register can arrange for the name of that particular individual to be placed on it. The Central Register can obviously be looked at from two points of view. There are, on the one hand, the men and women who want to offer their services to the country and, on the other hand, there are the posts which have to be filled. In considering these two view-points we must face the clear reality that the primary purpose of the Central Register is to find people for jobs rather than to find jobs for people. That is why those in control of the Register have, very rightly, appealed to all the scientific, technical, and professional institutions to help them to get on to the books of the Register all their members with suitable qualifications.

My own personal connection with the Central Register began through my Chairmanship of the British Management Council and my having been invited on that account to join the Advisory Council of the Register. The British Management Council, I may say, has affiliated to it some thirty societies and institutions concerned with business and industrial management. Those of us who have been brought into touch with the great developments which have taken place in management in the last thirty years or so are conscious that there is a substantial and ever-increasing number of persons with special knowledge in this field—men who are accustomed to approach problems of organisation from a scientific standpoint. Preoccupation with problems of capital and labour should not be allowed to blind us to the existence of this third side of the industrial triangle—management. It is a far cry indeed from the old handicraft industries of a by-gone age to the modern, vast, and complex organisations of to-day. Even during the present century remarkable changes have taken place in the structure of industry, and we can realise the enormous part which good management plays in industry today. Surely we must desire that experience and talent in industry, just like skilled qualifications in any other walk of life, should, through the medium of the Central Register, be given the widest possible opportunity of expression.

At present that opportunity is not so wide as it might be. For instance, one would have thought that Government Departments themselves, in selecting reinforcements for their administrative and executive staffs, in supplementing the grades of principals and assistant principals, would have found in this field of management a useful source of supply; but those who offer their services, their management experience, through the Central Register do not find themselves placed on that section of the Register from which Government Departments draw their additional staffs. I must trouble your Lordships for one moment with a small matter of detail. There are two sections involved—No. 800, entitled "Government and Public Administration" and No. 801, entitled "Business Management." It is on Section 801 that those with management experience in business and industry are placed; it is from Section 800 that Government Departments draw their supplies. In times of peace young men enter the administrative grades of the Civil Service by examination, very largely, if not entirely, from the universities, after having had a public school education. I do not wish for one moment to question the wisdom of this normal peace-time method of recruitment, but in time of war the stream from this source becomes a trickle, because young men who are physically fit are needed in a different sphere. At the same time the Government Departments, especially certain of them, have to expand and new Ministries are created. All this means that more and more administrative staff are required.

How are these extra people at present found? In other words, how is the list of names on Section 800 of the Register made up? Firstly, there are the retired civil servants who have come back, put on their harness again, and are giving their Departments the benefit of their ripe and mature experience. That obviously is a very valuable form of recruitment. Then there are two other sources of supply lying outside the Civil Service—firstly, members of the teaching staffs of universities; secondly, persons whose names have been put on the Register at the request or the suggestion of certain Government Departments themselves. I am at a loss to understand why those whose ordinary peace-time occupation is the admittedly admirable one of teaching Latin, Greek, history, and mathematics to university undergraduates should be considered more suitable as war-time reinforcements for Government Departments than those who, in business and industry, have made a special study of the technique of organisation and management and have had practical experience of it. Administration is of course part of the duties of many of the staffs of universities, and I do not question the high standard of ability to which many university people have attained. It seems to me, however, that this university type at present enjoys a too exclusive position on the Central Register.

I would like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the courtesy of the Minister of Labour in receiving a deputation I had the honour of taking to him last November, and also the readiness of Sir Walter Moberly and those in charge of the Central Register to hear, and to some extent to meet, the views which I put forward. The door has been opened a little way, but not I think wide enough to ensure the likelihood of any appreciable number of people with the type of management experience I have described finding themselves in Government Departments. I would like to suggest to His Majesty's Government a departure from the present principle of separating administrative and executive appointments into groups, and to urge that all persons with administrative and executive abilities should be grouped together under one head regardless of the sections they are in at present. I would like further to suggest that all recommendations for appointments of an administrative and executive character be made by a single panel which will in each case recommend for the post under review the most suitable person available.

