§ 2.6 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE CO-ORDINATION OF TRANSPORT, FUEL AND POWER (LORD LEATHERS) rose to move, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Transfer of Functions (Ministry of Civil Aviation) Order, 1953, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday the 1st instant, be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Transfer of Functions (Ministry of Civil Aviation) Order, 1953, be made in the form of the draft laid before the House on June 23. This occasion brings back vividly to my mind the last merger in the matter of transport with which I had to deal. Your Lordships will remember that in 1941 it was decided to merge the Ministries of Trans port and Shipping and to form one Ministry, the Ministry of War Transport, and I had the honour to be appointed the first Minister. There were a number of voices raised then about the unwisdom of that move, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that events proved how right we were to take that step. Truly I might say that transport is indivisible; and the close association which was then formed between shipping and the inland transport side proved its worth overwhelmingly, particularly at that most important point, the docks.
§ Equally, I am certain that this merger of the Ministry of Civil Aviation with the Ministry of Transport, which I hope your Lordships will sanction this afternoon, and which is the logical extension of the move made twelve years ago, will be an improvement in our methods of public administration. And I hope that my noble friend Lord Swinton and I will be 850 able to satisfy your Lordships of the rightness of our course and of its timing. Our reasons for bringing forward this proposal are briefly, but I think adequately, set out in the White Paper, of which your Lordships no doubt possess copies. I will be almost as brief myself.
§ Perhaps I may sketch rapidly the history of the Ministry of Civil Aviation which, though honourable, is not a very long one. There was little doubt that civil aviation needed a separate Prime Minister foresaw the important part British civil aviation would have to play, and the very great problems which would face us in the early years of peace, and he recalled Lord Swinton from West Africa in 1944. The noble Viscount, though his period as Minister was brief, laid the foundations of Commonwealth and international co-operation in civil aviation; and I am sure that all noble Lords will agree with me when I say that the country is deeply indebted to him for what he did at Chicago to help create the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which has since then done so much work for the safe, orderly and successful expansion of air travel.
§ Lord Swinton was followed in office by several noble Lords, one of whom I am glad to see on the Benches opposite. Under them, the Ministry of Civil Aviation took shape, and under their guidance an industry of which we are all proud has grown up. This industry remains of the greatest, and indeed growing, importance, and the technical problems facing it will continue in complexity, But so far as questions of highest policy go, it has been clear for the past year or two that things are settling down. It was for this reason that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister came to the conclusion in 1951 that the civil air industry had reached a stage where it no longer required the special and undivided attention of one Minister and he accordingly appointed a single Minister to look after the Ministries of Transport and Civil Aviation.
§ The logical development of this appointment, which, in effect, merged the Minister of Transport with the Minister 851 of Civil Aviation, is to merge the two Ministries, and, now that the Transport Act has been passed, the time has come to take this step. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has shown that it is perfectly possible for one Minister to carry out these combined duties satisfactorily. Surely if one Minister can do the work, he should have one Ministry, in which all his problems can be brought together. This is simple logic. In fact, it is hardly for me to argue the case. Rather it is for critics of this merger—I do not know whether there are any in your Lordships' House—to show whether there are overriding reasons against it. The step which we are proposing will, in our submission, bring two desirable results—first, better administration and secondly a reduction in Government expenditure.
§ Let me take the first point—better administration—first. Inevitably, there are a large number of subjects where different forms of transport cross each other's paths, thereby throwing up problems affecting more than one mode of travel. After all, one has to remember that, although its comparative novelty still tends to set it apart as a form of transport, flying is merely one more means of getting people and goods from one place to another. In such circumstances the benefit clearly lies in a proper co-ordination of policy. Surely, my Lords, one of the fundamental rules of organisation is "Co-ordination at the lowest level compatible with efficiency." If you have two separate Departments, each headed up by a Minister, and if there is disagreement on a matter which affects both these Departments, the subject may get referred up and up for decision, with the inevitable consequence of delay. If the same situation occurs when both those subjects are dealt with in one Department, less than one Minister, the issue will be decided very much more quickly and at a lower level. The situations which arise will create their precedents, and the civil servants in charge will have a clear line on which to proceed. In other words, it will all make for ease of administration.
