§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
My Lords, at the end of March last, a two-day debate took place in this House on the subject of certain far-reaching reforms in the Foreign Service which had been proposed by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in a White Paper which had just been issued. We had an 726 extremely full and comprehensive debate, and I do not intend, to-day, to traverse again the ground that was covered then. This, I think, is indeed the more unnecessary, as that debate, with the exception of a few rather melancholy prognostications by my noble friends Lord Ponsonby and Lord Monkswell, showed almost unanimous approval, on the part of the noble Lords who took part in the debate, of the proposals in the White Paper. I think that the only regret expressed by the majority of noble Lords who spoke was that the White Paper did not go further. So far as it went, it was regarded as eminently satisfactory.
To-day, I rise to introduce a Bill to give effect to those proposals, and to enable my right honourable friend to go ahead and implement them. Your Lordships will have noticed that the Bill does not cover the whole ground of the White Paper. Indeed, it is of a comparatively limited character. It says nothing, for instance, about the provisions of the White Paper for the improvement of the recruitment for the Foreign Service, which occupied the main part of your Lordships' debate in March last. That, if I may reassure the House, is not because the Foreign Secretary has weakened on that portion of his proposals, or that he has concluded, on second thoughts, that the White Paper went too far or too fast It is for the very simple reason that for the reform of recruitment for the Foreign Service no legislation is necessary. The present Bill is concerned only with those portions of the proposals of the White Paper which involve alteration in the existing law. It is a short Bill and a simple Bill, and I think that it should not take up very much of your Lordships' time.
The main provision of the Bill is incorporated in Clause 2. That, if I may be allowed to use so unparliamentary an expression, is the guts of the measure. The purpose of Clause 2 is to give effect to the proposal in Part V of the White Paper that the Foreign Secretary should be given power to retire on pension, before the age of sixty, men who are found unsuited to the highest posts. It is, I think, generally recognized that there are such men. In the Foreign Office, as in other public services, however carefully 727 men are chosen and trained, it is impossible to guarantee that all will fulfil their earlier promise, or that all will be found to be suitable for positions of the highest responsibility such as those of Minister and Ambassador. We all know such men ourselves. It is not their fault; they are often charming, hard-working and public-spirited, but they have not the qualities of temperament and character which are necessary.
In the days before this war, faced with this dilemma, successive Foreign Secretaries used to attempt to solve it by sending men of this type to posts which were referred to as of minor importance, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that that was never a satisfactory solution. For one thing, it is clearly never right to send even to a post of minor importance a. man who is not regarded as adequate to represent His Majesty's Government. Moreover, what is a post of minor importance, and how can one be certain that it will remain of minor importance? We can all recall instances within very recent years of countries which seemed far from any possible trouble, which seemed quiet, peaceful, unaggressive nations, and then suddenly, out of a blue sky, an appalling crisis blew up and the country concerned became the storm centre of the world. We cannot afford to run the risk of being inadequately represented, even in such posts as those.
There is also the further consideration that the very existence of such men as those who are dealt with in Clause 2 in the higher posts of the Foreign Service, clogs the channels of promotion and makes it impossible for younger and more brilliant men to rise rapidly in their profession. For these two reasons, I think it will be agreed that it is essential to make it possible for the Foreign Secretary to remove from the Service men who are unsuited to the higher posts. I do not suggest that there are very many of these men. My right honourable friend is not meditating a wholesale purge in the Foreign Service; in fact, there are very few who are likely to be affected by these new proposals. It is essential, however, that even those few should be eliminated if the Service is to be what it certainly ought to be.
It may, of course, be argued that the Foreign Secretary can already get rid of 728 members of the Foreign Service if he wishes to do so. Of course he can, but only by causing quite unjustifiable hardship. If a man is guilty of gross incompetence or inefficiency, the Foreign Secretary can dismiss him without a pension, and there is nothing in this Bill which affects such cases as that; but they are extremely rare. What the Secretary of State cannot do under the existing law, except in the special case of the head of a Mission who is withdrawn in the interests of diplomatic relations, is to retire with a pension a member of the Foreign Service under the age of sixty unless he is suffering from ill-health. All that the Foreign Secretary can do in the more normal case of men who are not guilty of any gross misconduct, but who are merely unsuitable, is to put them en disponibilité, which means that they get no pay at all until they reach pensionable age, the age of sixty. I think it will be agreed that that is very unfair to men who have committed no fault meriting dismissal, and who only have the misfortune to be not quite good enough for the highest posts. As the result there is, and has been now for some time, an inevitable tendency for Foreign Secretaries to try to find some posts for these officials, even though it may not be in the best public interest to do so.