I would also like to see on this selection panel an adequate proportion of persons skilled in modern management techniques and competent to assess the qualifications of candidates whose previous experience has been industrial or commercial. I also think it would be advisable that one such person should be appointed to the Advisory Council's General Purposes Committee. I know it may be said that a great many well-known and highly qualified business men are already serving the Government of this country. Eminent names can be mentioned. Cases at once come into our minds, such as those of the noble Lords, Lord Stamp, Lord Weir, and Lord Perry, and so on. Men drawn from the board rooms and high executive positions in many business undertakings are serving the Government in various departments, but these men are there primarily because of their exceptional knowledge and experience of some particular industry, trade or commodity, or because of their expert knowledge of some phase of the national economy. It is not men of this special character with whom I am primarily concerned in this Motion. It was not really for them that the Central Register was devised.

I do not for a moment suppose, for instance, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer discovered the distinguished name of Lord Stamp by running his thumb over a card index of the Central Register, or that the name of the noble Lord, Lord Weir, was found lurking in one of its pigeon holes. No, these outstanding people require the right tools with which to work. It may be true to say that a bad workman blames his tools, but it is also true to say that a good workman must be given the most suitable tools. It is no good giving a joiner a plane when he needs a saw, or a hammer when he requires a screw-driver merely because a plane and a hammer happen already to be in stock. When men with skill in management and organisation are required it would hardly seem to be the best policy to use men with quite other qualifications, men whose normal duties have been interrupted by the war, merely because these men happen already to be on the Government pay roll. One can understand there being some resistance to the views that I have expressed. The mental approach to a problem on the part of a man trained in business is different from the normal approach of the Civil Service mind. That is at present regarded as an argument for keeping the two apart. Should it not rather be an argument for letting the one reinforce the other at a time like this? We are already spending over £6,000,000 a day. Can we at such a time afford to shut, or only partially to open, any door through which may pass into the public service men specially trained to think in terms of simplifying procedure and of making the most economic and efficient use of time and labour?

I have touched perhaps exclusively on this one phase of the Central Register. There are many other aspects of it which might be considered, and perhaps will be considered later this afternoon. I wonder, for example, whether in spite of what the Minister of Labour has said Government Departments themselves do know enough about the Register and realise that they are expected to use it. Then, again, the Ministry of Labour has in its local employment exchanges a piece of machinery which any private employment agency might envy. The officers in charge of local labour exchanges, usually knowledgeable and tactful men, have already well-established relationships with local employers, and it would seem that they might well be helpful in assisting the work of the Central Register, not only as it affects Government service but also in satisfying the needs of industries of national importance. I trust that this Motion may be considered timely, and that any criticisms I have made will be regarded only as constructive ones. I was encouraged the other day by reading a phrase which fell from the lips of Mr. Lloyd George when he said that "the last war was won by criticism." If criticism was helpful to the Government which led the nation to victory in the last war, I trust it may be no less helpful to the Government which is to lead us to victory in this war. I hope that during the course of our debate this apparently beneficial medicine may be administered by more eloquent and ex- perienced physicians than myself. I beg to move.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends I would like to support the noble Viscount and I would ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House to give this Motion very friendly consideration. It is directed at one of the most critical parts of our administrative machinery in war-time. I know very well, from my own recollection, that if there had been a Central Register of this kind during the last war, it would have been an immense advantage. There was not a Ministry of Labour then, there was only a section of the Board of Trade, and gradually a sort of machine was built up by the experience of our troubles and our mistakes. It would have been an absolute godsend if there had been what I may call a clearing house of this kind. This Register of men with experience of business and industrial management, carefully "vetted," personally examined and vouched for by a responsible body, provides a collection of people from whom a large number of most valuable recruits should be obtainable.

