§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, this is an immense subject, and one can deal with only a part of it. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, along all the paths he covered in his speech. Nor do I propose, in particular, to discuss the special problems created for government by the new scientific and technological breakthrough. I do not feel competent to do this, and certainly there will be speakers later on who will be competent to speak about that subject. But there is an essential background to these problems to which I think it is worth drawing attention, and that background derives from our present system of government—a system which may be roughly described as Parliamentary democracy, or government by discussion. It is from this foundation that any reforms which we may contemplate—and I think we have some—will have to start.
Let us take, first of all, the question of legislation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has drawn attention. Nowadays, Governments are expected to undertake more and more economic and social responsibilities. They are called upon to introduce more and more legislation of increasing complexity, either for the management of public affairs or in order to regulate the social conduct of the citizen, to save him from some of the consequences of his own follies and to protect him from being cheated or exploited by his fellows. That all means careful consultation with the interests concerned during the drafting stage of legislation. After that, there is the passage of the Bill through all stages in two Houses of Parliament by a tediously repetitive process of debate. That process, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said, is time-consuming; 604 the result being that there is no Parliamentary time for other, much-needed measures, and a large legislative programme remains unfulfilled, sometimes for years. In defence of this elaborate legislative process it may be said that it is important to have general public assent for laws and to make sure that, as far as possible, they are accurately expressed, practicable; and enforceable. Parliament is not omnipotent: it has to carry the public with it.
How is this choking of the legislative channels to be remedied? The reform of the practices and procedures of another place was debated last Session, but without much promise of change. Nor can it be said that any of the more drastic remedies which have been put forward from time to time look very promising. One of these—I do not think it is a very good one—is that Second Reading debates should be decisive on principle and that Committee work should be non-partisan. But if this were to be made to work, Members of Parliament would have to reform their whole outlook; and this change of heart is not very likely to occur. Another suggestion is that there should be wide recourse to general enabling legislation, with liberty for the Executive to act or, if need be, to fill in any necessary legislative detail by decree or regulation without further reference to Parliament. That, my Lords, would be anathema to most of us. But there are some who think that we might well be forced sooner or later to some such course as this.
Secondly, after legislation, there is the problem of policy and administration, and the question of the relationship of Ministers to Parliament. It is said nowadays that, owing to the operation of the Party mechanism, Ministers are no longer in any real sense responsible to Parliament; and it is true that Parliament seldom, if ever, now destroys a Government, or hardly ever drives a Minister from office. Nevertheless, I think the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament is far from being the myth it is so often said to be. Those critics who hold this view would, I think, do well to ponder carefully the insight into the subtle inner workings and prevailing spirit of that unique and very human fraternity, the House of 605 Commons, which was revealed in the recent discussions on the B.B.C.'s Third Programme with two members of another place, the Government Chief Whip and the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Redmayne are people who know very well what they are talking about in this regard.
The Parliamentary Question certainly keeps the Executive on its toes; but one could wish that in place of the too often trivial Parliamentary Question, and the too often inflated supplementary, there could be a deeper probing and a better-informed testing of larger policies, a positive attempt to sustain, guide and stimulate the Executive rather than to oppose for opposition's sake.
Certainly, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, Ministers should have better material facilities than they at present possess for equipping themselves for their work; and they would probably do their work much better if they were better furnished. But some of the remedies proposed go further than this. As has been mentioned, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, one of the remedies would be a complex of specialised Parliamentary Committees—with oversight over the various Departments of the Government and with power to call for papers and examine Ministers and civil servants. In addition to preparing for debates and preparing Answers to Parliamentary Questions, Ministers and their civil servants would have this further heavy and continuous call upon their time and energy. I think that such Committees, if used within the present system—and I repeat "within the present system"—would still further clog the conduct of public business. But that is not the only or even, perhaps, the chief objection. Other objections were put by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in his book Government and Parliament; and the Leader of the Opposition, in a recent broadcast, was also rather cool about such Committees. Indeed, Mr. Wilson said that he did not at the moment see any major change that he would like to introduce in the procedure of Parliament. The views of such experienced Parliamentarians as these must, I think, carry great weight.
My Lords, side by side with the question of reform of Parliament there is 606 the argument for the reform of the Civil Service; and on that subject the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, had some valuable things to say. It is said by all sorts of people that civil servants are too hidebound and unimaginative; that they are too remote from the modern world, and are too powerful. As one Member of Parliament put it they should be "on tap and not on top". Here, again, I think it is fair to say that the background which I take as the basis of my remarks comes into play; and, more especially, the answerability of the Executive to Parliament. We have, in fact, the kind of Civil Service that is required by our present system of Government.