§ To give examples of the sort of subjects which inevitably interconnect, there is the field of international policy and relations. Our shipping policy and our 852 airways policy must, and do, inevitably react upon each other. I hope to see the benefit of closer working between those responsible for formulating and carrying out these policies. Other examples lie in the field of navigational aids and telecommunications: for instance there are modern navigational devices which can be used both by ships at sea and by aircraft in the sky. Another example is the interconnection between highways and aerodromes. New or expanding aerodromes need new or better roads. They may even mean the diversion or stopping up of some existing roads. This sort of situation throws up problems which have hitherto affected two Ministries, but which in future will be dealt with only by one.
§ Now I turn to the second element which I mentioned—reduction in Government expenditure. I would not say that we hope to attain vast economies, but they will certainly be significant. In particular, the merging of the central services of both Departments will show some immediate savings. My Lords, I am not one of those who believe that a small saving in Government expenditure is not worth while. it is the taxpayers' money we are talking about. It is our duty to spend it as carefully and as sparingly as we can. Above all, if we can make savings in administrative costs, and at the same time, as I hope I have explained, make for better administration, then it is incumbent upon us to make those savings.
§ I know that there are some who fear that the problems of Civil Aviation will not get sufficient attention in a combined Department. But after two years experience I do not think that there is any substance in these fears. As I have said, we certainly expect smoother and better administration. That in itself should help all the interests affected. As for Ministerial attention, there will, of course, still be two Parliamentary Secretaries, one of whom will concentrate on civil aviation, and the Minister himself will be able to devote a good deal of time to this side of his work as he does at present. During the last eighteen months the Minister has been handicapped by having to move between two headquarters. That in itself has taken up a good deal of his time. And the passage through Parliament of the Transport Bill inevitably 853 meant that he was heavily engaged for the time being on that front. But that sort of situation must occur from time to time. And there may well be occasions when civil aviation will require, and will get, the greater share of the Minister's time and attention.
§ For all these reasons, My Lords, I commend this step as a sensible administrative measure for us to take. I feel sure your Lordships will approve the wisdom of it. I am convinced that it will make for smoother despatch of business at: a lower cost. It will result in a fine Department, with unique opportunities for those serving in it. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Transfer of Functions (Ministry of Civil Aviation) Order, 1953, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday the 1st instant, be made in the form of the draft laid before Parliament.—(Lord Leathers.)
§ 2.18 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, for his charming and lucid account of the considerations that have weighed with him and his colleagues most concerned in the Government. Perhaps; I may tender thanks for some of the kind expressions which were directed towards me and other Members of this House who were previously Ministers of Civil Aviation. I think we have five ex-Ministers of Civil Aviation in this House, going back to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who was the fons et origo of the whole business in the early days. I am glad to think that he is going to reply. If we add the Secretary of State, who has taken a great responsibility in recent years, and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who was a sort of Minister of Civil Aviation (if I may so describe him) before there was an official Minister of Civil Aviation—certainly before there was a Ministry of Civil Aviation, I think we can say that "We are seven."
I do not know how people would wish to regard us—as the "Seven Wonders of the World," perhaps; or the "Seven Deadly Sins"—or "The Seven Dwarfs," as a noble Lord here has just suggested; that is rather brutal and unnecessary, but it comes from my own side and so I 854 must accept it. If we add the two Ministers who sit in another place, that would make us nine, and there I can only compare us with the Muses. I do not know which Muse springs most easily to the mind—perhaps Terpsichore doing a choral dance—the Secretary of State; or Polyhymnia singing sublime hymns—the noble Viscount in his happiest vein. At any rate, we are a goodly company and I am very pleased to be numbered among them. I am particularly grateful, if I may take this opportunity of saying so, to the Minister of Civil Aviation and Transport for what he said about me.
