§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the House is indebted for two things: first, for the Plowden Report itself, which, as one would expect from a Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, is a most able Report; and, secondly, to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for having opened this subject to-day and initiating a debate of great importance to the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Office and, indeed, to all our overseas relationships.
Having said that, however, I must add that I thought approximately the first half of the noble Lord's speech had little to do with the Motion on the Paper. It was a lengthy examination of the Commonwealth, its structure and trade problems; and the noble Lord brought in the European Economic Community, which I thought really had nothing to do with the Motion on the Order Paper. As it happens, I agree with him, in principle, about the European Economic Community, providing we can get reasonably satisfactory terms of entry. But I do not regard that as a reason for assuming, as I think the noble Lord did, that our trade with Commonwealth countries cannot grow as a proportion of Commonwealth trade or of the whole. That partly depends on how our handling of Commonwealth countries goes and how 40 our manufacturers handle Commonwealth trade.
I would not exclude the possibility that Commonwealth trade may increase, in proportion or absolutely, as the case may be. But I do not wish to pursue the European Economic Community matter or this question of Commonwealth trade at this juncture, first of all because I do not think it is really related to the Plowden Report and, secondly, because I am on very good terms with my noble friend the Leader of the Official Opposition in this House, and I do not want to start up any trouble with him. That is the last thing I would desire. In fact, I may tell the noble Lord who opened the debate that I had quite a job to hold my noble friend down when he was expanding on these matters, which are highly controversial from his point of view and, indeed, from a number of other people's points of view. So I propose to come to the point, namely, the Motion on the Paper and the Plowden Report.
I think there will be general agreement in favour of a common Overseas Diplomatic Service. I think in principle it is right, and that some carefully selected interchange of personnel between the existing Foreign Service and the Commonwealth Relations Office Service is wise. I would only add that I think this unified Service will have to take into account the need for handling the Commonwealth elements of that Service on a loose rein. They had better see to it that the right kind of people go to the Commonwealth posts. Not every member of the Foreign Service may be suited to handle Commonwealth problems. Some of them may. It might be that some of the Colonial Office people who are not, apparently, covered in this field will be suitable for going into Commonwealth posts. But we must not assume that, because we have a unified service, each member of the Overseas Diplomatic Service is necessarily suited for either the Commonwealth Service, on the one hand, or the Foreign Service, on the other. It may well be, and that will be a good thing. But we must not assume that there is a universal suitability as between the Services which now exist as separate Services.
Moreover, I think the fact ought to be accepted that the Commonwealth presents problems which are at times 41 different from the problems with which we are faced as between us and foreign countries. It is true, of course, that the Commonwealth countries are independent, as independent as are Foreign States, but they are Commonwealth. If you take the older Commonwealth countries, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they have had a long connection with us. Their political thinking bears some relationship to the traditional thinking of the British, and, therefore, the close relationship is a relatively easy one, though it does not always happen that we take the same view about international affairs or economic questions. But now we have a new Commonwealth, and that presents us with new and much more complicated problems.
There is this to be said. For many years most of these new Commonwealth countries were under British rule. That may have had a good effect on their attitude to the British, it may have had not so good an effect, or even a bad effect. I hope it has had a good one. For the last fifty, or even more, years the British have treated their Colonies very much better than in earlier days, and very much better than other people, even into the period of time to which I am referring. I have seen Colonial officers, district officers and the field forces on the job, and have developed a great admiration for them. The populations of these countries will in many cases remember that these district officers and others in the Colonial Service were really good friends of the local population, even though they were in a position of government over them. I hope they will remember that, and it is quite likely they will. Therefore, it may be that in these countries they will have better memories of the wait for independence—though once it started moving it came very quickly—or they may have happy or, at any rate, forgiving memories of the services which the Colonial Service rendered to them.
Let me say that I saw those officers actively preparing these people for self-government, or even independence, thereby preparing to push themselves out of a job. That is a pretty noble thing to have happened. I think that has to be remembered to the credit of what was then the Colonial Service. I hope the new Commonwealth countries will remember that, and thereby 42 be able to take a friendly view of our country, and have a friendly wish to be active and co-operative participants in Commonwealth affairs.
What we must not do is to assume that in the problems of the Commonwealth our relations with the Commonwealth are exactly the same as our relationships with foreign countries. They are not; they are different. They have a different background and history, even though I admit that in some respects there is a similarity. But to universalise about it, and to assume that the relationship between our country and the Commonwealth countries is exactly the same as with foreign countries, I think would be a grave mistake.
Moreover, there are some other considerations to be borne in mind. Our problems about the Commonwealth have, of course, increased owing to the development of the new Commonwealth and the considerable number of former Colonial countries which have been given their independence. This makes it not less complicated, but more. I do not accept that we are going to be defeated by this fact. We could be, especially if we are clumsy in handling it. There may be difficult elements in the other new Commonwealth countries who may become unwilling for that intimate co-operation through the Commonwealth which we all desire; but to start on the assumption, as some people evidently are doing, that this association is bound to break up, I think would be a defeatist attitude and a very great mistake. Everything must be done to avoid that happening.
It is said that Canada, Australia and New Zealand get on very well with a Department of External Affairs handling foreign affairs, their relationships with the United Kingdom, and their relationships (which are probably less than ours, but there will be some relationship between them) with other members of the Commonwealth, including the new Commonwealth countries. All this is true, but the work of the External Affairs Offices in countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand is a much lighter job than that of the Commonwealth Relations Office. I would even say it is almost certain that it is a much lighter job than that of the British Colonial and Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office. Therefore, 43 the analogy breaks down. The organisation, the work of the External Affairs Ministeries of these Commonwealth countries is a much lighter and more simple—I will not say "simple," but more simple—proposition than ours in this country.
Therefore, we now come to the point of not objecting, in principle, to the establishment of an Overseas Diplomatic Service, so long as the considerations to which I have drawn attention are in mind. I hope that they will be in the mind of the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office—a very able man—who is to be the head of the combined Services. I hope there will be adequate consultation, in the filling of Commonwealth posts, between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office, otherwise it could be that the wrong men will get into places when it would be better if they went somewhere else.
It is said that to have two heads of Overseas Departments is wrong; that is the burden of the case which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his speech. I do not agree. I think that the Foreign Secretary has his hands very full with foreign affairs. I held that office for a short time. That was not my fault; it was owing to the electorate having come to another conclusion about what sort of Government they wanted in our country—which they were entitled to do. But it is a heavy job. Indeed, I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Avon, when he went back to the Foreign Office when the Conservative Government came in in 1951, found that the work there was about double that at the time when he was Foreign Secretary before the war. I can well believe it.
We should remember, as I have told the House before, that the agenda paper facing the Foreign Secretary on any day in the Foreign Office is not, except in part, composed by the Foreign Office civil servants; it is not composed by the British; it is composed by the foreigners. That is one of the troubles; but there are foreigners and we have to have relations with them. But they plant on his desk, on any day, all sorts of complicated problems and they are liable to give him a very busy time.
44 I think that if you add to the labours of the Foreign Secretary you are heading to kill him. What we want to do is to lighten the labours of the Foreign Secretary; that is what is urgently necessary. I was in process of doing so at the Foreign Office by delegating various parts of the work to Ministers who worked under me—the Far East to Kenneth Younger; Germany and some other matters to my noble friend Lord Henderson, which he did very well indeed; and so on. I must say that I am not grumbling or trying to abuse the official machine, but the official machine did not encourage it, largely for sincere motives of taking care of me, because I was warned, "If you delegate with authority to act, you are the man who will be responsible". That was perfectly fair, and it is true that I would have been responsible, but I said that I would sooner run that risk than run the risk of death, because it was a killing job. The delegation was gradually being done, and if I had been there long enough I would certainly have seen to it that it was done more.
So this problem of delegation—and I have no doubt that there must have been a change of view in the Foreign Office since my time—is not an easy one, and he has to be a careful and determined Secretary of State who is going to see that it is brought about. Supposing that, added to his work as Foreign Secretary, he has to take on the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I am not sure from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, whether he would then include in that—logically I should think he would—the work of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I think that is the logical sequence and, as the noble Lord implies, the number of Colonies is diminishing as and when they reach independence or self-government, so that that problem is a declining one. Nevertheless, there are still some, and they can involve, so I have heard from former Colonial Secretaries when it was in full blast, a terrible amount of meticulous, detailed work, although, of course, it is much less now.
45 If that responsibility is added to the work of the Foreign Secretary, two consequences follow. One, the Foreign Secretary will be shockingly over-burdened. At any rate, he was over-burdened in the past, and I imagine that in some ways, unless the process of delegation has gone further, which I very much hope it has, he still is. That is the first problem. I do not think he could manage it. Moreover, even without the Colonies the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations must maintain some sort of intimate contact with Commonwealth countries of all sorts, whether they are new or old. He even ought to be a not infrequent visitor to them, I am inclined to think, in order that he can understand their outlook, their frame of mind, their spirit and the problems with which they are faced. I do not see a Foreign Secretary having time to do that, in addition to the numerous overseas visits that he has to undertake in relation to foreign affairs themselves. I do not think it is practicable. That is the first point.
The second point is my feeling that in any event the Commonwealth countries would not like it: I think they would prefer to be dealt with by a special Department. Such a set-up does not prevent Commonwealth High Commissioners from having contacts with the Foreign Office—indeed, they do when they so desire. They can, as a matter of fact, get nearly all the information they want about foreign affairs, as well as about economic and British domestic affairs, from the Commonwealth Relations Office, one of the primary duties of which is, I think, to inform Commonwealth countries of what is going on, not only here but in world economics and world affairs, defence and so on. Therefore, that side of the picture must be taken into account, as well as what the Commonwealth thinks about it.
I have a feeling that the old Commonwealth countries—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—would not like the closing down of the Commonwealth Office, and I should have thought that the newly emancipated countries of the Commonwealth would regard it as a bit of a smack in the eye for them that the Commonwealth Relations Office did not particularly want to be burdened with looking after them and, therefore, proposed to hand them over to the Foreign Office.
46 So, my Lords, by and large, I do not think that the merging of the two Departments is a wise proposition. It was said by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that we have, therefore, a two-headed monster—or words to that effect.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
That it may mean having two Ministers who are liable to go pulling in different directions. That is true; that is a risk. It can happen not only in these Departments of State but in internal affairs as well. Indeed, it has happened, sometimes, between the Armed Services from time to time in all kinds of Governments. My noble friend Lord Attlee says that it is happening even now. He may be right.
It is said by some newspapers—bless their hearts! they may be right or they may be wrong, I do not know, because a lot of speculation goes on about personalities in politics, and I have been in the business long enough to know that quite often they are wrong; and it is one of those things you have either to contradict or put up with—that Mr. Butler and Mr. Sandys do not get on well. I do not know. I know them both. It is possible; but that can happen between two Ministers of any sort. But, after all, if there is a difference of opinion and emphasis between Cabinet Ministers, the place to settle it is the Cabinet. Or, if the Prime Minister does not want the Cabinet to be bothered with it, let it be settled by him or some other senior Cabinet Minister. Whether this Prime Minister is quite up to that kind of Prime-Ministerial business we do not yet know. After all, he has not been there long and it would not be fair to judge too quickly.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My noble friend Lord Attlee is very good at reminding me of things. He says that the Prime Minister is not often there; and that may be a factor in the situation. But these things happen. I am not assuming that there is friction between Mr. Sandys and Mr. Butler—maybe there is; maybe there is not. But if there is such a problem, it is for higher authority in the Government, either the Prime Minister or the Cabinet itself, to settle it. That is the 47 way to settle two-headed monsters. It might involve more severe penalties as time goes on. But it works pretty well. There is no very great difficulty about it, so far as I can see.
Then it is said that there could be one Department, which presumably would be the Foreign Office—it might be renamed—with two Ministers, one looking after foreign affairs and the other looking after Commonwealth affairs. But suppose that the Foreign Secretary was Mr. Butler and that the other Minister, outside the Cabinet, according to Lord Gladwyn, was Mr. Sandys. Would there be, in such circumstances, any greater guarantee of peace and quietness? I should have thought that, if anything, it would be rather less, because I think Mr. Sandys would be, rightly, a bit annoyed at being pushed out of the Cabinet. It is said: who is going to be "No. 1"? The honest answer, I think, is that the Foreign Secretary would be "No. 1", but the other fellow would be able to get on with the work of Commonwealth Relations without interference, unless there was a tricky problem, in which case he would have to take it to the Foreign Secretary. I cannot see this sort of thing pleasing the Commonwealth, either. It would make them ministerially outside the Cabinet and with a subordinate Minister under the Foreign Secretary in the Foreign Office. Even if both Ministers had places in the Cabinet—and the Cabinet has been multiplied a fair amount—I do not think this is the way to do it, because there must, in the end, be a "No. 1" in that Department; and the "No. 1" could not very well be the Commonwealth Relations man. It would, I think, rightly and inevitably, have to be the Foreign Secretary himself. So I do not think this proposal stands up; I do not think it will work.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, may I intervene, just to make my point quite clear? I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has understood what I was proposing. What I was proposing was that the respective spheres of the Commonwealth Relations Minister, who would still continue under my plan, and 48 the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would be clearly defined. The Commonwealth Relations Minister would have an immense field to himself, not interfered with by the Foreign Secretary. It is only when there is some kind of row between a foreign country and a Commonwealth country, or between two Commonwealth countries, that it would then come under the Foreign Secretary. All the rest would be the province of the Commonwealth Relations Secretary, and their respective fields would be well defined.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord, but does not that leave us largely where we were? If the Commonwealth Relations Minister in the Foreign Office is to have complete jurisdiction, within the field of the Commonwealth, until there arises a foreign policy issue which he takes to the Foreign Secretary—when, presumably, it will be settled jointly—is not that what happens now? Surely it is. The Commonwealth Relations Office Minister goes on with the Commonwealth, the Foreign Secretary goes on with foreign affairs; and if there is a matter where the two impinge on each other, they have either to consult, and agree, or, if they cannot agree, take it to the Cabinet for decision. In that respect, I cannot see, in what the noble Lord has suggested, any material change. My noble friend the Leader of the Official Opposition in this House said to me: "This sounds like Mr. Hogg and Sir Edward Boyle." There is something in that. I do not know that we want to repeat that more often than we can help.
My Lords, that is how I feel about the problem, and I think it is how the general run of my noble friends feel. Let us accept the Overseas Diplomatic Service, but let us not accept the idea of merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. Not that we rule it out necessarily for all time. Circumstances, conditions, may change. History and events may solve these problems, and if and when there is a prima facie case for doing it, we can look at it again. But as things are, I am inclined to say that the merging of the two Departments is not a matter that I could comfortably contemplate in the foreseeable future.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating this debate to-day. I think that if we had had no debate after the statement made by the Government on February 27 it would have been a dereliction of duty so far as we are concerted. This is a very important subject and I believe we should debate it.
As we all know, the considerable and steady increase in the members of the Commonwealth during the last 17 years has resulted in a considerable and steady increase in the work of the C.R.O. In an interjection, or rather a challenge, by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said that he felt that the work of the Colonial Office was going to disappear; there would not be any more colonial territories in a short time. I am not at all sure that is right. I have been adding them up in my mind since that interchange took place. So far as I can remember, there are about 27 colonial territories still in existence. I personally cannot see how for years to come 22 or 23 of those could have an independent status as we understand it to-day. There may be some new form of association which has not yet been worked out, but as things are to-day I cannot really see how 22 or 23 of those countries could expect to be other than in some association with this country or some other country, because they are not able to stand on their own feet, even if that particular term has been considerably reduced in latter years from what we used to consider it meant 15 or 20 years ago.
On these Benches we agreed somewhat reluctantly when in July, 1962, Mr. Macmillan combined the two offices of Secretary of State into one; he made one Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies. We agreed somewhat reluctantly, and we were hesitant—and I said so at the time, speaking on behalf of my noble friends—because we felt it would be very difficult for one man to combine these tasks. I believe it has been found so, and I do not believe that anybody but a man with the enormous energy of Mr. Sandys, who must have great physical and mental energy and capacity, could do it; no 50 normal Minister could or would rush around the world and hold conferences, going on until the early hours of the morning, as Mr. Sandys has done. We agreed, as I say somewhat reluctantly, and with Mr. Sandys it certainly seems to have worked out, to some extent at all events.
We also agreed to the Government's proposals on February 27 this year that there should be one Diplomatic Service, subject to certain reservations which I shall mention in a moment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to this extent, on behalf of my noble friends: that eventually—there is no question about it—there will be a merger of the two offices of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. But we feel very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that that time has not yet come and is not likely to come—I would not go so far as he does by saying "in the foreseeable future", which would be putting it off to a very distant time indeed, but I would say for some years to come.