The burden which Ministers and their civil servants together bear is more easily bearable because civil servants are the kind of people that they are. Civil servants have the right and duty to express their views to their Minister; but, in the end, they will conform to the Minister's decision and will wholeheartedly carry it out. Speaking from my own experience, I may say that this imposes less strain on the conscience than outsiders appear to think. There is much common ground between the kinds of Government we are likely to get; there are more solutions than one to our major problems. It would be arrogant for a professional, except in the gravest case, to ask to be relieved of some particular duty. There is no need to attribute to the conforming civil servant, as some have done, either cowardice or sycophancy.
My Lords, the advice of civil servants can indeed be powerful, but competent Ministers who have graduated in the hard school of the House of Commons know very well how to test the advice they give. The myth of senior civil servants spending their time pulling the wool over the eyes of innocent Ministers hardly needs exploding. If civil servants were not of this ultimately conformist type, public business would not be smoothly done. The Civil Service certainly needs original and dynamic minds; and it needs, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, suggested, many more of them. They should, as he also said, be provided with greater facilities than they at present possess.
607 As to the charge that civil servants are hidebound, there is this to be said: in their day-to-day work civil servants must operate strictly within the limits of legislation or within the limits of policy laid down by their Minister. There is no getting away from that. If civil servants started to interpret the law or to apply ministerial policy according to their personal whim, the public and Parliament would be the first to complain and the Minister would have to answer for it. How often have we seen a minor error blown up into a Parliamentary storm? People who advocate drastic reform of the Civil Service tend, I think, to underestimate the value to the community of the relations of confidence between the Minister and his professional staff and fail to recognise what a work of art their joint conduct of our multifarious public business is. Government administration is an art in its own right. In the last resort it means dealing with human beings rather than feeding data into a computer, however necessary that may be.
It is in the higher ranks of the Service, in the sphere of policy-making and policy execution, that the case for the wind of change in the Civil Service may be stronger. The job of the civil servant is not only to assist in the formulation of policy: it is also to devise the best methods whereby policy may be effectively carried out. In any good system of Government policy and administration, planning and execution, are not distinct but inseparable. That is the main objection to the device, so beloved of reformers, of a separate planning group entirely divorced from executive responsibility. Professional civil servants are, on the whole, likely to be better at this double task than the dons or business men, trade unionists or newspapermen, who, in the eyes of some, are strong candidates for their jobs.
Certainly, it would be better if more established civil servants had an economic or scientific or technological background. I do not myself share the view that an arts degree is, in itself, a better qualification for a civil servant than any other kind of degree. There has been much too much talk about the two cultures. Any well-educated man, with the requisite disposition, whatever academic discipline he may have followed, can 608 be made into a skilled professional administrator. It is his education, not his speciality, that matters most. And there are more people, I think, with these varied attainments in the Civil Service than is generally supposed. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I think I am right in saying, recently observed that some critics are so ill-informed as to overlook the fact, for example, that more than half of the administrators in the Treasury have professional qualifications as economists.
Nevertheless, I think that the injection of non-professionals from outside, with specialised knowledge or wide experience, can be refreshing and fruitful. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has made a great point of this—and such cross-fertilisation already plays a notable part in Whitehall. Like the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, I think that there might well be more of it; but unlike him I think that this outside assistance is probably better supplied on a temporary and advisory basis than on a short-term established basis, since I think that non-professionals do not generally take kindly to the rigours of regular Civil Service routine. There is more to Civil Service life than just being in on great decisions. And if senior British civil servants were as remote from the modern world as some people say, it is surprising that they are in such heavy demand, in their later years or after retirement, for higher posts in industry or in university administration. By and large, the real but limited scope for useful reform of the Civil Service is well indicated in what I think is a very sensible article in the Economist this week.
There are, however, some spheres of British policy, and particularly in the sphere of defence in its relation to economics and foreign affairs, where a deliberate and comprehensive review upon a wide basis of experience, both official and unofficial, would, I think, be salutary. Something more might be done also to integrate the work of the Ministries of Housing and Local Government, of Public Building and Works, of Transport and of the Board of Trade, especially in the sphere of positive planning, where I think our planning system is weakest. Town and country planning could be made the joint concern of people with a variety of skills in land use. To use the current jargon, 609 what is required is the environmental approach. From this point of view, it seems to me that there is much to be said for the proposal, made in a recent article in The Times, for a separate Ministry of Regional Development.
My Lords, I would close with a few short footnotes. To-day, the most important positive objective of Government action is economic expansion, on the basis of the new scientific and technological break-through. All Parties are agreed on this. As one Member of Parliament recently said.Economic growth is the essential basis for a liberal and humane society".And yet, in practice, expansion is not by any means the overriding aim; most of us, at some time or other, value something else more highly. This may be some private interest, or it may be some other public interest. It was, for example, concern for some other public interest that dictated the insertion by your Lordships of the "amenity clause" in the Electricity Act and in other Acts of Parliament, or the rejection by your Lordships of the water clauses of the Manchester Corporation Bill.
