HL Deb 26 November 1942 vol 125 cc275-325

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by the Earl of Perth—namely, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the official headship of His Majesty's Civil Service and to the functions of the holder of the title.


My Lords, I have to ask your Lordships' indulgence because I realize fully that what I am about to say will amount very much to a réchauffé of what has already been said yesterday, but I think that the ingredients of a réchauffé, provided they are fresh, do not necessarily impair its value. One of the reasons why I am taking part in this debate is my very long association with the Civil Service, amounting to about forty-five years. A further reason is my very strong conviction that now more than ever an efficient Civil Service has become a national interest, especially with a view not only to war-time conditions but also with regard to tackling post-war problems. That is one of the reasons why I deprecate most strongly the rather ill-informed attack on this Service, which is a silent one and, therefore, unable to reply. It throws upon overworked Ministries a further burden—that is, the defence of the Service—which should not be thrown upon them in these days when they have enough to carry. Moreover, these attacks also shake confidence and unsettle public opinion, consequences which I do not think are sufficiently present to the minds of our critics.

From the very start I welcomed this opportunity of paying a tribute to the first holder of the headship of the Civil Service, Sir Warren Fisher, to whom the Service owes so much for his untiring efforts to modernize it and bring it up to date. We are much indebted to my noble friend Lord Hankey who made this so clear in his recent speech. We are also under a great obligation to my noble friend the Earl of Perth, whose Motion, I think, will contribute so much to remove the misgivings which have arisen in connexion with the administration of the Cabinet decisions of September, 1919, and March, 1920. I hope he will allow an old friend and colleague to associate himself with those who have expressed their admiration and appreciation of the lucidity and moderation of his statement of the case in support of his Motion. This also gives me an opportunity of saying that during my period of service at the Foreign Office I received nothing but kindness and helpful consideration at the hands of the Secretaries to the Treasury, and I wish to say most emphatically that I never noticed any attempt on their part to intervene either in the administration of the office with which I was associated or its policy.

I also wish to express my gratitude and relief to the noble and distinguished occupant of the Woolsack, under whom I have had the honour to serve in bygone times, for his emphatic statement that appointments to vacancies in the permanent staff of an office are the appointments of the Minister. Equally we are indebted to him for the very emphatic way in which he said that the Permanent Head of the Civil Service is not entitled to interfere in policy. As regards appointments by the Minister, I may be permitted with all respect to the noble and learned Viscount to suggest that there was just a little haze, which I hope will be removed in any statement which the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, who I understand is going to reply, makes at the end of this debate. The point I should like to submit to your Lordships is that an appointment to a vacancy in a Ministry is the duty of the Minister of the Department, with the consent of the Prime Minister. On this I should say there will be common agreement. In this connexion I welcome the quotation which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, made yesterday from a letter addressed by Sir Walford Selby to The Times, in which he urged that in all questions of policy it seems vital that the authority of Ministers over the Departments entrusted to their care should be placed beyond question, as in the days before the office of Head of the Civil Service was called into being in 1919. At the same time I should like to associate myself with the tribute which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, paid to the services rendered by Sir Walford Selby both at home and abroad to the great advantage of his country.

It seems to me that the most effective contribution we can make towards the efficiency of the Civil Service is to watch very carefully that the authority of a Minister presiding over his Department should remain unimpaired. After all, it is the Minister who can contribute most to the efficiency of a Department, and any kind of scheme which in any way tends to impair his authority is, from that point of view, to be condemned. This authority can best be secured in some respects by his control of the patronage of his Department, and, further, by securing the loyalty of his subordinates which should, in no instance, run the risk of becoming a divided loyalty. Human nature being w hat it is, they may be tempted to look for promotion not only to the Minister who disposes of it but to an outside authority which cannot, in the nature of things, be a s competent to decide on the merits of civil servants in any special Ministry as the Minister who is in daily contact with his subordinates. In other words, the Minister should be master in his own house, and should be' able to rely on the undivided loyalty of his subordinates. In conclusion, I do not wish to appear as being mainly critical of the present system, and I therefore venture to suggest that we should pay great attention to the constructive proposals contained in the very able speech of my noble friend Lord Hankey, who occupies the very exceptional position of one who has been not only a civil servant, but closely associated with the Civil Service, and eventually has been able to test it in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown. I am much indebted to hint for the tribute which he paid to our Service. I hope the recommendation he has made as an alternative to the present system will receive the attention which it so richly deserves in the event of the present system being reconsidered. This speech of mine being only in the nature of a réchauffé, I think I had better conclude now before your Lordships get tired of my dish.


My Lords, few occasions can inspire more diffidence than the first on which one speaks to your Lordships' House, and the embarrassment of the occasion is certainly not diminished by postponement. Let me then ask your Lordships, if I show any ignorance of the forms of the House, to extend to me in full measure that allowance which in these circumstances you are wont to make of your good nature. I have seen the insides of a good many Government offices and I have had the advantage of taking part in several inquiries into the organization and working of different parts of the Civil Service. In the course of that experience I have formed a view about the utility, arid indeed the necessity, of the office which has been principally under discussion in this debate. My view is that it is indeed both useful and necessary, so much so that, as Voltaire said in another connexion, if it did not exist it would have to be invented. It was therefore with real curiosity and interest that I listened in order to understand why it is that from time to time this office has excited criticism and, indeed, some opposition. It has been possible to understand that much better from the course of the debate.

I think that one who listened to our debate might be inclined to believe that it was possible to paint two different pictures of this officer. The first would be the portrait of a super-executive, an ambitious autocrat, secretly and insidiously acquiring a stranglehold over the control of Departments which were, so to speak, no business of his, and even aspiring to displace in the Constitution the proper functions of His Majesty's Ministers. That would be a very repulsive portrait, and, if it were a portrait of anything that actually existed, I am sure we should all join with the utmost enthusiasm with my noble friend Lord Perth in tearing it from its frame or turning it to the wall. But there is the other portrait, and it is one which seems to me easier to paint from acquaintance with the facts. It is the portrait of an official who is not, indeed, an executive in any real sense of the word at all, whose functions are almost purely advisory, who exercises his influence and authority by personal relations with the heads of the Services, who has no concern at all with the policy of other Departments, but who is concerned simply and solely with the business of the Civil Service, with the organization of its business and with the distribution of its personnel.

I can illustrate the functions of his office best by comparing them not with those of an executive, a commander, but with those of the captain of a team, one who is able to act by reason of his personal familiarity with those whom he has to influence. That is the portrait which, from the opportunities which I have had of seeing the office of Head of the Civil Service in operation, I should think it natural to paint. His typical activities are concerned with the domestic side of the Civil Service. He is the central influence to whom reference is made for policies of co-ordination, the avoidance of overlaps between one Department and another, and the avoidance of gaps where there is no proper administration of government. He is the influence to whom reference is made on all questions relating to the disciplinary questions of the Service, matters on which it is particularly important that a common standard should be administered throughout the Civil Service; and, of course, he is the head and central authority upon all staffing questions.

His most important activity is undoubtedly that which has attracted most attention in our debate—his responsibility for advising the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister upon the appointment of heads of Departments. It is, of course, very easy to apprehend why that excites the necessity for particular attention and careful watch in noting the development—and, as I suggest, the proper development—of his office. But there is another aspect of that matter which I venture to point out, and that is that this is also the most useful of all the activities of the office of the Head of the Civil Service. It is the plain fact that the qualifications which are required by the head of a great Department in modern times are so particular, so special, and necessarily, therefore, of such rare occurrence, that it is not the case that every great Department can always expect to produce, among its own lifelong servants, one who is capable of filling the office of Head of the Department. It is necessary to pool this invalu- able material in order that the few who are qualified to occupy these high offices shall be made the best use of for the advantage of the public service. That, I think, is shown by practical experience. One Department may find that it has three or four men capable of filling this high position; another Department may find that it has none. For the sake of public efficiency, it is necessary to provide for their distribution; and how can that be done unless there is some central authority in touch with the whole personnel of the Civil Service who is capable of bringing the two ends together and finding the supply to meet the demand? The qualification for whoever holds this central authority must be that he is in lifelong and intimate touch with the personnel of the Civil Service.

The very anxious question has been raised in our debate of the influence of the Minister in making the appointment of the head of his Department. If it is of interest to give personal evidence, I may say that it so happens that I have never made the appointment of the head of a Department, but I have appointed a good many seconds-in-command and Establishment Officers and Finance Officers, and though those have all been made subject to the pre-eminent decision of the Prime Minister, I have never in any case even been aware at the time that the Prime Minister had paid any particular attention to the matter. The appointments were made in due course by the Minister, and the control of the Prime Minister was very lightly felt. But, when it comes to the more anxious task of appointing the head of a Department, is it not the case that in the practical world the matter will go in this way: If we have the case which was put by my noble friend Lord Addison, of an experienced and vigorous Minister, it is very likely that his vii will prevail, even though there may be some temporary reluctance on the part of the Head of the Civil Service or even of the Prime Minister, who may think that some other opinion might have been better? There are, however, two other possible cases. There is the case of the vigorous Minister who is inexperienced, who has no knowledge of personalities in the Civil Service. How can he possibly bring an effective judgment to bear on the matter? If he is a wise man, he will be very glad to accept the advice of the Prime Minister, advised by the Head of Civil Service. There is also the third case, the case of the inexperienced Minister who is not very wise, and who tries to make his will prevail against that of the Prime Minister and the Head of the Civil Service. I think that he will fail, and I think that that is a very good thing; he ought to fail. If he is inexperienced and does not know, it is far better that the experience and knowledge of the whole field of choice should prevail, under the authority of the Prime Minister.

