HL Deb 03 December 1958 vol 212 cc1068-73

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether the House would give me permission, before the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, speaks, to make a statement on the Council on Tribunals. Your Lordships will recollect that Section 1 of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958, which received the Royal Assent on the 1st August last, provided for a Council on Tribunals to be set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself. The function of the Council will be to keep under review, and report upon, the constitution and working of administrative tribunals and also of those administrative procedures which involve or may involve the holding of a statutory inquiry by or on behalf of a Minister of the Crown. The need for a supervisory body or bodies to watch over these tribunals and procedures was perhaps the most important recommendation of Sir Oliver Franks's Committee. Her Majesty's Government readily accepted the need for such a Council, and I am glad to say that the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have been fortunate enough to secure the services of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, as Chairman of the Council. His knowledge of the wide field to be surveyed by this Council is very well known to your Lordships, and I doubt not that his appointment will be warmly welcomed.

Your Lordships will also recall that the Act provided for the constitution of a Scottish Committee, composed partly of members of the Council and partly of others, whose function will be to consider Scottish tribunals and matters relating only to Scotland. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that Sir Hugh Rose, Bt., T.D., has accepted our invitation to become Chairman of the Scottish Committee and a member of the Council. The other members of the Council will be as follows:—

The Honourable R. E. B. Beaumont, T.D.,

Mr. David B. Bogle, W.S.,

Sir Herbert Brittain, K.C.B., K.B.E.,

Mr. Harold Collison,

The Earl of Cranbrook, C.B.E.,

Miss Vera Dart, O.B.E.,

Mr. E. Milner Holland, C.B.E., Q.C.,

Major-General Sir Aymer Maxwell, C.B.E., M.C.,

Mr. H. Wentworth Pritchard,

The Viscountess Ridley, O.B.E.,

The Lord Strathalmond, C.B.E.,

Mr. H. W. R. Wade.

In addition to Sir Hugh Rose, the Scottish Committee will include Sir Aymer Maxwell, Mr. Bogle, Mr. W. P. McGinniss, O.B.E., Mr. J. P. Morrison, O.B.E., Mr. I. H. Shearer, Q.C., and one other member still to be appointed.

The Secretary of the Council will be Mr. Alistair Macdonald, at present of the Law Officers' Department, and the Secretary of the Scottish Committee will be Mr. I. M. Wilson, of the Scottish Home Department.

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, we are most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for making this statement, and for so speedily implementing the section of the Act. under which this Committee is set up. I should like to ask him one or two questions. First of all, is it proposed that there shall be two separate bodies, the English and the Scottish, and that they should act independently? Secondly, on the assumption that they do act independently, will they be reporting periodically—annually or at some kind of regular periods—to the respective Ministers; and will their reports be available to Parliament and to members of the general public? Some of us who have taken a great interest in this matter would like to know what the Council and the Committee are doing. Will it be possible for the public to make representations to either or both of these bodies in respect of any matters where they feel aggrieved? Lastly, could the noble and learned Viscount say what would be the relevance of this Council to wage disputes? Would any tribunal dealing with wage disputes come within their purview?


My Lords, I hope I have the noble Lord's five points, and I shall do my best to answer them. On the first point, I may say that there will be the Council operating as a council, which will deal with tribunals and procedures which are common to England and Wales, on the one hand, and Scotland, on the other. The Scottish Committee which will include members of the Council and the other members I have mentioned, will deal with points which are particularly and peculiarly Scottish. The Scottish Committee will then report to the Council, who will report as I shall mention in a moment, in answer to the noble Lord's second question. The noble Lord may remember that his Committee recommended two Councils, but in the Act we made one Council because we thought there were so many tribunals which were common to the United Kingdom, and therefore one Council was the most suitable instrument for dealing with them.

With regard to the question of reports, perhaps I may give my general impression, and then, if there is any point that arises, the noble Lord will perhaps see me afterwards about it. The need to report can arise in a number of ways. In the first place, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I, or either of us, may refer matters to the Council on Tribunals. In that case I should assume, subject to the wishes of the Council, that they would report to us on the matter which had been referred to them; and, so far as I am concerned, I. see no objection to such a report being made public at once in the usual way. That seems to be the right way to deal with it, although of course I should like to discuss that matter with the noble Marquess when he and his Council have had a chance to consider it.