The Secretary of State was somewhat shrewd, not to say crafty, in the way he presented his case, though as it was in the full light of day I make no possible complaint. I do not in any way seek to blame him, because I think it is extremely difficult to argue a case of this kind in public. You can get round a table and argue a departmental matter of this kind but I think it is difficult to strike a balance in public and in the last resort the Government of the day must take responsibility for making the decision. The Secretary of State said, in. effect, that it was up to us to prove that an amalgamation should not take place; but that is bound to be almost as hard as proving that it should take place; so from that point of view he was wise in his generation.
But there is another point about his argument which it would be fair to make and which might occur to an objective hearer. Most of what he said, apart from his reference to the fact that things were settling down, could have been used as an argument in favour of the merger at almost any time since the Ministry started. He argued the case for co-ordination in transport. He said that you want to integrate at the lowest level, and he brought forward general arguments of that sort—all perfectly sound as generalisations, but all really applicable some years ago. I think most members of the House (I hope at least the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton) would agree that for a number of years there was a very strong justification for a Ministry of Civil Aviation. It was started, I think, through the initiative of the noble Viscount, and we ail now seem to be agreed that it has done very good work in a separate capacity. Certainly the Minister of Civil Aviation and Transport was good enough to say the other day that our 855 prospects in civil aviation are quite brilliant. We on this side echo those words. I do not think he was arguing that they had been rendered especially brilliant by anything that had occurred during the last eighteen months. I think he was paying a handsome tribute to the whole set-up all along—not only to the Minister but to everybody in the industry and elsewhere. If this separate Ministry has provided the framework within which our prospects have been brought to this pitch of brilliance, I think we can be grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who started it, and we must generally feel that it was right to keep a separate Ministry for a number of years. The case for making the change now is surely based on the fact that certain changes in civil aviation have occurred which justify a change in the Ministerial or bureaucratic set-up; and that the Secretary of State, with great respect, hardly set out to do.
My Lords, I know many of us have other important engagements this afternoon, and I do not wish to detain the House very long. For that reason, and for another one that I shall come to in a moment, I do not wish to make any attempt to turn this into a general debate on civil aviation. Such a debate is, I would venture to think, overdue in this House. We have not discussed civil aviation for about a year, and I feel that most of us will wish to discuss the subject very soon and at considerable length. One reason which leads me not to attempt it to-day is that my noble friend Lord Ogmore is not able to be here. He has been unwell for part of the summer, but is now making good progress, and I know that the House will wish him all good luck and a quick recovery. There are many current issues in civil aviation—I am not going to discuss them; I will only touch on one or two of them. My noble friend the Minister has been the subject of an onslaught in a leading article in The Times this morning, headed, "How Not to Do It." As one who has been blooded as Minister of Civil Aviation by a leading article in The Times in past years, I would offer the Minister the consolation that he cannot be said to be a political adult until he has been the subject of an article of a hostile character in The Times.
856 Yet there are very important issues. There is the White Paper on airports which was issued yesterday. We are all very anxious to discuss our admired Corporations and the charter companies, with which we also sympathise very much, and the relationship between them. I pass over those matters, simply saying that I believe most of the House would wish to return to them as soon as possible. I would say just one word, and a delicate word, about the dispensation during the last eighteen months. The Minister is such an old and valued friend of my own that I hesitate to say anything that could be understood to be a personal criticism. I think most of us on this side who have had anything to do with this matter will agree that the present Minister is a man of outstanding energy and ability. I think that is understood perfectly well, and he has enhanced his reputation in recent years. But whilst I would gladly credit him at any rate with about 25 per cent, more ability and energy than myself, I still do not think that he can do twice as much as I and some of my colleagues used to do. That puts what I have to say on that subject as gently as I can. I think very few people who have been concerned with civil aviation in the past would feel that they have had a Minister in the last eighteen months who has had sufficient time to give to it.