We believe the time has not yet come, first because of the effect on morale, on which, to some extent, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, touched. I think people, not only in this country but abroad, will feel that the Government are giving support to the views of "A Conservative", whoever he may be, who wrote in The Times last week and who, your Lordships may remember, called the Commonwealth "a gigantic farce". None of us here would agree with that, I am sure, or anything like it. I, for one, want to repudiate that description at once. This is not a Commonwealth debate in that sense, and I do not want to expand it into one, so I just say that we on these Benches reiterate our belief in the Commonwealth. We believe it has a great potential as a force for peace and prosperity.
Secondly, we feel that in this transitional stage no one man—no one Secretary of State—can handle the Foreign Office, the C.R.O. and the Colonial Office duties—because the Colonial Office duties will come under this umbrella. The Colonial Office is going to be combined with the C.R.O. on July 1, 1965. When the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, talks about the combination of the Foreign Office and the C.R.O., he is really talking about the 51 combination of the Foreign Office and the C.R.O. and the C.O.—and that is a task such as I do not think even Mr. Sandys, with all his energy, could perform, and I am certain that no one else would.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I was not necessarily suggesting that. I said that it' there were no Colonies by that time, of course the question would not arise. If there are, as the noble Lord suggests, still a number of Colonies, then there would have to be some special arrangement for coping with their administration. But, equally, if it is a case of peace or war—if Fiji is going to declare war on Malta—then that ought to be the province of the Foreign Secretary.
§ LORD OGMORE
With great respect, the noble Lord cannot shift his ground like that. The two Ministries are, so to speak, already combined; there is only one Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies now, and the Government have announced—we must take this as being the policy—that on July 1, 1965, they will merge the C.O. with the C.R.O. So one cannot say what the noble Lord is now saying—namely, "Never mind the C.O.; push them off somewhere else". They must come under the umbrella. That is the Government's policy. From the interjection of the noble Lord it is obvious that either he has not read the Government's statement of February 27, or, if he has, he has not understood it.
§ LORD OGMORE
I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord says at the late hour at which I expect he will sum up. But I do not want to make it any later, so I will go on with a few other points that I want to raise. We think that eventually there will probably be no great hardship, because, as the noble Lord has said, other Commonwealth countries have one Ministry, and some, but not all, Commonwealth countries may be prepared for, and may indeed desire, a change of this nature; but that time has not yet come.
Apart from putting our point of view on this subject, which I think I have done sufficiently because there are a 52 number of other speakers of great experience, I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who is to reply, a few questions. First of all, is it going to be the policy of the Government to keep officials experienced in Commonwealth countries in the newly independent countries? The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, mentioned this point, but I was going to mention it in any case. I agree with him on this matter. I think we ought to have an assurance on this point. I can see the importance of the argument that one man, who is an excellent man in Paris, or Brussels, or Amsterdam, or somewhere like that, may not have the experience or the temperament to deal with the problems in the middle of Africa or Asia or the West Indies, which call for a completely different approach. That is my first question.
The second question I should like to ask is: will the Government ensure that the Asian and African languages—Malay, Swahili, Hindi and the others—will be treated in future on equal terms with European languages—French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and the others? That, I think, is going to be an important point. We do not want any second-class type of officials—those who speak the European languages and those who speak the Asian languages. They must all be treated alike, and these languages must have equal standing.
Thirdly, when the merger of the Colonial Office and the C.R.O. takes place on July 1, 1965, what is the provision for the continuation of the administrative services? Perhaps the noble Duke would care to answer that, although I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to do so. The history and record of the Foreign Office and the C.R.O. in an administrative sphere is not very happy. It was not particularly happy in the Southern Sudan. Certainly it was not happy in the High Commission Territories. We do not want to lose the experience, the expertise and the great knowledge and sympathy of the Colonial Office in this change-over. We must be sure that when the merger of the C.O. with the C.R.O. comes, the great experience, humanity and feeling for the people that the C.O. have—the administrative experience—will not be lost by merging 53 it into a Department which is mainly diplomatic and has not this tradition of administrative experience.
Lastly, what of the Department of Technical Co-operation? This was formed because there were three separate Ministries in existence—the F.O., the C.R.O. and the C.O.—all in fact dealing with technical co-operation. Is it intended that this Department shall have a new form or come under a new umbrella, as it were, in the set-up which is to take place on July 1, 1965? With those questions, and subject to satisfactory answers, may I say that we support the statement made by the Government in this House on February 27, and we look forward to a happy future of the two great Departments, the C.R.O. and the C.O., which will be merged.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, I do not propose this afternoon to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, into his interesting survey of the future of the Commonwealth. But let us recognise the Commonwealth for what it is: the most imaginative experiment in multiracial co-operation that the world has yet seen; and do not let us discard this vision because certain current problems may appear formidable. I have done only one stint in one post for two years, and therefore I am ill qualified to lay down the law to your Lordships on this subject this afternoon. But lack of qualification seldom proves an insuperable obstacle to an old politician. I welcome greatly the opportunity to join in the tribute that has been paid to Lord Plowden and his colleagues for the fine and lucid Report which they have presented to us. I had the honour of a visit from the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, when I was in Canada. I plied them with the best wine that my modest entertainment allowance allowed me as an act of prudent appeasement and, if I may say so, I was most impressed with the trouble they took to find out things on the spot.
I am sure that the recommendation for a unified Diplomatic Service is right. I quite see the logic of a complete merger with one Department and one Minister. Some time in the future it may be that a solution on those lines will be sensible, but I personally differ from the noble 54 Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in that I prefer in present circumstances the arrangements suggested by Lord Plowden and his colleagues. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is one of those who have had immeasurably more experience than I have in the diplomatic field. I have always admired the effortless efficiency with which he has done his work. I am quite sure he would be justified if he were to write a book entitled How to Succeed in Diplomacy Without Really Trying. That was the impression he conveyed. I am sure that he really tried hard. But even though Lord Gladwyn has had so much more experience, that does not disconcert me because I always enjoy an argument with my noble friend.
Like the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Ogmore, I prefer the recommendation for a unified service, but, in present circumstances, separate Ministers and separate Departments for the following reasons. First of all, I agree with Lord Morrison of Lambeth that the Foreign Secretary is terribly overworked with responsibility for our relations with, I suppose, upwards of 100 countries. In times of crisis—and crises of one kind and another appear not infrequent—he is wholly and exclusively occupied with crucial problems. In those circumstances I cannot see how he can possibly have time to do justice to the possibly more humdrum responsibilities of day-to-day Commonwealth relations. These responsibilities are very important, not only when things go wrong, but when things are going right.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, too, that whoever is responsible for Commonwealth relations must have time for very frequent visits and tours. It has been suggested that the difficulty could be solved—in fact the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made this suggestion—by a second Foreign Office Minister in the Cabinet subordinate to the Foreign Secretary. Recently there have been two Cabinet Ministers in the Foreign Office, and it may be that in the future, at some time when the newer Commonwealth countries have settled down and found their places, the problems that press on the Commonwealth Secretary at present may press less heavily. But at this moment I am sure it would be a serious mistake to pile still more on the plate of the Foreign Secretary, and I do 55 not believe any subordinate Minister in the Foreign Office would ease that burden for him very much.
The second reason is that I believe that in the case of the Commonwealth the kind of work done by a High Commissioner and his staff is different in a subtle way from that normally performed in an Embassy overseas. It is less formal, it is more widely pervasive and often goes deeper down. Few people realise how much day-to-day consultation on a wide variety of affairs goes on through the channel of our High Commissions in the Commonwealth. It would be a tremendous pity if, for the sake of apparent logic, we were to lose something of the spirit of that kind of unofficial informality. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, advanced the argument that Commonwealth countries get on with one External Affairs Department, but that does not impress me much because no other Commonwealth country has the same kind of Commonwealth responsibilities as we have.
The third reason is the reason given in paragraph 44 of the Report, that the abolition in present circumstances of the separate Commonwealth Relations Office could be interpreted as a loss of interest on our part in the Commonwealth partnership. I do not say that it would be interpreted as a loss of interest in all parts of the Commonwealth, but I believe it could be, and I believe that on the part of many people it would be. When we were negotiating for entry into the Common Market I know from firsthand experience that that was interpreted—misinterpreted, as I believe—in some quarters of the Commonwealth as indicating a loss of interest on our part in the Commonwealth. Great energy was called for in correcting that impression. Therefore, at this time when so much of the future of the Commonwealth hangs in the balance, it would be a pity to give any avoidable cause for such fears. It has been said that the Commonwealth countries would welcome access to the Foreign Secretary, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said, they can have that access to-day, and in fact do. Direct contacts with immediately responsible Government Departments are encouraged and facilitated by the Commonwealth 56 Relations Office. That is one of the differences between that Office and the Foreign Office.
Mention has been made of the danger with separate Departments of the Commonwealth Relations Secretary and the Foreign Secretary clashing over politics. Well, in a Government there always are such risks and always must be; but it is the rôle of the Cabinet to sort out that kind of difficulty and to find solutions. It would be wrong because of the existence of such risks if we were forced to compress our range of functional Departments into three or four monolithic, over-extended, super-Departments. So although I am not closing my own mind to the possible advantages of merging one day, until we have longer experience of the needs of the newer members of the Commonwealth and how best we can serve them, I would prefer personally to retain separate Ministers and separate offices. The argument about one bite at the cherry does not impress me, for often in politics I remember occasions when more than one bite proved the wisest policy. In passing, I should like to say that, though the rapid expansion has imposed great strains on the Commonwealth Relations Office, I had in Canada a staff drawn from eight Government Departments at home here with whom it was a pleasure and a privilege to work.
I am delighted at the importance the Committee has attached to commercial work. Again here, the recommendation that these commercial officers should be merged in the Diplomatic Service seems to me to be right, but because I believe that in general our Trade Commissioners and our commercial representatives are pretty good to-day, I should like to make two provisos. The first is that every effort should be made to encourage what I might call that rather hard-headed and practical type of official, who finds it easy to talk the businessman's language and, more important, to understand the tempo at which business operates, to interest himself in commercial work. Secondly, when it is clear that a commercial representative is proving a success he should be left longer in his post than is the general practice to-day—nearer five than three years, I think.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
The corollary of that is that, as soon as it is clear that someone posted to a commercial job is not going to fit, he should be moved away without waiting for the lapse of even the minimum period of present assignments. A successful representative in this field pays increasing dividends during his fourth and fifth years of service. In this connection, I am glad to see that it is recommended that in suitable cases there should be in future secondment from the Board of Trade.
There are only two other recommendations on which I should like to speak. The first is accommodation, where it is recommended that a greater proportion of accommodation should be owned rather than rented. I entirely agree with that. For the past half century I feel we have incurred immense expenditure during a period of inflation due to our failure to buy accommodation and in continuing to rent it. When I was at the Treasury I tried to correct that for the future by allowing more in the Estimates for the purchase of accommodation, and I am sure that is good economy so long as the countries concerned do not beat you by changing the seats of their Government. It is very awkward when that happens.
The last point is the allowances, and particularly that for entertainment. Whether or not we think it sensible, entertainment is an essential part of representational duties. It is the way one meets and gets to know many local people. This applies at all levels; not only at the top. I felt, personally, that whenever economies were called for I would rather get on with fewer staff properly remunerated for their essential duties, than have a staff of larger numbers who might be handicapped in their function owing to financial stringencies. I would only say this about the Information Services, that provided the work is well done, and it usually is, it is to-day an essential part, again, of representational functions overseas and I am glad that the Information staff of the C.R.O. are to be thoroughly incorporated as an integral part of the Diplomatic Services. So, my Lords, although there is much else that I should like to say, I must not do so this afternoon. I would say that I welcome wholeheartedly the Report, and I congratulate the Government on accepting the recommendation.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, I find myself in very general agreement with the noble Viscount opposite on his attitude towards the problem in this Report. Contrariwise, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to whom we are indebted for introducing this Motion. He is a Common Market man—I was anti-Common Market—and it seemed to me that that rather coloured his outlook. I think we are very greatly indebted to Lord Plowden and his colleagues for what I regard as an admirable Report. I particularly admired the setting out, in paragraphs 1 to 23, of the main characteristics of the present time. I should like to commend the reading of that part of the Report not only to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who no doubt has read it, but also to the elderly gentleman (I presume he was an elderly gentleman; he sounded like it) who wrote as "A Conservative" in The Times, because I think there is an utter failure to recognise what the Commonwealth really stands for. It is very easy to say, "After all, the foreigners are just the same." They are not.
I admit that I had only a very brief acquaintance with this subject. I had only two or three years at the Commonwealth Relations Office as Secretary of State during the war, and war conditions, of course, were rather different. But I have attended Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences, and I have travelled fairly widely, meeting representatives from Commonwealth countries and foreign countries. What always struck me was that when you went to a Commonwealth country, whether new or old, you were meeting members of the family. When we talked together, we talked as a family: and the relationship is quite different. When you compare, for instance, a United Nations meeting with a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, you are struck at once by the difference. You may say that that is all sentiment; but, my Lords, I do not think it is. Even if it is, it is something of very great value. There are certain values in the Commonwealth. Members may not all hold the same views, or hold them with the same emphasis, but there is a very 59 great unifying influence. I think it is quite essential to-day to preserve that, and not idly to cast it away for some vague conception like the European Common Market. I believe that we have to cherish the Commonwealth.
I noticed in this Report a very fine survey of the work of the two Departments. I think the case is made out for unifying the two Departments, but I think still—it may be a two-headed calf—that there is room for the two Ministers, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I say that because the relationship between the Commonwealth Secretary and his High Commissioners must be different, and is different, from that between the Foreign Secretary and the representatives of foreign Powers, however friendly and cordial they may be. Equally, with correspondence in one case it is between members of a family, and in the other between neighbours, perhaps, friends one hopes; but certainly not the same as in the family.
Therefore I hold that, while the case is made out for the proposed amalgamation of the two Departments, there must still be the two Ministers. I do not say that such an arrangement will last for all time, but I am convinced that at the present time it would be a grave mistake to abolish the office of Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. It would be almost as grave a mistake to demote him and make him a Minister of State, which is like saying that our friends in the Commonwealth are in a lower position than that of foreign countries. It is suggested that the two Ministers could not work together, but I do not think that is true. One had frequently in Government to consider the position between the Foreign Secretary and the Commonwealth Relations Secretary, and I did not find them at variance; I found that they were able to work together perfectly well. Therefore I do not think it anomalous to have two Ministers of one Department. The proof will be in whether or not such a plan works. And that, of course, will depend very largely on whom we put there.
There are many other good recommendations in this Report. I am afraid 60 that I have not the expertise to take up all the very elaborate points that there are to decide, but there are one or two points which stand out. One is the unanimous view that the personnel should be drawn from as wide an area as possible. I can remember a time when the Foreign Office drew from a very narrow circle. That has been widened in my time, as I think, to great advantage; and I think that to-day the case is made out for widening it. The second point, which I thought was a very good one, was the need for the early picking out of the really able men. There is always that fight between seniority and selection. It is wisely said in this Report that it is possible to find the man who is an excellent fellow, who will carry on routine but whose heart is probably in growing chrysanthemums or collecting stamps; he will do an adequate job, but he is not a "go-getter". If you have a very fine fellow, a fellow with a bright, active, imaginative mind, advance him by all means quickly.
Then I think it is very wise that the range should be expanded. You certainly need to have people from industry, from universities, and the like; and there are occasions when you have even to bring in the despised politician. In the Foreign Office, or in the Foreign Service, there have been occasions when distinguished politicians have occupied very important Embassies, like that in Washington or Paris. Now we have a whole range of Commonwealth countries. I think the important place for, perhaps, a person of political experience is in the emerging countries where they need guidance from someone who understands the problems: not necessarily a mere (shall we say?) routine Civil Service or business man—because we have a British Commonwealth and the British Commonwealth has the tradition of democratic government on the Parliamentary model. For many, that is a hard lesson to learn. But it is part of our work, as a member of the Commonwealth, to see that we do all we can to stimulate these peoples to have democratic institutions like, though not exactly like, Westminster, and so avoid the danger, which is a very obvious one, of their falling under dictatorship.
Now I think that this is a simplification. I do not say I am all for some of 61 these new-fangled ideas. I do not quite know where government is going now. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, talked about an Inner and an Outer Cabinet. I never knew more than one Cabinet—there was no inner or outer about it. I do not much like the multiplication of Ministers with strange names, and still less do I think it a good plan, when you have a Minister who ought to be doing the job, to get someone from another Department altogether to go and do that job. That is what I am afraid might happen under the present régime.