Two particular matters requiring extreme and urgent attention have been raised in this debate. The first was raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he referred to the constant vigilance which must be kept by Parliament on the organs of government, in order to restrain policy from civil servants and retain it in the hands of Ministers—a point of vice; which I am sure excites the sympathy of all Parliamentarians. Is it the case that there is any tendency on the part of the Civil Service to usurp the functions of Ministers in responsibility for policy? From experience I do not remember receiving such an impression, and when one regards the possibilities I think one must ask oneself how it is possible under our constitutional arrangements that a civil servant should succeed in assuming responsibility for policy and making the policy of the Government his own. How could be do it? He cannot even get a proposal under way, as it were, unless it is adopted by his Minister. Even supposing that his Minister is comparatively weak and swallows holus-bolus the policy of his civil servant, nevertheless when that policy comes forward it is the policy of the Minister and not of the civil servant. It has to suffer that change on its way. And then beyond that there is the Cabinet. However weak and absorbent a Minister may be, Cabinets are neither weak nor over-readily absorbent of prepared policies. And before the policy really comes forward as the policy of His Majesty's Government it must be adopted not only by the Minister but by the Cabinet. Have we not therefore in our constitutional safeguards adequate protection against this danger, against which, nevertheless, we must be constantly on our guard—safegdards so adequate that they account for the fact that I do not think there has been much evidence in the past of usurpation of this sort on the part of the Civil Service.

But now I find another possible danger in the arrangements suggested on which no doubt an eye of constant vigilance is required. It was put with particular force and concentration by my noble friend Lord Hankey. He referred to the danger of a weakening of the administrative allegiance of the officials of the Department to their Minister, and said there could be nothing more mischievous. Agreed, Agreed that there could be nothing more mischievous if there were any cause at work which would make a Minister isolated in his Department unable to rely upon his own servants, as his own servants in the first place are bound to give him the maximum of confidence and the maximum of support. Agreed, Lord Hankey referred this weakening of administrative allegiance to the possibility that since the appointment of the head of the office was made by the Head of the Treasury, the head of the office might be unduly influenced in the advice he gave to his Minister by the financial considerations which he knew would be acceptable to the Head of the Treasury—a most relevant and pertinent contention. If it were so I expect we should all agree that it is mischievous, and that some remedy should be found, but is there, not an answer which may allay undue apprehension on this head? I think there is. The truth is that the civil servant and the public and Parliament do now, I think, make a practical distinction, a practical separation, between the office of Head of the Civil Service and the office of head of the Treasury. My noble friend Lord Hankey gave us an instance himself, when he referred to the proceedings of, I think it was the Committee of Imperial Defence, where, he said, the Head of the Civil Service attended as such, and lie was so little Head of the Treasury there that it was really an embarrassment to business, and somebody else had to be sent for. And that, I think, is the separation that runs through the whole point of view of the public and the Civil Service towards these two offices, and it is based upon the organization of the Treasury.

Nothing surely could be more remote from facts than to suppose that the Treasury is only a Ministry of Finance. It is a great deal more; it is in truth three Ministries in one, with only a very slight bond between them. It is a Ministry of Finance in the first place—the financial side. It is, secondly, a Ministry of Supply—watching over the expenditure of the Government Departments, concerned characteristically for the Estimates. That is another Ministry. But there is a third, very little related to these two, the Establishment side of the Treasury, and that is the side which is the central co-ordinating Department of the whole of the Civil Service. I think, if I may say so, that my noble friend Lord Addison did something less than justice to the progress in our arrangements when he implied that nothing at all had been done to follow up the Reports of the Haldane and Bradbury Commissions. As a matter of fact it was in consequence of those Reports that this Establishment Department of the Treasury has been developed in its present powerful position as the co-ordinating personnel Department of the Civil Service. It is as head of that Department that the Head of the Civil Service acts, and not as head of the Financial Department; and though the difference may seem to have a subtlety, it is nevertheless a practical one and well recognized by all concerned. The policies are different, the points of view are different.

My noble friend Lord Tyrrell referred to Lord Hankey's extremely interesting suggestion as to a possible change in the status of the Head of the Civil Service. Any suggestion coming from my noble friend Lord Hankey in such a matter will certainly receive the most profound consideration of all those who are acquainted with his mastery of the whole art and craft of administration, and I will join him in expressing a wish that his suggestion should be most profoundly considered by His Majesty's Government. If one makes any reference to it on this occasion it can only be by way of first thoughts, and certainly something better than first thoughts are deserved by a practical and constructive suggestion. But may I suggest this as a first thought? Would not my noble, friend be afraid of this? He suggests a Head of the Civil Service who has no connexion with any Department, but just exists as a little Department of his own, consisting of a small secretariat somewhere in Downing Street, and no other relations. Would he not be afraid that such an official would be a little too much suspended in vacuo? As soon as he goes to this little separate Department he loses practical touch with the working of the Service, he loses touch with the means of government. I am very much afraid that he would prove to lack those qualifications that are necessary to discharge his most essential functions. And then, how could be maintain sufficient influence? After all, the influence of the Head of the Civil Service is due to the fact that the other heads of the Civil Service look upon him as one of themselves, having much the same difficulties and responsibilities as they have. And would they not feel that such a hermit as my noble friend would propose to create in Downing Street might lack the qualification of speaking to them as a man and as a brother and with the authority which is necessary to give his opinions weight?

I fear that the practical conclusion must be that nobody can discharge the functions of the Head of the Civil Service in the more important aspect unless he is at the same time the responsible official chief of the Establishment Department of the Treasury, and thus has the knowledge, experience, and authority to keep him in touch with the qualifications necessary for the office which he discharges. These seem to be some of the principal matters that have emerged in the course of our debate. There are two currents of tendency at work. The current of progress is the current away from the old bad constitution of isolated and unrelated Government Departments to the modern conception of a unified Civil Service. This office, in a way, typifies that current approach, and I venture to suggest that any step we take backwards in the way of qualifying the authority of that office would be a step in the direction of disintegration and in the reverse direction from that of efficient progress.


My Lords, I count it a rare personal privilege that by the luck in the order of speaking I should have been brought to my feet at this moment just as the distinguished noble Lord has sat down, because it falls to me to express, what I am sure every one of your Lordships will wish me to express, our great pleasure at hearing his voice and receiving his sage and wise counsel in your Lordships' House to-day. If I may, without impertinence, I should like to congratulate him upon the form and substance of his speech, which interested me and I am sire everyone of your Lordships to an extraordinary degree. I think I am the only member of your Lordships' House who has an original responsibility for the present arrangements with regard to the Civil Service. It was in the year 1918 that the question of a certain change in the Civil Service first arose in an acute form—it became a little more acute in 1919—and the problem was this. There had been a most extraordinarily rich crop of great civil servants—at the Admiralty Sir Oswyn Murray; at the War Office, Sir Reginald Brade, Mr. Bertram Cubitt, arid Sir Charles Harris; at the Home Office, Sir Edward Troup and. Sir Malcolm Delevingne; at the Local Government Board, Sir Horace Monro; I could go on with a good many more. They were all getting to a point at which their retiral was inevitable. Most of them were already ever age at the end of the war. Lord Milner, always profoundly interested and very wise in all these matters of organization and control of the Government machine, was busying himself especially with some solution of what appeared to be, and what I think in fact was, a real difficulty—namely, that the old and original system of isolated Departments, which had in the main been got rid of in the middle of the nineteenth century, had in fact re-established itself. The Departments were very separate and there was a definite lack in certain of them of any one to follow on the retiring senior civil servant.

It so happened that early in 1919, Sir Albert Stanley, as he then was—Lord Ashfield—was President of the Board of Trade. He fell ill, and I was sent to that office as acting President just at the time when that very great and very distinguished civil servant, Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith, was reaching the end of his time. In the ordinary course I went to the Prime Minister and told him what I thought would be a good arrangement to make with regard to a successor. He said to me, "Well I think we should get Lord Milner and Mr. Bonar Law in on this." It was out of that that originated the Committee of which the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, told us yesterday. It was because of that accident of being responsible temporarily as the head of the Board of Trade that I came to be on that Committee. We had a great many conversations, and gradually it came about that Lord Milner and I did most of the work, because the Prime Minister was very busy, Mr. Bonar Law was very busy, and Mr. Austen Chamberlain was, at that time, also very busy. The idea in Lord Milner's mind was that we should get a powerful, strong, central Department to be the Department of the Civil Service, and that is the Establishment Division of the Treasury as it was created. But it became necessary to realize that the Civil Service which, when we speak of it here in the area of Westminster, we are apt to regard as a small collection of senior civil servants, is a very big organization with great problems throughout the whole country.

In 1919 no one who knew the facts would have maintained that the Government was really a good employer. There were many things lacking in connexion with employment. There was a great lack in many parts of the Civil Service, we were told, of real esprit de corps. In fact, there was great discontent. The title "Head of the Civil Service" was, so far as I remember, very slightly in use before 1919, although it occurs far back in the nineteenth century. It was used on several occasions, but usually in an honorific sense, with very little suggestion of power and authority over civil servants, and with no power or authority whatever over the organization of the Service in the Departments. Lord Milner worked out the scheme which was finally embodied in the Minute to which the Lord Chancellor referred yesterday, and in the Circular of September 15, 1919, which I have in my hand. When it was approved by the Committee and communicated to and accepted by the Cabinet, the purpose of that organization was to provide a definite central figure who would, if I may put it this way, impersonate the Government as the employer in the vast extents of the Civil Service which are not immediately under observaition in Whitehall. The work done by Sir Warren Fisher in the years between 1919 and 1939—because, after all, he was there for twenty years—in building up the employer's side, the modern employer's outlook, on behalf of the Government in its relation to the civil servants employed, is a marvellous bit of work for which he has not received anythink like the credit he deserves.

Whether the Head of the Civil Service is a good title or not I really have no opinion. It is the old title; it is not a new one, and it was accepted in 1919 by that Committee as the old description of the senior civil servant. I know there are people who object to it. Why they should do so has never been very clear to me; but if a better title exists why not change it? But that Head of the Civil Service was to have certain functions with regard to the appointment of the heads of Departments and senior officers in the Departments, in order to prevent a recurrence of the return to individual Departments, separate and distinct and isolated from one another, and very often engaged in serious battles with one another. There is no greater sport in Whitehall, I imagine, than for one Department to have a real good fling at another. It exercises every faculty of every civil servant engaged when they get properly going. It was definitely to avoid that sort of thing that Lord Milner urged upon the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, and his colleagues the position of responsibility with regard to giving advice in connexion with the higher appointments, and that that responsibility should be placed fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the senior civil servant.