Certainly, to the best of my belief the trade unions do not feel that. Their views were heard in another place, and I need not refer to them again except to say that they recognise the anxiety of the Minister, his good will and his desire to make himself available for discussion but they have deplored the fact that, purely through overwork and excess of duties, he has simply not been able to give them the time for the discussions that they would have expected. Whether that is the reason, or for whatever reason, I would put it on record that to the best of my belief the trade unions are solidly opposed to this merger. It was stated in another place and it was not denied by the Government spokesman elsewhere, though he said he had not had any notice of it. Unless it can be contradicted to-day, I think we must take note of the fact that the trade unions, no doubt feeling that they would prefer to have a Minister of their own, have 857 objected fairly strongly to the merger. All those things are matters of fact, and unless there is some denial, they must be placed on record.
Now, my Lords, as I say, few of us doubt that it was right to start a separate Ministry, and most agree that it was well to keep it going during our period. But I am giving away no secret, political or administrative, if I say that many highly placed and well-informed people during our period of government were strongly of the view that the time would come when a merger would be necessary. I am not therefore saying that the present Government are doing something which we should never have contemplated doing. I do not know whether we should have done it eventually or whether we should not, but I surmise that eventually the question of a possible merger would have depended upon circumstances. I would say myself—and perhaps the House will allow a small amount of the personal element to creep in, as I was Minister for three years—that I was never certain that the time for a merger would come in the foreseeable future. I thought it might come, but I was not certain that it would.
I cannot accept the very general argument which was presented in another place from the Government side, and within certain limits, and rather briefly, by the Secretary of State to-day: that merely by bringing two Ministries together you bring about a saving somewhere. I gather that there is no great suggestion that economies in staff are going to be substantial, but it is argued that if you get the two staffs together in one Ministry you co-ordinate them, that they each contribute to one another, and in one way and another it all becomes a more efficient unit.
We have often been told in this House and elsewhere that the trouble about the nationalised industries is that their administrative unit is too large, and therefore this argument in regard to bigness is such that it does not carry me along very readily. I think that, regarded simply as an administrative unit, a Ministry of the size of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which has very nearly 7,000 people, coupled with transport, which has about 6,000 people, and providing a unit of 13,000 is not likely to be more efficient than a unit of half that amount of people. So I do not see, on the face of it, in the 858 abstract, any special argument there. An argument may be brought in from the size of other Ministries, but I do not think the noble Viscount will find it easy to bring in very effective analogies without my being able to produce other analogies from Departments which are smaller than this merged Department will be.
I think there is also this to be said, which has not, I think, been said in public, but it is my experience and, therefore, may be of interest to the House. I do not question the fact that in the end, if and when this merger has to take place, it is best to bring it about between the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Transport. I do not question that, although there are arguments on the other side. For in this connection, I should like to give the House this experience of my own—I hope that this will not be used as a criticism: I do not think that it can fairly be used as criticism of what went on did not have many special dealings, when I was Minister of Civil Aviation, with the Minister of Transport. We had far more dealings with the Minister of Supply, and far more dealings with the Air Minister. Therefore, it was not a case of constant overlapping and argument on the Ministerial level between the Minister of Civil Aviation and the Minister of Transport, though of course we had discussions, in so far as there were certain problems which we had in common and which were handled through common machinery. I think it is worth taking note of this, because this is not a case of two Ministries which were always, so to speak, treading on each other's toes or which need special co-ordination.
From that particular angle, you could make out a much stronger argument, I feel sure, for merging the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Supply, which is directly concerned with aircraft; or even with the Air Ministry, as in pre-war days. I am not saying that this merger is wrong in itself, but the House must not exaggerate the economies, avoidance of overlapping and increased efficiency which can possibly result. I would say that a case has to be made out for the change on practical grounds, and not just in the abstract; a case has to he made out on grounds relating to what has occurred in recent years. Undoubtedly, there is less work for the Minister of Civil Aviation to-day 859 than there was five years ago. The Corporations have made great progress, and that alone, I think, has reduced, and will reduce, the work of the Minister a good deal. On the other hand, the new policy which I will not stop to criticise now but which we have criticised before, and which we shall doubtless criticise again, touching the relationship of the Corporations and the charter companies, may mean rather more work for the Minister than was the case in my time. We had a good deal of work on that front in those days, but, to use the Secretary of State's own expression, it had rather settled down. Now it seems to have been rather stirred up by the new policy announced by the Secretary of State last year, Nevertheless. I would say that we have probably reached the stage where the Minister of Civil Aviation has not quite a full-time job. I concede that point.