You may have a Foreign Secretary and a Commonwealth Relations Secretary, with probably a Lord something or other to take their place and do their job while they are away. I am all for people doing their own jobs; and I think you want an adequate number of either Ministers of State or Under-Secretaries in these complicated, far-extending offices like the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, because nowadays you cannot have Ministers who sit all the time in Whitehall. You must have contact with the people—and I think that is particularly true of Commonwealth relations. I think it is very valuable for the Commonwealth Relations Secretary to travel, and there must be someone to "hold the baby" while he is away.
I should like to say that this Report, on the whole, well repays very careful study. It deals with pay, conditions, recruitment and all the rest. My final word on our Overseas Service would be: Do not stint personnel. They are just as important as your Armed Forces, and perhaps more so. I remember that not long ago I was in a very big American city from which we, had recently withdrawn our consular representative, and I had a deputation from all the other consuls which implored me to have a word with our then Foreign Secretary and get a British consul re-appointed there, because they said it was such a good thing for them and for the city in question. I am quite sure that, if we are to hold our own in the world, it is not going to be by the magnitude of our Armed Forces, and not solely by economic power, although we must have that, but very largely by personnel—the meeting of men and women of good- 62 will. Therefore, I would say, "Do not stint your overseas representation of men and women who represent what this country really is".
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD PLOWDEN
My Lords, I know I speak for the whole Committee of which I was Chairman when I say how glad we are that the Government have accepted all the major recommendations we made. I should like also to thank those noble Lords who have said nice things about our Report. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will forgive me if I do not follow him over the whole field of his wide-ranging speech, but I should like to say a few things about the background to our work, and remark on some of the points which we considered most important.
When we started work, we set out to do, broadly, two things: first, to try to see what kind of world the foreign services would have to operate in during the next twenty years, and what Britain's representational needs would be in that world; second, what kind of service would best fulfil those representational needs.
Now the present Foreign Service was formed just over twenty years ago. The world is no longer the world of twenty years ago, nor even a world that could have been foreseen at that time. Britain's position in the world has changed. The most important change is the relative decline in the military and economic power of this country. Militarily, we no longer match the super-Powers of Russia and the United States. We no longer dispose of the Indian Army, nor of bases throughout the world which made us a military Power on a world scale. And, perhaps even more important, it has become more difficult for us to earn our living. The markets of a world-wide Empire, protected by preferences and a long habit of buying British, are no longer within our control. Economic nationalism has closed many markets to us. The invisible earnings from past overseas investments and financial and maritime supremacy have grown less.
None the less, the opportunities for earning our living by exporting and providing services are there if we are competitive. For these reasons, 63 economic and commercial work must now be regarded as a first charge on the resources of the new Diplomatic Service. Members of that Service must be properly trained for this work. We hoped that soon all Ambassadors and High Commissioners will know from personal experience what export promotion means and what it needs. Because the survival of this country, let alone her influence, depends on trade.
I will not weary noble Lords by attempting to summarise the Report, but there are three features to which we attached particular importance: first, policy planning; second, questions of recruitment, training and conditions of service; and, third, the unification of the Foreign Service and Commonwealth Relations Service and the Trade Commission Service. It seemed to us that some of the difficulties in which we have been involved since the war could at the least have been better handled if their implications had been explored and studied in advance. We believed that there should be a combined Policy Planning Department of the Foreign Office and the C.R.O.
Although not strictly within our terms of reference, we considered the machinery in Whitehall for planning in matters affecting overseas policy. Foreign and defence policy can only be as strong as the economy on which it is based. Since 1947 this country has been feeling its way towards an effective method of controlling and planning a mixed economy. The Treasury has in recent years begun to think of expenditure as a whole over a period ahead against prospective resources. Personally, I believe the Treasury, as now re-organised, is the place best suited to bring together all facets of economic policy.
But the machinery for bringing together consideration of foreign, defence and economic policy should, we believed, be in the Cabinet Office, as was foreshadowed in the Defence White Paper of 1963. Planning is not merely prognosis, but has as its objective recommendations for action and preparations for action. It was for this reason that we suggested that a Central Planning Committee in the Cabinet Office would need staff of its own, apart from the 64 regular Cabinet Office secretariat staff. This staff should have the duty of seeing that planning studies are pressed forward to the point of action. We believe that their plans would be helped by a more systematic use in the Cabinet Office, as well as in the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office, of outside experts on a consultant basis.
I make no apology for laying particular stress on planning because I have long had a personal interest and belief in its vital importance. By planning I do not mean the detailed planning which was so fashionable after the war and, perhaps, is even now in certain circles. By planning, I mean thinking so as to arrive at sensible coherent policies. These are not Party points. No political Party has a monopoly of wisdom in this field. I believe the people of this country are coming to realise that policies, whether foreign, defence, educational, health or what-you-will must be related to economic realities and to one another, even though this may shatter some illusions and even though the results may temporarily be unpleasant. I suggest that politicians will ignore this trend of thinking at their peril.
To turn now to establishment questions, we found that the manpower resources in the Service were overstretched in relation to its commitments.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me if I ask him one question? He has talked about the Treasury. I should like him to give a single piece of concrete evidence that the Treasury during the last fifty years has ever altered its mind or changed its policies. The Treasury is the most malignant force in British public life and has been for the last fifty years.
§ LORD PLOWDEN
My Lords, that would be carrying the debate even wider than the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, carried it.
If I may resume about establishment matters, we recommended that there should be a margin of manpower of about 10 per cent. to permit of proper manning of posts, adequate training and to allow for reasonable periods of travel, leave and sick leave. We were assured by the First Civil Service Commissioner that the necessary extra numbers could be recruited without detriment to 65 quality. We also felt strongly that there should be greatly improved conditions of service and, particularly, improved allowances for children. If the Service is to be truly representative of the changed structure of society and is not to be dependent upon people with private means, these improved conditions of service are absolutely essential. The noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, and the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, who were members of the sub-committees dealing with these subjects, are to speak later in the debate, and I hope they will deal with these questions in more detail.
I want to say something about the important question of the Commonwealth and the unification of the three Services and whether there should be two Offices or one. The nature of the Commonwealth has changed from a maternal one to one in which Commonwealth countries have a highly developed sense of national consciousness and are anxious to develop links with countries other than Britain. Many myths exist about the Commonwealth: for instance, that it can be either an economic or a political unit. But we were all conscious of the importance of the Commonwealth is a bridge between continents and the peoples of the world, and of the wisdom of trying to preserve these links. We saw that the logic of events pointed to the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office, and we recommended that this should be the ultimate aim. After all, no other Commonwealth country has two Offices. But we came to the conclusion that public opinion, more particularly in this country than in Commonwealth countries, was not yet ready for it.
As a first step, we believed that a unified Service would give many of the advantages of a combined Office. Even this step would take some years, much thought, work and leadership to achieve. There would be one Service engaged in what is fundamentally one job. A unified Service would facilitate much greater interchange between those with foreign and Commonwealth experience. It would lead to increased awareness of Commonwealth problems in the execution of foreign policy, and a better awareness of foreign policy issues at High Commission posts in Commonwealth countries. It would also ensure that economic and commercial work in 66 the Commonwealth was brought into closer relationship with political work. It would make a better use of specialist skills, particularly in areas like South-East Asia and West Africa, where there is great similarity between the problems of newly-independent countries, whether within or without the Commonwealth. Finally, it would make it possible to rationalise work of the same nature; in particular, communications, training and standards of security; and it would make easier the introduction of common conditions of service.
Our recommendations were put forward as a coherent whole. When considering such a wide subject there must inevitably be some give and take, not only between the members of the Committee but also between the Departments that will have to work the recommendations if they are accepted. I believe it would be foolish to jeopardise the many recommendations we made by pressing for something for which we believed public opinion is not ready. It is easy to write a report advocating wide-ranging reforms but which are too far in advance of public opinion. One may be praised for this in the newspapers, but it is an almost certain device for getting it put into a pigeon-hole. As are politics, so also are sensible recommendations from a Committee, the art of the possible. It was for this reason that we felt it best, while having the same ultimate aim as the noble Lord, to reach it in stages. I hope therefore that the Government will in the meantime press on vigorously with the creation of the new Diplomatic Service.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD INCHYRA
My Lords, I hope it will not be taken amiss if I intervene in this discussion even at the risk of prolonging the debate. I must say straight away that, although I have no intention of following the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, into the higher spheres of Commonwealth philosophy, and intend to stick to the more prosaic issues raised by the Plowden Report itself, I feel very considerable sympathy for what he said about the relations between the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office.
I think in logic there is a great deal to be said for the fairly early amalgamation of the two Departments; and, from the practical point of view, I can 67 bear witness from my own rather painful experience to the confusion, delays and, sometimes, I am afraid, the feeling of frustration and exasperation which is often caused by having two Departments of State dealing with what is really, to all intents and purposes, the same problem. I would certainly hope and, indeed, expect the two Departments to be combined before very much longer; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has explained, the Committee felt that it would be a mistake to recommend that any such steps should be taken at the present moment.
The Committee went into this matter very thoroughly. They had very much in mind, not only the arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, but also the contrary arguments, which we have heard to-day from the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Ogmore. We felt that, on balance, it would be a mistake to take such a drastic step now, and that nothing should be done until it could be seen clearly that the change manifestly commanded the support of the majority of public opinion in this country and would also command the ready acceptance of those persons more directly concerned with the work of the two Departments.
It was our view that the eventual amalgamation would take place much more smoothly and easily if there had been an interim period, during which the three Services—the Foreign Service, the Commonwealth Service and the Trade Commissioner Service—could function together and act as a combined and integrated service. We felt that these two objectives were more likely to be achieved after there had been this interim period. In other words, our view was that this was really a case for festina lente and, with all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for quite definitely taking two bites, and not one, at the cherry. I myself have no doubt that this was right, and I would say, from the speeches we have heard to-day, that the majority of opinion would back us in that.
The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has explained the background against which the Committee worked, the way in which we tried to estimate the kind of problems with which the Overseas Representational Services would have to deal in the coming 68 years, and the way in which they could best be equipped and trained to perform these duties. I do not think that there is anything I can usefully add on that point, except, if I may, to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, for the skilful and tactful way in which he directed and conducted the affairs of the Committee. However, perhaps I may be allowed to refer briefly to one or two of the detailed recommendations of the Committee's Report; and, before doing so, may I say that I think that all the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Ogmore, are covered in the Report?
We were particularly conscious of the importance of not losing in the amalgamated Service the expertise of the members of the Commonwealth Service, and we recommended that full use should be made of them in the countries for which they are particularly well qualified. We also made a specific recommendation that the languages spoken in the newer Commonwealth countries should be included in the new language scheme for the teaching of foreign languages. And we made specific recommendations in regard to the consultation of the Commonwealth Secretary in all matters concerning the appointment to senior posts in Commonwealth countries. Finally (on a point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Amory), we made a specific recommendation that commercial officers should be kept longer in their posts.
May I turn now to one or two of the other recommendations made in the Committee's Report? One of the most important of these concerns the internal structure of the new Diplomatic Service. I think that there is often a tendency, when people are talking about or criticising the Foreign Service or the Commonwealth Service, to think only of the senior members, or of the members of the administrative branch of these Services, and to overlook the considerably more numerous members of the supporting branches, by which I mean Branches B, C and D in the Foreign Service, and the executive and clerical branches in the Commonwealth Service. These junior branches perform quite invaluable and, indeed, indispensable services, both at home and abroad, and the Committee felt that it was very important that 69 any plans for the new combined Service should be drawn up in such a way as to take the interests of the members of the junior branches, and, I would add, of their wives, fully into account.
For a variety of reasons, as explained in the Report, the existing structure in the Foreign Service, particularly with regard to Branch B, has not proved very satisfactory and therefore, after going into the matter very thoroughly, and discussing it with all the various official bodies concerned, the Committee decided to recommend a fresh structural arrangement for the new combined Service, which we hope will remove many of the present difficulties and anomalies. In the words of the Committee, our intention isto give proper opportunities and status for members of all branches, while at the same time acknowledging the true differences of function and ability.In putting forward this recommendation, the Committee made it clear that they thought it very important that the existing arrangements for promoting promising or outstanding members of the executive branch into the administrative branch should be continued and extended. They also felt it very desirable that there should be encouragement of the present Foreign Office system whereby university graduates who, for one reason or another, decide not to sit for the examination for the senior branch, should be encouraged to take another examination for the junior Branch B.
The Committee hope that these structural arrangements and proposals, taken in conjunction with their other proposals for conditions of service and financial adjustments, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, will no doubt be referring later, will provide a career at once more satisfactory to the persons now serving in the junior branches of both Foreign and Commonwealth Services and more calculated to attract suitable recruits to them in the future. The Committee gave a great deal of thought to such important questions as commercial and information work, recruitment, specialisation and training. The recommendations are all set out in full in the Report, and I do not wish to say anything about them now, except that I should like to emphasise the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, 70 referred—namely, that the effectiveness of many of our recommendations will depend upon the creation of an adequate reserve of manpower.
A great many of the difficulties with which both the Foreign Service and the Commonwealth Service have had to contend over recent years have stemmed from the fact that neither of them has had any manpower in reserve. They have been constantly operating on a shoestring; they have had no reserves with which to meet sudden emergencies or unexpected calls for additional manpower, such as the holding of an important conference in Geneva and that sort of thing. This has made things quite impossible for the administration. If the new Service is to operate efficiently, it is essential that that state of affairs should be put right, and put right quickly. The Committee recommend that a margin of the order of 10 per cent. should be adopted. I must say that I should have preferred to see that figure a little larger.
As regards recruitment, it will be seen that the Committee were considerably concerned at the small number of graduates from universities other than Oxford or Cambridge who were presenting themselves as candidates for the senior branches of both the Foreign and Commonwealth Services. We were quite satisfied that there was no prejudice against such candidates. On the contrary, both the Departments themselves and the Civil Service Commissioners are most anxious to see more candidates from these universities coming forward, and they are doing as much as they can to encourage this. The Committee hoped very much that these efforts would be successful, but, as their Report makes clear, a great deal must depend upon the attitude of the universities and of the students themselves.
Another point which attracted a great deal of the Committee's attention was the question of accommodation abroad. We made a number of recommendations on this subject, and, while I have no intention of going into them now, I should like just to emphasise the very real importance of providing adequate accommodation for our people abroad. It is essential that they should have proper offices to work in and proper houses or flats to live in. Quite apart 71 from any question of prestige, the provision of modern office accommodation and suitable houses or flats has an enormous and quite disproportionate effect on the morale of the staff concerned. Correspondingly, the failure to provide these things, or to provide them reasonably quickly, and in the right quantities, has an equally depressing effect. I know from personal experience that these considerations become increasingly important in far away or uncomfortable places.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to refer to one point that is not covered in the Committee's Report, and that is the relationship between the new Diplomatic Service and its two parent Departments and the other Departments in London. Although the Committee recommended that the new Diplomatic Service should be an entirely independent body, quite separate from the Home Civil Service—and that is right, of course, in view of the quite different functions which the Diplomatic Service has to perform and the quite different conditions under which its members have to live and work—it was never intended that the Diplomatic Service, the Foreign Office or the Commonwealth Relations Office, should work in a watertight compartment and be completely cut off from the rest of Whitehall. On the contrary, the Committee (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, made this clear in his remarks about planning) felt it important that there should be the closest possible contact between the Diplomatic Service and the two Departments in London, on the one hand, and the other Government Departments, on the other. This is important, both at home, where so many international questions are now the direct concern of many of the home Departments, and abroad, where an increasing number of home civil servants are working either on attachment to some of our missions abroad or as members of delegations to international conferences, and where, I may say, they do a first-class job.
As the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, said, it is very gratifying to the members of the Committee that Her Majesty's Government should have accepted all their major recommendations. When implemented, these recom- 72 mendations, will, I feel confident, provide the country with an up-to-date and streamlined Diplomatic Service, well qualified to deal with the complex problems of the future, and offering in all its branches prospects and working conditions which are likely to attract the right type of recruit. Furthermore, the recommendations will greatly ease the administrative problems now facing the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office, and will relieve the individual members of the Foreign Service and the Commonwealth Service of many of the uncertainties and financial difficulties under which they are at present labouring. The recommendations will also, I personally hope, lay the foundation for the amalgamation before very much longer of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for my voice, which is rather hoarse, but I will do my best. It is due to a slight touch of laryngitis, for which I blame the climate. My first very pleasant task is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, on his altogether admirable speech. I am sure that all noble Lords were much impressed, not only by the manner of his delivery, but also by the matter which he imparted to us, and we realise how fortunate we are to count him among our number. I am tempted to reminisce a little, in that when I first struck the turgid waters of the Nile I was met by a most imposing figure in the form of the present Lord Inchyra, who met me and inducted me into my new office in Cairo, from which I benefited very much. I do not know whether the noble Lord remembers that incident.