I do not know where else it could be placed, because obviously you cannot expect to have a unified Civil Service if promotions to the higher posts in it are going to be made simply at the will of individual Ministers. It so happened that within the first two years and a half of my experience as a Minister, I had twice to make appointments to the headship of Departments. I was completely inexperienced. I was ignorant of the personalities of the civil servants who were in the running. The first time I hardly knew anybody, and the second time I did not know a great many people in the Civil Service. On each occasion I naturally consulted not only the senior civil servant but several of the senior civil servants. I asked them who they thought would be a good man for the job, and it was only after that that I went to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether he was aware that I had already consulted the Head of the Civil Service, but I know that when it came actually to agreeing to the appointment there never was any difficulty at all. I think that there must be consultation between the Minister about to appoint and the responsible heads of the Civil Service staffs. It could not be otherwise. That does not mean that the Minister has someone foisted on to him that he does not want. There are cases where two men cannot work together; there are cases where they work together with difficulty, and I have never known any pressure being applied to any Minister to accept as his head or as his second or Establishment Officer or Finance Officer a man who said: "I just cannot work with that fellow." There has always been give and take. I do not think there is any difficulty on that side, nor do I believe there is any other organization possible.

But that is not the end of the story. There was in my mind, and I have no doubt there was in the minds of every other member of that Committee, the thought that we were making a very definite change in the relations of the Head of the Civil Service to the Service as a whole. We were giving him new responsibilities and giving him new powers. It so happened that immediately after the war—that is to say, in 1919–1920 and thereafter—there was pressure on the Government from the country and from the Press in the direction of economy. Nobody who was in public life at that time will have forgotten the squandermania campaign which was conducted in order to get the cutting down of staffs and the cutting down of policies—a cutting down which, in the view of those who were running the campaign, was necessary for the country's salvation. Your Lordships will remember that the Committee of National Economy got the name of one of my brothers. They became known as the Geddes Axe Committee, and a very drastic cutting down that Committee recommended. Their recommendations were accepted. Your Lordships will also remember that there came a period of great financial pressure and strain due to the colossal attempt that we made to pay the American Debt. Then came the return to the gold standard, the coming of the economic blizard, and all the rest of it.

All that had a profound effect upon the position of the head of the Treasury as the Head of the Civil Service. During this long period of years all the pressure from the Government was towards cutting down expenditure. I was not a Minister during that period; I was away most of the time; but every Minister to whom I spoke, other than Chancellors of the Exchequer, always had a grievance that he was not allowed to carry out his policy, while the Chancellors of the Exchequer to whom I spoke always had a grievance that everybody else was spending far too much, or at least trying to do so. That had the effect of putting the head of the Treasury into the position of continually having to bring his influence to bear upon Departments to get them to moderate their demands, not only through Ministers but through those inter-departmental discussions which so often precede the deliberations of Ministers in the preparation of Estimates and so on. That pressure from the Treasury, very often exercised, I am told, by Sir Warren Fisher in interview and discussion, undoubtedly had the effect at times of making certain members of the Civil Service, who were keen to carry out the policy of their Ministers, get a little hot under the collar, and a superstition arose—it would be very difficult to find much evidence for it, but that the superstition did exist there is no doubt—that if people made too strong a fight with the Treasury for the policy of their Departments they would not be perhaps quite so lucky in the next turn for promotion. That is inevitable Where you have struggle and pressure and where one man is occupying two positions, and having to apply the pressure not necessarily himself directly but through the appropriate controller or possibly at a lower level, that same man being in a position, as would appear to other civil servants, other servants of the State, to influence their promotion and their reward.

There is no doubt that there was as a result of that—I think it was largely due to the economic background necessitating pressure—a feeling that illegitimate pressure was being put on the civil servants by this dual role of the Head of the Civil Service. That is what happened, and not one, not two, not ten, but many more members of the Service have spoken to me along these lines. What we want, I think, is to see that there is no such feeling, because it detracts from the efficiency of the Service, and upon that efficiency and the well-being of that Ser- vice much of the future of this country must necessarily depend. I was therefore interested to hear my noble friend Lord Hankey's idea of a separate Department altogether to deal with questions which affect the civil servantry, because we are so apt to confuse the Civil Service and the people who are in it. There are many questions which affect them as individuals that are not, strictly speaking, Service questions at all, and there is no doubt whatever in my mind that should it be possible to find a suitable form of machinery which will enable the Head of the Civil Service to do all those things for the vast number of civil servants which a good employer should do, to look after their interests and to consider their difficulties as good employers try to do—if we can find some sort of machinery which will have that result and remove the possibility of this dual role of one individual affecting morale, we shall have done something to improve the machine of the Civil Service.

I think that perhaps it is not impossible, although the point which was made by my noble friend Lord Kennet—that a Head of the Civil Service divorced altogether from Departmental considerations would be very apt to lose touch, only having what would happen to be a small Department—should be borne in mind. It has occurred to me that there might be something in the nature of an Inspectorate-General to look after the position of the civil servants throughout the country, to see that the Departments which are primarily responsible for them are in fact providing those things which we wish them to have. For the last three years I have been living in the Civil Service, as a Regional Commissioner in two different parts of the country, with all grades of the Civil Service around me, and there is a great deal of work that ought to be done to look after these people from the centre. In my view not nearly enough attention has been paid to their very real interests and, through their interests, to the interests of the State, because efficiency depends upon them. It seems to me that it might be possible to have a Department such as my noble friend Lord Hankey envisaged and described yesterday, but to have it under an officer who, I suggest for the moment, without any feeling of prejudice about it, might be the Inspector-General of the Civil Service and might do all that work on behalf of the Head of the Civil Service which Sir Warren Fisher did so much himself. He probably had to do it because it was he who originated it. When once it had been started there would be many men—I think I could rind the man myself—who would see an extraordinary interest in looking after all that side of the Civil Service.

I am sorry to have spoken so long, but the history of this organization shows that there were real difficulties and real evils to be met. It shows, I think, that it was necessary that there should be a unification of the Service. I think that very careful consideration should be given by His Majesty's Government to the possible ill-effects of a dual relationship between the Head of the Civil Service and civil servants, not only at the top grade because it goes down quite a long way in the Departments, and that the Government should also give consideration to having an improved organization for extending the best standards of employment and work throughout the country to all members of the Civil Service.


My Lords, may I be allowed to join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Kennet on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House? I am sure it was with delight that all of us who know him well and know his great record in peace and war heard him contribute so valuable a speech to this debate. We hope we shall often hear him. My excuse for detaining your Lordships is that I have bean in exceptionally close touch with civil servants for a great number of years and am still to-day. I remember when I was in Mr. Asquith's Cabinet with my noble friend Viscount Samuel, who will also remember it, we were told by Mr. Asquith that there were three exceptional rising young men who were secretaries at that time. It is interesting to find that not only have they risen but that all three are in your Lordships' House to-day. Those three young men were the Earl of Perth, who was secretary to Mr. Asquith, Lord Tyrrell, who was secretary to Sir Edward Grey, and Lord Hankey, who was secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence. We are fortunate in having them in this House, although only two came here in the same way as Viscount Samuel and myself and the other by succession.

Having paid that compliment, I would say that having heard or read every word spoken in the debate so far I remain entirely unconverted. No one, I suppose, has suffered more from what we call Treasury control and Treasury parsimony than I did in the days before the last war, but when you come to examine the question that is posed to us by my noble friend the Earl of Perth I cannot help thinking that the arguments against the noble Earl's suggestion, against the noble Lord, Lord Hankey's definite proposal, and I am sorry to say even against the other proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, seem to me to be overwhelming. In the few remarks that I shall make I will try to examine the question under three headings. First, must there be a Head of the Civil Service? Secondly, if there is to be a Head must he be in the Treasury? Thirdly (and this seems to me perhaps the most important) how is the thing working now in these desperate days of war? Is the machine being hampered, is the Treasury throwing monkey wrenches into the machinery, as somebody said the other day, or is it well devised for the moment with the personnel as we see it?

Firstly then, must there be a Head of the Civil Service? All that has been said in this debate, to-day especially, points to the fact that there must he. All sorts of things have happened since this matter was discussed twenty-five or thirty years ago. The Civil Service has been cared for in a way that it ought to have been cared for long ago, largely due to the efforts of Sir Warren Fisher. That great man has indeed merited the affectionate regard of every member of the Civil Service. Civil servants were indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said, much disregarded as far as their welfare was concerned, and some, I believe, still are, as he has told us.

If you want to have the whole Civil Service safeguarded and its welfare cared for, as the welfare of the Army is cared for—an example of that is to be found in the post of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, as Welfare Officer—it seems to me you must have a Head of the Civil Service. There is an argument which has not yet been addressed to your Lordships, and which perhaps would not occur to those who are not in daily contact with the Treasury, as I am. The creation of Whitley Councils seems to me to make it essential that there should be a head of that great body of civil servants who now work under a system which we term the Whitley Council system, which enables appointments to be considered and reviewed by these councils—that is, appointments apart from those at the top. If you consider how these councils work, I am sure your Lordships will be inclined to say that there must be a Head of the Civil Service.

When you come to the conclusion that there is to be a Head of the Civil Service—and I am inclined to think that your Lordships will do so as the result of this debate, and especially as the result of listening to the most illuminating remarks and disclosures of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, who told us a great many things which I think none of us knew before; certainly I did not know them—you come to the question whether that Head should be in the Treasury. I am almost reluctantly compelled to say that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the contention that he must be. I have here a list of the authorities who have inquired into this question, and it is astonishing that four such different bodies should all say: "Yes, if there is a Head of the Civil Service he must also be head of the Treasury." It may seem an anomaly to some, but at any rate I present tins argument to my noble friend the Earl of Perth, that the impartial bodies whose opinions I now quote, who examined this very question which he has raised so ably in your Lordships' House, have all been unanimously against his view, which I think was that the Head of the Civil service should not necessarily be head of the Treasury.

