HL Deb 06 December 1951 vol 174 cc861-80

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it is my privilege to ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill, which is entitled: An Act to amend certain provisions of the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, relating to Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. I do not think it would be obvious to anybody reading the terms of the Amending Bill what its substantial purpose is. If your Lordships will permit me, I will first state in a few words the substantial purpose of this Bill, and then I will explain to your Lordships, if I can—it is rather a tangled skein—why the Bill takes just the form that it does.

The purpose of the Bill is one that will commend itself, I think, to noble Lords on all sides of the House. It is to add to the number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries sanctioned by the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, two more—namely, an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Home Office, and an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Scottish Office. May I deal briefly with those two offices? It will not have been forgotten by your Lordships that in the gracious Speech particular reference was made to the affairs of Wales and to the need to have some Minister of State with peculiar responsibility for Welsh affairs. That has been carried out in this way. The Home Secretary has taken upon himself the additional burden of having a peculiar responsibility for the affairs of Wales. It is quite clear that if he undertakes that duty he must receive the assistance of an additional Under-Secretary, and that is the justification for requesting the House to sanction that additional appointment. I think nobody can be in doubt that the affairs of Wales, the peculiar needs and, if I may say so, the peculiar genius of the Welsh people, make it imperative that there should be some Minister—and not only a Minister, but a Parliamentary Under-Secretary—who will give particular attention to them. Accordingly, this Parliamentary Under-Secretary will devote himself to that work. He is to be regarded as a whole-time Undersecretary devoting himself to that work, though, no doubt in the ordinary team spirit he will be available to do other work if it is required.

This is how his duty has been described. It is said that he will devote a substantial part of his time to Welsh matters, and it will be his task to keep himself … familiar with the general trend of Welsh opinion. He will be wholly occupied with Welsh affairs, save that he may on occasion have to do something that would normally be done by either of the other Ministers at the Home Office. He will pay frequent visits to Wales, and he will be provided with accommodation in Cardiff.…He will become Chairman of the Conference of the Heads of Government Offices in Wales, which meets quarterly. In addition to that, he will give information and advice to his Minister, so that he may be fully briefed for his Parliamentary duties. That is all I think I need say about the additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Office.

I now come to Scotland—and if the case is strong in regard to Wales, I may say that it is even stronger in regard to Scotland. For the Scots, too, have their needs; and they, too, have their particular genius. There is nothing of which one can be prouder than this: that amidst all the things in which we are united, there are differences between those who together make up Great Britain. So it is that Scotland has her particular needs. As your Lordships are aware, this is not the first attempt in recent times to satisfy the needs and aspirations of Scotland. Already the Secretary of State is assisted by the Minister of State. Already there are two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary whom we now ask to be appointed will be the third.

Something may be said as to the relationship in which the Under-Secretary of State, the Minister of State and the several Parliamentary Under-Secretaries stand to each other. Those of your Lordships who listened to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Home, in this House will not require any further statement from me about that relationship. I think it probable that your Lordships, like myself, felt the charm of that speech, which seemed to me to be a model of Parliamentary elegance. I feel that I can usefully add nothing to what the noble Earl said in regard to the relations which will be established. There will be no rigid division of functions between the three Under-Secretaries, but the intention is that one of them shall be primarily concerned with health, housing and allied subjects, police and firemen; the second will be primarily concerned with agriculture and forestry, and the third with education, fisheries—an important matter to Scotland—and generally with the work of the Home Department, except so far as it has been given to other Secretaries. There will be no rigid division of chores, if I may use the word. I think I need say nothing further about that. I feel sure that, in regard to Wales, if anything further is needed to satisfy your Lordships it will be said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who is to follow me, and in regard to Scotland by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison. I hope that your Lordships will be satisfied of that real need.