The main object of this Bill is to avoid putting the Foreign Secretary into such an intolerable position as that. The Bill does not give members of the Service the right to initiate their own retirement; it merely enables the Foreign Secretary to exercise his present powers without inflicting hardship, and this is clearly desirable in the interests of the efficiency of the Service. If it is suggested, as it has been suggested in various quarters, that it is unjustifiable to give a man a pension for life after only ten or fifteen years' service, I would reply that I do not think that such a contention can be upheld. After all, the whole principle of a pension is that it is given for work which has been done; and, if a man has given fifteen years of his life to the public service, and has been retired for no fault which he has committed, it is surely inequitable that he should be thrown penniless into the street. Moreover, looked at merely from the sordid angle of the cost of the proposals, to retain men in posts of the highest responsibility, if they are unsuitable, is 729 surely far more expensive from the public point of view than to pension them off.
I should now like to say a few words about the rates of pension proposed in this Bill. This Bill disturbs a man's expectation of remaining in employment until he is sixty provided that he commits no crime and enjoys good health. A condition of employment being thus materially worsened by the action of the employer, it is considered that officers who are prematurely retired should be compensated. It is therefore proposed to take power to award, men retired under the Bill pensions slightly in excess of the normal scale under the Superannuation Acts. For example, a man who, if he could be retired under the present Act, would, if he had a salary of £900 a year and a service of sixteen years, be granted a pension of £180 with a lump sum of £540, could, under the proposals of the Bill, get a pension of £300 and a lump sum of £900. Similarly, a man with a salary of £1,200 a year and twenty years' service, could be granted a pension of £400 a year and a lump sum of £1,200, against £300 and £900 respectively yielded by the normal scale.
Noble Lords will have seen that, as a result of the discussions on this Bill in another place, it is now proposed that the scope of the Bill should be extended to cover officers of the rank of Second Secretary. This means that a Second Secretary or a Vice-Consul who is not found suitable for further promotion can be retired under the Bill. The stipulation of the Act of 1859 that no man shall be retired until he has served ten years still holds; and that is clearly right, I think, because it is important that no man shall be retired until there has been adequate chance of knowing how valuable his work is. If it is suggested that the Bill should apply to all ranks of the Service, I would explain that this particular Bill is a temporary one, which aims at ensuring that the higher posts shall be adequately filled now. It will be replaced after the war by comprehensive legislation designed to meet the needs of the new Service, which should by then have been organized in a way which is obviously quite impossible in war-time. The question of further extending the scope of the proposals to cover officers of subordinate rank can then be further considered; the mind 730 of the Foreign Secretary is open as to that.
The argument was advanced in the debate in another place that there is a danger that the powers which are given to the Foreign Secretary under this Bill may tend to discourage members of the Foreign Service from giving their views frankly and fearlessly. I personally think far too well of the traditions of public life in this country to count that a very real danger; but, in any case, my right honourable friend included in the White Paper provisions to guard against this possibility. He proposes to set up a Board to advise him on cases of retirement under the Bill, and this Board will have at its disposal a complete record of the man's career and of what he has done in the past. The Foreign Secretary, therefore, can be assured before he retires a man that his case has been fully and impartially examined. And, in addition, there is I think a further protection in Parliament itself. I am quite certain that if there was a case of serious injustice it would be immediately raised, either here or in another place, and the Government would be forced to justify their action.
Such is the main provision of the Bill. Its purpose is, as I have said, to enable unsuitable men to be retired before the age of sixty. The other objects, I think, can be explained briefly. Clause I and Clause 6 and the Schedule make such amendments to existing Acts of Parliament as are necessary as a result of the creation of the new Foreign Service. Clause 3 provides that when a member of the Foreign Service is recalled from his post abroad as a result of the war, and is employed in a. lower paid office, he shall not suffer in his pension rights. Clause 4 deals with the position of members of the old China Consular Service. Under the Superannuation Act of 1935 members of that Service were given the right to retire on pension at the age of fifty-five instead of sixty, provided that they continued to serve at a place at which members of the China Service were required to serve. Clause 4 ensures that they retain that right, although they may be required to serve in new posts in the China Service area and may in war-time have had to be recalled and employed temporarily at posts outside the China Service area or, as members of the new Foreign Service, at 731 posts where they have to perform diplomatic and not consular duties.