First of all there was the Haldane Committee on the functions of government. They came unanimously to the conclusion that the Head of the Civil Service should be a Treasury man, and, of course, he must therefore be head of the Treasury. Then the Bradbury Committee on Treasury reform. I confess that I had forgotten that body myself, but I have been studying its conclusions for the purpose of making mention of them to-day. On exactly the same point that Committee came to the same conclusion. Lord Tomlin's Commission was more recent and its conclusions have already been quoted. The members of that Commission were unanimous in holding the same view. Last of all, there is the Report, which I have read with some care, of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on National Expenditure. They also very emphatically say, as I think my noble friend Lord Hankey pointed out yesterday, that they favour the view that if there is to be a Head of the Civil Service he must be in the Treasury.


My Lords, is the noble Lord quite sure that what he is saying is correct on that point? I myself read that Report, though perhaps I did not read it with the same care which he has devoted to it, and I did not get the impression that they stated their conclusion so definitely as he suggests. I think they were quite definite that the Treasury must be the Central Department of Government


I have the Report here. Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack can assist me to find the relevant words in it. I was reading it this morning, but I do not quite recall at the moment where the passages occur. But I have a good memory and I think it is a fact that words will be found in the Report to bear out what I say. No doubt before I sit down the actual passage will be found. I think I am right in saying that the members of the Commission were quite definite in coming to the conclusion that if there is to be a Head of the Civil Service that Head must be also the head of the Treasury.


Perhaps noble Lords would like to have this point cleared up now. I happen to have the document here. In paragraph 98 of the Sixteenth Report of Session 1941–42 from the Select Committee on National Expenditure there occurs one passage which I think the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has in mind. The Committee are beginning to treat of the matter which they describe at the head of the paragraph as "Seat of Central Control." I will read the paragraph: The second point, concerning the scat of central control, involves the question whether that control should continue to be situated in the Treasury or be removed elsewhere. The latter alternative would appear to imply that control would he transferred to a new Department responsible either to the Prime Minister or to some other existing Minister (e.g. the Lord President of the Council), or to a newly-created Minister. That is paragraph 98. The Committee discuss it over a series of paragraphs, and paragraph I02 is their final one on the subject. This states: Your Committee have thus reached the conclusion that there is no evidence which would justify the transfer of the existing seat of control from the Treasury to any other existing or new Department. I confess that I thought that that was, in fact, the view taken.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, with whom I have had so many passages at arms on matters of national defence, that on this occasion he has come to my rescue so completely and that my reputation for having a good memory is still, for the moment, unimpaired. I think that my noble friend Lord Hankey will now agree that my statement was accurate and that the Select Committee are emphatic in their conclusion. It does not follow, of course, that they are right, but I think they are. For reasons which must be apparent to us when we consider it impartially, it must be so because of the new fact of the reorganization of the Treasury which took place after the war at a time when I knew something about it. The head of the Treasury, as noble Lords may remember, was then put at the head of three Departments of which one was Establishment. That may have been right or wrong, but once you did that it seems to me obvious that the only man who could be Head of the Civil Service is the man who is head of the co-ordinating branch of the Civil Service, which is Establishment. The Establishment Branch is now presided over by Sir James Rae, is it not? The step then taken was, I think, decisive.

But I am sure that what is in the minds of all your Lordships who have listened with. great interest to the different speeches is the thought of how baffling it is, at a time when we know that expenditure is vital for the safety of the State, to have the Treasury saying: "No, no, no." No doubt that is a great danger. No doubt it is perfectly true that if you have a Treasury which is only concerned to say "No," we shall run the risk of doing what we have done more than once in our history, and that is throwing away our chance of leading the world back to peace and democracy and freedom by tailing to provide the money to enforce our will. We did it at the end of the last war, and even before the last war began. We were just in time to be prepared then, within the modified scale of action which we took, but it would have been much better for us and for the world if there had been less "No, no."

The real question, I submit, is not whether the headship should be in the Treasury. I think that an impartial examination will lead us to the conclusion that this is necessary and unavoidable. The real question is the mind of that Treasury. There must be a Treasury, but will it be a Treasury which will have no opportunities of saying anything but No? I remember a great head of the Treasury, who rather liked to pose as a "No-man" though he was really very open-minded, who was present when Dr. Jameson brought a deputation to Mr. Asquith on a subject vitally affecting the future of the whole of Africa and involving public expenditure. Mr. Asquith, as always, listened with the greatest care to what was said, and had, indeed, read the document before, but he said: "I will ask the head of the Treasury to give me his opinion on the subject." Thereupon the head of the Treasury read a document, devastating in its proof that the money would be wasted. I remember very well Dr. Jameson saying: "Is that all that we can get on a matter of this Imperial moment, just a cold No?" Sir George Murray replied: "Well, would you prefer a warm No? It is the only alternative." Sir George Murray was really not that kind of man at all; he did in fact help forward all sorts of good things which were needed.

My final point is this. Have we now got a Treasury which will help the war effort to-day, in this month of November, 1942, or is it hindering us? Is the head of the Treasury, who is thus, as we see, raised to a position which he must occupy, for the reasons which I have given, with direct access to the Prime Minister, and who is in a position of quite extraordinary authority, the kind of man in the present case, to-day, who will refuse wise expenditure? If I thought so, I should not care what academic arguments might be brought forward; I would beg my noble friend Lord Perth to go into the Division Lobby and do his utmost to bring about a change. I am convinced, however, from constant contact with the Treasury, that that is not true; I am sure that they are not obstructing the war effort. I am quite impartial, and have no interest to serve either way; but I am quite certain that the present head of the Treasury is a man of very remarkable qualities and of a really open mind. I am sure that all those who know him will agree that he would be the last to say: "Will you have a cold No or a warm No? That is all you will ever get." On the contrary, I think it will be now as it was in the days of Sir Warren Fisher. Sir Warren Fisher, far from adopting the "cold No" theory, at one time—I think this is common knowledge—was urging on Ministers the need for further expenditure on defence, and on particular aspects of defence, in a way which did him great honour, and which may have saved the State. If we can have people of that kind, and if we can have throughout the Treasury people who do not regard it as their sole duty to stop expenditure, then I think we shall be well advised to stick to the plan which logic seems to me to compel us to follow.


My Lords, in a recently published book called The Higher Civil Service, by a very able civil servant, the question to which my noble friend Lord Perth has referred is described as "a mildly controversial question that from time to time appears in Parliament and in the Press." Nothing that I shall say to-day is likely to go against that, nor do I propose to blow up the embers of the disagreement on the history of the matter which the noble and learned Viscount effectually extinguished yesterday. For the sake of the traditionalists and the purists, however, it is perhaps a pity that the file leading up to the appointment in 1867 has, according to an answer given in another place, been lost. Incidentally, a book which I was reading the other day may throw some light on that disappearance. It was written by an ex-Secretary to the Treasury, and in it he tells the story of a new recruit to a Government office—he does not mention what office, but I have my suspicions—who complained to the chief of his branch that the work given him to do was beneath his capabilities and attainments. His chief replied: "That is nothing. When I first came to this office, I was mainly employed upon putting papers away; and I am bound to say that I put some of them away so well that they have never been found since."

I do not think that the history of the origin of this title is of any great importance; the real point, as many of your Lordships have indicated, is what the title means and what the facts are. It seems to me that, whether the Secretary to the Treasury is called Head of the Civil Service or not, anybody who is head of the Treasury becomes de facto Head of the Civil Service, because of the dominating, and rightly dominating, position which the Treasury must hold in the whole hierarchy. That position is recognized by the fact that the Secretary to the Treasury is paid a higher salary than any other Permanent Secretary. His position is the goal of every civil servant who Wishes to rise to the highest eminence in his profession. The Secretary to the Treasury enjoys precedence amongst other civil servants; he will always preside at any meeting of civil servants, and he has direct contact not only with his own Minister but with the Prime Minister as well.

He is not, however, the Head of the Civil Service in any other sense. He cannot give an order to a Permanent Secretary in any other Department; that can be done only by the responsible Minister or by the Prime Minister. The permanent heads of other Departments are in no way subordinate to the head of the Treasury. He can give orders only with regard to finance and staffing in his own Department, or in Departments bordering on it, such as the Inland Revenue; he cannot do that in anyone else's Department. In effect, therefore, the title is a formal and ceremonial one. It is, as it were, a courtesy title; it confers no special power upon him, and marks no executive authority, but only, and quite rightly, his status. He is, I think, primus inter pares, and at the head of his profession, much as one might describe an eminent engineer or architect as being at the head of his profession. In short, it is in no sense a legal description; he does not control the Civil Service, he is not responsible for it, and he is not the head of it in the sense that the Prime Minister is the head of the Government or that he himself is the head of his own Department.

In the selection of the four principal officials in any Department, it is the duty of the Secretary to the Treasury, as has been pointed out, to advise the Prime Minister; and, listening to the debate, I wondered who else could do this so effectually and on whom else the Prime Minister could rely so well as upon this high official. After all, he has contacts with all Departments—everyone of them at one time or another. And in that respect he enjoys especial experience and knowledge which no other Permanent Secretary, and indeed no other civil servant in the country, can possibly enjoy. The Civil Service, as we all know, has changed vastly since 1914. It is no longer a number of watertight compartments, it is one vast interlocking whole, the focal point of which is the Treasury. And part of this feeling about the head of the Treasury may perhaps relate back to old forgotten days—pre-1914 days, when there was a great deal more antagonism between Departments and the Treasury than there ever has been since, or there certainly is now. It is not only the Treasury that always says No—far from it; Ministers can say No, and do say No. There was a certain Minister who achieved a great reputation in his Department because he could always find a reason for saying No which had escaped the attention of his officials.

But the whole of the Civil Service now is one great organization with a common aim, and in no sense are the Treasury and the other Departments opponents; they are partners in a great undertaking. The Secretary to the Treasury is of very great use to the permanent heads of the Departments. He is from time to time informally consulted by them and, as Lord Mottistone has pointed out, in connexion with Whitley Council matters his advice is from time to time invaluable. Little matters get settled between him and the other heads which otherwise might come to serious dispute. But he cannot give directions to them. As regards the two officers, the Establishment Officer and the Finance Officer, I think there is very little trouble. It is realized that the Treasury's connexion with these two officers is so close and intimate that I think it is generally agreed that in the selection of these officers the Treasury should certainly be heard. But in these appointments to the highest positions, the Permanent Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, unless they are kept, as I believe they used to be, almost exclusively, within the Department, clearly the Secretary of the Treasury must have a far better understanding and knowledge of the talent which, as Lord Kennet well put it, is in the pool. May I take this opportunity of paying my tribute to him? I used to listen with great pleasure to him in another place, and it is delightful to renew the experience here.