It is quite true, as the noble Viscount said, that such a Register cannot be used for the big men at the top. It is designed in order to make it possible to fill a very large number of relatively subordinate but exceedingly important posts in matters of management. Cases have been reported in the papers lately which give one a very unhappy impression as to the way some people have obtained posts in the Ministries. I do not want to express any opinion on those cases because I do not know the facts, but they leave an uncomfortable impression as to how some of these posts have been filled. That is all the more reason why this Register, compiled with such care, should be fully used. I am quite sure that the noble Earl is fully sympathetic to the use of a valuable machine of this kind. I hope, therefore, that he will give a reply which will assure us that the Government intend to use this channel of recruitment, to give it real preference and to see that it is not sidetracked by any personal influence.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord opposite, I would ask the noble Earl to give favourable consideration to this Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, with his experience at the Ministry of Munitions during the last war, knows what is behind this Motion. I helped in the Contracts Department in 1914 in the War Office before he went to the Ministry of Munitions, and I also know from experience what is needed in the direction of this Motion. I would base my support of the Motion on two grounds. Speaking in your Lordships' House about a week ago, I drew attention to the necessity of revising the method by which this Central Register is operated. I said then that I hoped its method would be improved because it would enable manufacturers to use the Register. In any case, therefore, I should wish to support the noble Viscount because he has supported me by implication in what I said last week. This Motion discloses something to the Socialist Party. Members of that Party talk much about Capital and Labour, but they always forget that there is a thing called Management. Capital and Labour, without Management, are absolutely powerless. We have, in time of war, perfect proof of the necessity for management that is the result of skill and long training.

On one point I did not catch the exact words of the noble Viscount, but I think that what he said was to the effect that the university type occupied too great a prominence. I do not think that is correct, and I say that because of a passage in a Report to the Association of British Chambers of Commerce dated January 11, 1939, on the subject of the commercial employment of students with degrees in commerce. That Report says: Taking all this into account the deliberate annual recruitment of young graduates to commerce for the purpose of ultimately using them for the higher executive posts, must be put at a figure well below 100. These are taken mainly by large concerns engaged either in manufacturing or retailing. There is no evidence of any appreciable recruitment to wholesale houses and shipping concerns. This low figure is confirmed by the returns from various chambers of commerce. That means that most of those equipped with university degrees in economics are regarded as useless for commerce; so I should not say, therefore, that the university type occupies too great a prominence. It seems to me that so far as that point is concerned, the noble Viscount based his argument on something which is not tenable.

What the Government need—and here I support the noble Viscount—are specially trained men, not directors or people on boards, or theoretical experts, or professors of economics, with text-book knowledge and without personal experience. The people wanted are those who know commercial methods, men who have had considerable experience and training in buying and selling and making contracts. This Central Register is wanted for that reason. The noble Viscount touched rather gently on the Civil Service. One does not want to speak unkindly about civil servants, but they are as a rule incompetent to do difficult commercial jobs. It is no good putting in war-time a home civil servant to make a contract about goods of which he had not experience previously, nor is it any good taking a retired civil servant who may have spent a good part of his working life as a Commissioner of Works in some tropical Crown Colony, and employing him in making contracts about specialised goods produced in specialised conditions. He will be wanting in initiative, he may be so old that he has lost the power to act promptly or without sending papers round to half a dozen other people for confirmation. The result is that we get nothing done except after long delay and then perhaps in a hurry under pressure at the last moment. In war-time decisions and actions must be accurate and prompt. For that reason the Government should use a Central Register when selecting staff for their own commercial purposes, but subject to this as a sine qua non: that the selecting committee should preferably not contain any civil servants at all. It should be composed, if possible, of two or three men who have held high managerial office in some of the great manufacturing concerns, who know themselves how to select men, who know the type of men they want for their own businesses and are capable of detecting suitable ability. If we could get that done as a result of this discussion, I think we should have done a public service, and I hope my noble friend Earl Stanhope will give attention to what has been said by the noble Viscount.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, I too, like the noble Lord who has just sat down, am very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, for raising this Motion to-day and for the speech he has made in support of it and the explanation he has given in regard to the Central Register and its operations: that it does not carry the weight in the Government's councils in regard to the selection of candidates which one would have expected it to carry. I rather wish to raise the general question of policy which arises out of this Motion. The Government's general policy of trade control, the effect to-day of taking over whole sections of trade, as has been done in wool, paper, copper and any other industry you like to think of, is to bureaucratise the whole of the trading system of this country. I am not one of those who believe that you can carry on trade in war in the same way as you can carry on trade in peace; but I venture to submit that the Government have plunged into this control of the various industries in too light-hearted a manner, with the result to-day that they have put out of employment huge sections of different trades which in the past relied on those trades for their livelihood.