I hope that I have made the provisions of this Bill quite clear. It is, as I say, a very simple one and it will, I feel sure, also prove quite uncontroversial. The essential importance of an efficient Foreign Service has never been greater than it is to-day, and the proposals of this Bill are intended to ensure that efficiency. I believe the Bill is in the public interest as it is in the interest of the Foreign Service itself, and I would recommend it with every confidence to your Lordships.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Viscount Cranborne.)
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, the Bill to which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has asked your Lordships to give a Second Reading implements those portions of the Command Paper which require legislation before they can become effective. It is therefore a very short Bill. The Command Paper to which I have referred has already formed the subject, as the noble Viscount told us, of a two days' debate in your Lordships' House, and the result was that the reforms outlined in that Command Paper met with general, if not quite universal, approval. I therefore intend to follow the example of the noble Viscount and not to revert to the arguments then used, because it would only be wearisome by repetition, and also because I assume that, as your Lordships have already welcomed the reforms set out in the White Paper, you will also welcome the Bill which is required for their enactment. But there is one point which still causes me very considerable anxiety.
When this Bill received a Second Reading in another place the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated in a concluding speech that he had presented all the reforms originally so as to give the whole of the picture. I assume that what the Foreign Secretary had in mind was that he had presented all the reforms relating to the Foreign Service as such, but that phrase "all the reforms" might possibly lead to some ambiguity because, as you are aware, there is one reform—namely, the reform of the central organization of the Foreign Office and its co-ordination with the other Departments of His Majesty's 732 Government—which was not included in the Command Paper but which, I think, in the general view is far more important than even the reforms set out in that White Paper. I did my utmost in the speech that I made before your Lordships on March 25, to emphasize this point, and various noble Lords were good enough to support me very strongly.
The Leader of the House in a sympathetic reply promised consideration for the various proposals that had been made in the debate, and himself seemed to feel— I do not think I am misrepresenting him—that some considerable overhaul was really required. He spoke of the existence of an economic department of the Foreign Office before the war which had now been reconstituted under another name. I am of course fully aware of the value of the work performed by that Department, but it was too small and it had not sufficient authority to coordinate the work of other Government Departments when the activities of those other Departments impinged, as they often did, on the field of foreign affairs. It is therefore necessary that this Department, in order to be effective and to give really authoritative advice to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on economic and on financial matters, should be strengthened and developed.
But, apart from this, I still earnestly hope that something will be set up in the nature of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I should be quite content to see a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet on which the various Departments concerned could be represented on the Ministerial level, and of whom the Chairman should be the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. But such a Committee, to work satisfactorily, ought also to have represented in some way or other the Fighting Services and also the Bank of England, but above all it should have a special Secretariat of its own. That Secretariat should be located in the Foreign Office, and should be under the control of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Your Lordships well know how extraordinarily valuable to the Committee of Imperial Defence was the Secretariat of which, for a long time, Lord Hankey was chief.
Perhaps you may think I am rather too insistent oh this point. I should not be so insistent if I did not believe that it is of vital importance for a sound and 733 effective foreign policy in the future. I am not expressing only my own views on this point. I feel I am expressing the views of practically all those who held high diplomatic rank before 1939. I told the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, in March that I intended to revert to this subject either by means of a fresh Motion or by a question after a certain period had elapsed, and after the Foreign Secretary had had time to consider the various proposals which had been made. I have not done so, and I hope now that the noble Viscount will reward my abstention, and give me some assurance that progress is being made on the lines I have indicated. If so, I shall not press him any further until later in the year, when I hope matters will have advanced sufficiently for him to be able to give us a satisfactory report. The problem is a specific one, and though the Leader of the House stated that proposals to deal with the central organization of foreign affairs raise the question of the whole machinery of government, I would urge that it should not become submerged in what may be a far wider and much more disputable examination of that machinery as a whole. I trust we may receive some reassurance on this particular point. Before I sit down it is meet that I should revert to the Bill itself, if only to say that I welcome it and trust your Lordships will give it the same measure of approval as you gave to the proposals contained in the Command Paper itself.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, if I intervene for a moment in this discussion—a Philistine among the connoisseurs of foreign affairs in this House —it is merely to associate myself and my noble friends with what has been said in recommendation of the Bill and to give, quite briefly, our grounds for joining in this general welcome. I may add the extenuating circumstance that when a prima donna is absent, it is not unusual for a reluctant understudy to be put on to play the role. We welcome this Bill as a first instalment of the programme laid down in the White Paper for the modernizing of the Diplomatic Service. In a society like ours which, under the levelling influence of war, is rapidly advancing from political to economic equality, it would be intolerable if any branch of the public service could lay itself open to the criticism that it remained, as it were, a last stronghold of 734 privilege of birth or wealth. Moreover, as the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has pointed out, we shall need after the war on instrument of the utmost efficiency for carrying out the foreign policy adumbrated in the Atlantic Charter. This policy, on which world peace will depend, requires the velvet glove of diplomacy and the iron hand of force, in that order. What everyone wants is for the power of persuasion to be so effective that it will absolve us from any need to resort to armed force.