Now, what are the main objections to the functions of the Secretary of the Treasury brought out in this debate? The argument of the critics seems to me, put very broadly, to be this. The first premise is that the Permanent Secretary of a Department and his Deputy, or aspirants to those positions, are anxious, and overanxious to stand well with the Treasury. The result is that they become Yes-men because they imagine their careers depend upon the good will and good opinion of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury; which means in effect that they become mouthpieces and agents of one man's policy or one Department's policy. The second premise is that the Ministers are controlled by their Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries; that they are clay in the hands of these bureaucratic potters, who determine their policy. And the conclusion naturally arises from those two premises that the Secretary of the Treasury, through his alleged appointees or nominees, controls the Ministerial policy, and in effect governs the country, subject perhaps to intervention by the Prime Minister. The conclusion is logical enough, but I think, as Lord Mottistone has pointed out, the premises are quite erroneous.

From my own experience in office—much more limited than that of many of your Lordships—I should come to the conclusion that the higher civil servants would prefer to stand well with the Minister rather than with the Secretary to the Treasury; and indeed a civil servant's reputation made in Ministerial circles is far more valuable than a reputation built up in any other circle. In that connexion I should like to pay my tribute to the devoted loyalty of civil servants to their Ministers. I feel nothing but gratitude for the help they give. Nothing could ever surpass the teamwork which one experiences from one's advisers when one tries to put a Bill through Parliament, and when I have been engaged in that occupation myself on the floor of the House, after extending my first sympathy to my own efforts my sympathy always went out to the civil servants who were listening, because I knew how desperately anxious they were lest their Minister should fail in his efforts and make a mess of his brief. Their whole devotion was to the Minister himself. Speaking for myself, I never had the slightest idea what my civil servants' politics were. Some of them, I believe, belonged to the Reform Club, but I did not draw any unfavourable conclusion from that.

As to interference with policy, I never experienced any attempt, or any shadow of an attempt, to dictate my views, or the views of any member of the Government. Their whole service was to do the best they could for their Minister in getting the thing through. In fact, as far as my experience goes, they acted up to the dictum of Lord Welby, himself a famous head of the Treasury, who said, "The civil servant's business is to do what he is told." Another answer to the second premise is that Ministers in effect are not particular malleable, they are not as a rule wax in the hands of the ambitious Secretary. As Lord Kennet pointed out, even if they are weak themselves they have got the Cabinet to contend with, and if there is dissimilarity between the Permanent Secretary's policy and the Cabinet's policy there is not the faintest doubt which will win.

In the course of the debate Lord Addison, if I understood him correctly, recommended a Committee with a mixture of business men to advise inter alia on the selection and promotion of civil servants generally. I am bound to say that I should, as a Minister, be very loth to hand over the selection and promotion of my staff, with the exception perhaps of the four heads, who are practically subject to the Prime Minister, to a Committee composed of business men, or anybody else—an appointment like that made in the office by the Minister, with the advice of his Permanent Secretary and other officials.

The very interesting recommendation of Lord Hankey is one upon which I hesitate, with my limited experience, to express an opinion, but in listening to what he said there were four points which occurred to me on which at some time I should like to get further information. As I understood it, another functionary would be appointed as a whole-time job to take over the work from the Secretary to the Treasury in connexion with the appointment not only of these high officials who have been discussed to-day but of other and more junior officers. I suppose his main job would be to deal with the higher appointments in the Civil Service, and, if so, it did not seem to me at first blush that he would have very much to do, or enough to do, considering the infrequency with which these appointments arise. Secondly, it seemed to me that Ministers and heads of the Departments would feel very much embarrassed by an appointment of that kind. At the present moment, subject to the Prime Minister's assent, which as far as one knows invariably coincides with the wishes of the Minister, the Minister has complete power in his own Department to make his own appointments. If another official were created, with full powers to control appointments in the Civil Service, a Minister would be in danger of becoming subject to a potentate with power to regulate promotion in his own Department and might feel very much embarrassed on that account. I may have misinterpreted Lord Hankey's proposal, but I see a danger in putting in a boss to regulate appointments and promotions in Ministerial Departments.

A third point that occurs to me has been touched upon already. If the Secretary to the Treasury is not to be Head of the Civil Service, but somebody else is, how is that somebody else to get sufficient prestige to carry sufficient weight in counsel and recommendation and to obtain the same knowledge and experience that the Secretary to the Treasury has got, when his facilities for contact with the various Departments will be so much more limited? Fourthly, I see a great danger of seeds of conflict being sown between the head of the Treasury, the dominating Government Department in the country, and this new official who has come in and taken off his hands a great deal of work he now has to do. I should like a little more information upon that point before I feel convinced that a change in that direction should be made. Generally speaking, I agree with Lord Mottistone that a case for a change has not been made out. I have listened to some criticisms. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, referred to uneasiness being felt, to the risk of this and the tendency of that. The noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, referred to misgivings. But before a change is made I should like to have more concrete evidence than we have yet had in this debate of actual harm resulting from the present position, and far more concrete promise of good resulting from making a change.


My Lords, I shall detain you for only a few minutes. I should like to preface my remarks by adding a tribute to the Civil Service as a whole in a similar manner to that which has been put forward by all noble Lords who have spoken previously in this debate. Your Lordships listened yesterday to a very interesting speech by my noble friend Lord Hankey, and you must have been very impressed with the suggestions he made. I should like to say how very strongly I support all that he said. As your Lordships will remember, he stated that when he first became aware of the title, "Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and Head of the Civil Service," he did not like that innovation much, and at a later stage he said, "I liked it less in the light of experience." I should like strongly to support all that my noble friend Lord Hankey said. I hope your Lordships will see fit to support him too, and that His Majesty's Government will consider making changes along the lines he so clearly suggested.

Might I suggest that if such a plan is to be put into force by His Majesty's Government, it would be the time to bring about another change? As your Lordships know well, His Majesty's Government are now in business on a vast scale, day-to-day decisions are required, and they urge in the strongest possible manner that the principle of personal responsibility should be substituted for that of conference, committee, departmental and inter-departmental reference in all those cases where the exigencies of business demand speedy decisions. I suggest that the only way to achieve this is to organize the Civil Service in a vertical rather than in a horizontal fashion, and I hope that when my noble friend Lord Woolton comes to reply he will, with his vast business experience, see fit to take note of the suggestions which I submit.


My Lords, I feel that this has been a most valuable and interesting debate which will undoubtedly clear the air and indicate the lines of advance. I have noticed the appearance of that very persistent belief about Departments and Ministers being run by civil servants. I feel it is very fortunate indeed that, on occasion, civil servants can do so. I tremble to think, for instance, what might happen to our Colonial Empire if civil servants were not able to run it. For good or evil it certainly is their work. In the course of seven years we have had no fewer than seven Colonial Secretaries, and in the short three years' life of the Ministry of Aircraft Production we have had three Ministers of Aircraft Production.




In fact, the output of Ministers of Aircraft Production is now slightly in excess of our output of dive-bombers! I remember once, when I was in Paris, going to see a farce which was being played there. One scene represented the room of a Minister of the Government. With him was a functionary, whom I took to be his Permanent Secretary. This official was all deference to the Minister, flattering, ingratiating, everything that could be wished. While their conversation was going on, a red light suddenly showed up in the room, and immediately the Permanent Secretary became extremely rude, throwing open the door and telling the Minister to go. The Minister said: "I do not understand, you are very rude, you forget yourself, what is all this about?" The Permanent Secretary said: "Oh, you are out. Ministers change so often at present that we cannot go through the form of writing to them and telling them, so we have had this red light fitted instead. When it goes up, the Minister goes out." The Colonial Office and the Ministry of Aircraft Production will really have to consider fitting a similar red light in the rooms of their Ministers. These frequent changes in Ministers do not represent a process of fitting round pegs into round holes and leaving them alone to get on with their work. That process has worked very satisfactorily in the case of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of War Transport, in all Ministries where the right man has been found, and where he has been left alone to do his work with a certain feeling of continuity. But these other changes represent a process of fitting together a jig-saw of political expediency, of preserving Party balance, and of finding jobs for the failures. We have very great reason to be grateful to the Civil Service for preserving a certain thread of continuity under such conditions.

I certainly have no wish to criticize the Civil Service. I have not enough first-hand knowledge of it. The little I have seen of the work of the Civil Service, which has been almost entirely at the Admiralty, induces me to say this. The Civil Service is essentially a peace-time machine. It makes heroic efforts, very largely successful, to adapt itself to the vast expansion and the new requirements brought about by the war, but the fact remains that when war comes you have to fight your war with a Civil Service machine neither designed nor well adapted for the purpose. The Civil Service tradition is a very meticulous one. It aims at getting every single fact about the subject together. It aims at complete accuracy, and consequently it works by a series of checks and counterchecks. Every paper is circulated to every conceivable person who might have some knowledge of or something to say about the subject. All this inevitably makes for delay, and it also makes it very difficult to fix responsibility when things go wrong. That is the peacetime system. It has very great advantages indeed, but in war-time it also has great disadvantages, and it is almost impossible to capture and overcome those defects in the hurry of war.

The Report of the Select Committee on the Civil Service which has been referred to in this debate seems to me to deal very practically indeed with existing conditions in the Service, but it is necessary to take long-term views, and surely we want to establish a post-war Civil Service which avoids the faults of the old. The wartime Civil Service must at best be a patched up affair. But let us consider some of the more obvious faults of the Civil Service machine as it exists to-day. The various Establishment branches in Government offices appear to me to have been run, at any rate in the past, on the principle of putting into them all those who have failed in any other sphere of work in the Civil Service. I certainly make an exception in that respect in the case of the Treasury Establishment Control Section. My words certainly do not apply to that particular section. But the watchword of the Establishment sections in the various Departments is economy, to cheesepare and cut down without very much regard to efficiency. The Civil Service surely must be run upon the basis of efficiency and not of saving pence, and a great deal in the Report of the Select Committee bears out that view.