However, I now turn to the Report. There is no question that this is a magnificent Report in every respect. It is so thorough and far-reaching and could hardly be better—with one exception, which to my mind is the same as that in the mind of the noble Lord who moved this Motion; that is, the Report ends up with a complete non sequitur. Even if I had the voice to do so, I would not inflict reading the paragraphs of the Report upon your Lordships, but it proves in paragraph after paragraph that amalgamation is the right answer. It actually uses the word 73 "compromise". On page 23, paragraph 83, there is this phrase:We wish to make two points about this compromise scheme".I am glad we have it in the Committee's own words, because most noble Lords will have read this wonderful Report. They will probably have the same impression that I had throughout, that they were really trying to find a compromise. They worked up this compromise for reasons which I do not know, but not logical reasons, anyway. I feel, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that divided control is a very great mistake. On the very few occasions on which I have personally experienced it, it was deplorable, and I should like to warn your Lordships that it does not work. That is all there is to it. It may work up to a point, but it really does not work properly.
My voice is non-existent, and there are many more important speakers than I. I feel that something should be done on the lines—it may be too late, I do not know—of total amalgamation suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We have had two glaring examples of what happens through lack of amalgamation. I do not think anybody here can be very proud or much impressed by developments in Cyprus. I will go further. What about Aden and what about the Yemen? Is it really sound to have two Cabinet Ministers dealing with one subject like that? Of course, the Cabinet is a different story, but surely common sense dictates "under one hat". That is really all I have to say. I apologise again for having used this croaking voice, but it is all I have.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I shall trouble your Lordships to-day for only a very few moments. When I came down to the House, I had decided not to speak at all, though I assure your Lordships that that was not because I did not agree with the Report of the Committee over which the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has presided, and which the House is discussing to-day. On the contrary, like my noble friend Lord Attlee, I agreed most wholeheartedly with almost everything in the Report, and I should like to congratulate Lord Plowden and his colleagues most warmly on their achievement.
74 I have nothing of great substance to add. It seems to me that they have covered the ground admirably. Their Report is both sensible and objective, and I am delighted to hear that the Government have accepted all the main recommendations. I am sure that they are right, in particular, to merge the Services of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office into one Overseas Service. Your Lordships will not, I am sure, regard that as any reflection on the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office. I always found them, when I was connected with that Department, most devoted in spirit and of very high quality indeed. But it is a small Service, and there is not the same choice of particular men for particular jobs as is to be found in the Foreign Office. I believe that the merger will, as a result, benefit both the Departments concerned.
It appears from the speech which was made to us this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—and more recently in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn—that there is one recommendation in the Report which has aroused considerable controversy, and it is to that recommendation that I should like to devote just one or two words. Lord Gladwyn and Lord Killearn have asked—and the same argument has been put forward in some of the newspapers—why, if there is to be a single Overseas Service, there should not be also a single Secretary of State for overseas affairs. And, of course, purely logically, that is a very natural conclusion to which to come. The two noble Lords have therefore pressed (and Lord Gladwyn, I thought, with especial force) that the Government would be wise to ignore that particular recommendation of the Committee, that two Secretaries of State should still remain. There is no doubt that logic is a great thing, and I wish very much that I could agree with the two noble Lords. But, after careful thought, I cannot accept their view, and I still prefer that of the Plowden Committee.
In saying this, my Lords, I do not intend to be drawn into such far-reaching discussions on the nature and future of the Commonwealth as were embarked upon by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to-day, and by the anonymous, rather didactic Conservative 75 in The Times newspaper last week. Lord Gladwyn's object to-day seems to have been to show that, nowadays, there is really no difference, at any rate, no difference of substance, between Commonwealth nations and other nations. No doubt there has been—and we must all recognise it—a considerable change in the character of the Commonwealth and, indeed, in its relationship to this country. The removal of the link represented by allegiance to the Crown by so many members of the Commonwealth has by itself underlined that undoubted change. But I do not believe that these very wide issues are necessarily raised by the Plowden Report; and, in any case, my disagreement with Lord Gladwyn's view about a single Secretary of State, if I may say so with all deference, does not arise from such wide considerations as those. My view is based on much narrower and more practical, I might almost say more Departmental, considerations.
It has been my good fortune, in days now far distant in the past, to be connected both with the Commonwealth Relations Office and with the Colonial Office, at that time separate Offices. I have also been Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and, for a very short time indeed, acting Foreign Secretary. I think I can therefore claim to know these three Departments fairly well, and I am quite certain, as a result of such experience as I have had, that a single Minister could not possibly give adequate personal attention to so vast an area of administration. He would be, if I may coin such a phrase, "an overlord to end all overlords". Look at the present Colonial Secretary with his present responsibilities. He is almost torn limb from limb among them all, and if he added to these all the responsibilities at present exercised by Mr. Butler, he would, I suggest, be like Time in that poem by Mr. Ralph Hodgson:Last week in Babylon,Last night in RomeMorning, and in the crush,Under Paul's dome,Under Paul's shadow,He tightens his rein,Only a moment,Then off once again.That, my Lords—and worse—would be the situation of Lord Gladwyn's Over- 76 seas Secretary. Add to that (as we must, if we are going to be practical about it) his Cabinet responsibilities at home. He is a senior member of the Cabinet; he is concerned in every subject which is discussed by the Cabinet. A man in that situation, however active he might be, and however able he might be, would, I believe, find his life quite impossible. No one could do it.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, quoted certain recent events in various parts of the world. He mentioned Cyprus, which I think he feels would be much more easily dealt with if we had one Overseas Department and one Overseas Minister. There is nothing new about these situations. For many years past there have always been problems of that kind, and the remedy has always been, if I understand it aright, that if there is disagreement between two Ministers the problem is taken to the Cabinet and decided there. Nor, I believe, would that situation be radically changed by Lord Gladwyn's proposals. He would still have two Cabinet Ministers, just as at present, in charge of overseas affairs. One of them, indeed, if I understand him aright, would be subordinate to the other, and if the junior Minister had no access to the Cabinet and the decision were merely left in the end to the senior, that really would be a change. But now the junior of the Lord Gladwyn's two Ministers is, I gather, to share equal Cabinet responsibility with the senior. In such circumstances I believe that the change he proposes would be more of appearance than of any substance or reality. The noble Lord quoted (rather, I thought, with the air of someone playing a trump), the precedent of Sir John Simon as Foreign Secretary and the present Lord Avon as Minister for League of Nations Affairs. But anyone who has been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr. Eden (as he was at that time) would certainly not quote that, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, as the ideal precedent.
My Lords, what the future will bring I really do not know. I do not suppose any of us knows. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, may be perfectly right in thinking that things will end up his way. But we are an evolutionary country; we move gradually from point to point. That is our tradition, and that is our 77 practice. The change of unifying the Overseas Service is, in my view, if I may say so with all due deference, quite enough for one step, and I hope that the Government will go no further at the present time.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I am happy to be the first from these Benches to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, on his highly interesting and most well-informed maiden speech. It is quite clear, having listened to him, and to the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, why, whether one agrees with the Report or not, it is such a model of clarity and so very painstaking and well-informed.
I must say that politics calls for most extraordinary mix-ups in what one normally thinks of as one's natural friends and also one's natural opponents. One finds very peculiar bedfellows indeed in an argument of this sort. It seems to me now that I find myself in the same bed as the noble Marquess who has just spoken and the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. I hope the bed is large enough to contain all of us, but unfortunately there are very few other noble Lords who have spoken to-day who seem to have any inclination at all to share that bed with us. The three of us, at least—and, I believe, many more noble Lords, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would certainly wish to join us—are unashamedly believers in the Commonwealth. We believe that there is something in the Commonwealth which is good and, as the noble Marquess said, we do not look on the Commonwealth simply as a group of other foreign countries who at one time in the recent past have had some connection with us but who, sooner or later—and many noble Lords, although not all quite had the courage to say so, share the views of The Times articles which have been referred to so often—will simply become like any other foreign country so far as we are concerned. We on this side do not believe—and I am glad other noble Lords elsewhere do not believe it, either—that the Commonwealth is no more than a farce or charade. We do not believe, therefore, that it is something which we should make no effort to preserve and to to strengthen. It is something to which 78 not only lip-service should be given, but actual thought and action should be given to hold it together and to bring it closer together.
My very grave fear is that if the steps that have been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—and which other noble Lords, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, himself, have said they would like to see happen, but not yet—in fact take place we shall find that the Commonwealth has, in fact, disappeared. In other words, the phrase of Mr. Dean Acheson which caused such consternation and anger among many people in this country about a year ago, that we havelost an Empire but have not found a rolewill have proved to be true. We have lost an Empire; we have done that willingly and happily; but perhaps the reason is now becoming clear why we have not found a role. It is because we do not wish for that role; we do not wish to fill the role of a member, the oldest member, of the Commonwealth.
I do not want at this stage to pursue that question very much further; much has been said about it already. But I should like briefly to support my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, again, on their argument against the amalgamation of the two Government Departments purely on the ground of whether or not it is practical and how it fits in with our general concept of Government. Of course it looks tidy to have everything that is outside this country lumped together; it probably looks tidy to have everything that is inside this country lumped together. But nobody would suggest that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade, all of which have to deal with many overlapping matters, should in fact all be put under one Ministry with various Ministers of State administering them. It would have certain appeals if you are drawing out a pattern of Government, but we now perfectly well it cannot work efficiently; and nobody has suggested it, because it is too large, there are too many different problems arising, and because one man cannot effectively oversee all these things.
79 Our great industries (Imperial Chemical Industries, for instance) do not try to run everything from one central overlord. They split up into their local divisions, into their functional divisions, and they bring together the heads of these divisions into a central board, into a cabinet, who take joint and collective responsibility. It is a very effective and efficient way of doing it. That is the way this country has always been run and that is the way, surely, it should go on being run. I am not saying that the Government Departments we have today are immutable and are obviously and solely the correct ones, but what we must guard against is not only proliferating them and also making them so large that one man cannot possibly cope with them.
There is a factor here which has not been mentioned: that is the enormous importance attaching to the actual Minister in charge, the head man, when there are problems to be dealt with in overseas territories, whether they are in the Commonwealth, the Colonies or Foreign countries. In my travels in the Commonwealth I have frequently come across people out there, local politicians, who have been visited by a Parliamentary Secretary or even a Minister of State, and they have said to me: "Oh, he was a very nice chap we had nice talks with him. It was pleasant enough, but, of course, he is not the boss. He had to go back and report. He could not say what was going to happen." Unless they get the man who is known to be the head of the Department that will always happen. Of course, the Minister cannot always go everywhere, but the larger his Department, the larger his parish or diocese, the more difficult will it be for him to go to the places he should go to.
Having supported those who are opposed to the amalgamation of the two Departments, and to that extent supporting the Plowden Report—though with the reservation that I personally would be sorry if the reason for opposing the amalgamation was solely because public opinion has not yet got round to it and sooner or later we hope they will—on the other grounds I have given, let me turn to look at the question of the unified service. On balance I come down in favour of the recommendation of the 80 Plowden Report. I think it is going to be in the interests of better representation in all countries, those of the Commonwealth and those outside the Commonwealth, if we have one unified Service.
As the Plowden Report tells us, the jobs of our representatives overseas are (I am paraphrasing) first to represent this country, to give a picture of this country in the widest and most effective possible way; secondly, to look after the interests of British nationals who are in those countries and the business interests of those who wish to trade with those countries; and, thirdly, to ascertain what is going on in those countries and to keep Her Majesty's Government informed of events there. Those are the three jobs to be done, and they have to be done, I will not say equally, but they have to be done whether in Commonwealth countries or in foreign countries.
I would say there is one big difference, and that is that whereas our representatives in the foreign countries must be entirely objective and, shall I say, have no axe to grind at all—they are there simply to carry out those three functions—our representatives in the Commonwealth countries should have a superimposed duty, and that is the duty to strengthen the Commonwealth connection, which the diplomat in the foreign country does not have. That being so, it can be argued that we should in fact have two different Services, because it is not going to be very easy for the man trained in the school of diplomacy in the conventional sense to shift over, to have this fourth duty added to his three normal duties. But I believe that with proper selection and proper pre-job training this difficulty can be overcome, and particularly can it be overcome so long as we have the two Government Departments, because the Commonwealth Relations Office will always be on its toes to see that people who go out under its auspices, even though they come from the joint Diplomatic Service, will be imbued with this Commonwealth ideal, and it will not have the kind of member of the Diplomatic Service who would go without those feelings.
I must say that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made me have very serious second thoughts on this 81 matter, because I could not help wondering how we should be getting on if we had people like the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his young days, assuming he had the same views as he expressed to-day, working in the High Commissioner's Office in Kenya at the present time. I do not think he would be a very good person to keep Kenya an ardent member of the Commonwealth; nor would he have done such a thing if in his more senior days he found himself High Commissioner in Trinidad. I feel that type of representative would be a very unfortunate choice. But I believe there is a wide enough sphere so that those who have a particular bent towards Latin America, towards the Far East, towards Europe or towards the Commonwealth can all be found their niches, and the advantages of the composite Diplomatic Service to cover the two Offices of State will outweigh the disadvantages I have mentioned.
I should like to expand a little on this matter of the type of representative that we now need. It has been recognised—and I think this is one of the best services that Lord Plowden and his colleagues have done in this Report—that the type of representation that we need to-day is very different from what it used to be, and he himself rightly stressed the need for people who understand commerce, trade and industry. I would add to those three subjects another. We live here in a country which is highly industrialised, the most highly industrialised country in the world. We are inclined to forget, indeed we invariably forget, that the vast majority of people in the vast majority of the countries where we have representatives depend on agriculture for their wellbeing, and the agricultural picture is the most vital aspect, not only of the economic welfare of those countries, the trade they can do with us, but also of their political stability.
I would hope that our future representatives will be trained in such a way that they realise the enormous importance of agriculture in the countries to which they go, and that they do not think that the countries are solely centred in the capital which they happen to be in or solely dependent on the big businessman, financiers, industralists or trade union leaders they meet in the country, but in almost every case depend upon the actual tillers of the soil. They 82 should have experience of this sort of thing—not practical experience, but they should be taught that and made to realise that is one of the most important things they must look at in their time abroad.
I would also point out that in our representation in foreign countries the consular offices of the large provincial centres are an essential part of any Embassy or Mission because they bring in information from areas of the country which are somewhat neglected in the capital and also show the people in those provincial centres what this country is and what it stands for, which they otherwise would never know. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, mentioned the case of one Consul who had been withdrawn and there was a petition that he should be reinstated. Just as it is important in those countries, so it is of extreme importance, too, in the Commonwealth countries that we should have representatives of the High Commissioner's Office in the provincial centres of the countries where we have High Commissioners; we should not concentrate all our staff in the capital iself. I believe that until we do that we shall never have a true picture of what is going on in the country; nor will they have a true picture of what we in this country believe in and stand for, and how we can help them and work together with them.
This has been an interesting debate. It has also been to me so far a depressing debate for the reasons that I have given. But I hope that, as a result of this kind of debate, as a result of closer study of the Plowden Report, as a result of the thoughts now coming to the surface in people's minds, as a result of The Times articles and many other things of that kind, we shall force people to make the decision as to whether they believe the Commonwealth has anything to offer at all, not just to us in this country but to world peace and world progress, or whether it is expendable and the sooner it has a decent burial the better for us.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAK-RIDGE
My Lords, many of the speakers who are taking part in this debate have held office as Ministers of the Crown, with high responsibility for our 83 foreign affairs or for Commonwealth affairs. Others have represented the Head of the Commonwealth in Commonwealth countries. Others have belonged to the Foreign Service or one of the other branches of the Civil Service concerned in this matter. I have been none of these things, but I have served under the Foreign Office for many years, and in several separate assignments. I hope, therefore, that it may add a little to the completeness of the picture if I put a view about this Report and about the Foreign Service to your Lordships, speaking as one who does not belong to it, who is quite impartial and yet claims to know it pretty well. I can speak only of the Foreign Service. I should like to add a few words on that as a Service itself, and then just a word or two on the more contentious question of one Minister or two.