The two principal changes mentioned in this Bill both point in the direction of a more democratic and a more efficient foreign service. The fusion of the Diplomatic and Consular Services into a combined Foreign Service will enhance the efficiency of our diplomatic representation abroad by giving a wider field of selection and a more varied range of experience. It should also break down the social barrier that has hitherto divided the Diplomatic and Consular Services. The nature of this barrier is vividly illustrated by recent recruitment. Between 1930 and 1939, out of 74 entrants to the Diplomatic Service, 63 had a public school education, while 24 out of the 60 entrants to the Consular Service between 1930 and 1934 were men with grammar school or secondary school background. Both these admirable results depend on the success of the proposed changes in the training and recruitment of the Foreign Service. Will they secure the best men for the Service regardless of questions of social origin or educational background? I confess I am a little doubtful about the return to selection as a supplement to the written competitive examination, but according to the White Paper this innovation will only be tried out for an experimental period. I hope this trial period will last no longer than is essential to give the experiment a fair chance.
The second important change is the provision for retirement, with appropriate pensions, of men not entirely suitable for the highest posts. A man may in any profession, or any branch of the public service, do excellent work in a subordinate position, but just lack the qualities of initiative or judgment demanded by a Minister or Ambassador. (I shall say this in parenthesis. I wish that this admirable reform could be extended to the Colonial Service. It would bring to our Colonial 735 administration exactly the same advantage in efficiency at the highest levels, and would have none of the possible disadvantages of fusion between the Colonial Office and the Colonial Service.) But to return to the Foreign Service: It should not be forgotten that retention beyond the normal period of retirement may be in certain cases no less important in the public interest than removal. It is to be hoped that the normal retiring age of sixty will never become the inflexible rule. There will be much clamour after the war for the promotion of younger men, but the Foreign Secretary will, I am sure, remember that years are not a true criterion of capacity, as anyone listening to debates in your Lordships' House will realize, and that men of the calibre of Lord Bryce, Lord Carnock, or Lord d'Abernon should be kept in harness so long as they arc prepared to serve the State. I commend this Bill without reserve to the approval of your Lordships' House.
§ LORD TYRRELL
My Lords, I intervene for a few minutes in order to reinforce the arguments put forward by my noble friend Lord Perth. I have very little to add to them, but I should like to associate myself with him in saying that we all owe a very great debt of gratitude—so does the nation—to the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the reform which is embodied in the Bill now before your Lordships' House. It deals largely with an improvement in the personnel of the Services and as such will undoubtedly add to the efficiency of the Service. Under that head it will, I hope, receive the unanimous approval of your Lordships' House. I should also like to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Perth in saying that this is only part of the problem. Two years ago I ventured to predict—and my forecast received the approval of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack— that at the end of this war no Department of State would have such calls made upon it as the Foreign Department, and for that reason alone, if for no other, we should concentrate on trying to make it as efficient as possible.
As regards its personnel, the present reforms will show their efficiency in time to come, but they do not deal with the machinery of government at home. That is to say, the Foreign Office itself for 736 many years has suffered from the absence of any department primarily responsible for watching the economic evolution of the world and trying to combine political and economic considerations when it came to advising the Secretary of State in deciding what foreign policy should be adopted. All those who have studied our foreign policy for the last twenty years agree in thinking that that is a weak spot which ought to be set right as soon as possible. I do not see any obstacle, once the principle of this idea has been conceded, in giving effect to it, because the Secretary of State now has power to go outside the Service in recruiting members for the Foreign Service. Thus he is enabled to set up an economic department in the Foreign Office presided over by a qualified man, whether from inside or outside the Service, who would see that the information pouring in from abroad was properly assimilated and distributed and that the Foreign Office was in close touch with the other Departments of State that deal with economic questions, such as the Treasury, Board of Trade, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Labour. He would be able to present to the Secretary of State the considered opinion of all those Departments in regard to the formulation of our foreign policy apart from purely political considerations.