It would not be fair to your Lordships to invite you to give this Bill a Second Reading simply upon the statement I have made. I do not think it would be right that your Lordships should be asked to pass a Bill of this kind without understanding a little more about it. Therefore, I invite your Lordships to look at the Bill and see how it is cast. The first clause of the Bill substitutes a new subsection for subsection (2) of Section 2 of the Act of 1937, to which I have referred. The position under that Act was as follows—I hope I shall not weary your Lordships by giving you a few figures, but I think it rather important to understand the set-up of the administration of the Offices of State. Under that original section, Parliament authorised the payment out of public funds of twenty-four persons as Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. Of those twenty-four, not more than twenty were, under Section 9, permitted to sit in the House of Commons. That meant that if the whole number of twenty-four were appointed there would be at least four left to sit in your Lordships' House. In 1939 a slight change was made. In that year the Ministry of Supply Act was passed, providing for a Minister of Supply and, with him, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary. They were brought into what I may call, without disrespect, the pool; so that there were then authorised to be paid twenty-five Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, and twenty-one of them were permitted to sit in the House of Commons—I think that when I am citing an Act I may refer to another place as the House of Commons.

In 1945 another small change was made. The Ministry of Fuel and Power was set up, and that Ministry took from the Board of Trade the Secretary for Mines, so that the number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries—of whom the Secretary for Mines counted as one—was reduced by one. Accordingly, the Act of 1937 reduced the pool again to twenty-four, with twenty qualified to sit in the House of Commons. The next stage was this. India and Burma ceased to be Dominions of the Crown. It was no longer necessary to have a Secretary of State, and no longer necessary to have Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. Thus, the number who could be paid was reduced to twenty-two, of whom twenty were still allowed to sit in the House of Commons. There is one more change before we come to this Bill. In 1947 an Act called the Ministers of the Crown (Treasury Secretaries) Act was passed, by which the number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries to the Treasury was increased to three. That made the number of authorised Under-Secretaries twenty-three, and the number who were authorised to sit in the House of Commons remained at twenty.

Up to this date that is the whole story, but there is one other thing I should tell your Lordships. In 1937 it was intended that the whole structure of the administration by Officers of State should be taken comprehensively into that one Act. Nobody, of course, could then foresee the events that were to happen. But from 1937 onwards a number of great Departments were set up. Your Lordships will recall some of them—the Ministries of Defence, of Supply and of Fuel and Power. The Acts that set up these new Departments enabled Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries to be paid, and to take their seats in the House of Commons. They were right outside the Ministers of the Crown Act of 1937. The numbers authorised by that Act remain, as I have said—except for this fact. By what must be regarded as one of the most extraordinary pieces of legislation that have ever taken place, the Act of 1937 was actually amended by Emergency Regulations, which authorised the payment of no fewer than six more Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, who could take their seats in the House of Commons. As the result of that, the position to-day is that there are authorised twenty-nine Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, twenty-six of whom can take their seats in the House of Commons.

Although that is the authorised position, in fact to-day, under those Defence Regulations which authorised the appointment of six new Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, only two have been appointed. One is the second Parliamentary Secretary to the Scottish Office, and the other the second Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. The position, therefore, under the combined effects of the Act itself and the amendments made by the Defence Regulations, is that we have twenty-five Under-Secretaries actually appointed and twenty-two authorised to sit. Your Lordships will see (as I have said, I am afraid that this is rather a tangled skein and I am not sure that I have been able to make it clear to your Lordships) that what we propose to do by the new subsection is to state once more how many Parliamentary Under-Secretaries may be appointed and to what Departments they shall be allotted. If your Lordships will turn to the next subsection, you will find that it provides that the number of persons entitled to sit and vote in the House while they are Parliamentary Under-Secretaries shall not exceed twenty-two. We also do this—and I am particularly glad to be able to announce it to the House: we repeal the Defence Regulations, which ought never to have been in in the form of Regulations at all, and they will now be embodied, so far as they are retained, in permanent legislation. I cannot help wondering how they came to be originally incorporated in Regulations—though I suppose that in the exigencies of war anything can happen. But how they were allowed to remain from 1945 to 1951 in the form of Regulations, only those of your Lordships who sit on the Opposition Benches can say.