It is, for example, in the main, concern for private interests that obliges the Minister of Transport, as he plaintively said, to go through 31 steps before he can build a motorway. We have to consult everybody before we can do anything. The Times was not far wrong when it suggested, some while ago (I quote from memory) that it was often an attitude of kindness to individual interests that stood in the way of national advance. I do not think that in this we go astray: on the contrary, this way sanity lies. I do not believe that expansion, as such, is the be-all and end-all. But it is the frustration resulting from this concern for other objectives than expansion that causes some people to hanker after what they call "positive government" or for the inculcation of "a national purpose". But positive government, if carried far enough, would in the end mean decisive priority for the public as against the private interest, and the negation of government by discussion. And the deliberate fostering of a national purpose, if it could not be self-induced by the various elements of our pluralistic society, could mean the moulding of 610 opinion by Government agency, through such media as the schools, the universities and broadcasting, as is widely done in the world to-day.
It would take the gravest national emergency, I think, to make either of these things tolerable, and I do not believe that the mere objective of economic expansion would be a sufficient justification for that. Yet, short of this, it could be argued that if massive economic expansion is to be planned as an outstanding objective—I do not say an absolutely decisive objective—then it may well be that some sacrifice might have to be accepted. This might mean, at least, some streamlining of the legislative process, some strengthening of the Executive, some extension of the public as against the private interest. Yet even to this more modest extent, such a price would not be easily paid: first, because the strong trend of public opinion is against it—one has only to think of the Franks Committee's Report; secondly, because there is an obstinate resistance to change in established institutions; and, thirdly, because the nature and extent of the problem are not fully recognised. But the dilemma is there. If economic expansion is all that important, if these great tasks await us, ought we not to confront the coming years as we should confront a wartime emergency?
Professor Buchanan and Lord Robbins, and others, have faced us with mighty challenges. We know that our cities need reshaping; our stagnant industrial areas need re-vitalising; our roads, railways and ports need modernising. We know that our taxation system needs reconstruction. We know that our criminal law requires radical reform. We know that our trade unions belong to a bygone age. There is much else that cries out for overhaul. What we require, do we not, is another Buchanan, or another Robbins, to make a comprehensive study of the structure of our Government and of the strains that are bearing upon it in order to see what change, if any, may be required to fit it for the tasks of the coming decades. We need, do we not, something like a new but more comprehensive Haldane Committee on the machinery of Government. It is pretty clear that some reform will be needed. But no reform is likely to be feasible unless it grows naturally 611 out of our present system of government. That, my Lords, is the main thing I am trying to say to your Lordships to-day. Let us hope that this debate will draw attention to this need, and that we shall once again find a means to reconcile public action with private liberty.
§ 4.20 p.m.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords in common with others who have spoken this afternoon, I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Shackleton for the opportunity to discuss this fascinating subject. It is, of course, of interest to us all, as Members of this Chamber, and some of your Lordships have a double, treble or quadruple interest in it, having been members of a Government, civil servants, public servants or members of Government advisory bodies, and so on. I think all of us who have tried to work within the machine have at some time or another suffered the same sort of frustration when trying to activate a machine whose purposes appear to be quite extraneous to our own and which is apparently bent on inactivity. Why cannot we get the sort of decisions taken that we want taken? This is the question I ask myself over and over again. It is not the decision-briefing machine that gets stuck, but the decision-taking machine. Yards and yards of brief are churned out by the system, but still no decision emerges.
When I started to think about these matters I found myself in the same position as my noble friend Lord Shackleton: that I had to write an essay to find out what it was I really believed myself, and in due course I reduced this to a rather intimidating mass of notes, which, like his, I hope will not alarm your Lordships by their bulk. I feel that one of the reasons why we find decision-taking so difficult is that we are trying to apply to positive purposes machinery that was so often conceived in purely negative terms. There does not seem to be much difficulty in running Ministries which have positive terms of reference and simple jobs to do, like the Ministry of Pensions, the Post Office and so on. But the first kind of negativity emerges with the kind of work that the Foreign Offices does. The first thing it has to do is to take 612 the rest of the world for granted, acknowledging that we are a fairly small unit in a fairly large world and cope with situations as they arise. Only too often its wisdom is the wisdom of inactivity; that if a decision gets put off long enough, it may not need taking. It is like answering a letter: if you do not answer it for long enough, no answer may be necessary, circumstances having changed in the meantime. This policy of masterly inactivity, which is such a good excuse for inaction, and may in some cases be the right thing to do, is in other cases the wrong thing to do. You will never keep death off the roads by a policy of masterly inactivity: something positive has to be done about it.