Let us take the case of Wool Control. It is well known that in Bradford there is a Trade Control with a staff of 909. It is well known in the trade that that staff is not as expert as it ought to be. Why is it not expert? Because it has not utilised, to the extent that it could utilise, the services of men who have been put out of work owing to the establishment of that Control. Let us take shipping. I am given to understand that it is probable that in the arrangements for the charter of ships by the Government—and the Government are taking over the whole of the charter arrangements and the whole of the merchant fleet of this country—they will set up a separate chartering department, under a gentleman, no doubt, of experience in shipping matters. But what is going to be the effect of that? They are going to throw out of employment a large number of shipbrokers and others who are accustomed to conduct the business which this new charter department will do. They are going to throw out of business a large number of men who have been accustomed all their lives to taking part in and conducting the charter business, and who have got con- siderable capital invested in those concerns. I venture to submit that that policy is quite wrong. It is not necessary. It is leading us into a state which, when the war is over, may be a very serious one indeed. But it is not only doing that. In these various Controls we are employing civil servants. I say nothing against civil servants, who, as my noble friend who has just sat down said——


If I had thought my noble friend was going off this Motion to talk about control, I should have taken a different line in my remarks. I thought we were talking only about the Central Register.


I cannot accept that interpolation of my noble friend, because we are talking about those industries which are being expanded for war purposes.


No, we are not.


The Motion says so: "to fill the requirements both of Government Departments needing additional administrative or executive staff and of those industries which are being expanded for war purposes."


May I put it that it is the recruitment; it is not the way in which the industry is run. The whole essence of this question is the Central Register and how it should be used.


I will accept, for the purpose of the argument I am putting, what the noble Earl the Leader of the House says. From the point of view of recruitment, I submit that it would be very much better to employ the men who have been thrown out of work rather than civil servants who know nothing about the conditions of the departments in which they are asked to serve, who have to learn at the expense of the trade itself and of the taxpayer, and who already—I think this is a very important point—are drawing pensions, which is an unfair factor so far as those are concerned who are thrown out of employment and find themselves in poverty and very often in misery. A wiser policy of the Government would be to place first on the list those commercial men who are thrown out of employment, those men who are versed in management and administrative business experience, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Leverhulme; the services of the civil servants should come afterwards. It is for that reason that I rise to support my noble friend as well as to raise the whole issue of the policy of the Government in taking wholesale control of trade as they are doing to-day.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, the questions regarding the operation of the Central Register which have been raised by the noble Viscount and supported by a number of your Lordships are of great importance. It is essential for the efficient conduct of the war that as much use as possible should be made of persons of proved ability in business administration and management. One would feel that, particularly in the staffing of new Government Departments, the Civil Service would be glad to have the fullest possible co-operation of trained business administrators, whose organising capacity could not fail to be of value to the nation. The Central Register, as your Lordships are aware, covers a very wide range of business and professional activities. It is to be expected that there should be much greater pressure on some sections of the Register than on others. That, as has been shown in this debate, is actually the case. For instance, there are sections of the Register where immediate use can only be made of a very small proportion of those who have volunteered to place their services at the disposal of the authorities for work of national importance. In certain other sections, however, such for example as those dealing with engineering, there is already a very definite shortage of professional men of the kind so urgently required. This wide difference in effective demand between one section and another makes it reasonable to suppose that special measures will be adopted in the case of those shortage sections referred to which will not of necessity have to be applied to all other cases.

One of the sections where acute shortage has arisen is the all-important one of production engineering, made up of works engineers responsible for manufacture and manufacturing methods. So many engineers in that section are already engaged, as your Lordships will be well aware, on work of vital national importance in firms on the priority list that the number available through the Central Register is already very restricted. Perhaps I may be allowed to ask what steps His Majesty's Government are proposing to take to meet a case of this kind. As a Past President of the Institution of Production Engineers, in which office I was succeeded by a distinguished member of your Lordships' House, Viscount Nuffield, I have been very vitally interested in the matter. Perhaps I may inform your Lordships that the Council of that Institution have declared definitely in favour of the compulsory registration of production engineers. Their carefully considered view is that where the shortage is acute, as in that section, the voluntary system cannot be made to function fairly or efficiently. Under the present voluntary system, no one in a firm on the priority list can be approached at all by the Central Register, even for Government service; in the case of firms not on the priority list, men cannot be moved if their employers object, and in most cases they can be relied upon to object very strongly indeed if they are themselves in need of more technicians of the type that they are asked by the Central Register to release for other work.