The position, then, is this. There are two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries whose appointment under the Defence Regulations still continues. But we now take them out of Defence Regulations and authorise their continued appointment under the Act. We drop four of those who were authorised by the Defence Regulations. It is not necessary now to appoint them, and therefore it is undesirable that it should be possible to appoint them under Defence Regulations. We appoint two more, namely the second Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office (that is an additional appointment), and we appoint a third Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Scottish Office. All this means that under the Bill, which now embraces all the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries who were formerly covered by the Act and by Defence Regulations, twenty-seven are appointed, of whom twenty-two are authorised to sit in the House of Commons. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

2.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for having explained so clearly this rather difficult Bill. One would, of course, have expected, from his great reputation as lawyer and judge, that that would be so. He has given us an explicit statement of what the Bill is intended to effect. But it is significant of the general trend of modern legislation that the noble and learned Lord should have started by saying that no one reading the Bill could possibly understand what it is intended to do. I think it is rather a pity that Bills are not more explicit than they are. However, that fact has been commented upon by others far better able to do so than I am.

The Lord Chancellor has dealt with the legal aspects of the Bill, and explained the background of them and what it is intended to effect. I shall detain your Lordships for a short time on the human aspects of the Bill. I make no apologies for doing so because, in my opinion, this House is a much better Assembly for this purpose than is the other place. I say that because I believe that, in these long-term matters, your Lordships' House can deal with considerations of this kind in an atmosphere that is not easy of accomplishment elsewhere. The curious thing is that although, as the Lord Chancellor has said, the Bill is intended to provide at the Home Office an Under-Secretary, who would be a Welshman, to look after Welsh affairs, the actual effect of it is that it will provide an English Under-Secretary to look after English affairs. That is merely because the Under-Secretary for Welsh affairs has already been appointed and this, so to speak, regularises the position. The whole matter, of course, is bound up with making the Home Secretary also Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs. I am bound to say that I think that is an illusory appointment. Mr. Ede looked to a large extent after Welsh affairs when he was Home Secretary, and Mr. Bevin did so when he was Lord Privy Seal.

Moreover, the Home Secretary will not, as many people think, be concerned solely with Wales; he has also to look after England, the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man. I think that, with all these divergent responsibilities, the Home Secretary, so far as Wales is concerned, will become little more than a post office. Your Lordships may have heard the true story of General Pile. When he was commanding Anti-Aircraft Command he put between divisions and Command formations called corps, which those who were in the best position to observe thought entirely useless. General Pile once asked a regimental officer what he thought of corps. The regimental officer, greatly daring, said: "They are only post offices, sir." General Pile replied: "Oh no, they are worse than that; they open the letters." I cannot help thinking that in all probability the Secretary of State for Welsh Affairs will also open the letters, and will be even worse than a post office. However, I am pleased to learn from the Press that the Home Secretary will visit Wales in due course when his engagements with the Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations at Strasbourg and elsewhere permit. I am also glad to learn from the Western Mail, from which I get most of my information on Government matters, that the Under-Secretary has bought a set of thirty gramophone records in order to learn the Welsh language. I should have thought that this was a somewhat unnecessary expense, for the Prime Minister speaks so much Welsh in the other place that I should have thought he might teach him for nothing.

We were told in Wales that the Minister who was to be appointed would be charged with the conduct of Welsh affairs. I have been severely criticised in Wales for saying that this was open to more than one interpretation. No one was more critical of me than the Chairman of the Wales and Monmouthshire Conservative Association. He said that there was no doubt at all about the meaning of the statement. It meant only what the Government announcement said. Recently, in fact last week, at a convivial gathering in Aberavon, the Chairman of that Conservative Association after dinner made a speech which I think is germane to this issue. According to a newspaper report of the occasion he said that as chairman of the Party in Wales, he had been asked if he would prefer a junior Minister dealing solely with Wales or a senior Member of the Cabinet. The report goes on to quote the chairman's next remark: I said Wales wants someone whose voice will be heard. I chose a senior Minister, a Member of the Cabinet, not just a Minister who would have no power and would be outside the Cabinet. I do not know that the Ministers who are outside the Cabinet would regard themselves quite in that light. I certainly should not have done so when I was one. However, that was the statement ma de by the chairman. And it raises some very interesting reflections.