As regards the Service itself, the chief thing that I would say, with great sincerity, is how good it is. I do not believe it is sufficiently recognised in this country that we have the best Diplomatic Service in the world, and that it is an enormous asset to us. I have watched these men at work in the League of Nations, in the United Nations, in many international conferences and international negotiations, and I have always been struck by the great respect in which, clearly, they are held by the representatives of foreign countries whatever those foreigners may have to say to us—and often they have nasty things to say—as a country. But when there is a job to be done, when there is some difficult drafting to be done, when there is somebody needed to run the administration of the conference, when there is any work to be done which requires real ability and common sense without bringing with it any particular glory then frequently they send for the British to do the job. It is not a fluke, I think, that the only individual mentioned by name in the Treaty of Versailles was a member of the British Foreign Service whose son now sits with us in this Chamber.
But it is not only the men who are good; the organisation also is good. Here I claim to know what I am talking about, because when I was High Commissioner in Germany my office was 84 organised on Foreign Office lines. Lord Plowden, in his Report, comments on this, and particularly commends the system of having a Head in Chancery. The principle that under the chief executive there should be a senior man with a staff to co-ordinate the work of the organisation is a principle which has for a long time been advocated, to my certain knowledge by some of the best business efficiency experts; and I would say that it is a principle which is increasingly gaining acceptance among large business organisations. But the Foreign Office have had this principle for a long time—for 30 years, to my certain knowledge.
I do not say these things about the Foreign Service just in order to flatter my, I hope, numerous friends in that Service, but in order to make a couple of suggestions which I commend to the Government. The first is that I hope that, in the reorganisation which must take place in order to produce a single unified Service as recommended in this Report, the changes will be kept to those which are absolutely essential for completing the unification, and that opportunity will not be taken to introduce a lot of other changes into the organisation simply for the sake of change; and far less for any doctrinaire reason.
In saying this, I have in mind particularly those paragraphs of the Report which deal with recruitment to the Service, training and promotion and conditions of service generally. As the Report says, and as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, said in other words this afternoon, we do not require all the recruits for the Foreign Service to come from any particular level in society, or from any particular schools or any particular universities; what we do require is high-class brains. I hope that that particular sentence will always be borne in mind. I put it this way: that when the Diplomatic Service or the Department of External Affairs, which I hope we shall see, takes up its residence in the new building, which I hope we shall see to replace that awful warren in which the Foreign Office are expected to do their work at the moment, I hope that over the door will be engarved in stone this sentence from Lord Plowden's Report:It would be a serious mistake to lower standards of entry.85 The second small suggestion that I should like to make is this. In paragraph 20 of the Report, reference is quite properly made to the increasing facilities of communication in these days, and to the consequent possibility given to Ministers to travel much more frequently; and it goes on to say that this may in some measure lessen the prestige of the Ambassador. Of course, nobody would argue against Ministers travelling frequently—it is extremely good that they should; moreover, the Foreign Service is a Service, and it has no purpose other than to serve its Minister. On the other hand, while the Service likes to have a strong Minister, and to have a Minister who has ideas and does not just take his brief, it does not like to have a Minister who does its job for it. There is a time for ministerial intervention, and it is an exceptional time. It is not so much that the prestige of the Ambassador may suffer; what is much worse is that too much interference of this sort may mean that the job is not done so well, because the professional who is on the spot may, and probably will, often do it better. I was particularly pleased to see, before the Easter Recess, when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was put under great pressure to go to New York to present the British case, just because a bit of a "hoo-ha" had blown up in the United Nations about the Cyprus situation, that he resisted that pressure and declined to go. He said that he would leave it to his man on the spot. I thought how sensible that was. Those are the two suggestions which I venture to make, arising, as I say, from my encomium of the Foreign Office.
Now, greatly dating, I should like to say just a word or two on this question of whether there should be one Minister or two. The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and his colleagues convinced themselves that the right answer was one Minister, and in the process they have convinced me. I am bound to say, having listened to many speeches in the opposite sense this afternoon from distinguished noble Lords, that I still retain the conviction which this Report has imparted to my mind. I am not going to weary your Lordships by reproducing the arguments, which of course are set out in the Report, but I should like to produce a further argument which, though certainly not decisive on this question, is, I think, 86 worth bearing in mind if or when it is felt that the issue is00 rather closely balanced.
Many of your Lordships are businessmen, and I think you will agree that it is a principle accepted in business organisation that the number of men who deal direct as heads of departments with the chief executive should be limited. Where exactly the limit should be fixed is a matter of argument, and varies according to the cases; but it is certainly not accepted (at least, I have never known it to be) that a figure of about two dozen is right. There are about two dozen separate departmental Ministers at the moment, and they have no ministerial authority above them except the Prime Minister. And whatever his theoretical position may be, the Prime Minister is, in fact, the chief executive of government.
I hope your Lordships will feel that if it is true that this job of external relations—the direction of our external policy in all its aspects—is one job in fact, then if it were a business matter with which one were dealing, even though it were an immense job, one would give it to one man and provide him with an infrastructure to enable him to carry the job. That is not something which can be regarded as decisive, but it is worth bearing in mind. Most people can see that the number of Ministers is too many, yet frequently proposals are made that there should be an addition to this number. Universities are important; we must have a separate Ministry for them. Science is important; Civil Aviation is important; Commonwealth, of course, is important. But can we really afford to multiply Ministers in this way? The Government have decided that they will start with two Ministers, and they have been encouraged in that view by many of the speeches made this afternoon. I hope that, as time goes on, and there is further reflection on this matter, perhaps the opportunity will be taken to reduce the number of Ministers and not unnecessarily to increase them.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, it is difficult at this late hour to add any new arguments or information to those already deployed by your Lordships who have taken part in this debate; 87 but I should like to say, in passing, how much I agree with the two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, at the beginning of his speech. First of all, he paid a tribute to the Foreign Service, and I would add to that the Commonwealth Service as well. I have not the slightest doubt that we in this country are better served by our Overseas Services than any other country in the world, in that we have a more efficient and more effective representation overseas.
I hope, therefore, that the publication of this Report will not lead any foreigners to believe that we are dissatisfied with the way in which our relations with other countries have been conducted over these past years. The object of the Report, as I see it, is to improve yet further the system under which these officers work. I should think that most of the recommendations made by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and his colleagues would be acceptable to anyone who has a knowledge of this particular problem. Indeed, many of those recommendations, have been put forward Departmentally on previous occasions, and it is only now that they are to be given effect to.
The second point made by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, was that he thought it would be a good thing if Ministers in charge of external affairs left matters as much as possible to be dealt with by their representatives on the spot. I entirely agree with him. It may well be that he was influenced by an old military truth that a general should not go into the front line and try to command a platoon, a battalion or a brigade. I think that, on the whole, that truth applies in overseas representation equally with military matters. Although there are moments when the intervention of a Minister is essential and when only he can untie some particularly complicated knot, if he appears too often on the scene the impression caused by his appearance at that critical moment would be greatly lessened and his intervention made much less effective. I did not agree so much with other of the points made by the noble Lord.
If I may go back to the beginning of this debate which was introduced by 88 the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that the impression his speech made on my mind was one of cynicism and levity. It is a pity that a debate of this sort, not only concerned with important matters of Government organisation but having behind it certain principles of policy for the country at large in the future, should appear to become a discussion over the merits of rival policies of Commonwealth and Common Market, or alternatively appear to be a take-over bid by one Department of another. This Report, as I understand it, was intended to make the most of the resources which we have available in this country for our overseas representation in the new circumstances which now exist.
It seems to me to be wrong to suppose that the reason for amalgamating the two Departments of State, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office, should be explained—as it was, as I understood it, by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—as being because the Commonwealth is disappearing, like the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat; that in any case it has been a hindrance to the prosecution of a particular line of policy relating to our entry into Europe; and that its continuance is an embarrassment in carrying out our diplomacy in relation to other countries, particularly the Afro-Asian countries, because it gives us a touch of neocolonialism.
If those were the arguments for amalgamating the two offices, for producing one Secretary of State, and for changing the whole of our organisation I should be passionately opposed, because they appear to me to be entirely irrelevant to the problem with which your Lordships are concerned at the present moment. Indeed, I was very disappointed, having agreed very largely with the whole of the Report, to hear that the only reason why the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and his colleagues had no[...] gone as far as to recommend one Secretary of State was because they did not think that it would be acceptable to public opinion in this country. The inference I got (and here I may be being unfair) is that he and his colleagues did not feel that public opinion had yet woken up to the realities of the situation in which it was advisable to have one 89 Secretary of State; that in fact they were still dreaming old dreams about Empire and Commonwealth and would in due course wake up to the changed circumstances in which they found themselves.
If that is the altitude, then we have perfectly clearly the motives behind this proposal to join the two Departments together. But many of your Lordships, and certainly I myself, would be strongly opposed to that reasoning and would not accept it in any way. Nobody has suggested—at least, I hope they have not—that there is a particular mystique about the conduct of our relations with Commonwealth countries. As the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, a very distinguished member of our Foreign Service is at the present moment High Commissioner in India; and on previous occasions other members of the Foreign Services have held that particular post. There is no particular mystique about it, but the functions carried out by the Commonwealth Relations Office are peculiar to that Department. The fact that it exists is a symbol in itself. The fact that there is a single Secretary of State concerned with the maintenance of our relations with the Commonwealth provides special strength in the conduct of our relations with those Commonwealth countries.
I know very well that there are many of the older members of the Commonwealth who regard direct access to the Foreign Secretary as being essential to them, to their status as independent countries conducting their own foreign policy. That has been the case for many years past and it has been accepted completely. But the whole of the secretarial work which the Commonwealth requires, which Commonwealth conferences require, whether they be main conferences of Prime Ministers or whether they be conferences dealing with some of the more special matters, must be carried out in this country, and it seems logical and proper that that should be carried out by a special Department designated for that purpose. It is said that it could be carried out by a sub-department of the Foreign Office, and I have no doubt that it would be carried out very efficiently, but the background would not be the same. There would not be a single Department in this country which was specially concerned 90 with the special relationship which exists between this country and the Commonwealth countries themselves.
I was, again, concerned at something which the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, said in his speech. As I say, I feel that his proposals are not only right but are thoroughly reasoned in everything that is said in the Report. But he laid special emphasis on the future planning of policy. He said it was essential that there should be future planning of policy, continuity of policy over a longer period, continuity of policy regardless of which Government was in power, continuity of policy, perhaps, regardless of what the political Ministers may consider to be essential. What he said, and I may be misinterpreting him, was that there should be a Cabinet planning staff to ensure that policy—that is, the policy which they are making out—should be pressed forward to the point of action. Then—and I hope I am not misunderstanding him in any way—he said that these are things which politicians will ignore at their peril.
If it is proposed that there should be one monolithic Department with one planning staff, presenting to Ministers one point of view and presenting it to the point of action, regardless, presumably, of Parliament or Cabinet responsibility to Parliament, or the differing views on foreign affairs of differing Governments, then I think that this proposal to amalgamate in one Department the whole responsibility for overseas affairs takes on an almost sinister light. I have never considered that that might be the possible object of the proposal, or be in the minds of those who proposed it. As I say, I may be misinterpreting what was said, but it seems to me that it—
§ LORD PLOWDEN
My Lords, if I may intervene I think the noble Lord is almost putting interpretations in my mouth which I certainly never meant. The doctrine of ministerial responsibility in this country is far too well-known, especially to someone who spent twenty years of his life as a civil servant in Whitehall, to suggest that there should be some monolithic structure which overrode Ministers. What I am suggesting is that in order to provide Ministers with the best possible advice there should be some planning mechanism at their disposal which would present them 91 with all the facts together at one time, rather than getting them piecemeal so that they take decisions with inadequate information.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I fully accept the noble Lord's explanation, and I feel that that was probably what he did mean. But there is, of course, an alternate way of their getting all the facts and having not only all the facts but the arguments placed in contrast one to the other. For instance, over a matter which vitally affects the future of the Commonwealth and which vitally affects, let us say, the future of our foreign policy, there is something to be said for having two planning staffs putting up separate papers and giving to the Ministers, who have to decide for the Cabinet, a variety of points of view and a conflict of points of view, rather than—if I may quote the noble Lord again—a single policy which should be pressed forward to the point of action.
My Lords, I have been distressed also by the tenor of this debate this afternoon. I feel that one of the reasons why the Commonwealth is at the present moment in such great difficulties is because it is not realised clearly enough here in Britain that the Commonwealth still depends very largely upon British strength and initiative for its existence. We have the most to lose by its disappearance. We have the most to contribute to its continuance. In the effort which has been made over past years to equate Britain to all the other members of the Commonwealth, big and small, to equate the Commonwealth in some degree to our relations with foreign countries, we have in the course of time, as I see it, lost our perspective of Britain's rôle in the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth ties with Britain, as far as each independent country is concerned, are sometimes strong and sometimes weak, and their membership and allegiance to the Commonwealth is exactly equated to the strength or weakness of their relations with the United Kingdom. We are not the metropolitan country any more, but we are the only really cohesive power within the Commonwealth that keeps it together. If any member of the Commonwealth other than Britain left, the Commonwealth would still go on. But if Britain 92 disappeared from the Commonwealth, if Britain showed that it had no further interest or time or use for the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth and all it means to a great many people overseas, and all it means to us here, would disappear.
May I just say that I was in favour of the Common Market and of our entry into it? I did not believe it conflicted in the slightest with our interest in the Commonwealth. I believe that, in fact, it would strengthen Britain and therefore strengthen our position as the focal point of the Commonwealth. But, my Lords, the constant denigration of the Commonwealth, the constant attempt to belittle our position in the Commonwealth, is really the reason why we have reached what is, I agree, a very difficult and uncertain stage so far as its continuance goes.
I hope that I have misinterpreted the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in my references to his previous remarks. I hope as a result of this debate that not only will there not be any attempt to remove the separate functions of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office, but that there will be no attempt to remove the symbolism, as well as the effective machinery which that represents. I hope, in fact, that it will be realised in this country that we have not, I think in perhaps 300 years, had one Minister of External Affairs. Therefore there is no reason at this time, when matters are so much more complicated, when the burden on the individual Minister is so much greater, why we should change to a different form of control in foreign affairs which would do damage to the Commonwealth and make less effective, as I believe, the conduct of our external relations in the world at large.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, it gives me special pleasure to congratulate my noble friend and colleague, Lord Inchyra, on his admirable maiden speech. I have the best reason to know how outstanding have been his services as a member of the Foreign Service, and latterly as its head. We can all to-day judge how great will be the services which he can render to us in this House, in the debates which are held here.
93 The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has, I think, done well to extend the terms of his Motion to a consideration of the Plowden Report as a whole, and no longer to confine it, as he did originally, to the topic of ministerial responsibility. I do not propose to spend much time on this question of ministerial responsibility, and will say only this. The Plowden Committee admit that the division of ministerial responsibility in external affairs is becoming an anachronism; and they admit that it impedes the development and execution of a coherent foreign policy, and makes this a wasteful and time-consuming process. That is very strong language, my Lords. Yet they maintain the present division of responsibility on the ground that amalgamation—and I quote their words:could be interpreted as implying a loss of interest in the Commonwealth partnership".But they produce, so far as I can see, no sufficient evidence to show that this view would, in fact, be held in the other Commonwealth countries. They are, therefore, in consequence, drawn to propose a compromise, and, in all honesty, my Lords, I must say that I do not myself feel that it is a very good solution—certainly not in the long term, and perhaps not even in the medium term. If I may state my own view dogmatically (though I do not want to spend time on this) I would say this. It is widely agreed by both Government and Opposition that education is one and that defence is one. So also, I feel, external affairs are one. For that reason, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, it seems to me a pity that the Plowden Committee did not grasp the nettle and propose total amalgamation, if not immediately, at least within a given short period of years.
Before I leave the question of ministerial responsibility, I have one other further question to raise. The Plowden Committee did not deal with the future of the Colonial Office. The Government, however, in their statement of February 27 say thatAs soon as possible after the Diplomatic Service is brought into being the Colonial Office should be merged with the Commonwealth Relations Office, if practicable by July 1, 1965.What does that statement mean? What is to be the future of the staff of the 94 Colonial Office in London? Is this staff to be assimilated to the new Diplomatic Service, in the same way as the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office; and, if so, will the problem be subjected to the same careful scrutiny as the problem of the staff of the Commonwealth Relations Office itself? I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to give some information on this point when he replies to this debate.
My Lords, the Plowden Report is an epoch-making document. It is so for a variety of reasons, but more than anything else because, apart from the question of the creation of a new Diplomatic Service, the Report does two things. In Chapter VI it proposes new conditions of service for the Diplomatic Service; and in paragraphs 86 to 90, in Chapter II, it recommends a reserve of manpower. As to conditions of service, the Committee were disturbed, and rightly so, to find so many of the members of the Service, especially those with children, in financial difficulties. That was a very serious thing to find out. The Committee consider it essential—and here again, they are right that normal family life should, so far as possible, be enjoyed by members of the Service if recruiting is to be maintained and morale safe-guarded. Never before, I think, have the conditions of the Foreign Service been so exhaustively or so sympathetically reviewed as they were by the Plowden Committee.