The question which then arises is this. If the separate Minister of Civil Aviation has not quite a full-time job, does that mean that one Minister can, in fact, handle both tasks satisfactorily? One thing does not follow from the other. If the Minister of Transport had a full-time job before, and the Minister of Civil Aviation had a three-quarter-time job, it means that the merger will result in one Minister trying to do a job which really requires a Minister and three-quarters to do it. I give that simply as an illustration, and not with any idea of making a Party point. And if the Minister of Civil Aviation has not a full-time job in his Department, it is quite possible to supplement his work in a number of useful ways, whether in this House or in assisting the Government, who seem to be rather hard pressed elsewhere. I feel, on balance, that while there is a stronger case than there was for a merger, it has come too soon. I do not think that one Minister can yet do this work alone and do it properly. Undoubtedly, the present holder of the office would do his utmost; I know of no member of the present Administration who would be likely to try more vigorously to tackle this job than the present Minister. I say that to make it clear that this is in no way a personal attack upon him.
I am most anxious in this connection to be fair. If you are going to have only one Minister you must, in the end, have only 860 one Ministry. I concede that. The decision ultimately, therefore, must be between two Ministers and two Ministries or one Minister and one Ministry. If the Secretary of State and his colleagues have decided on only one Minister, then there must be only one Ministry. I agree, therefore, although I am deploring the merger at the present moment, that with one Minister there must virtually be one Ministry, and in that respect the right decision has been taken, although, as I have indicated, in my view it has been taken rather prematurely.
Before I sit down, there is one proposal—a small one, but I think of some significance—which I should like to press upon the Government. I cannot expect that the noble Viscount will be able to say to-day any more than that it will receive careful consideration. But I certainly hope that he will do that. It seems to me—and I believe that I speak for all my colleagues, here and elsewhere—to be absolutely vital that one of the Parliamentary Secretaries in the new Ministry should be specifically Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Aviation. In another place, the Minister, following a similar statement by the Prime Minister, announced that there would continue to be two Parliamentary Secretaries, one dealing with transport and the other with civil aviation. So what I have said is, broadly, in line with the intention of the Government. I am not suggesting a revolutionary change. Indeed, it may be that I am not suggesting any change in the Government's actual plans.
I have said that I believe I am speaking for my colleagues here, and I believe that I am also speaking for a very considerable section of the world of civil aviation irrespective of Party politics. I still have many friends in that world, I am proud to think. I beg the Government to consider the advisability of saying definitively that one Parliamentary Secretary is to be Parliamentary Secretary for civil aviation. I ask the noble Viscount to assure us that the status of civil aviation will be in no way diminished and, if possible, will be enhanced. And surely the noble Viscount will agree that there is no better way of making that plain to the world than by saying that civil aviation will continue to have a separate Minister, albeit a junior Minister, one supervised ultimately by his senior Ministerial colleague.
861 It is very difficult in these days for any Minister to know how to use a Parliamentary Secretary properly. I believe that one of the weaknesses of the modern Government is that so often the senior Minister is overworked and the Parliamentary Secretary is under worked. Speaking from my own experience, I may say that I never met a Minister who did not say that he had far too much work to do, and I never met a Parliamentary Secretary who did not say that his chief did not give him enough work What I am referring to does not arise from any personal feeling or jealousy, or anything of that kind. The Minister, of course, has to take ultimate responsibility, and I know that it is very difficult to delegate something to a Parliamentary Secretary when the Minister is the one who will get the blame. The noble Viscount shakes his head, but what I am saying is the outcome of my own personal experience.