In the first place, it seems that the Government themselves were not at all clear what they were going to do until after the Election, because presumably the chairman was asked after the Election what he wanted; and, secondly, it seems odd that a person who is in no Governmental or representative position should decide what Wales is to have. There are in your Lordships' House a number of Welsh Peers of great eminence. For instance, there is the noble Lord, Lord Harlech. I should be only too glad to take advice from a man like the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, with his long experience of Wales. Then there is the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, whose family has been connected for centuries past with West Wales; there is the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, whose early life was spent in Wales, and who has been connected with Wales; and there is the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, whose family comes front Wales. There are many others. Were any of these Peers consulted? There are thirty-six Members of Parliament from Wales. Were any of them consulted? There is the Council of Wales, set up to represent Wales. Was that Council consulted? We are not told so. We are told by the Chairman of the Wales and Monmouthshire Conservative Association that he was the man who chose the Minister.

I certainly think this is a matter which should be investigated, and I hope that one of the results of that closer association with the United States of which the Prime Minister talks will not be that he is going to introduce Tammany Hall into Wales, with a third-rate political boss. I do not want to say much about this subject, because I am sure that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House will look into it. I am sure it will not please him to hear what I have just said. I feel that, for good or ill, the Conservatives in taking this action, have started a political and constitutional landslide which is not going to stop here. I am one of those who believe that, by and large, there is too much government in the world to-day; but we cannot stop. Once you start a thing like this you have to go on. I wonder whether anybody is quite clear where this is going to lead. I think we must look at the situation created by the Bill, the background against which it must be set, and the future to which it leads.

May I direct your Lordships' attention to this small country?—and, it is a small country. It has a small population, which 150 years ago numbered only about 300,000, though to-day, with Monmouthshire, it is 2,500,000. That population is concentrated mostly in the industrial areas of Glamorgan and the eastern portion of Carmarthenshire. The people live in sombre but magnificent surroundings, and, until the industrial revolution, most of them eked a bare living either from the land or from the sea. The aspect of our national life which we should like your Lordships to consider most is that, throughout his- tory, we have had to fight to retain our individuality against very powerful forces from outside. First, it was against the Romans who clanked down the Via Julia Maritima from the great fortified base at Caerleon to the outposts at Neath and Carmarthen. Then there were the Normans, who built their castles and with whom there was a running fight for hundreds of years. I am not altogether blaming the Normans, because the Welsh were such uneasy people that, when they were not fighting the Normans, they were fighting each other. But fighting was always going on.

Finally, there were the Tudors, a Welsh house, who, in some ways, made more changes than any others. Henry VII after his victory certainly denuded Wales of many leaders, such as the Herberts, who became the Earls of Pembroke, and the family of Cecil, or "Sisyllts," as it was pronounced in Wales, who, they say in Wales—with what authority I do not know—were the forbears of the noble Marquess who sits opposite—the forbears of the noble House of Cecil. There were many humbler folk, one of whom came from my own district. There was a man called Williams who settled and took a public-house by the church at Putney, whose direct descendant, known as Oliver Williams, alias Cromwell, played some considerable part in the seventeenth century. Henry VIII unified Wales and brought much of its law into accord with English law.