In the past political considerations have played, necessarily played, a predominant part in the framing of our foreign policy. In the present generation, ever since the last war, economic considerations have, I think, been almost equally important, and I have often ventured to make this general criticism on the Treaty of Versailles, that the great men who framed it did not sufficiently realize that economics played a greater part than purely political questions in the solution of the problems with which they had to deal. In other words, people were much more concerned with daily bread than with frontiers. I think that is very much more so now, and a proof of it has been given at the Conference at Hot Springs which I think is one of the most important Conferences that have taken place since the last war. It opens up a promise of international co-operation in the framing of economic policy which may help us to solve some of the trying problems that are ahead of us. I repeat that I think the creation of an economic depart- 737 merit now in the Foreign Office, which would have the powers to which I alluded very cursorily, would go a long way towards meeting the crying need of the day and would not entail any great revolution in our general mode of government.
I apologize to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for bringing up this again, but he has only himself to blame, because on the last occasion I warned him that the reform embodied in this Bill was small and merely whetted our appetites. Once again with all deference I wish to put forward our demand for more, and in doing so associate myself with my noble friend Lord Perth. I have nothing more to say except that we cannot exaggerate the importance of having a Foreign Office at the end of this war which will be able to meet the demands made upon it, and which in future will have the closest consultations with other Departments of State with whom I include the Service members who are in this country. By that means advice can be tendered to the Secretary of State which will enable him to recommend to his colleagues and to the country a policy based on fairness and proper consideration of national interests, which will be of sufficient force to enable it to impose itself upon and be accepted by our competitors in the world.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I will trouble your Lordships with a very few words only. First, I wish to say that I thoroughly support the provisions in this Bill. I only regret that there are not more of them and that the Bill is not more comprehensive, but I gather that a more comprehensive Bill will be introduced at a later date which we shall have every opportunity of discussing. As regards the clause which enables the Secretary of State to retire a man at an early age if he is found unsuitable for the higher posts, it is important to note that the provision of a period of ten years will be allowed to enable him to prove his capacity, or rather to show his incapacity. As my noble friend Lord Ponsonby said on a former occasion, the new Foreign Service and the old Diplomatic Service and all Services connected therewith are highly specialized. In my time there was the Foreign Office, the Diplomatic Service, the General Consular Service, the China Service, the Levant Service, all separate organizations; and, I may add, the 738 Dragomanate at Constantinople and the Oriental Chancery at Teheran were in fact separate services from the Consular Service. Now all these will be open to everybody in the Foreign Service, and I think it will be much easier perhaps to get the round men into round holes and so avoid the necessity of retirement at an early age. We shall see how it works out.
The second question I want to ask my noble friend is whether the present system of a language allowance of £100 a year for certain Oriental and Slavonic languages is to be continued, because I think it is a most useful incentive to younger men to study the languages spoken in their posts. Furthermore, in order to encourage men to learn the languages in the post to which they are accredited, I would suggest that this system might be extended to other languages and an allowance, say, of £50 given to a man who is competent in European languages and in those languages not so difficult to learn. That would ensure that young men serving in various foreign posts would be competent in the languages of the post to which they are accredited.
The last point to which I wanted to refer has already been mentioned by my noble friends Lord Tyrrell and the Earl of Perth—that is, the question of improvement in regard to commercial and economic questions in the Foreign Office. I imagine that will come forward either in the Bill we are promised or in a further debate which may be raised in your Lordships' House, so I will not say more about it now. From the experience I have had of the Diplomatic Service and the Foreign Office I welcome this Bill entirely, and I hope it will prove satisfactory to your Lordships.
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I said I hoped it would prove un-controversial, and that happily is very much the case. Through the whole of the debate the actual provisions of the Bill have hardly been mentioned once. The discussion has ranged entirely around ancillary subjects, not those included in the Bill. However, one or two points were raised with which I would like to deal briefly. There was a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about the principle of selection. He said he was a little 739 bit anxious about the principle of selection being introduced into the arrangements for the recruitment to the Foreign Service. I understood he was anxious because he felt that this proposal was retrograde and might tend to perpetuate a privileged class. If it will reassure him, may I mention the analogy of the Colonial Service? The noble Earl will know that the principle of selection for the Colonial Service has been followed for en years, and the exact opposite to what he fears has proved to be the result. The proportion of successful candidates coming from the great public schools and the older universities is smaller in the Colonial Service now than at the time when there was a system of recruitment by examination. One may hope that the same result may be found in the case of the Foreign Service.