It is extremely difficult, when the public ultimately look to the Minister to "take the rap" and to "carry the can back," to delegate responsibility to the Parliamentary Secretary. It has been very difficult for the Minister to hand over, let us say, the matter of safety to the Parliamentary Secretary in civil aviation. As soon as there is an accident, everyone wants to know what the Minister has done, how he is handling it, and so on. I would say that the Government will do good service, in line with their plans, if they say that this Parliamentary Secretary is to be Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Aviation. I know that these suggestions will not be terribly popular in Whitehall, among the officials. of whom I am so devoted an admirer—because there always tends to be a little feud between the Permanent Secretary of a Ministry and the Parliamentary Secretary! That, of course, was never the case in any Ministry over which I had the honour to preside. But I know that there is often a tendency for the Permanent Secretary to regard himself rather as the eldest son, and to look upon the Parliamentary Secretary as the eldest daughter—someone who goes in the room first but who is not allowed to make a real decision. The Parliamentary Secretary, on the other hand, tends to regard himself as the eldest son, and the Permanent Secretary as the butler.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
The butler is a much more important person than the eldest son, and often more useful.
In the present Administration I thought the eldest son was not the butler but a still more distinguished man, but I may be mistaken!
The point I have placed before the House this afternoon is one to which I call the serious attention of the Government. I have said my say, and I am not going to get passionate about the change. It may well be that it has got to come, and the Government of the day has to express its own decision. I express only one passionate conviction, and I think all noble Lords will wish to join me, particularly those that have served in this Ministry and have been connected with it: I express my fervent admiration for the work of these devoted officials, and I wish them the best of luck under the future arrangements. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is dead; long live the Ministry of Civil Aviation!
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, as one of the Shades or Muses or Graces, into whichever category my noble friends and I fall, and in courtesy to the noble Lord, I should like to add a few words. I am sure that this merger is in the best interests of civil aviation. If I did not believe that, I would have fought it. I am quite sure that it is. I should like in a few minutes to pat to the House why I feel that is so. I have always considered that ultimately the Ministry of Civil Aviation ought to merge in the Ministry of Transport. I think I stated that publicly before, and certainly in the short time I was Minister of Civil Aviation I expressed that view very definitely to my colleagues.
But I think it was right and necessary to have a separate Ministry of Civil Aviation at the start. The whole policy had to be worked out. There were a great many important international and Commonwealth negotiations which had to be undertaken, and we had to get the whole structure of international civil aviation going: the principles on which it should work, as well as a mass of detail on their application and their machinery. We also had to get important 863 agreements—as we did—with all the Commonwealth countries for the development of civil aviation throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. Those high-level negotiations at the start had necessarily to be undertaken by a senior and responsible Minister. At that time it would have been quite impossible for the Minister of Transport, who had a great many other negotiations of the same sort coming on towards the close of the war, and the great many problems of the whole turnover of transport and shipping from peace to war, however much he delegated individual items, to undertake all that work, if we had made the amalgamation then. I have never concealed that I thought amalgamation should take place. I will not pause to argue now whether it might have been done sooner or whether this is the right moment. But I am sure that it ought not to be delayed now.
I will tell the House why I think this is essential. Civil Aviation is a form of transport. It is true that people require a different technique to drive an aeroplane from that required for driving a railway engine. But the great mistake—if ever any of us makes any mistakes, conscious as we are of each other's short-comings—is a tendency to be terribly expert, or shall I say "watertight-compartmented," because this form of transport moves in the air. I will not go into the old idea of the Navy, who thought it was impossible for anybody to fly over the sea unless he had a full training as a seaman and called every part of an aeroplane by naval names. But, without going that far, there was a bad tendency to concentrate upon what I might call the technical flying part of the business and not upon the essential transport part. The noble Lord will forgive me for this flash of the obvious.
First and foremost, then, civil aviation is a form of transport; a competing form and a complementary form, and, so far as ministerial responsibility is concerned, I think it is of great importance that one Minister should be responsible for all the different forms of transport. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said that we had to justify this change by giving a great many reasons; but if we have one very good reason, that seems to me even 864 better than having half a dozen reasons which are not so good. To my mind this is nothing new, for I have always felt it. I am not a bit impressed by the argument that this Ministry will be so big, either in functions or personnel, that it will be unwieldy. There are many Ministries much bigger in personnel. Let us reduce so far as we can consistently with service—I always like to go on the principle of "Fewer and better."