The Industrial Revolution brought great changes, and since, there have been those that have brought the radio, the Press, the cinema and now television to make a great impact upon our life. That is the real problem. The problem with all small countries to-day, whether they are in the East or in the West, is how to preserve their individuality, their culture and their language in face of the tremendous pressures from without and from within which modern means of communication naturally bring. I suggest to your Lordships that what we have to consider in dealing with this Bill is nothing less than this: how to solve the, problems which I have just mentioned; how to retain the individuality of a small country. I am glad to see that the Home Secretary, in a statement that he made in the other House, a statement which I think is in accord with his reputation for statesmanship—I give him full marks for it—said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 494, Col. 1770]: I am sure the honourable Member will appreciate the need for what may be a transitional period when we can study how the different Government activities react on each other and on the general feeling of Wales as a whole. It is a difficult problem, and I believe the honourable Member recognised that, even if he were convinced that there should be either a Welsh Office or a Welsh Parliament—rightly, he has not gone into that to-day but we may hear it some time—there must still be a transitional period. It is with the first period of study that I am now beginning to deal. I quite agree with him. What this Bill does is to give us a transitional period, a period for study. If the Government, the people of Wales, the Press in Wales, we on this side—in fact, if we all use it as a period of study, then I believe we can turn it into something really useful and constructive.

The point we must study is whether we are going to have a Secretary of State or a Welsh Parliament. If it is decided to have a Secretary of State, then that will not suffice for long. If it is used at all, it can be used only as a stepping-stone. If we are to have a Parliament for Wales, there will have to be considerable study as to what should be the powers of that Parliament. In theory, there is no difficulty. In population Scotland and Wales are larger than most countries in the world if you tot them all up. They are most certainly larger in population than Jersey, Guernsey, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and most of the Colonies. So there is no difficulty about that; it could be done. Consideration will have to be given to the two-tier system of local government, and of how it would fit in with such a Parliament. But most of all, I think, it is essential to study what the ordinary Welsh man and woman wants, and not what the professional publicists themselves think they want or consider that they ought to have.

As I say, I am not sure that they really do want a governmental alteration or a new governmental machine. They have this curious feeling that they want in some way to preserve their individuality as a nation. It is difficulty for them to ex-plan what they mean to people who are normally of a big race, like the English I am sure my Scottish friends who are here will understand what I mean. I believe the Scots have the same feeling as we, the Welsh, have. It is a desire in these days somehow or other to retain our individuality, our culture and our language. And that is what we (and by "we," I mean the Lords and Commons, the Government; the local authorities; the Press, and the cultural and other public bodies in Wales) have all got to study. I make no Party point of this at all. If it turns out that this Bill will lead to that, I shall be the first to praise the Government.

I believe that a Welsh Parliament would give a focus for national pride, and would allow the best people to remain in Wales. One of the difficulties of all small countries with not a large population is that the best people in every profession get drained off. We have had a great renaissance in Wales during recent years, in the arts, in medicine and in other ways. Most of those concerned have had to go to London, and from London sometimes they go to Hollywood; but at all events, unfortunately, they do not stay in Wales. That is one of the ways in which I think possibly a Parliament would help. There are, of course, disadvantages. There would be increased expenditure, and possibly some confusion in administration. But I want to reiterate that I do not regard Parliament, or for that matter, any Government machine, as an end in itself; it is only a means to an end, the end being to preserve the culture, the happiness, the individuality and the prosperity of the people of Wales. Therefore, for my part, I will not in any way impede the progress of this Bill. I hope that it will lead to what the Home Secretary has indicated it will lead to—namely, a study of our problems and, I hope, a happy solution of them.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank the Lord Chancellor for the excellent manner in which he introduced this Bill? He produced a great deal of information that I am perfectly sure will be of value to your Lordships in all parts of the House. The matter, which he explained so clearly and explicitly, has always been one about which most of us have had little knowledge, and in saying that I include myself. In following the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I intervene briefly just to say a word about the Scottish position, in order that those who are interested will understand that Scotland has not been entirely forgotten. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has mentioned the position in regard to Wales. He said that it is a very great country but I am sorry to say that he missed out a most important and up-to-date part of Welsh history. Yesterday afternoon at about this time, in Cardiff, the Welsh football team challenged a combination of the best football players in England and Scotland, and defeated them. To my mind that was a most important achievement.