If these changes which the Committee recommend can be made, now, at long last, the Diplomatic Service will, for the first time in my 45 years of experience of it, be provided for on a scale bearing comparison with those provided by good industrial employers. As the Committee rightly say—and here I quote:If the worry and what is at present an acute family and financial problem is removed, officers and their wives will be able to concentrate much more single-mindedly on the challenges and opportunities of their career.My Lords, the strain of perpetual movement and disturbance, and of life in often disagreeable, even dangerous, posts, falls not only upon the officers but upon their wives, to whom the Report pays an overdue and well-deserved tribute. It is a matter of deep gratification that the Government have said that 95 they accept, with a few minor modifications, the Committee's recommendations on these points. I know the Diplomatic Service well enough to be assured that its members will wholeheartedly respond to this well-merited mark of confidence in their sense of duty, dedication and public spirit.
Two of the Committee's recommendations about accommodation are of special importance. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, have both referred to them. With regard to accommodation overseas, the Committee rightly say that the first greatest need is for Her Majesty's Government to own a far higher proportion of the accommodation it uses overseas. That is a salutary proposal, and one that should not only result in substantial economies in the long run, but also contribute to the morale of the Service. Then, again, in paragraph 550 the Committee strike a blow for the rebuilding of the Foreign Office in London. I believe that their arguments are conclusive. For 25 years I worked in that well-loved but, as time went on, increasingly unsuitable building. Every time we wanted to reform the organisation of the office we were frustrated by being built into an edifice designed for bygone conditions. To modernise the new Diplomatic Service without giving it an appropriate London headquarters, would be to do only half the job.
I return now to the second crucial recommendation of the Report—namely, that there should be a sufficient margin of authorised manpower: a permanent reserve of, say, 10 per cent., to cover the time that officers necessarily spend away from their desks when travelling, or on training, or on home leave or on sick leave, or on leave between postings. The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, have both drawn attention to the importance they attach to this recommendation, and it is, indeed, a bold proposal and a most necessary one. I can speak from experience when I say that to have every member of the authorised staff held to a post creates an almost uninterrupted series of problems for the administrator. Every absence from a post lays a burden on those who remain. Every change of post may set up a chain reaction that may travel far down the line.
96 If, as the Report rightly says, people are often moved too quickly from post to post, this is not merely because of hardship in the many disagreeable posts that there are to-day—a situation which the Committee's proposals for conditions of service will go far to mitigate—but also because there are so often unexpected vacancies to be filled. Of course, if such a 10 per cent. margin is allowed, great restraint will be necessary. There will be a temptation to allow the reserve to be frittered away under the heavy pressure of current work. This is a temptation which will have to be firmly resisted; and the reserve should be of senior and not only of junior officers. In their statement on February 27 the Government did not say in terms that they accepted this proposal for a reserve. I hope that we may have a statement to-day that they do so.
Before I leave the question of staffing I should like to say a word about the ingenious and imaginative grade structure for the administrative, executive and clerical classes proposed in paragraph 101. The noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, drew attention to this new grading structure. The organisation of these three classes into ten grades, while maintaining the classes themselves for purposes of recruitment and salary scales, introduces a welcome measure of rationalisation; and, by making the grade overlie the class, the proposal should mitigate feelings of inferiority induced by the existing nomenclature. The new scheme should also encourage the process of what is called "bridging" or the permanent passage upwards from the executive to the administrative class which is already a feature of Foreign Service practice. Members of the executive class have indeed before now moved up into ambassadorial appointments.
In the course of the Report, the Committee firmly expose some of the more common misapprehensions about the diplomatic Service, amounting sometimes almost to myth, entertained in the popular Press, in Parliament and among academics. They state plainly that neither the revolutionary improvement in communications nor the frequency of ministerial journeys have reduced the need for Ambassadors or lessened the burden and importance of their work. To say this is to explode 97 one of the commonest of popular errors. Again, they assert that representational entertainment remains indispensable as a means of acquiring and maintaining the contacts necessary to advance British policies and to protect British interests. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said that well-directed hospitality is rarely wasted. This is true not only of heads of missions but also of their junior diplomatic staff.
Again the Committee emphasise that the duties of consuls, so far from being confined, as commonly supposed, to ensuring the safety and protection of British subjects, range much more widely. A consul has within his own district the same broad representational responsibilities as an Ambassador or a High Commissioner has in relation to an overseas country as a whole. Then, contrary to popular belief, they do not think—and I am sure they are right—that the study of modern languages is the best academic discipline for members of the Diplomatic Service. They affirm without hesitation that in the entrance examinations conducted by the Civil Service Commission the scales are not, as popularly supposed, weighed against the candidates who have not been to Oxford or Cambridge. These are misapprehensions which the Committee have exposed; but I am afraid there is little hope that these myths will not persist in the public mind.
In conducting their inquiry, the Committee were alert to look out for failings and shortcomings. To an ex-member of the Foreign Service it is reassuring to see that there was so little of substance to find fault with. It is even more reassuring to note that, more often than not, the Foreign Office had already set in hand reforms which the Committee were in mind to recommend. The Foreign Service has stood up well to the thorough scrutiny to which it has been subjected, and those who know it best could have testified that it is a self-critical organisation, sensitively responsive to the need for change.
The members of the Committee were people with a wide variety of experience in public life—Parliamentary, governmental, industrial, commercial and financial. They not only took evidence widely; they went to see for themselves on the spot how the Foreign and Commonwealth and Trade Commissioner 98 Services conduct their business. They have placed their evidence and conclusions clearly on record. As a result, the public may now be reassured that their overseas affairs are in competent and sensitive hands, which will deserve the improved conditions of service which will now be provided for them.
§ 7.17 p.m.
My Lords, I should like first of all to congratulate my noble friend Lord Inchyra on his admirable maiden speech on a subject on which he is able to speak with such authority and from long experience. At this late hour—and how much truer these familiar words are to-day than they sometimes are!—I do not intend to delay your Lordships for long or to cover a very wide subject. The noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has spoken of the broader aspects of our Committee's work, and the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, dealt with the structure. I should like to confine myself purely and simply to the conditions of service.
Naturally, I am delighted that the Government have accepted our recommendations, with minor modifications. I can only hope that those modifications really are minor, because our recommendations on the terms of service were really a very carefully conceived package deal; they were carefully worked out and balanced and were designed as an integrated whole. They were designed, furthermore, to contribute to the morale, efficiency and security of the Service.
One of the aims of the 1943 reforms of the Foreign Service was to create a Service open to anyone of whatever means or from whatever social or financial background they might come. I do not believe that these conditions ever existed at any time since 1943. They certainly did not exist when the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, and our colleagues on the Committee started work. Our Committee travelled widely, both individually and in small groups. It was remarkable that every report from every journey noted widespread hardship, and especially anxiety on the financial side. The requirements of men and women who serve overseas during a large proportion of their career are distinctive and this distinction must be recognised.
There has been, I think, a general recognition and approval this afternoon 99 of the recommendation of the Committee that the three different Services should now be amalgamated into one new Diplomatic Service. But these three Services—the Foreign Service, the Commonwealth Relations Service and the Trade Commissioner Service—all have different backgrounds and conditions of service. Therefore, our first objective was to ensure that all people living under the same conditions and performing strictly comparable jobs should be similarly remunerated.
This had most certainly not been the case. The Committee found great disparities of rates and methods of payment in the same offices and Embassies. These derived from two entirely different systems and philosophies: first, the foreign allowance, which was applicable to the Foreign Service, and, secondly, the foreign service allowance, which was applicable to all home civil servants serving abroad. These have led to considerable difficulties and misunderstandings, as well as to a large measure of inefficiency in administration.
We found in many offices and High Commissions multiple accountancy systems and sections administering themselves entirely differently and separately from their central administrative branches. This was sheer inefficiency. Therefore, the Committee devised a wholly new basis for the calculation of foreign pay allowances for the remuneration of the new Diplomatic Service. We might call it the layer-cake system. We start with the basic salary and add to it the local allowance, which is to meet the cost of living in a particular country, which obviously varies from country to country, and includes the cost of maintenance of children at school at home. To that, again, we add the representational allowance, that being for the standard of surroundings necessary for an officer of the representational grade to conduct his business and entertain in his home. To that we add the entertainment allowance, which is nothing more than the wherewithal of entertainment. The representational allowance is for the background and the entertainment allowance is for actual food and drink, extra assistance in the house and extra service.
Then, for the career diplomats, those who have accepted an unequivocal obli- 100 gation at any time during their career, whether or not convenient for family or education reasons or whether or not they are being sent to a convenient place, to go wherever they may be sent, we recommend a Diplomatic Service allowance. This will be paid to diplomats while at their posts abroad, partly in substitution of an antiquated and complicated system known as the "A" element of the foreign allowance, with an explanation of which I will not burden your Lordships, even if I understood it after studying it for nine months, and partly purely and simply as remuneration for accepting an obligation which no other member of Her Majesty's Service accepts.
The advantage of this new system which we have devised is that all elements are self-adjusting. The basic salaries are under constant review at home. We have recommended that the local currency element of allowances should immediately increase when the cost of living rises by 10 per cent.—and it very frequently does in many of the countries in which these officers are required to serve. On the other hand, because we felt it unfair that they should bear for too long the burden of inflation in the country in which they are serving, we have also recommended a trigger at the lower rate of a 6 per cent. rise in the cost of living, if it persists for six months. There will then be a new review of the local allowances. The representational and entertainment allowances will be similarly reviewed when the local currency element rises.
So far as the Diplomatic Service allowance is concerned, we have recommended that this shall be a fixed percentage of the basic salary—15 per cent. in the case of married couples and 7½ per cent. in the case of single men and women. Therefore, all these new allowances will be automatically adjusted and will not require constant negotiation through the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office with the Treasury. We have also recommended that these arrangements shall be applicable to all grades, both on the administrative and on the executive sides.
At the beginning of my remarks, I said that we had found extreme concern almost everywhere we travelled. The 101 major concern was undoubtedly over the education of children of Foreign Service officers, and their home life. There are already certain allowances paid to Foreign Service officers in respect of boarding schools at which their children have to be educated, but we consider that the allowances as now devised require too great a sacrifice from the parents. After all, when they are abroad, they cannot make use of the State educational system which is open to everybody else. When they are back in this country, they are never certain of how long they are to be here and it would be odious to expect them to remove their childen from boarding school and put them in a State school, hoping to get them back to boarding school should they have to go abroad again. This is no way to educate children.
Therefore, we recognised—and I hope that your Lordships will also recognise—that there is an undoubted need for all Foreign Service officers to have the ability to educate their children at boarding schools. We propose that allowances should be increased for both boys and girls and payable at different rates for preparatory schools and secondary educational establishments. The Committee felt that this was a key requirement, if we are to encourage people to offer themselves for recruitment into the Foreign Service. The cost of it we estimate at £185,000 per annum.
At the moment, members of the Foreign Service are entitled to have their children out to visit them during one holiday a year. In earlier times, at certain posts, it was quite impossible to expect to see your children at all, because the length of the journey made it impracticable, but times have changed and we must recognise that, with air travel readily available, more than one visit a year should be allowed. We strongly recommend that there should be two visits per annum. We have to consider that the difficulties of making arrangements at home for the maintenance of children during the holidays are infinitely greater than they have ever been before. Grandparents, if any exist, are far less able to take care of children during the holidays, and to find them suitable holiday schools or holiday homes is becoming virtually impossible. The cost of that will be about £70,000 102 per annum. This, together with the boarding school allowance, we look on as an integral recommendation. So much for primary and secondary education.
So far as higher education is concerned, the Committee did not feel it reasonable for the State to make provision after the age of eighteen. Almost all children go to the university now on scholarships, which are available from multitudinous sources. Moreover, the cost of the education not covered by a scholarship falls on the Foreign Service officer later in his career, when he is more senior and therefore better able to afford it. But we did feel that there were three small recommendations which were of importance to parents. The first is that even when a young person is undergoing higher education after the age of eighteen, some parental control and advice is frequently more necessary than ever, and we recommend that all people over the age of eighteen, when undergoing higher education in this country, should have one free journey to visit their parents at their posts. We also recommend that when they get there they should have exactly the same facilities, so far as the Health Service is concerned, as they would have enjoyed had they been at home.
We make one further recommendation which I think is of importance—namely, that when one child of a family of more than one child reached the age of eighteen he was presumed to have finished his education, and the objectionable theory of parental sacrifice was then transferred to the second child, who became the first child for reasons of allowance, and therefore enjoyed a lesser allowance. We recommend that, so long as there is one child remaining in secondary education, that child should receive the higher rate if there is an older child receiving higher education.
One of our recommendations on which we put great emphasis was the need for specialisation within the Foreign Service. We sincerely hope that people will specialise more and more, but if they do, they will specialise either in subjects or areas, both of which will tend to take them more and more to unpleasant surroundings. We gave considerable thought as to how we could encourage people to specialise in these subjects or areas which would be uncomfortable, 103 unpleasant and unhealthy. We felt that there was no means of remunerating them in cash, and that this would achieve nothing. What we recommend, therefore, is that in future anybody serving in a scheduled "difficult post" should be granted home leave once a year. At the moment, in the most difficult posts they are granted home leave once every eighteen months; but this leave they may take by sea, and the time of the journey by sea is not considered to be part of their home leave. We recommend that all home leave, taken once a year, should be by direct aircraft.
The noble Lord, Lord Strang, spoke at some length about the accommodation overseas. I can only reiterate that the more buildings, both offices and flats—and, indeed, the more equipment—owned by the Government, the better it will be for the Service, and the better it will be, in the long run, for the taxpayer, who has lost an enormous amount of money by the unwillingness of various Governments in the past to expend capital rather than to rent. Had we bought buildings abroad for Embassy offices and Consulates, and for our people to live in, we should have saved a vast amount of money over the years.
At the moment, there are working at High Commissions and Embassies abroad a large number of attaches who come from various home Departments and who are doing specialised jobs. There are many advantages in having these people. They are experts in subjects in which probably it would not be desirable to educate, or to attempt to educate, the Foreign Service officer, in that he would use the knowledge for too short a span of his career, and also because his degree of knowledge would never be as great as that of these attachés. At the moment, these people are attached to Embassies and High Commissions abroad, but they do not receive the same allowances as regular members. We recommend, therefore, that everybody serving at an Embassy or High Commission abroad, with the exception of Service attachés, should be seconded and not attached to the Service. The moment a man is seconded it is easy for him to be paid all the allowances as if he were a regular member of that Service. This will remove the anomaly whereby attachés serving in 104 Embassies and High Commissions receive entirely different rates of pay from those of career officers with whom they serve.
We recommend that this principle should apply also to all temporary staff. There are overseas, employed by Her Majesty's Government, considerable numbers of temporary staff who were engaged temporarily, I think mostly during the war, many of whom have stayed on. After 20 years of temporary service it is quite intolerable that they should be paid as if they were recruited to do a job for six months. This also carries on into the subject of locally engaged officers. There are abroad at the moment about 4,500 people who have been locally engaged by the Embassy or the High Commission of the country in which they are. Of the 4,500, about one-third are British subjects and two-thirds are not. They perform most essential functions, from the lowest to the highest. But in all our travels every member of the Committee reported that there was serious concern about the unsatisfactory conditions of service of these locally-engaged people. They are still, to some extent, treated as inferior beings.
Establishment is not always, and cannot always be, the answer to this difficulty; but, in lieu of establishment, we recommend most strongly that their salary should match the salary paid by the good local employer, and that in the case of the market officers (or commercial officers, as we recommend they should be known in future), who perform the most useful functions in local industries, they should be remunerated at rates competitive with those paid by the good industrialists in the town in which they are asked to work. At the moment, except in certain countries (for example, the United States and Canada), there is no form of pension scheme for these locally-engaged people. This not only is an inequity, but leads to inefficiency, because when a man has fulfilled a function well and efficiently for some ten, twelve or fifteen years, and he finally becomes too old, or for some other reason has passed his most useful time, everybody is loth to remove him from the Service when there are no means of pensioning him. We therefore strongly recommend that there should be a world-wide contributory scheme for locally-engaged personnel.