The position is not improved by the fact that this shortage section of the Register is still open for use as an ordinary employment bureau at the service of individual companies requiring additional staff. I hope that your Lordships' House may have an assurance to-day that the machinery of a Government department such as the Central Register will not be used, at least in the case of shortage sections, for ordinary employment bureau purposes, except where men happen to be actually unemployed. In other cases its activities, I suggest, should be confined to filling Government requirements only or to finding technicians for firms where a responsible Government official certifies that the national interests require that this should be done. If I suggest to your Lordships that the voluntary system cannot function efficiently in the shortage sections, as is the case at this stage, what is likely to happen if, later on, communications are interrupted and factories are destroyed or damaged by enemy air action? The considered opinion, as I have already submitted it to your Lordships, of the scientific body which speaks for production engineering as a whole is that the country cannot afford to run the risk of waiting until then for compulsory registration.

I very strongly urge that this matter is worthy of the most detailed and careful consideration; and I hope that when the noble Earl replies to this debate for His Majesty's Government he will give your Lordships an assurance that this whole question will be most carefully re-examined. I may mention, in connection with the work of the Institution of Production Engineers, that that work has already been advanced in a very important way by the noble Earl, acting in his previous capacity as President of the Board of Education. I happen to be one of those whom he was good enough to receive at that time, when certain important considerations were submitted to him; and I would pay tribute to the very useful service which he rendered to production engineering in this country at that time.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a series of interesting speeches dealing with this subject from a variety of angles, and it is perhaps, therefore, not a very easy debate to which to reply. The noble Viscount who introduced the Motion fortunately eased my task by giving a description to your Lordships of what the Central Register really is, and I was grateful to him for saying that the Central Register exists not to find jobs for men but to find men for jobs. That is exactly its purpose. Similarly, I was grateful to my noble and gallant friend Lord Sempill for suggesting that where there was a shortage the business of the Central Register was only to find individuals for work in Government Departments or for those firms who were really doing work of national importance. I am glad to tell him that, at any rate as regards cases where there is a shortage, as for example in production engineering, the Central Register is definitely limited to the purpose of providing people only for Government Departments or for firms which are actually working on production for national purposes.

The number of persons on the Central Register is roughly 90,000; I think that the actual figure is 90,743. As the noble Viscount told your Lordships, the Ministry of Labour is assisted in choosing people from this Register by an Advisory Council under the Chairmanship of Sir Walter Moberly, and much of the work is carried out, as he told us, by committees and sub-committees. Actually the noble Viscount himself is a member of the Advisory Council, as he is also of the Administration and Management Committee of the Advisory Council, but unfortunately they have not had the benefit of his services; he has, I understand, for one cause or another not been able to attend up till now.


What is the complexion of the Selection Committee?


It is composed partly of Government officials and partly of representatives of other bodies, as for instance the Federation of Employers' Organisations and the Federation of British Industries. There is a number of them. The panels, of course, differ according to the particular category of the actual section of the Central Register.

As I understand it, what the noble Viscount is really asking is that all appointments to Government service of an administrative or an executive character should be made by a single panel on which a high proportion should be those skilled in modern management and technique. That is a knowledge which the British Management Council, of which he is President, rather claims for itself; but that Council, I would tell your Lordships, is rather a new one. It was set up only, I think, in 1936; and, although he has told us that it has some thirty organisations and institutions connected with it, not all of those are of great importance, and the Management Council itself has not yet had its principles accepted by organised industry as a whole. But the point really is that the Central Register should allocate people to the posts which are vacant in Government Departments and elsewhere. That is really exactly the opposite of the way in which those posts are normally filled, and indeed are filled now.

As your Lordships who have served in Government Departments know, each Government Department selects its own recruits from those who have passed the necessary examinations, and subject, of course, to the consent of the Treasury. Now what is happening is that the Government Departments notify the Central Register of the type of person they require and the type of job which it is wished to fill, and then the Central Register, through their committees and sub-committees, submit a list of names of those whom they think suitable for that post, with their qualifications and so on. Then the Government Department makes its selection from that list. I am not going to pretend that the system as it has worked in the past, or as it works now, is incapable of making mistakes. Of course Government Departments do make mistakes; they are composed of ordinary human beings and, as such, make mistakes like anybody else. But I do contend—and I am certain the noble Lord opposite and all those who have held Government office will agree with me in this—that the Civil Service of this country is the envy of the whole world, and we should be extremely careful before we change a system which has served us so admirably in the past.