I now turn for a moment or two to the much less exciting topic of whether present circumstances justify an additional Under-Secretary for Scotland. I know it is considered bad taste for your Lordships' House to criticise another place, but, having read the whole of the debate that took place there in regard to this measure, I cannot help feeling that they made rather heavy weather of it. That is not unusual. I thought that the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Scotland summed up the whole issue in almost one sentence. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 494, Col. 1797]: There is no change in the departmental set-up of the Scottish Office. The same departments remain and operate. All we have done is to have a Minister of State resident in Scotland and an additional Under-Secretary in order, we believe, to improve the management of our Scottish affairs. That seems to me to state the position exactly in a few words. A few moments ago the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred to it as a "set-up." I think that any Government are entitled to arrange as they think best what the Lord Chancellor called the "set-up of Ministers." If the new set-up is a success, the Government will be entitled to the credit; if the new set-up is not a success, then the responsibility will rest upon the Government who have tried out the experiment. As some noble Lords will remember, I had a most peculiar experience in Scottish Affairs in your Lordships' House. I was not an Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I have never been an Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, although I think most of your Lordships thought I was.


That was because you did so well.


I was never appointed to that position, and when I was asked to undertake my particular function my terms of reference were to get Scottish legislation through your Lordships' House; that was all. I had no responsibility for the drafting of any legislation, or even saying what kind of legislation is should be. My task was to try and get it through, as quickly and as harmoniously as possible, and I hope I succeeded in doing so. But, all the same, my position was "extensive and peculiar." Nevertheless, I should like to add that I enjoyed every minute of it, because I had that simple task without any responsibility attaching to it. Sometimes I had to go to Scotland to try to acquaint myself better with the situation there, and I am bound to say that on those occasions I was received like a prodigal son and treated with real Scottish hospitality.

Therefore, as one who has been thrown into the task of taking some part in Scottish affairs—though, as I have already said, without any actual responsibility—I would inform your Lordships that in my judgment, based on my experience extending over four years, during which time I paid frequent visits to Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Under-Secretaries were seriously overworked. That is why I, personally, approve of the idea of having a Resident Minister for Scotland. I have known the time when the Secretary of State or an Under-Secretary has had to proceed from Scotland to London and back again as often as three times in a week—which meant spending as many as three nights out of the week in trains, travelling backwards and forwards. Being Scottish, I can use this expression, though in the mouth of someone of another nationality it would be offensive—I think that the life of an Under-Secretary for Scotland is "a dog's life".

Again, on one or two occasions when I went to Scotland in order to try to acquaint myself better with Scottish affairs, I was astonished to find how even the smallest rural council expected, when they asked for it, that the Secretary, of State or an Under-Secretary would go before them and explain local matters. And one or other of these gentlemen was almost compelled to go. I remember, at one place, starting out at nine o'clock in the morning in company with one of the Under-Secretaries, and, at that hour, receiving a deputation from the town council. They "blew off steam" till about eleven o'clock, and then were followed by representatives of the county council. They, in turn, were followed by the harbour board. And so it went on. All sorts of organisations had demanded that the Under-Secretary should go there, explain matters to them, and listen to what they had to say. I have had fairly extensive knowledge of local government matters in England, and I know that there is no question at all of any local authority here demanding the presence of a Minister—either an Under-Secretary or a Cabinet Minister—at any time. They simply would not do it. In Scotland, however, standards are different. I merely mention that; I do not know what is going to develop now.

It is clear that the new Under-Secretary for Scotland, when appointed, will not be a member of your Lordships' House. I do not see the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, here. I was going to extend to him my sympathies, or my congratulations—whichever way he likes to take it—because, as a Lord in Waiting, he may be called upon to undertake a great deal of the work which I had to do, though of course he has a greater knowledge of Scotland than I have. But I was going to wish him success. With regard to this Bill generally all I would say is that any Government have a right to the set-up which they think is best to carry out their policy. If the set-up proves a success they will get the credit. If it is not a success they will have to bear the responsibility.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, may I intervene for a few moments, just to underline one or two statements which my noble friend Lord Ogmore has made regarding Wales? I could, as a matter of fact, claim to speak for both that country and Scotland, as my paternal ancestor was Scottish while my maternal ancestor was Welsh. I had the good fortune to be born in Wales, and during this Election, in consequence of the activities of the Conservative Party, I was sent to Wales where I had discussions at great length. It was my very pleasing task to tramp through Wales and try to prevent the Conservatives from obtaining the opportunity to carry out this pledge. But I welcome this Bill as a sincere effort to carry out a pledge. Some of my colleagues and myself had entertained the hope that a Cabinet Minister would be appointed who would be responsible simply for Wales, though I admit that that was expecting rather a lot. However, it was clearly an appointment which should be filled, either by a Cabinet Minister or by a Parliamentary Under-Secretary.