I notice in this respect the very admirable suggestion of the Committee for a new Organization and Management Section in the Treasury and other Departments to which the Establishment Departments would be subordinate. I think that is a suggestion which deserves very careful consideration. The head of such a section would have to be a person of the very highest character and ability, but he can be found. The idea of an additional Parliamentary Secretary at the Treasury to oversee Parliamentary responsibility for the Civil Service is at first sight attractive, but I confess that I am not entirely convinced about that. The Report refers to another matter which has been raised in this debate, and that is the proposal to establish a staff college for the Civil Service. I think that is a very important suggestion, but such a staff college must not be an extension, for instance, of the London School of Economics, although no doubt economics should be taught at it if it is established. The main object of such a college should surely be to open the eyes of the Civil Service to the world around them with which they will have to deal.

Then I have been very interested to listen to what has been said about who is the Head of the Civil Service. Surely the Civil Service is just as much a Service of the Crown as are the Armed Forces, and surely there can be no doubt that the Head of the Civil Service is the Sovereign, and because that is so the very highest standard of honour is exacted in the Civil Service. If that is so, it seems to me very necessary that the prestige of the Civil Service should be enhanced. I think there is far too much criticism, far too much denigration of the Civil Service. On the contrary, we want to enhance the prestige of the Civil Service. To that end it is very necessary that Parliament and the public should take an interest in what is their service, and to take that interest it is necessary to understand the Civil Service, to know what it is, what it does, and what it does not do. I find when I go about the country a very common confusion of thought. There is the Civil Service and there is also the multitude of officials employed by the various local authorities. I find that the general public are in great confusion of thought about that, and frequently confuse the civil servants with the servants of the local authorities, and blame one for the short-comings of the other.

I feel that the functions and the responsibilities of the Civil Service require to be re-defined. One thing which always impressed itself very much upon my mind when I was at the Admiralty in a minor capacity, was that the Civil Service has nothing which corresponds to the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions such as we have in the Navy. In the Navy any officer or any man can always take down that volume, which is readily accessible to every officer and to every rating. He can know exactly where he is and how he stands upon any single point which may crop up in the course of his work or duty. As I understand it, there is no corresponding volume in the Civil Service. I do not believe there is even a pay warrant; I do not believe a pay warrant exists in the Civil Service. There are, and must be, a great number of minutes and memoranda in existence regulating the various points and details, but I do not think these have yet been gathered together into a volume which corresponds to the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions governing the work of the Navy.

It has always seemed to me that the Civil Service has retained a certain aroma of the eighteenth century about it. Under Queen Anne, when it was instituted, civil servants were clerks to the Ministers of the Crown, and their duties then were to write letters as ordered by the Minister, to search for papers and to look up precedents. They had no responsibility for advice or for executing policy, and I feel that something of that tradition still lingers in certain holes and corners of the Civil Service, whereas, of course, the right view is that civil servants act exactly as good staff officers do to their Admirals or to their Generals. When the Minister considers a line of policy, the civil servant should advise him quite dispassionately on the various courses that policy might pursue, and also upon the different effects which might follow the various lines that are open to him. The Minister then decides, and the civil servant should, whole-heartedly and loyally, carry out the decisions, even though he may have advised against or uttered words of caution against the line ultimately adopted. That, I believe, is the real view and the view which probably prevails in the great majority of instances, but not always.

Then there are the various grades of the administrative, the executive, and the clerical. I think a misapprehension sometimes exists in regard to these. There are people who feel that those grades correspond to the grades of officers and noncommissioned officers and enlisted men. That is not so. Each grade has its own responsibilities and should have its own rewards. One reward is already there in the shape of the power to pass to higher grades and to higher grade appointments without necessarily taking the full examinations of the higher grades.

In considering this question of reward I feel you must decide what it is you want your Civil Service to do. Only then can you decide what type of man you want to get into the Civil Service and how you are going to get him. The study of Greek particles is no doubt very fascinating and attractive to some minds, but I do not know that knowledge of Greek particles is required from the man who, for instance, will have to control in the course of his duties more engineering factories than all Vickers establishments put together. I do not know that such qualifications or other classic qualifications are wanted from the civil servant who will have to deal with flesh and blood and thought, and with foreign nations, whether living under democratic or authoritarian régimes. Some examinations are, of course, necessary, but the examinations ought to be based upon the type of work which the candidate is going to perform in the Civil Service if he is successful.

That brings me to a point which I have not heard touched upon in this debate, and which the Report of the Select Committee does not touch upon. It has been scientifically proved by modern research that men alter in character somewhere about the age of thirty or thirty-five. It seems to me that men fall into three categories when entering the Civil Service at the age of twenty-four. There are the slow starters, the quick starters and the indeterminates. The slow starter may show very little character at twenty-four, and he may continue in the slow category, never reaching a very high level of performance, or he may suddenly blossom out into a man of very high value indeed. Similarly the quick starter, the man who is the pride of his pastors and masters, may quite suddenly fold up and become relatively useless.

The man that I call indeterminate may remain indeterminate, or he may fade, or he may blossom. The Fighting Services deal with this problem by a system of proportionate pensions. Those who fail to reach certain standards of performance by certain ages are freed or are compelled to retire on proportionate pensions at an age when they can endeavour to find other employment which suits them better. But the civil servant is compelled to remain until the age of sixty; or perhaps I could put it better by saying that the Civil Service is compelled to go on employing him until he is sixty. In that way the wheels of promotion are clogged and jobs which are classed as routine—often erroneously so classed—are given to such people who know quite well for many years that then are working under the label "All hope is gone." There is no future for them, and, knowing that, men do not work very well. I have mentioned the Establishment sections. You will find them staffed with that type. It is not a system which makes for efficiency, and I think a system of compulsory retirement and proportionate pensions is of first importance in promoting the full efficiency of the Civil Service. These considerations apply to all grades of the Civil Service and not only to the administrative grade.

The lower grades also have their special problems. The lowest and most numerous, the clerical grade, has, of course, the Whitley Council to handle grievances. Nevertheless, in many cases the pay of the clerical grades is ridicu- lously small and the Goverment have not attained, in regard to the Civil Service, the status of what has been referred to to-day of being a 100 per cent. good employer. I think also there are not nearly enough bonuses to be earned by private study of languages or by passing special examinations in technical subjects. There again I feel a great deal remains to be done and ought to be done. It seems to me that the grade of staff officer is very unsatisfactory. It was arranged to appeal to a special class and type in the hope of advancement, but it has become a trap and an encumbrance and is nearly always a dead end. All these are matters which may be considered by a working Committee with a view to securing an improved and more efficient post-war Civil Service.

In conclusion may I say that I have been very interested in the tributes which have been made to the Civil Service? My experience has been too small for it to be any value to add my tribute to them. While I feel that the Civil Service must be most interested in this debate, and very interested indeed in the discussion about who is Head of the Civil Service, I cannot help being reminded of something which I saw written up in a garage in Spain during the Civil War. There were many soldiers billeted in this garage and there written upon the wall was a very simple and direct notice: "Less sympathy, more tobacco." I think the Civil Service will echo that and say "Fewer tributes, more consideration of the various matters which require to put right."


My Lords, I do not propose to detain you more than a few minutes and I would like to begin by saying how grateful we should be to my noble friend the Earl of Perth for putting down this Motion. This is a very important matter which really ought to have been discussed long ago. I hope the Government will carefully consider the speeches which were made by Lord Hankey, Lord Kennet and my old friend Lord Geddes. They all speak with knowledge and their speeches were full of information. I am sure there is no body of public servants better than our civil servants. There is no one in the world to touch them. But they suffer from one disability and that is bad organization at the top. It is a curious thing that it takes a major war before anything is done to put things right. It was after the last war, in 1918 and 1919, that some notice was taken of the organization. Here we are in the middle of another war which again draws our attention to civil servants and their organization.

It is perfectly true, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said last night, that there is a constitutional right for the Prime Minister to make the higher appointments, and it is also right that he should consult his advisers. But who are those advisers to be? All members of the Civil Service know that they have to look for many things to their Head who happens to be the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. Long ago in the War Office it was almost impossible to get anything through until you had fought and fought with the Treasury, and many of our disabilities and the lack of provision at the beginning of this war undoubtedly arose from procrastination and the necessity of convincing the Treasury that it was right that money should be spent in a certain way. All the time the permanent heads in the Departments and their Deputies have to look for their promotion, for their good marks, for their honours, their C.B.s and K.C.B.s, to the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and it is only natural that they should stonewall as long as possible in order to assist the Treasury. That undoubtedly does lead, especially in war-time, to hanging up matters, and it is not a system which can be recommended.

There is a great deal to be said for the establishment of a separate Chairman of a Board of Selection. After all, officers in the Army who are promoted from the ranks go before a Board of Selection, and that Board recommends who should be promoted and who should be left in the ranks. I think that there ought to be some such board as that in the Civil Service. It does not go beyond the wit of man to say that certain heads of the Civil Service in certain large Departments might be considered as the Selection Board under a separate Chairman. But it is undoubtedly true, as my nobly friend Lord Geddes says, that the Head of the Civil Service should not have the dual responsibility of passing judgment upon the efforts made by the various Departments to extract money from the Treasury and, at the same time, of considering the qualifications of these people for promotion and for honours. I think the Government would be well advised to look very carefully into this organization at the top, because that has caused a reaction right through the Civil Service, and I think has probably also caused a good deal of the criticism which we have heard from time to time during this war directed by the public against the Civil Service. It is not the fault of the Service; it is due to the fact that the organization is wrong.