The noble Lord asked whether it was not dangerous, because there was not enough for two Ministers but too much for one. I do not believe that for a moment. In recent years there has been a tendency to proliferate Ministers. In the old days we did not find that necessary. I am not an elder statesman, but I am certainly getting to be a fairly old man, and my ministerial experience goes back more than thirty years. I was four times President of the Board of Trade. I do not say I was a very good one and I may have done the wrong thing, but in those days I never had any difficulty in covering the field, and the Board of Trade then had every part of the responsibility it has now. It had the whole of shipping; it had gas and it had mines; but electricity had been hived off. The Board of Trade had all those sections except railways, which today have four Ministers to look after them. In those days the President of the Board of Trade had three or four Under-Secretaries, and whether they were Conservative, or Socialist, or Liberal—and I think the Board was lucky enough to enjoy all three—not one of them ever complained it was not perfectly easy to do the job. It may be said that we did not go meddling in every detail of every industry with which we were concerned; but I do not think we were any the worse Ministers because of that self-denying ordinance. I am not saying anything against the way my colleagues administer their Departments, or even the way their predecessors did; but if you have a Ministry with not quite enough to do, the Minister is apt to try and find something for idle hands to do. I am not sure that these companies, whether they are nationalised or non-nationalised companies, are any the better for too much detailed, meticulous intervention by Ministers, whatever their political complexion.
865 It is quite easy to cover a large Ministry, provided you know how to delegate. If you do not know how to delegate you will be a bad Minister, whether your Ministry is a large or small one. It is quite easy to deal with Under-Secretaries. I have had many, and I have always delegated to them. It is quite simple to give the broad, general directives, and then to have the policy carried out. That goes for Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, and even more for Permanent Under-Secretaries. I always made it a rule that I would never promote people in any Department for which I was responsible until I was satisfied that they knew how to delegate, however competent and brilliant they might be. Therefore, I do riot think we shall find any difficulty over that. The noble Lord suggested that one of these Under-Secretaries might be called, in terms, the "Under-Secretary for Civil Aviation." I do not attach great importance to baptismal regeneration of this kind in administrative matters. I cannot give the noble Lord an answer on the spur of the moment, but that will certainly be considered.
Atone thing which he said I would cavil—I think he may have carried his argument a little further than he meant to. He said that not only would he like the Under-Secretary to be called an Under-Secretary for Civil Aviation, but he would also like the people in civil aviation to feel that they had a Minister of their own. With that I certainly do not agree. The whole point is that there should be one Minister for the two Departments, and that the Under-Secretaries should not regard themselves as Ministers. The noble Lord said, also, that he thought the trade unions did not like this. I am told that no trade union opposition to the merger has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I thought the noble Lord would like to have an answer to his inquiry, and that answer, which has just been handed to me, is the best that I can procure.
May I ask the noble Viscount a question? It was stated firmly in another place that the trade unions were opposed. Would it be asking too much for the Minister to discover, or to have discovered before this debate, whether that statement was correct or false?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
It would be too much to ask me, on the spur of the moment, because I am not the Minister, and I should not like to say whether it was true or false. There are many sides to truth. However, the answer which I am invited to give to the noble Lord is that no trade union opposition to the merger has been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I am not saying that somebody may not have said to a pal: "I do not think I like this"—I do not know. At any rate, the noble Lord asked me for an answer and that is the best answer I can give him. I am sure it would not have been handed to me if it were not also true.
I can only say that the noble Viscount usually gives us much better answers. I quite understand that on this occasion it is not his Ministry, and he cannot do any better; but it is a disappointing answer.
I am sorry it is a disappointing answer, but I did not know I. was going to be asked the question. I have procured the answer as quickly as possible, and I happened to be the next speaker. I am sure that nobody, whether engaged in a trade union or anything else, will find that the cause or the interests of civil aviation will in any way suffer.