105 I must not weary your Lordships. I have drawn your attention to only a few of the major recommendations. There are many more, amending minor inequities and anomalies which we found in the Service. But these improvements in conditions of service, together with the recommendation (which in my view is an important one) of secondment rather than attachment, will, we believe, remove all the existing anomalies and dissatisfactions, and will provide a means whereby there may be recruited to the new Diplomatic Service, a modern and streamlined Service, people from any background, any income group, who will have every expectation of being able to serve their Department and their country, free from the worry and anxiety about family and finances which exists to-day.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, must, I think, be very gratified, not only at the quality of the debate that he has engendered through his Report, but also at the extent to which kindly words have been said—words which, on the whole, have been more kindly directed towards him than to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who caught something of "a packet" from one or two noble Lords. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, never refrains from saying what he thinks, and the fact that we do not all agree with some of his views—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
—does not alter the fact that it is necessary that he should say them, if only to enable those of us who did not agree with them to knock them down. I would congratulate him, because it has been an interesting debate. We have had a wide range of Members of your Lordships' House taking part in it. There have been one or two surprising interventions. A particularly surprising intervention came from the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who we all thought was dying in Monte Carlo and who found yet another opportunity to attack the Treasury from the Liberal Front Bench.
I think we should all agree in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, on his maiden speech and, of course, his contribution to the Report. 106 It has been of exceptional interest that three members of the Plowden Committee took part in the debate, and I thought on the whole they divided up the Report fairly well between them. We had a very interesting speech just now from the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt. I should like to preface a few remarks on the broad issues by referring to this question of conditions. I hope the Government will accept the view which has been put forward that this Report must be looked at as a whole. It is striking what a well-knit Report it is, and even if the cost of producing it is not shown—which I think the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, complained about, very properly, as an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer—none the less, I think it is extraordinarily good value for money.
May I deal particularly with the points made on staffing? Here we have a comprehensive Report, rather comparable to the Grigg Report. The Government accepted Grigg lock, stock and barrel, and I hope they will accept most of this. Indeed, I should like to see all of it accepted, because even here we have seen some of the spirit of compromise for which the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has been attacked. They suggest, for instance, that the request that children should be allowed to travel out to join their parents three times a year is a bit too much, and they therefore settled on twice a year. I cannot see the logic in that. It may be argued that it is too much to expect politicians to accept three times a year. I think this is one point on which a little more generosity should be shown, and I should like, in this respect at any rate, to differ from the Report.
Any of us who have visited foreign stations and Embassies in recent years are well aware of the extent of anxiety. I have talked to wives of officials at medium and rising levels and, indeed, Ambassadors, and have asked whether they would put their children into the Foreign Service. In an unfortunate number of instances they have said, in so many words, "Not on your life! The conditions are such that we really would not recommend it." I think there is always a tendency on the part of those in Government service to think that they are badly paid in comparison to industry. Of course, there is a great 107 illusion as to the rates of pay which prevail in industry, which are not as high as many people think. None the less, the social importance to the wives and the family is such that they must be happy, not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the Diplomatic Service.
The Committee went into the most surprising detail, and there were some remarks which I found almost too much to believe. For instance, there is the statement in paragraph 518:A girl cannot equip herself in the lunch hour for the major enterprise of moving overseas for a period of years, perhaps to a remote place with widely different standards and needs. Whilst we do not recommend that extra periods of formal leave should be granted for this purpose, we strongly recommend that, as a matter of good management, ' time-off ' should be granted …I am astonished that the Committee found it necessary to say this, and I am shocked to the core that the Foreign Office do not do this. The picture of a girl dashing down to a tropical outfitter, giving up her weekly "hair-do" because she was off to Dahomey, seems extraordinary. It suggests, perhaps, that however much we concern ourselves with the management of our diplomats overseas, we ought to concern ourselves a little with the management in this country.
There is one particular matter to which I wish to refer, and that is with regard to the medical side of the Foreign Office. I noticed that there are some references to medical facilities in paragraphs 529 to 536. From what I have heard from friends in the Foreign Office, so far as the responsibility on the home side is concerned it is grossly inadequate. Any good employer to-day takes some trouble to see that when valuable members of the staff, whoever they may be, are ill, there is some extra help to supplement that provided by the family practitioner. This is only good sense. I know of people who have come back from abroad, who have been medically boarded, or something like that, and told they were not fit to come to work, and no real effort such as can be provided, and is so frequently provided, by the good employer, has been made to get them out of that state of ill-health. I suggest that this is a matter which might be further looked into.
108 Among the many subjects that have been discussed in this Report is the question of training. I should like to make one comment about that. I wish it were possible for the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, to reply to this. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with his experience, may care to comment on it. The Committee deal a little lightly in this Report with the proposal that there should be a rather more serious attempt at training in other than specialist matters. For instance l'Ecole Nationale d' Administration was dismissed as being quite unsuitable for the British. The principal reason given against it was that you could not ask people to take further education when they had just left the university, and the second one was that you would not get them to join the Foreign Office if they thought they were going to be flung out at a later stage. I do not believe these answers are serious. I think a large number of people do take further education. The number of people who seek to take Ph.Ds. and postgraduate courses is very large indeed.
I am not suggesting that this particular example is necessarily right, but I think there is still this consistent tendency to underrate the skills which certain countries, patricularly France, have developed in the administration of their Civil Service. This is a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with his great experience of France and also his interest in the Common Market, I am sure will have considered. What I would suggest is that the present amount of training for the Civil Service, the centre for administrative studies, is still at a very embryonic stage, and there may well be, indeed I would say there is, scope for training in subjects other than languages.
Of course, the case for recruiting more economists and scientists is obvious. In connection with this question of recruitment, I was impressed by the rather ingenious proposals of the Committee to overcome the hierarchical or social differentiation between the A and the B Grades. This seems to me to be, if it works, a really worthwhile suggestion. I do not know whether the Government are adopting it. I am not sure that we are all clear how much of the Report the Government are adopting. I do know, however, that this suggestion has been welcomed.
109 In connection with this Question, both of training and recruitment, I hope that here, as in other forms of government, the Foreign Office, the Diplomatic Service, the Ministry of Commonwealth Relations, whoever it will be, will continue their efforts to achieve interchange both with Government Departments and with industry. It is extraordinarily difficult to make arrangements to send a civil servant to industry for a year or two years. It is going to take him six months to learn any job that is not considered administrative. This inevitably confines such exchanges at present to some of the largest firms. But, none the less, it is so worth while that somehow arrangements must be made to develop it further.
This is one of the benefits that I hope will come from the setting up of a reserve which has been so strongly urged by the Committee. There is a good deal of argument among administrators whether it is desirable to have a reserve. There are those who will always argue that such a reserve can be automatically absorbed into general day-to-day work. This means that a very firm line will have to be taken to maintain the reserve at any cost. It is unfortunate that in order to achieve the reserve, to extend the service or to provide the reserve, at the moment it may be necessary to cut down on some established posts.
It is unfortunate, also, that the Government did not take advantage of the run-down of the Colonial Service and the existence of Colonial civil servants who were losing their jobs in former colonial territories to strengthen at least some of the middle and lower level jobs in the Foreign Service and in the Commonwealth Relations Service. This is what has been suggested by my noble friend Lord Walston—unfortuately not in his exceedingly interesting speech to-day. He has suggested that these men might well have helped to fill some of the consular posts. This might have enabled the build-up of the reserve to have gone on faster. We realise that it is difficult to increase the size too quickly if at a later stage you are not to create too big a promotion block.
There were other important points, which I will not deal with, but I would ask whether the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack would 110 feel inclined (though it may be that to-day the Government have not yet got their answers) to tell us, with regard to the administrative set-up, to what extent they propose to adopt the arrangements for accountancy, and the extent to which the two Departments will be separately accountable to Parliament. Although the Committee were rather against this, it seems to me to be unavoidable that both Ministries should be separately accountable.
That brings me to the one really hot question of the day, which is: should there be one Ministry, or two? It is not long since we had a general debate on the structure of Government and the Ministry of Defence, and here we have yet another variation. Instead of one Ministry, as for the Armed Services, and three Services, we are to have two Ministries and one Service. The fact that this is not a tidy pattern does not bother me, because I am quite sure—and this is where I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and, indeed, I would say, with the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, with his perhaps longer experience of political Ministries and, therefore, more awareness of what was possible—that we cannot follow logic there very clearly at this moment.
It is interesting, looking back on this debate, to see how your Lordships' House has been divided up. Instead of the divergence being between the Opposition and the Conservative Party, it has been a case of the politicians versus the officials on the Cross Benches. This is perfectly clear, because the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have taken identical views on this matter. It is, of course, arguable that this is the politician arguing against those with experience, but it is also arguable that on this question the politician must have regard to fields not only within this country but also abroad, and I think it was fair to criticise some of Lord Gladwyn's remarks.
The great march of British foreign policy cannot go on without regard to political feelings. Noble Lords who have been in the Foreign Office will perhaps regard this as an offensive remark: I have argued it privately with one or two of them. But it seemed to me that Lord Gladwyn's proposal, this sort of half-proposal for a Ministry within a 111 Ministry (though it may be that he did not do justice to himself, or that I am not doing justice to him) was, in effect, torpedoed by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and, indeed, by practically every other noble Lord who spoke on this. I confess that I still do not know what Lord Gladwyn's proposal was, though he said that he would tell us again in his winding-up speech. But I do not believe, for reasons which I shall not repeat, but which have been urged with the voice of great experience from a number of ex-Ministers, including ex-Foreign Secretaries, that the time is anything like right to achieve this. I would not say that it cannot be achieved in due course, but I do not see that the advantages of tidy administration in this matter are so very strong.
What I would urge, to those who are critical of the Plowden Committee's compromise proposal, is that a great deal of this is being granted. The critics have to some extent ignored the acceptance by the Government of the main recommendation of a unified Service, and although this brings disadvantages it overcomes a number of difficulties—indeed, most of the difficulties—in the present situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, argued, with great force (and, if I may say so, if he is still here, with courage, considering his laryngitis), that it was destructive to our foreign policy in certain areas—I think he mentioned Cyprus and the Yemen. I agree that great difficulty is raised; but, of course, the Commonwealth does not consist only of places like Cyprus and the Yemen. I should have thought our special relationship with, for instance, a country like Malaysia, one of the greatest importance to them, and indeed to us, was of a kind which it was highly desirable to emphasise. I do not want to press the arguments any further. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and my noble friend Lord Attlee (who, incidentally, asked me to express apologies as he had to go) have argued this case, and the happy thing is that, on this occasion at any rate, the politicians all seem to be in agreement with the Government, unless the noble and learned Lord has 112 some worrying piece of logic to throw at us on this occasion.
I would end by supporting the views of my noble friend Lord Walston in urging that, in regard to the Commonwealth—and this is not, I hope, just a piece of old-fashioned sentiment—it will be necessary for us to take a more positive view than just acceptance of its existence. I will not stress what I am sure all noble Lords—even those who would still like to see one Ministry of External Affairs—would agree with: the value of the Commonwealth connection. It will be particularly important as a channel for British ideas.
This brings me to the point that my noble friend Lord Attlee made rather movingly, when he said it will depend on the men and women who go abroad; on them will depend our success in getting across our views and an explanation of our way of life. I think, with many of your Lordships, that we still do not consciously and deliberately spend enough money on this. I would very strongly agree with noble Lords who say that we have been fortunate in the quality of the Foreign Service we have had, as with the Commonwealth Relations and the Colonial Service, and on the whole we are getting it pretty cheaply in comparison with the expense of even a single international incident of the kind we have been faced with in recent months. I think this Report and its acceptance by the Government will do something for the Foreign Service. I would again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, on his success in initiating such an interesting debate, and congratulate the members of the Committee for making what I believe to be a really important contribution.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, in commencing to wind up this debate I should like, first of all, to join in the expression of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating a debate which, although it has lasted a long time, has been extremely wide-ranging and also very interesting. I should also like to comment, if I might, on the maiden speech made by my noble friend Lord Inchyra. Many nice things have been said about his speech, and there is no doubt at all that he spoke with very great authority on 113 this particular subject. We have also had the unusual experience of having speeches on the Plowden Report from three out of the seven members of the Plowden Committee, and I am sure I will carry most of your Lordships with me when I say that, even if we had not read the very long Report before we came to listen to this debate, we are now pretty fully informed of all the recommendations that have been put forward by that Committee.
My task in winding up this debate is, I think, easier than I anticipated, for the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has been, in my opinion, completely destroyed by (as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said) all the politicians, who are unanimous in their attitude towards it. It is an interesting feature of this debate that the politicians, wherever they may sit, have all been opposed to this, what I would call, rather heretical proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. Apart from congratulating him on raising this subject for discussion. I am afraid there is very little more comfort I can give him. I am not going to rub salt into the wound by repeating the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, although I must say that, while I listened with the greatest care to what the noble Lord said, I was surprised to find on this occasion, listening as attentively as I could, that there was nothing on which I could part company with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth; and that in itself is an unusual feature of this debate.
Then there was the powerful speech of my noble friend Lord Salisbury, and not least the powerful speech of my noble friend Lord Alport, who spoke very straightly and, I think, dealt deservedly with some, of the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in relation to the Commonwealth. It is because all that ground has been covered in those speeches that it is not necessary for me—and I do not think your Lordships would desire me to do so—to repeat all the arguments again.
In the Unstarred Question which prefaced this debate and which put forward the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that we should think again about accepting the recommendation of the Plowden Committee not to merge the Commonwealth Relations Office with the 114 Foreign Office, the argument was advanced that if we did effect the merger it wouldavoid the obvious dangers inherent in a system embodying two Foreign Offices and two foreign policies".My Lords, I really cannot accept this as an accurate description of the present arrangements. It really is not the case that since the creation of the Commonwealth Relations Office in 1947 two separate and distinct foreign policies have been followed, a Foreign Office foreign policy and a Commonwealth foreign policy. The foreign policy that has been followed was the policy of Her Majesty's Government, not of any particular Department. And there have been many observations made in the course of the speeches to-day that really have surprised me about this.
Part of the argument seems to have been that the Foreign Secretary all on his own expounds foreign policy. Foreign policy is a matter for the Government's collective responsibility, and no doubt before being adumbrated or put forward in speeches in conferences is fully and carefully discussed by the Foreign Secretary with his Cabinet colleagues. Indeed, I think the thesis of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, as revealed in his Question, that there are as many foreign policies as there are Departments of State charged with responsibility for our dealings with other countries, is really subversive of the whole concept of Cabinet responsibility. However the Department in Whitehall may be organised, by this or any other Government, the British Government have one foreign policy which takes account of all departmental interests and which is, as I have said, the collective responsibility of all members of the Cabinet. But, despite the phraseology of the Question, I really cannot believe that the noble Lord sought seriously to suggest that when he was Ambassador in Paris he was telling the French that British policy was one thing, and at the same time my noble friend the Leader of the House, when High Commissioner in Canberra was telling the Australians that British policy was something quite different. I have dealt with this argument advanced in the noble Lord's Question at the outset of my speech in order to get it out of the way.
115 However, the real issue raised by the noble Lord is, I think, far more fundamental. There seemed to me to be hinted at in his letter to The Times of March 2 what was expressed in clear and unambiguous language in a recent article in The Times. In his letter the noble Lord expressed the view that the opposition to a complete merger of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office—and I quote the words from his letter—comes from those who continue to think of the Commonwealth as something which is not and never can be. To this school of thought there is a mystical element in our relations with, for example, Zanzibar that does not exist in our relationship with, for instance, France or Holland.That is the end of my quotation from his letter.
When I first read that passage in the letter I thought that the noble Lord was saying in more diplomatic language, as one would expect, precisely what was said by a gentleman who prefers to shield behind the cloak of anonymity in a recent article in The Times. Your Lordships will remember that he said that:the Commonwealth has really become a gigantic farce.But in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said to-day, I think, if I understood him correctly, that he is not really in agreement with the anonymous writer in The Times. He discussed at great length the position of the Commonwealth to-day. But I must tell him that, listening as carefully as I could—I may have missed some of his words, because he was not always particularly easy to hear—I am not left with any clear view as to his attitude towards the Commonwealth, as to whether or not he thinks it is an asset, or indeed a reality. Certainly, it is not my view, nor is it the view of Her Majesty's Government, that "the Commonwealth has really become a gigantic farce". I should find it difficult to accept that the gentleman who wrote this in The Times, whoever he may be, can really claim to be a Conservative. Indeed, if he were a Member of your Lordships' House (I do not know whether he is or not) I think he would find himself far happier sitting, not on these Benches but—I would not like to suggest next to Lord Gladwyn, but upon the Cross-Benches.
116 That the Commonwealth has changed in form and in its nature in the years that have passed, no one would seek to deny; but to describe it as a gigantic farce is to use language which is inaccurate, misleading, unjustified and also damaging. With the attainment of independence, with the need to have special regard to circumstances in their own localities, it is both natural and right that the growing Commonwealth countries should assume responsibility for the conduct of their own foreign affairs. But the fact that this has happened, and is happening, does not mean that the Commonwealth as such has ceased to exist, that it is of no real value in the world to-day and that it is just a façade. Britain is still the centre of the Commonwealth.