The second possibility is that the Council may raise a matter of their own motion; and, again, if they report I do not see the slightest objecton to that report being published—in fact, I see everything in its favour. I think that covers the third point of the noble Lord, as to availability of reports. With regard to representations, it will be possible for any member of the public to make representations to the Council, and the Council will then consider whether the matter raised is of sufficient importance. My writing is getting a little difficult on the fifth point. I wonder whether the noble Lord could remind me of it.


My Lords, the last point was: what will be the position of this Council with regard to tribunals dealing with wages?


My Lords, I think that if the noble Lord will look again at the Act he will find that the wage machinery was deliberately excluded; and I believe that that matter was discussed in your Lordships' House. The ordinary procedures for collective bargaining will still obtain, and will not be affected by the setting up of this Council.


My Lords, while thanking the noble and learned Viscount for his full reply, may I make one suggestion? Would he consider the desirability for the Council to make a periodic report and to have it published?


My Lords, the noble Lord has reminded me of my own omission. Apart from other reports which I have mentioned, there is (if my memory serves me aright) a statutory requirement to make an annual report; and that will, of course, be done.


My Lords, I am sure that there will be satisfaction at the constitution of this Council, but may I ask whether any terms of reference have been published or whether the making of reports, and so on, will rest on the initiative of the Council itself.


My Lords, the noble Lord will find the terms of reference in Section 1 of the Act. Those were very carefully considered in a debate in your Lordships' House and, if I may say so with gratitude, were improved by suggestions made by your Lordships' House in the course of the passage of the Bill. I believe that at the end, judging by what was said, everyone in your Lordships' House was satisfied that the terms of reference expressed fully the flatters upon which inquiry was wanted.


My Lords, may I ask, first, if a Scottish Committee is to be set up, what will be the basis of its composition? Apparently the Council itself is to have a membership of what one might call mixed character—some professional and some political. I see that there are to be two members of the Labour Party on the Council, though I cannot see any others. If there is a Scottish Committee will there be political representation of Labour on that Committee also? May I also ask whether, in view of the subsequent action of Her Majesty's Government in refusing to renew the procedure for industrial tribunals to inquire into certain kinds of wage disputes, so that that procedure is no longer available, some such Council as this could be set up for all other tribunals? Is it not high time that Her Majesty's Government revised their policy? If any member of the public can come under this procedure and bring new matters to the attention of the Council, why cannot that other question be dealt with in a similar way?


My Lords, on the first point, I would say that Party political considerations did not enter into my mind in selecting the members of this Council. But I am most grateful for the fact that on the Council there will be Mr. Harold Collison who, as the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition is well aware. is not only a member of the National Union of Agricultural Workers but Chairman of the Trades Union Congress Social Services Committee, and therefore seemed to me an admirable person to consider the many tribunals that deal with social service matters. It happens that Miss Vera Dart is a Labour member of the London County Council, and again I should like to stress—and I am sure that the noble Viscount will realise what is in my mind —that Miss Dart was Chairman of the London County Council Children's Committee from 1949 to 1952 and a member of the Central Training Council on Child Care from 1951 to 1952; and that there are, therefore, claims other than those of political representation.

With regard to Scotland, I believe that the noble Viscount must have missed one name. He will have noticed that the Scottish Committee includes Mr. W. P. McGinniss, a former Chairman of the Scottish Trades Union Congress who was also a member of the recent Royal Commission on Scottish affairs. The membership of the Scottish Committee, if I may repeat it for the noble Viscount to have in mind, will be: Sir Hugh Rose, Sir Aymer Maxwell, Mr. Bogle, Mr. McGinniss, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Ian H Shearer, Q.C., and one other member. They will deal with matters which are peculiar to Scotland and are not United Kingdom matters.

With regard to the second point, I am sure that another opportunity will come for the noble Viscount to raise the question of the action of my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour in regard to one of the tribunals. I would only remind him that at the moment it leaves the other Tribunal still in existence, and also leaves unimpaired the powers of my right honourable friend under the Conciliation Act, 1896, and the Ministry of Labour Act, 1919. I hope that the noble Viscount will not take it amiss if I do not debate the matter further, if only because I am sure that we shall have another chance of discussing it.