I note that my noble friend Lord Woolton is going to wind up this very useful debate. He will bring a fresh mind to it and I hope he will not say just what the Treasury wants to hear. I trust that he will bring that great mind which he has brought so successfully to bear on the work of the Ministry of Food to bear on this problem. I cannot help thinking that where the weakness lies, and where it is bound to continue to lie, is in this question of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury having the dual position which he now holds. I think that if this situation were altered it would do a great deal towards speeding up the various Departments and, at the same time, preventing what I call a slight form of illicit control by the Treasury. Further, I think that under the present system it too often happens that civil servants enter one Department and remain there for the length of their service. I think it would be a great advantage if they were shifted about more from one Department to another. The result would be that they would become more adaptable and would gain a better understanding of the general business of their Departments. Moreover, I believe there would not be that departmental strife which used to be so common in my day. In war-time, necessarily, you have to establish new Departments, such as the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Aircraft Production. These new Ministries have to be staffed by drafting people from various other Departments. Now if these civil servants had been moved about much more in the past, and had had experience in other Departments as well as the one in which they commenced their service, they would certainly be more useful for fulfilling the duties to which they are called in a time of stress like the present. I hope that the Government will give very close attention to this very important subject, and that something will be done.


My Lords, I am sure the House feels grateful to the noble Earl for having initiated this debate, a debate on a matter of great public interest and a debate which has elicited advice to His Majesty's Government from men of great experience, such as the noble Lords, Lord Kennet, Lord Hankey, and Lord Geddes, all of whom have been deeply concerned with this problem of His Majesty's Civil Service. I can assure your Lordships that the Government will take due regard of what has been said. The Lord Chancellor has, I think, with unquestionable clarity, laid down the principles which govern the appointment and which control the actions of the Head of the Civil Service. I felt that when the noble and learned Viscount sat down there could be no further doubt about the powers and conditions of appointment of this gentleman. But several of your Lordships have referred, during the debate, to some sense of uneasiness regarding the matter.

It would indeed be a great misfortune for the country if anyone was selected for this post, for an office of such high potentialities, who was not a man of outstanding personality and of exceptional ability. All the men I have known who have filled this high office have been men of such qualifications, and the uneasiness to which, I think, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, referred arose from the concern—if I recollect his words rightly—lest a man of such immense knowledge and such immense ability should proceed in the using of it to invade Ministerial authority; in fact, lest his influence should override that of the Ministers. The noble Marquess said that it was not reasonable to sweep aside this uneasiness as though it did not exist. I do not think that it would be reasonable. I am sure that the speech of the Lord Chancellor yesterday, containing as it did the most specific and categorical definition of the limits of the authority of the Head of the Civil Service, should be sufficient to put that uneasiness at rest. He has made it abundantly clear that either by practice or by Statute Ministers appoint the principal officers of Departments and that the Prime Minister, after seeking such advice as he considers necessary, takes the responsibility for these appointments. He has made it quite clear that the position carries with it no right to interfere in matters of policy which properly are the responsibility of Ministers. I noticed that during the course of the debate yesterday, and again to-day, no one has challenged the interpretation which the Lord Chancellor gave either of the law or of the practice. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl who introduced this Motion will feel that the debate has served the purpose which he had in mind in putting it on the Order Paper, and that he will be ready to accept the assurances which have been given to him by those of us who have spoken for the Government.

The historical background of this post, however, is of less importance than the practice which has been adopted. We all listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said on this subject, speaking as one with a good deal of responsibility for the arrangements governing the post and knowing the intention behind it. It is interesting to find that all the noble Lords who have been in office and who have spoken in this debate—Lord Addison, Lord Rushcliffe, Lord Kennet, Lord Geddes, Lord Mottistone and Lord Soulbury—have been able to testify that since 1919 the practice has been in accordance with the theory laid down by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. Indeed, if it were true that the practice fell short of the theory it would really be very deplorable, because it would mean that we have arrived at a position when Ministers of the Crown were not exercising the full responsibility which Parliament had given to them, and which the country expects of them; in fact, we should have arrived at a position where, in plain English, Ministers were not doing their duty.

It is a pleasant practice of this House that debate is not too strictly confined to the precise terms of the Motions that are before us. I think that it was because my colleagues, with a long knowledge of the House, anticipated that this might happen that they suggested that it might be acceptable to your Lordships if I were to wind up this debate; because, whilst I have had a somewhat intensive experience of office as one of His Majesty's Ministers during the last two and a half years, and whilst for twelve months before that, when I was endeavouring to clothe and equip the Army in preparation for war, I had an intensive experience as a sort of civil servant, it is inevitable that I should continue to look on the whole organization of government with the eye of one who has been trained in business, and whose experience is in controlling and directing commercial organizations employing rather a wide range of grades of people. It is from that point of view that I have listened to the debate.

There has been much common ground of agreement. Quite clearly there must be some central control over personnel in the Civil Service. Lord Kennet, by the speech which we have all welcomed so much, has, I think, made it almost unnecessary for me to add anything on that subject. There must clearly be one person who is concerned with the conditions of the Service, and who has an intimate knowledge of the capacity and personality of the men in it, especially in the higher grades. There must be someone who is able to single out men of particular ability and competence, and who can give advice not only on the ability of these people but on whether they will work well together and fit in with one another and with an individual Minister, thus securing that happy relationship which leads to an effective team of administration. Lord Kennet referred to the necessity for the pooling of the Service, and I am sure that your Lordships will have been convinced by what he said.

Your Lordships will have been amused, I am sure, by the pathetic story which Lord Addison gave us of the unfortunate gentleman who was condemned to live in the cellars of Somerset House for fifteen years, and who then blossomed forth into life and gave proof of his ability. That was waste—human waste—the sort of waste that all business organizations at any rate endeavour to avoid. It is of the greatest importance that there should be some person in the administration of the country who is centrally placed and of the highest possible order of independence, who is able to concern himself with the discovery of ability, and, moreover, with the introduction, where it is necessary, of new people into the Service, people who come into it by other than by the ordinary conventional ways, people with experience in other walks of life. He should have the independence to introduce them, even though they may not necessarily be welcomed by others who are already there, and who have been hoping, and quite properly hoping, to occupy those positions themselves in later years. That jealousy of position is, of course, not confined to the Civil Service. On these issues, I think your Lordships will be in agreement. In fact, the complaint voiced by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, is not about what has been done, but why in twenty years a great deal more has not been done. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, has just repeated the same complaint in more detail, and going further down the administrative line. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be dealing with this problem, and with the issues which have been raised in the Report of the Committee on National Expenditure, to which several of your Lordships have referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has given us the benefit of his past experience after his prolonged and, if he will allow me to say so, distinguished service to the State. He places this issue of the importance of the control of the Civil Service so high that he would like to see the positions of Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and Head of the Civil Service separated, so that one who was learned in finance might devote the whole of his time to giving advice to the Chancellor on that subject, while another man, with a different sort of ability, devoted himself to the immense personal problems which arise out of the control of the personnel of the Service. There are two points made by Lord Hankey with which I am sure all of us cordially agree. The first is that the Treasury is, and must remain, the Central Department of Government. The second is the tribute which he paid to the work which has been done by past Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury as Heads of the Civil Service. With regard to the specific proposals which he made, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and others have referred, he was good enough to send me beforehand a note of what he was going to say. I should want more than second thoughts before pronouncing on the interesting proposals which he made to us. Lord Hankey is, of course, aware that, as Lord Mottistone has pointed out, this issue has already been discussed four times—by the Haldane Committee, the Bradbury Committee, the Tomlin Committee (which certainly was not a reactionary body, judging by its personnel) and finally by this most recent Committee, the Select Committee on National Expenditure.


May I intervene for one moment to tell your Lordships that I based myself on experience since three out of those four Committees sat?


I appreciate that; but the circumstances may not in fact be widely different. I am certain of this, that any business organization that was employing so many people as does the State would require some one common service. The point on which I have not been convinced by Lord Hankey is that I cannot help being suspicious about the creation of a new body, a body as it seems to me—and perhaps because I have not fully understood all that he proposes—that would be, as it were, floating in space, without any very definite association with the Central Department of Government, which is the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, will know from his past experience that what he has said will be carefully considered by His Majesty's Government, and I am sure he would rather have it that way than that I should attempt to argue before your Lordships at this time of night the case he has put. I think we ought to look very carefully before we consider the appointment of a man of such outstanding ability as this position would require, devoting all his time to a job which, unless I have not thoroughly understood the position, would not be likely to absorb all his energies.

I think one of the things that must have been in the minds of many noble Lords when they were speaking was this general state of distrust of the Treasury—as to whether that really was the right place to put such a person. I hope that we may not give too much weight to this inevitable suspicion of Treasury control in government. Such suspicion is not confined to the Civil Service. In any large business organization the counting-house takes the place of the Treasury; it is the constant centre of suspicion. It is the place where the people live who have to find the money, who demand careful accounts of expenditure. It puts a check on the exuberance of the enthusiasts, and it is almost invariably regarded as an un- imaginative drag on the wheels of progress. But no good business can be done unless you spend money, and I am sure the Treasury will have some doubts about me when they hear that observation coming from me. I am sure it applies to the Treasury. It is not the spending of money that matters, it is the spending of the money in the right way, and being sure that you do get the results when you have spent it. Those who have had experience of financial control know that it is no use being suspicious of the counting-house, and I am bound to say that my experience as a Minister does not lead me to take any poor view of Treasury control. I have found, of course, that it has acted as a check, but I have never found that it acted as an obstacle to a determined man. I have indeed noticed that on occasions—occasions with which some of your Lordships will be better acquainted than I—the Treasury has been a stimulating force with regard to proposals which were for the public good. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, asked: What is the Treasury like now? And he proceeded to give a reply himself—a reply with which I am in entire agreement.

There are other aspects of this debate which I would like to dwell on for a short time. I am sure the debate has served a useful purpose, if only for the expression of opinion which has been drawn from men who speak with deep knowledge, culled from long experience of the work of the Civil Service. Lord Addison said that many stones have been cast at the Service, but he paid testimony to its loyalty and integrity. The noble Marquess, speaking with such long experience of public life, testified to the high esteem in which the Service is held. Lord Hankey, after forty years of experience, used these words: "It is now doing a great job in this war." I am going to venture to speak on the subject of the Civil Service with great candour. The noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, will be glad to know that the Civil Service has not provided me with a brief on the subject, and that all the words that I utter are words that I thought of myself, and for which I take complete responsiblity and hope that my colleagues will not desert me. But I am going to give you my own personal observations.