The noble Lord said it is not easy to express exactly the reasons for this change, though round a table one appreciates them very well. If you have a number of small Ministries, with a number of Ministers, it is, of course, quite true that each of those Ministers will have more time to do his particular job. The noble Lord said that people felt civil aviation might not get quite so much attention—although I am bound to say that the Minister of Transport to-day is an extraordinarily energetic person; and even when he has bad a large, first-class Bill on his hands, arid a good many other problems, I have not heard any criticism that he has failed to give attention to these things; in fact, I never seem to open a newspaper without seeing that he is opening an airport or receiving a deputation. Let me admit that if you have nothing to do except civil aviation you can give more time to listening to people talking about it and to receiving deputations. On the other hand, a lot of little 867 Ministers are less listened to when they come to present their conclusions from receiving deputations and have to get the assent of their colleagues to policy. I am sure that anybody who has been in government will agree that a lot of little Ministers do not get the same attention that one Minister responsible for a large Department receives. It is not that you do not want to pay attention to them, but inevitably there is not that amount of time, and things are apt to get left aside. That is one of the reasons why, without laying down how large Ministries should be, I am sure it is a good thing to have larger Ministries rather than a great many smaller Ministries.
§ EARL JOWITT
May I intervene for one moment? Would not the noble Viscount, with his experience, agree that what really makes the difference is whether or not the Minister is in the Cabinet? If he is one of those who waits outside and is called in when his business comes up, I agree that he does not carry so much weight as a man who has been sitting in throughout the discussions. Is it not whether he is a member of the Cabinet, rather than whether he is a large or small Minster, which matters?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Not entirely. Naturally, I agree that if you attend every Cabinet, in a sense you carry more weight, because something may occur in Cabinet which is an aspect of the matter. Apart from general discussions in Cabinet on subjects like foreign affairs, and so on, things are apt to come up which, in a sense, have a bearing on your own particular Department, and it is useful to be able to express your view. However, that would lead me into a digression as to whether we ought to have large Cabinets. I do not think we should. At the same time may I say, without being offensive, that I think the noble Lord will agree with me that there are gradations in the "Lower Sixth," and some Ministers, even if they are not actually in the Cabinet, partly because of their personality (we are having a frank discussion about ourselves and our colleagues) and also because of the size and importance of the Department they represent, probably carry more weight.
I am sure, too, that by having one Ministry you get things done much 868 more quickly. If you have a number of Ministries, then matters go on; the inter-Departmental subjects get argued out as between Departments—they are inclined to fight their own corner—and then the Ministers meet. One is apt sometimes to find that one needs, I do not say a permanent co-ordinating Minister, but somebody who is told to "sit in with these people and see if you can produce agreement." You must have those conflicts where you have a genuine conflict of interest between two Ministries. But in such cases as that of transport, where the overriding interest and the problems are the same, then it is infinitely better that there should be one single Minister responsible who will, because he is responsible for each of these things, give to each section of his work its proper weight, will come to a conclusion on his own and, in a matter of importance in policy, will put it to the Cabinet.
I have never been unduly hypnotised by the magic of words, perhaps because I do not use them so well as noble Lords opposite. But a few months ago we were engaged in a good many debates on Transport in one shape or another, and I seem to remember that day after day and night after night there were repeated, as words of magic, "co-ordination and integration." If co-ordination and integration are sound things to have in transport, then it certainly is desirable, for co-ordination and integration, to have a single Ministry of Transport. I have spoken at greater length than I intended because the noble Lord put a number of questions to me and I wanted to tell the House why I think this is a good plan. But it really is not necessary for any of us to make long speeches about it, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we have now had the advantage of trying this out: of having the same Minister now for a number of months responsible for the two Departments. I think everybody would agree that it was a great success.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Lord does not agree. I would say that the great majority of the people in this House and in the country would agree that it has been a wise move to have the same man as Minister of Transport and Minister of 869 Civil Aviation. As the noble Lord himself said, if you are to nave one man enjoying both offices, then obviously you ought to have one Ministry. It is because I think that we have proved by experience that it is a wise move that I feel sure the House will be wise to accept it.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.