The noble Earl also said—I thought with great force—that he hoped sixty would not be the ultimate age at which members were allowed to remain in the Foreign Service. I think we should all absolutely agree that it would be disastrous if there was a rigid rule of that kind. In your Lordships' House we have a shining example to the contrary, if I may mention the matter in his presence, in my noble friend Lord Tyrrell, who I think remained at Paris until he was well over sixty and to whom the country owes an immense debt of gratitude for what he achieved there. I know from what the Foreign Secretary has told me that it is his strong personal view that there should be the maximum of elasticity in the interpretation of this rule. Of course there must be a standard age at which members of the Service would usually retire, but with the right man in the right place obviously any sensible Foreign Secretary would continue him for a few more years.
The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, asked whether the special allowance of £100 for Oriental and Slavonic languages is to be continued. The answer is yes, it certainly is. He made a further suggestion that this allowance should be extended for other languages. I cannot give an answer to that suggestion now, but I will certainly transmit it to my right honourable friend. That also applies to the much larger and more important proposal for an economic department in the Foreign Office, raised by my noble friend 740 and Lord Tyrrell. I will certainly pass that matter also to my right honourable friend.
Now I come to a matter which is entirely outside the scope of the Bill, but which it is no doubt legitimate in a debate of this kind to bring before your Lordships. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, reverted to the main point he made in the debate on the White Paper in March last, and he has had the very powerful support of my noble friend Lord Tyrrell. As I understand it, the noble Earl makes no complaint of the actual provisions of the Bill but holds that neither it nor the proposals in the White Paper go far enough. The noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, said or implied that "l' appétit vient en mangeant." I would remind him that this country is at present under a strict system of rationing. I hope therefore he will not expect too much. At the same time the point which Lord Perth and he raised is one of vital importance in the whole question of government. The noble Earl expressed the view that there is necessity for better co-ordination between Government Departments in matters relating to foreign policy, and he indicated the kind of machinery for such co-ordination which he believed would be effective in producing the result he desires —and which indeed we all of us desire. At the time of the March debate, when the noble Earl first raised this question, I gave him an undertaking that I would transmit the proposals to my right honourable friend, who was at that time, as your Lordships will remember, in Washington, on his return. I did so in virtue of my undertaking to the House.
The noble Earl asks what is the position now. He felt, I think, a certain anxiety as a result of the debate in another place, because my right honourable friend in speaking on the Bill did not touch on this particular point. I do not think he need be worried. The reason why my right honourable friend did not mention the subject was no doubt that he was speaking on the Bill and the rules of order in another place are not quite so elastic as in your Lordships' House. I know very well that my right honourable friend has studied this proposal with very great interest and sympathy. At the same time it is clear that the noble Earl's scheme of co-ordination cannot be considered in isolation. What he really is proposing, if I may so express it, is to 741 build on a new wing to the structure of government. That must involve, if it were approved, a measure of reconstruction, or at any rate of reconditioning, of the whole edifice. The present position is that the noble Earl's proposal has been submitted to a Committee which is examining it in conjunction with others that affect the machinery of government. It: will be considered by His Majesty's Government in due course, in the light of the report of that Committee. I can assure the noble Earl it will not be swamped by the consideration of any wider problems before the Committee.
I am certain my noble friend will not expect me to say any more to-day. But I should like to assure him that the Government are fully alive to the importance of the point he has raised and will examine the proposal with all the care it deserves. My noble friend made, I thought, something in the nature of a threat at the end of his speech when he said that he has shown great restraint, but he might not be able to hold himself in much longer and might have to return to the attack in the autumn. I shall be delighted if he does return to the attack, but I would not like to promise that I shall be in a position to give him definite information when he does. He must just keep on pegging away, and the Government will keep pegging away. I should like him at any rate to know that the Government are not being dilatory about this question. It does raise very serious issues, and it must be considered in conjunction with other matters relating to the structure of government which are under examination at the present time.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, before we part with this Bill, may I intervene to say that if my noble friend the Earl of Perth returns to the attack, he will have the support of many people in this quarter of the House? We sympathize with his views and we propose to support them.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.