Your Lordships know that it has become common form—a rather cheap sort of common form—for people to speak dis- respectfully of the Civil Service, to regard it as a sort of incubus battening upon the taxpayer—as Lord Winster said, it does not batten much—battening on the taxpayer and strangling the life out of enterprise. Well, that is one conception of it, but of course there is another, and that is the conception of the cartoonists who produced the Dilly-Dally gentleman—a gentleman who found it impossible to make up his mind about conflicting views. These same people of the Civil Service are represented sometimes as an octopus and sometimes as a barnacle. I would suggest to your Lordships that it is a bad thing for the country that the Civil Service should constantly be depreciated. We are very considerably dependent upon it for the administration of our affairs. If the Civil Service is faulty from human frailty then the best thing we can do is to set about improving it, but there is no use in being content to abuse it. It is of the greatest importance, I think, that the morale of the permanent Civil Service of this country should be maintained and should be maintained at a high standard. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, pointed out that the present Civil Service that we have is a peculiar patchwork—some gentlemen trained in the job others trained as lawyers, stockbrokers, university dons—all sorts of people gathered together in an anxiety to serve the State during a period of war. We have never had any doubt about the financial integrity of the Civil Service of this country, and that is a matter for national pride.

The charges that are made against it are at the moment that it is bureaucratic, that it takes unto itself undue authority, that it is exercising such authority without proper regard to the rights of the individual, and that it is slow to action, cumbersome and costly in its operation. Well, if these accusations are true, then I submit that the fault must be laid, at any rate in part, at the door of those who have Ministerial responsibility and power to control the Civil Service. For my own part as a Minister I have a sense of the responsibility for all the actions that take place in my name as a Minister, and in the Department which I endeavour to control, and I have earnestly endeavoured to impress upon those people who are in the service of the Ministry of Food that it is their business to serve the public and to take care of them, rigorously preserving the balance between the rights of the individual and the efficient execution of Ministerial policy.

Every business man knows that he cannot build a successful business by constantly grading his staff, and I believe that the Civil Service of this country is in danger of getting its tail down. We shall never get the best results from it under these conditions. I want to see a Civil Service that takes pride in its accomplishments, that is recruited from men anxious to render service to their country, and that is encouraged by public opinion in such a worthy object. The men and women who are at present in the Forces are looking forward to the period after this war, and contemplating very many changes in the organization of our social life. There is no inspiration to hard endeavour to be obtained from looking backwards. We must look forward. We are hoping to create security for a new Britain, with a fuller life, one in which at least the forces of exceptional circumstances and misfortunes will not fall with unmitigated hardship on the individual. The building of such a social life will make great claims both on the ability and enterprise not only of Ministers but of their civil servants.

It is on that account that it is so important we should have had this debate in which there have been so many testimonies to the work that is already being done by civil servants in this war. I hope the result of it will be that the civil servants of the country will recognize to the full the high regard in which we hold them because of the great responsibility and opportunity that is theirs. I am sure that they will be encouraged in their work as the result of the speeches that have fallen from your Lordships. Going back to the Motion that is before the House, I hope that the noble Earl will feel that the subject has been sufficiently ventilated and carefully noted by those of us who have spoken on behalf of the Government, and that he will not consider it necessary to divide the House.


My Lords, I feel it is an honour that has been done to me by the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, to wind up the debate on the Motion which stands in my name. He may not know it, but I am an humble officer in his service, and therefore regard him as my chief. It would be unseemly if I were to become involved in any wrangle with him, but happily there is no need for me to do so after the speech which he has delivered, The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, with whom I have had various happy passages in the past at Geneva and elsewhere, seemed to me in his very brilliant speech, on which I hope he will allow me to congratulate him, to go even further than the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in identifying the Prime Minister with the Head of the Civil Service. I may be exaggerating, but that was the impression left on my mind. I am therefore glad that his brilliant speech did not represent the reply of the Government to my Motion.

Lord Mottistone, with whom I should not like to have any difference of opinion, also raised a point, and I should like to read one sentence of the speech which I made yesterday in order to clarify the matter. I said that I agreed that there should be some central authority to exercise general supervision and oversight in the Civil Service. I left on one side whether that should be a new Department or not, but that there should be a central authority I agreed. I should like to take the opportunity of thanking those noble Lords who have given me their support and, in particular, Lord Addison and Lord Salisbury. I hope that when the time comes the Government will give special attention to the considerations they urged with so mach experience and so much authority. The same applies to the proposals made by my noble friend Lord Hankey.

I want also to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for his speech. Your Lordships may think I received rather drastic castigation at his hands, but I do not feel sore—indeed I am rather happy about it, because I managed to elicit certain statements which I consider of the greatest value for the future. I should like to say to him that the deductions which I made in my speech, and which he so strongly criticized, were based on the answer I received in August. I still think, in view of the wording of that answer, they were not unreasonable and were indeed fair. In my view, the noble and learned Viscount has largely receded from the position taken up in that answer, and it is for that reason, above all, that I do not intend to enter into any detailed argument with him further on the subject. But he did put two very definite questions to me. As he has reversed the usual role, I feel bound to reply to them, and I hope my answers may give him satisfaction. The first question was: Is it not clearly right that the Prime Minister should be constitutionally responsible for approving these higher appointments? I have pleasure in saying that my answer is "Yes." The second question was: If that is so, should not the Prime Minister be right to seek advice from his own advisers on so important a matter? Again the answer is "Yes," provided the word "advisers" is not interpreted to signify solely the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. I hope these answers will satisfy the noble and learned Viscount, and as I am not ill-content with the assurances that he gave in his speech, I beg your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Motion.


My Lords, I am going to take a rather unusual course, because this debate is of such constitutional importance and will be quoted for many years as a governing precedent on a great constitutional issue. There was one passage in the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack which might lead to misconception, and I should like to put a question so that the matter may be made quite clear. I hope your Lordships will forgive this irregularity on account of the importance of the occasion. This is the question. The noble Viscount in his speech used these words: … there is statutory recognition of the fact that the Prime Minister is also First Lord of the Treasury. And a little further on he said: … by the Statute of 1937 it is plainly indicated that the Prime Minster will also be First Lord of the Treasury. I am, as perhaps your Lordships know, hereditarily, if I may use the adjective, interested in this point, and I should like it to be made quite clear that the great authority of the Lord Chancellor is not behind the idea that the Prime Minister must be First Lord of the Treasury. I do not say there was anything inaccurate verbally in what the Lord Chancellor said, but I think that those words if left unexplained might lead our successors to think that there was an absolute prohibition upon the offices of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury being divided. Therefore I venture to put that matter to the Lord Chancellor before this Motion is finally withdrawn.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Marquess for calling attention to this observation of mine. As he says, it was I think, quite accurate, but it is possible that a false deduction might he drawn from it; therefore, I should like to correct the possibility of that at once. The Statute to which I was referring is, of course, the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, which, I may say, in another place, holding another office, I had the responsibility of carrying through the House of Commons, and the section which I had in mind is a very short one that I Will read to the House in a moment, not as a matter of argument with my noble friend but to put it on record.

Down to 1937 there was no provision at all in our law for any salary being paid to the Prime Minister as such; in fact, if we speak strictly, the position of Prime Minister is not an office, it is a status, the status of primacy among Ministers. I dare say your Lordships know that one of the greatest Prime Ministers in history, Sir Robert Walpole, always objected to being called Prime Minister, which at that time was regarded rather as a term of criticism and reproach, as claiming more for himself than he was entitled to. I very much doubt whether Mr. Gladstone in the House of Commons was ordinarily addressed as Prime Minister. I think the questions that were put down to him were addressed to him as First Lord of the Treasury. That is the reason why the Prime Minister has always had to hold, in addition to his status as Prime Minister, what is, strictly speaking, a Ministerial office. My noble friend's most distinguished father, as I said yesterday, provides, I think, in the history of the last hundred years the only case where a man holding the high position of Prime Minister did not at the same time hold the office of First Lord of the Treasury. I rather think that in one of his Administrations the late Lord Salisbury held the office of Lord Privy Seal.

In the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, Parliament was engaged in revising and settling all the arrangements about salaries of Ministers and their respective classifica- tion—first-class Ministers and so on. Section 4 contains these words: There shall be paid to the person who is Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury an annual salary of ten thousand pounds. That, as your Lordships see, combines the two together—Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury. The next subsection goes on to provide that any person who has been Prime Minister and has, as First Lord of the Treasury, taken the official oath shall be entitled to a certain pension. The Prime Minister as such takes no oath at all. He is, as such, entitled to no pension. He has no seal as such, his position is a position of primacy and status. My observation which the noble Marquess was good enough to say is not itself inaccurate, was that "there is statutory recognition of the fact" that the Prime Minister is also First Lord of the Treasury. I was referring to this section; but at the same time let me advance the confident opinion, for which the noble Marquess very naturally asked, that there is no statutory provision that the Prime Minister must be First Lord of the Treasury. The consequence would follow if a Prime Minister were to hold some other office, which is quite within what is constitutional, that his salary instead of being the salary mentioned in the Act would be the salary of that particular post. If it was a first-class office then the salary would be £5,000 a year. The second consequence would be that he would not be entitled, when he had finished his duties as Prime Minister, to any pension. Those are mercenary considerations, but they are probably practical ones too.

There is this further thing to be said about it, as has been so fully brought out in this most interesting debate for which we are ail much indebted to my noble friend Lord Perth, that the First Lord of the Treasury really is the First Commissioner in the Central Department of Government. I do not think that cases are very likely to arise in which in the future the Prime Minister will not take that position and live at 10 Downing Street, or at any rate have his offices there, but it is certainly true, as the noble Marquess says, that to-day, just as in the days to which he refers with hereditary and ancestral interest, the Minister who is Prime Minister need not necessarily hold the office of First Lord of the Treasury, but may hold some other office. I do not think there is any doubt about that at all, and if my original phrase was calculated to lead to any misunderstanding—and the fact that the, noble Marquess thinks so tends to convince me that it possibly might—I trust that what I have said now is entirely plain and I am also quite sure that it is constitutionally correct.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.