I quite admit that, as some of your Lordships have said, war makes entirely new demands on Government Departments. They have to make contracts, they have to buy and sell and do all sorts of things. But when my noble friend Lord Mancroft says that a Government Department is not accustomed to making contracts, I wonder what he knows about Government work. After all, I have served in several. I know that the Office of Works were constantly making contracts.


I had the privilege of helping, at Mr. Bonar Law's request, in the Munitions Contracts Department of the War Office in the late part of 1914 and onwards, and I saw then the difficulties we had to find the men who were able to do the required work.


That is quite another matter. What happened then is what is happening now, that you certainly had a very small Army multiplied into a very large one, and the staff which was adequate for a small Army was totally inadequate for a big one, and had to be added to enormously. Of course there were difficulties then in finding the right kind of staff to do the work, as there are now.


May I say that in this case you turn men out of work who are accustomed to do this kind of work, and you put in those who do not know how to do it? That is the great complaint in the City of London and in other parts of the country, where men really have been put out of work. If you put them into these Controls, and so on, it is different. The Oil Control, for instance, is manned entirely by oil people. It is working extremely well, and there is no complaint; but where you find these Departments manned by people. It is working extremely well, is much complaint—and there is a great deal of complaint up and down the country.


I think I have heard complaints from the Party opposite—I do not say in this House—that the Government are doing exactly what the noble Lord says they are not doing—taking in people who are concerned in the industries in question, who therefore have an interest in them, and that therefore they should not be so employed. The Government do not agree with the contention of some members of the Labour Party in that respect, because we are making very large use of those engaged in industry, whether it is wool or oil.


I hope the noble Earl does not put that contention upon the Front Opposition Bench in this House. I can never remember giving expression to any such complaint. It is much too complicated a question.


The noble Lord is much too wise to do anything of the kind. I only said that some of his followers, though perhaps not in this House, have done so. The noble Lord knows a good deal too much about the way in which these things have to be run. When several of your Lordships suggest that the Government are making inadequate use of business experience, perhaps I may give a few examples of what is in fact happening. In the three Departments of Supply, the headquarters office of Food, and Shipping, out of 82 temporary appointments to administrative posts (as administrative posts are denned in Civil Service appointments) 63 of those appointed had previous business experience. Of the 724 temporary appointments of executive types (excluding technical and professional posts) 712 of those appointed had previous business experience. In the Ministry of Economic Warfare, out of 180 temporary appointments of administrative type, 96 of those appointed had previous business experience, and of the remainder, the majority required professional qualifications—very largely legal qualifications—for work of the Department, and have been selected for that reason.

The noble Viscount who introduced the Motion suggested that we ought to take many more men who are highly qualified by business experience and business technique, but I may point out to him that principals and assistant principals—which are the two classes of civil servants he mentioned—are junior posts and are by far the most numerous, and I very much doubt whether those who have had that kind of experience would be willing to serve in these appointments or to accept the comparatively low salaries attached to them. He is really thinking of men of a higher scale, specially qualified people—though, I agree, not so high as Lord Stamp and Lord Weir. The noble Lord opposite said that it would have been a godsend to have had a Central Register as a clearing house during the last war, and I entirely agree with him. That is how the Government are using it, and they find it most valuable, although I am bound to admit that the number of posts that have been filled from that 90,000 is comparatively small. Everybody recognises the rush of patriotic feeling which caused those 90,000 people to put their names on that Register so that the Government should have every opportunity of using their services, if they so desired. But the very large majority of those individuals are already in employment, and in very many cases in employment of very real importance—sometimes, for instance, in industries engaged in the export trade. Therefore, to ask them to fill a comparatively minor post in a Government Department would really be asking them to do a very much less national service than they are actually doing in their present jobs.