But the Commonwealth is not a Power bloc: it is rather a family in which, for historical reasons, Britain occupies a central position. The links between Britain and individual members of the Commonwealth may vary in strength, but with many they are extremely strong. They were tested in two world wars, and they are still strong. Where they are less strong, we hope that the years will strengthen them. Of course, members of a family do not always agree—indeed, disagreements may be the more vehement between members of a family, simply because of the family relationship. What is important is that problems are discussed in a family atmosphere, with a genuine effort towards understanding. It is also important that the family has a tradition of a constant informal exchange of views on all topics, and not just of meeting to negotiate a point of disagreement which arises between two members.
While this relationship exists—and it does exist—it would, in my view, be quite wrong to treat these countries as if they were not in a special position, to treat them in the same way as foreign countries; and that is really what the noble Lord is asking. I know he is suggesting that there should be a Commonwealth section of the Foreign Office, headed by a Cabinet Minister or a Minister of Cabinet rank. In his letter he said:Under such a system Commonwealth representatives would not only still have a special Minister to deal with but"—117 and I ask your Lordships to note his words—could if necessary see the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs himself.To-day, I think the noble Lord, in putting forward his proposal, rather departed from what he had said in his letter in that respect. But at first sight does his letter not mean that in fact Commonwealth countries would be put in an inferior position to that of foreign countries, who would have direct access to the Foreign Secretary?
If it were the case that there is no reality in the Commonwealth, then, indeed, the argument for merging, or perhaps I should say "submerging", the Commonwealth Relations Office in the Foreign Office would be formidable and difficult to answer. But that is not the case. The Commonwealth is a reality, changing in its nature, growing and developing; and while it continues to exist, as it does to-day, it would be wrong, in my view, to take the course proposed by the noble Lord. If I may, I should like to quote a passage from Mr. Vincent Massey's book What's Past is Prologue. He wrote thus:It is important to avoid the apparently innocent changes that serve to break down the distinction between a Commonwealth country and a foreign nation.What the noble Lord is suggesting is a change that may appear innocent, a change not recommended by the Plowden Committee, a change which would in substance and in reality break down the distinction between a Commonwealth country and a foreign nation.
Reliance has been placed on the fact that other Commonwealth countries have single Ministries of External Affairs. No other Commonwealth capital has anything like the turnover of Commonwealth business there is in London. Although the Foreign Office deals with about six times as many countries as the Commonwealth Relations Office it does not have six times as much work. A simple test is the number of telegrams despatched. Last year the Commonwealth Relations Office sent 48,730; the corresponding figure for the Foreign Office was 128,092.
The Government's view on this matter does not mean that there should not be the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Office. Of course there must be, 118 and the recommendations of the Plowden Committee will facilitate this. I am glad to note the approval on all sides that there should be one Diplomatic Service which will provide the staff for both the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Foreign Service. I have not sought to repeat the powerful speeches and points made by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with regard to the excessive burden which would be placed on the Foreign Secretary if he had to undertake all the work now done by a Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.
Nor do I propose to repeat, or indeed seek to amplify, their points, which were powerful points, relating to the relationship under the noble Lord's scheme between the Foreign Secretary and someone of Cabinet rank having the responsibility for a Commonwealth section. I do not think your Lordships will want me to say more about the main proposal of the noble Lord. He concluded his speech by asking that I should at least indicate that this merger should take place in, I think he said, six months, but at any rate in a specified time; or that the proposal that it should take place should be accepted within a specified time.
§ LORD GLADWYN
Yes, my Lords, that is what it was my intention to say: that within a period of six months from its coming into force the Government should announce the date on which, in their opinion, it should end.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think I have said enough already to make it quite clear that the Government are not prepared to make any announcement of that sort. While the Commonwealth exists in its present form and as a reality, I do not think it would be right to make the change which the noble Lord suggests.
I have been asked a number of questions to which I will seek to reply. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked me three questions, and I can assure him that when the time comes to select members of the unified Diplomatic Service for important Commonwealth posts it will be the aim to select the best man for the job, and experience of the Commonwealth will naturally be regarded as an important qualification. 119 He asked me about languages. I can tell your Lordships that in the Diplomatic Service it is hoped that increased effort may be directed to language training, and we are well aware of the importance to be attached to the hard languages of Asia and Africa. Likewise we intend that, wherever possible, use shall be made of the administrative expertise of members of the Colonial Service. No change is envisaged in the present position of the Department of Technical Co-operation after the merger of the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office next year.
The noble Lord, Lord Strang, put two questions to me, one with regard to the Colonial Office staff and the other with regard to the reserve of manpower. As to the first question, I may say that when the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office merge in 1965 the staff doing a particular job in the Colonial Office will naturally continue for a time to do the same job in the Commonwealth Relations Office. As to their career in the longer term, they will be able to apply either to join the Diplomatic Service or to be transferred, as opportunity offers, to the home Departments of the Civil Service. We hope that many will make a continuing career in the Diplomatic Service.
With regard to the second question, about the reserve of manpower, I can say that Her Majesty's Government have accepted that a margin is necessary, and have agreed that in the first instance we should aim at a margin of 7½ per cent. Once that margin has been reached, the question of increasing it to 10 per cent. will be decided in the light of experience at that time. I hope that the noble Lord will agree with me that that is a reasonable approach to that recommendation.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked me a question about financial accountability. There will, of course, be three Votes. There will be the Vote for the Commonwealth Relations Office operational expenditure, which will be accounted for by the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Vote for the Foreign Office operational expenditure, which will be accounted for by the Foreign Office, and the Vote for the administration of the Diplomatic Ser- 120 vice, which will be accounted for by the first head of the new Diplomatic Service, who will, in the first instance, be the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office.
My Lords this has been, as I have said, a very interesting debate. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will not take it amiss that I have spoken very frankly about his proposals, interesting as they have been. To sum up, for both historical and practical reasons the Government, like the Plowden Committee, do not think that it would be wise, in present circumstances, to follow the path of administrative logic to its ultimate conclusion. Our bilateral relations with Commonwealth countries and the part for us to play in developing the Commonwealth ideal itself are of a magnitude and an importance warranting the concentrated attention of a single senior Cabinet Minister responsible directly to the Prime Minister, to the Cabinet and to Parliament for his charge.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN said
My Lords, I certainly should not want at this late hour to separate noble Lords from their dinner for a moment longer than is necessary, but having been subjected to such a severe castigation, on purely political grounds of course, by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I really feel that I must try to defend myself. At moments I felt almost like Mr. Khrushchev might have felt on being reproached for undue revisionism by the chief dogmatist in Peking. I freely admit that on this matter I am guilty of revisionism. I think revisionism is necessary in thinking about the Commonwealth, and if we leave it purely to dogma, and to out-of-date dogma at that, we shall not come off very well in the long run. In any event, I believe that the dogma will shortly be changed.
I should have said at the outset of my remarks that I think the Report is an extremely good one, except on the one point on which I ventured to criticise it. All the rest is absolutely first-class, and I join whole-heartedly in all the praise noble Lords have bestowed upon it. It is a great work; it is evident that it is going to prepare an excellent Foreign Service. In practically every way it is something I would support.
121 In regard to the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that there might possibly be something here in the nature of an Ecole Nationale d' Administration, I personally am in favour of that in principle. There is something to be learned about the conduct of diplomacy or foreign service as a whole which might be acquired as a result of a course lasting about six months, perhaps after people had gone into the Service, or it might even be good for those in the Home Service to learn something about administration as such. That is a good idea, to which I subscribed in the debate in this House on the structure of Government, and I certainly subscribe to it now.
The only thing I really did ask the Government to do has, of course, not been agreed to. That was to approve sime kind of terminus ad quem—to regard it from the start as a provisional arrangement. They have not seen fit to accept that, but I was supported on that by at least two noble Lords and I continue to believe that that is the path of reason. That was something which I think the Plowden Report wanted to recommend but did not recommend. My major reproach, indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, is that he did not recommend what he, and I dare say most of his colleagues, evidently wanted to recommend. It is obvious they wanted to recommend the amalgamation of the two Ministries. That was their view for powerful reasons which they expressed with clarity and vigour. The reason they did not do so was that they did not think it would go down with certain elements in this country—possibly not even go down with the Government. Frankly, it was up to them to say what they thought and leave it to the Government to turn down if they wanted to. The Government, and no doubt the politicians, know much more about feeling in this country in regard to the Commonwealth, and so on, than the authors of this Report. Certainly they know mote than I do. Therefore, if they wanted to turn it down for good reasons connected with internal politics, or the Election, or anything else, well it was for them to do that.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think we ought to extend the word "politician" a little, because at least 122 two of the politicians who took part in this debate have in fact been High Commissioners. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, was one. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, really means in terms of the Election.
§ LORD GLADWYN
It was not I who introduced this distinction between the politicians and the civil servants, I may say; I am quite guiltless. It was some other noble Lord, but I cannot remember who it was. Perhaps it was the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. I rather think he did. However, I am not against it; I quite accept it. I think, broadly speaking, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, that it was a case of the politicians—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I did not introduce the distinction. It was introduced much earlier on in the debate, long before I spoke. I think it was repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
§ LORD GLADWYN
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon. My memory failed me and I apologise to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. My only reproach to the authors of the Report is that they did not have the courage of their convictions.
Now we get on to the criticism of the ideas which I ventured to develop as to what I thought the Commonwealth was, and I assure your Lordships, and I assure the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, that I do not share in general the views of the anonymous Conservative in his article in The Times. I tried to show, and I hope that any noble Lord in reading my speech to-morrow in Hansard will see, that I have very sincere views on what the Commonwealth could be and how it could now be developed, and I think that those ideas will gradually become more acceptable to noble Lords who now think in rather different terms. In any event, I beg your Lordships to believe that I am not either cynical or indulging in levity when I talk about the Commonwealth even if I employ terms or phrases with the declared idea of making people sit up and think, which is what I want people to do when I employ those phrases.
The noble Lord on the Woolsack quoted my Unstarred Question. Actually, 123 I did not ask that Question, but the phrase which he criticised was an effort to put in a dramatic form what, in fact, had been already represented by Lord Plowden—no more, no less. It may be that the phrase itself was not very happy, but still I do not think I ought to be condemned on a mere phrase like that, or even on a phrase in my letter to The Times. It is the basis of my ideas which should be considered, not their actual expression.
There were one or two major criticisms of what I said. One was on the overwork issue. I do not really believe that that will hold water. As I tried to say in my speech, if you could eliminate all the preliminary work and side arguments, and so on, involved in trying to convince a senior Cabinet colleague about a major issue of foreign policy—because that is what it comes down to now—of course you would not have any more work. You would save the time of the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, you would lengthen and not shorten his life. I gather that the noble Lord does not agree?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I just did not understand what the noble Lord was saying. Is he suggesting that the Foreign Secretary sends troops into Cyprus?
§ LORD GLADWYN
No, I was saying that this is a major matter affecting foreign policy, which has to be discussed as things are with the Commonwealth Relations Secretary, and therefore you would not increase the Foreign Secretary's work if he had responsibility from the start for dealing with this particular question. That is the point I am trying to make. I made it in my original speech, and perhaps it was better expressed there.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am sorry. This is really what bothered me. The noble Lord has completely ignored in all his arguments the existence both of the Cabinet and of the Cabinet Committee, and also, particularly—a matter to which several noble Lords have referred—the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee where these matters are threshed out. I do not see that whether he has five colleagues or six colleagues it is going to make all that difference.
§ LORD GLADWYN
I beg leave to differ; I think it would. You must have Cabinet Committees, of course, but you would not have the possibility of two powerful personalities feuding with each other when a situation such as that in Cyprus arose. That is my view. Even the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said that if he had gone on in the Foreign Office he would have arrived at such a state of devolution that the Foreign Secretary would not have had anything like so much to do as he has now.
The next matter which I should like to talk about for a moment is my conception of how things would work if we did as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, evidently wanted, to amalgamate the two Ministries. There must be some idea about this.
§ LORD GLADWYN
The noble Lord says that it would not work. My contention is that it will work. The noble Lord is offside! But, in my view, you have to think it out. I agree that it would be a difficult problem. It ought to be thought out now. If you should eliminate the two Ministries, which the Plowden Committee virtually recommends, then you would have to think: How could this amalgamation best be effected? You could well conclude that there should be one Ministry of External Affairs and one Minister of External Affairs who would deal with all questions of external relations; that is to say, the external relations of this country, the external relations of Commonwealth countries and external relations generally.
There is no reason why you should not get a distinction made between what the Ministry of External Affairs does, and what is done by the Cabinet Minister who, I suggest, should be in charge of all other Commonwealth matters, which would be a very important job. Whether he should be actually analogous to Sir Anthony Eden when he was Number Two to Lord Simon—an arrangement which I think was criticised by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—I do not know. You might think out some other plan. But I think he could be a Cabinet Minister, and he should have a large office building, contiguous to the Ministry of External 125 Affairs, which, in my view, should house all the services relating to the Commonwealth, and probably also the Technical Aid Department as well. They would therefore deal with everything which I think the Commonwealth is going to be in the future—namely, something which depends largely on aid, on encouragement to students, on teaching the English language and on technical specialists generally.
I cannot see why this man should not have authority in that particular sphere. But anything relating to peace or war should clearly come within the scope of the Minister of External Affairs. How exactly that will be put into practice, I do not know. But I do not see why it could not he put into practice or why people should assume that it is impossible. All that is arguable. But if you accept the principle that there is going to be one Ministry, then you must think out something more or less on these lines.
However, as I understand it, my Lords, the great division in this debate has not really been between the politicians and the civil servants. I think it has been between those who think that the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, is right in wanting to have one Ministry, even though he suggests it should not come about now—in other words, between those who think that he is right in thinking that it is bound to come—and those who think that it is really a bad thing in itself.
I was very glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Alport, because he really spoke his mind and said that this proposal was a bad thing as such. That is what he definitely and sincerely believes. That is where the crux comes. I think it was a distinction between what I would call—I must not, I suppose—a kind of front between the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lord, Lord Alport. They both thought in the same way. They have the same philosophy. They think that the Commonwealth Relations Office ought to go on for ever. But all the rest either think that it should be abolished and amalgamated with the Department of External Affairs on the lines I have been suggesting now, or say, rather cowardly, I feel, "Of course, that is the right thing to do, but we cannot do it now because somebody 126 would not like it". It is the distinction between the people who really know that it is coming and those who do not. I am sure that the more alert of the politicians here and elsewhere know that this is going to come in due course. They must know. I am not sure incidentally whether the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is not in the Attlee-Alport Group. I observe that the noble Lord thinks he is.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but his thesis is that it should come in six months' time.
§ LORD ALPORT
May I just finish? The point I was making was that it should come in six months' time, because an announcement will be made to the effect that the Ministries will be amalgamated. That announcement will be made in six months' time. I have not said in my speech, if the noble Lord will forgive me, that it will never happen or that it is entirely wrong. All I would say is that it is something which one could not envisage in the terms which the noble Lord suggested, and I personally hope the Commonwealth will not end in six months' time.
§ LORD GLADWYN
That really is not fair. I did not say that I wanted it to come to an end in six months' time. All I suggested—and this interpretation has been accepted—was that within a period of about a year and a half from now—that is to say, after six months' experience of the new régime—the Government should say that in their opinion this arrangement should end. It might be two years, three years or five years. I do not mind how many years it is, so long as they say that at a certain time it should end; because if they do not say that (and this is my view) then it may go on for ever, for the reasons I have endeavoured to suggest.
Finally, my Lords—and this really finishes what I have to say—I think that that is the distinction which divides noble Lords in this House: how they really envisage the Commonwealth, what they think of its future; whether they think it will continue on as something political, economic, run essentially from London, or whether they regard it as something quite different, something that 127 is going to depend largely on aid, cultural relations and so on, in the long run. I do not think the Commonwealth can go on being run from London as a political and military entity. I do not think that has any future at all; and I refuse to believe I am either being cynical or indulging in levity when I express these views. I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Alport, reads my speech to-morrow, he will see that I sincerely believe that there is a future for the Commonwealth, but on new lines. I am quite certain that that is what is going to happen.
My Lords, I think that is all I have to say. I continue to believe that, as 128 time goes on, the need for having one Ministry of External Relations will become increasingly apparent, and I give notice to noble Lords that at yearly intervals, perhaps, from now I will do my best to put down either a Motion or an Unstarred Question so as to draw your Lordships' attention to what, in my view, will become more and more a burning necessity. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at eighteen minutes before nine o'clock.