I welcome this Bill because it gives a Parliamentary Under-Secretary to Wales. I received many representations regarding one aspect of the appointment, and that relates to the Welsh language—my noble friend, Lord Ogmore, has already referred to it. He gave us the information that the appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr. Llewellyn, though a Member for the city of Cardiff, is not able to speak Welsh. He is doing his best, we are told, by listening to thirty Welsh records. Now I understand Welsh. The Welsh language is as familiar to me as English. It is my own language, the language of my hearth and of my home. My wife and I have been married for forty years, and we have yet to speak a word to each other in English, always excepting, of course, occasions when we are in English company. I know that having thirty records to listen to will not enable Mr. Llewellyn to understand Welsh. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, suggested that the number of records might be increased, but I am afraid that even that would not have the desired result.

I make this suggestion—and I hope the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, or the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, will give it sympathetic consideration. I am anxious that the Home Secretary and his Parliamentary Under-Secretary shall do all they can to ensure that the Welsh-speaking section of the people of Wales get a fair chance. It is true we are in a minority. The majority of people in Wales speak English, but there is a very substantial number who speak Welsh, especially in North Wales. In the main, those people live in North Wales. To ensure that questions affecting the Welsh-speaking people get proper consideration, we hope it will be possible to have some Welsh-speaking person—if not a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, some other official—appointed in some capacity to hear their troubles and to listen to their case. I am not a supporter of the idea of a separate Parliament for Wales; indeed, I am inclined to take a different view. But this is a Bill which has been brought forward to redeem a pledge. I hope this appointment will help the Welsh people to play a greater part in Welsh affairs than they have done in the past.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House a question at this point? I see that according to Clause 1 (2) of the Bill the number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries who may be appointed in another place is limited to twenty-two. Does that mean that there will be an increase—and a welcome increase—in the number of Under-Secretaries appointed in this House?


I think I shall have to ask for notice of that question.



3.30 p.m.


My Lords, this afternoon I find myself in a rather unusual position. I seldom direct anything towards the Opposition Benches other than brickbats, but to-day I have to send the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, a bouquet, without even a pebble wrapped up in it, because I would strongly recommend those of your Lordships who are purely English to study the admirable speech which he made. He put his finger on one of the salient weaknesses of the English character—that is to say, on the all too frequent inability of the English to appreciate the point of view of the smaller nations lying in the North and West of these Islands. That inability has cost us Southern Ireland, and while I do not think that there is much danger of a repetition of that gloomy course of events, either in the case of Scotland or in the case of Wales, it is necessary for the English section of Great Britain to realise that the attitude of mind as well as the problems of the smaller nations comprised in our Trinity are very different from those of England proper.

To-day I wish to confine my remarks practically entirely to the Scottish angle, though I would just say, in passing, that it is a matter of gratification that the problems of Wales are at last receiving at least a portion of the consideration they merit. When I first became a Member of another place, now twenty years ago, the Scottish Office team, if I may so call it, consisted of four—the Secretary of State, an Under-Secretary and two Law Officers, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who, of course, remain unchanged. A few years ago that team was increased to five by the addition of a second Under-Secretary, and now, by the creation of a Minister of State and a third Under-Secretary, there will be seven. That reform is a much-needed one, because there is no doubt that the Scottish Office was hopelessly overloaded with work in view of the, I think, seventeen separate departments over which the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretaries had to preside.