When the noble Viscount asked us that the Register should be fully used and should be given a preference, I can assure him that that is in fact the case now. I think that for practically all posts, except those which require very special technical qualifications, where there are no such individuals on the Register, the Central Register has to be used; and therefore it is indeed given not only a preference but I think almost a monopoly. My noble friend Lord Mancroft suggested that the selection committee should not contain any civil servants at all. But will those who have no experience of the Civil Service and of the requirements of the Government Departments be the kind of people who are likely to make the right selection? We must all of us recognise, even noble Lords who have Socialist ideas, that when you run business in a Government Department you are under very serious disabilities, and the most serious of all is Parliamentary control. All of us know that we should, very often, employ different methods if it were not that, in order to satisfy the House of Commons and the requirements not only from the Estimates' point of view, but from the point of view of publicity, we have to employ far more complicated methods than any business would dream of attempting or find at all necessary for the sake of satisfactory management. Therefore it is necessary to know what is required of Government Departments before you can satisfactorily fill posts in them, and the only people who know what is required are civil servants. That is why civil servants are, amongst others, on this selection panel of the Central Register.

I do not think I can really follow Lord Elibank into the question of the Controls of industry and of raw products on the matter which is now before the House. That is really a different matter, but if he desires to have a debate on that, the Government would, of course, be ready to meet him. I can assure him that the very last thing the Government do is light-heartedly to enter upon any extra Control. It is an extraordinarily difficult subject, because any of the great trades of the country are of immense complication, particularly in time of war, when questions of exchange, shipping, labour, and raw materials all have to be considered. All of these make the question difficult and complicated to deal with. Therefore, wherever possible, the Government endeavour to leave these things in the hands of private industry, as in the past. But owing to those very reasons I have mentioned, over and over again the Government have been forced to take control, otherwise there would undoubtedly be difficulties with which no private business would be able to deal satisfactorily in the national interest.

My noble friend Lord Sempill asked what steps the Government were taking to make good a shortage where one exists. The Government have that subject very much in mind. They recognise that a time may come when possibly the voluntary system will have to be, I will not say abolished or replaced by something else, but, at any rate, somewhat modified, because we feel, with the national spirit what it is, we should only have to appeal to industries or individuals, asking them to come to the assistance of the Government, by taking up some work other than that which they are doing in the national interest, to get a very full—I might almost say universal—acceptance of any demand the Government might make. That is the spirit of the country among all classes and professions, and I have not the least doubt it would work in that direction as in others. I do not think there is any more I can say. I hope I have satisfied the noble Viscount to some extent that the Central Register is endeavouring to make use of those who have placed their names upon it to the best possible advantage, and I hope he himself may find more opportunity than he has done in the past to attend meetings of the Advisory Council. Then he may find that the Advisory Council is perhaps not quite so black as it has been represented to him to be, and that it is actually carrying out its work apparently satisfactorily.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House for the reply he has given on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I should also like to thank those noble Lords who have supported my Motion and those who, in various ways, have thrown light on the subject with which it deals. There is just one point in the noble Earl's reply to which I wish to refer. He expressed the hope that I might be able to attend meetings of the Advisory Council more regularly. To the best of my knowledge, the Advisory Council has not been called together for a very long time—not, in fact, since the outbreak of the war. On the first occasion I was summoned to a meeting, if my recollection is right, I was ill with influenza, the second time I was abroad, the third time there was a really valid reason why I could not attend, and in each case they kindly allowed me to send a deputy.


I hope the noble Viscount will not think I was accusing him of not attending when he could. I recognise that there were difficulties.


I am also under the impression that, as regards the sub-committee which deals with the management and administrative section, the British Management Council is represented on that sub-committee by a person other than myself. I shall certainly look into it, and endeavour to find a remedy for any defects I may have shown in this matter. May I say, with regard to the reply, that I suppose it can rarely happen, when one rises, as I have done, to move a Motion in your Lordships' House on this somewhat contentious matter, that he finds all his points met. I confess to enlightenment on many points of detail, without admitting conversion on matters of principle. There is just one point in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on which I should like to touch. That was where he referred to the "university type." I fear that, perhaps, in using the words "university type," I did not choose the best phrase possible. What I had in mind was not people who have been to universities, but more particularly those who may have been on the teaching staffs of universities—university dons and university lecturers. I can speak with some personal knowledge of the increasing value of graduates from the universities who have come into business and industry through the appointments boards of Oxford and Cambridge and all the other universities with which we are equipped to-day. The debate we have had is ample justification for the Motion I have tabled. It is a matter of great public interest. If I had any doubts about the feeling of public interest, they were dispelled by the post-bag I have had since the Motion became news in the papers at the beginning of this week. I should like again to thank the noble Earl for his reply, and beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes past five o'clock.