But there is one point which must not be overlooked—namely, that the mere creation of an extra Minister is not going far towards satisfying the undoubted dissatisfaction that largely exists in Scotland to-day unless, at the same time, more of the particular problems that affect Scotland and which are still under English jurisdiction are transferred to the authority of the Secretary of State and the Scottish Office. May I briefly give your Lordships two instances of this? Some years ago a farmer in central Scotland was about to send his sheep as usual down to the great annual market at Kelso, where in September many hundreds, indeed, several thousands, of rams are usually sold. There was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease just within the fifteen-miles radius from his farm. Notwithstanding this, he hoped to obtain permission to take his sheep to Kelso, because, in so much as he was well to the south of the outbreak, there would be no question of the animals going anywhere near it. The fact that he did not obtain such permission is not germane to the story. When he approached the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, to see whether anything could be done, he was told that they had no jurisdiction in the matter and he must apply to the English Minister of Agriculture. That, I suggest, is something which should not be allowed to continue, but I believe it does to this day.

My second point is this. I understand that even now the last authority in regard to justices of the peace in Scotland is the Lord Chancellor. With the greatest possible respect to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack and to his predecessors, it is surely rather absurd that an English legal luminary, who, however great his ability, can be expected to have at best rather a rudimentary knowledge of Scottish law, should be the ultimate authority for appointing Scottish justices, who have to administer a law which is in many respects different from that of England. Therefore, I would suggest that one of the first things that should be done during the Recess is for the Secretary of State for Scotland to call his team together, to see how many different aspects of purely Scottish domestic administration are still under English superiority. I suggest that they should try, so far as possible, and as soon as possible, to have them transfered to the Scottish Office.

In my opinion, this Bill is decidedly a good one. It may or may not satisfy the aspirations of the Scottish and the Welsh people, for, as I have said, it is not the creation of extra Ministers which will make or mar the Bill; it is whether the new Ministers go very much further in bringing Scottish and Welsh administration under local control. It is on that that the Bill will stand or fall.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will not expect me to detain you much longer, but there are one or two things which perhaps I may be allowed to say in reply. First, I would thank most sincerely those noble Lords who spoke in kind terms of my attempt to expound the rather difficult subject of these Acts. I would venture to take up one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said. I did not intend to say that the terms of this Bill were not clear. I think it is an admirable piece of drafting. What I do think is that anybody reading the Bill could not know what change would be made in the law of to-day, and that is why I ventured to expound it in the way I did. It is a case of legislation by reference—an unfortunate necessity nowadays—and where we have legislation by reference it is necessary to go back to the fountain head in order to understand what it effects.

The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said that the Bill was only a partial fulfilment of the promises that had been made. I think that must be a slip on the part of the noble Lord, for what is being done is more than a fulfilment of any promise or of anything said in the gracious Speech. What is being done is to appoint a senior Minister of State who is responsible for Welsh affairs, and, in addition, an Under-Secretary, which I think goes beyond anything that was promised, either before the Election or in the gracious Speech. The noble Lord also asked that Welsh-speaking Welshmen should be given a fair deal, and I think that must have the sympathy of everyone. I assure the noble Lord that it will be brought to the attention of the Minister. Of course, those who wish to preserve the genius of Wales by speaking the Welsh language ought to have a fair deal, and I am sure they will.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, raised the question of justices of the peace in Scotland. I speak from a rather uncertain memory, but I think that that question was the subject of investigation by a recent Royal Commission. I will have it looked into. So far as the present occupant of the Woolsack is concerned, I assure the noble Lord that if opinion were generally in favour of that jurisdiction being moved across the Border, nobody would be better pleased than I; but I am afraid that that must await events. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made a far-ranging speech, which, if he will permit me to say so, was very interesting but not, perhaps, wholly germane to the point of the Bill. If he will forgive me, I will not pursue him into the mountains of Wales. I do not think there is any other point on which I need detain your Lordships.

On Question, Bill read; 2ª Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of November 29), Bill read 3ª, and passed.

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