The second type of negativity in our system arises from the origin of our supply concept. This was originally a discovery by Parliament that it could control the Government by withholding the sources of revenue. But the purposes to which this system was dedicated were, in their origin, often negative purposes: the prevention of absolute government; the eviction of unpopular Ministers and so on. They were never conceived in positive terms. At the time of the Civil War and the Revolution of 1668 it was never contemplated that a Government would have to build thousands of miles of roadway network or would have to reconstruct the entire educational system right through from the schools to the universities. Serious social purposes of this kind were not appropriate to that day and age. The nearest our forefathers appear to have come to serious social purposes was the Poor Law, and their views on this were fairly simple; that is to say, it was regarded as a Christian duty to succour the deserving poor. Since this was a personal duty, it was handed over for action to the local parish. And, most important, succour should not be overdone or the poor would be demoralised and would cease to be deserving.
Government attitude toward public expenditure seems never to have evolved beyond the point at which the target of policy is regarded as, in a symbolic sense, one of the "deserving poor". Too much must not be spent on it or everyone concerned will be corrupted and cease to be deserving. That is why when reconstructing things like universities we seem to have an in-built prejudice in favour of 613 doing it by halves, or so it seems to me. These, my Lords, are the reasons why I have come to my first conclusion: that we find positive action so difficult because most of our machinery was conceived in terms of negative purposes.
The other conclusion I have come to is that a training in expenditure control is not necessarily the right training for the policy-making civil servants of the future, who will be concerned not so much with revenue expenditure as with investment. One cannot run a business, whether it is a commercial or a governmental business, without accurate information as to what is going on. In commerce, this is the province of the accountant; in Government, it is the province of the Treasury and the Auditor-General. The Treasury share of the division of labour is to see that the money is properly authorised, and the Auditor-General's to ensure that it is properly expended. That is as I have always understood it. Each acts as a recorder. Neither functions as a creative critic, bringing out the character of what is going on. No-one seems to be concerned with projects and whether they are wisely conceived as opposed to properly authorised. This is left to the post-mortem procedure of the Committee on Public Accounts.
I yield to no-one in my admiration of the Treasury at. the nation's financial watchdog. It will be an ill day for the British people when the Treasury is popular with spending Departments. It contains the only body of men in this country dedicated to the proposition that the Government should spend less, not more. Everybody else can give good reasons why the Government should spend more rather than less, particularly if it is more of someone else's money and less of his own. But the function of the Treasury from this point of view is still that of a recorder. Nothing in the training of a man dedicated to this sort of work teaches him anything about creating the future, save on the supposition that it will resemble the past. It needs a more creative mind to tell us that the future will not resemble the past: that to-morrow's expenditure should not resemble to-day's, but should be conceived otherwise and dedicated to different purposes.
614 My Lords, I do not believe that you can train a man in creativeness by employing him for years on expenditure control. He will not grow into the type of policy-maker who will procure a total arrest of expenditure in one direction, and its increase by an order of magnitude in another. This is why I am driven to my second conclusion: that we need to re-formulate the training of those who will be responsible for policy-making in relation to the investment required to endow our nation with modern facilities. Then we may get our new universities and roads built and conceived as if they were enterprises receiving the full support of a resolute nation.
If that were all that were wrong with our system, I do not think there would be any great difficulty in correcting it. One can readily postulate an administrative machine adapted to the fulfilment of creative purposes and the rebuilding of the nation's facilities of one kind or another. With regard to roads, for instance, and traffic control, we have a multiplicity of traffic authorities in London but only one traffic authority in New York. If that were the reason why New York's traffic at its present volume keeps on the move at least as well as London's, there would be no difficulty in principle in substituting one authority for many. The machine, however, whatever modifications one introduced into it, would still have to be used. It could prepare the brief necessary for the taking of decisions, and it could administer the decisions when taken. But someone would still have to decide, and what the Government seem to me to have needed all my lifetime is the resolution and sense of urgency to embark with despatch on the decisions and the action that are called for. But resolution and sense of urgency are just what we never seem to have had, except briefly in two world wars, and once out of active danger in each case we all fell to squabbling over the reasons why nothing could be decided. Seen in retrospect, it all seems to me to have been shadow boxing.
My third conclusion is a rather pessimistic one, based on the familiar principle that a nation gets the Government it deserves. I am not concerned with a Government of any particular complexion in this instance. I do not see how you can suppose the governing 615 body to possess qualities that the nation from which it is recruited does not itself possess. A nation that does not itself want to grasp nettles will not have a Government that is good at grasping them. That is fundamentally why no Government or electorate of any complexion in my lifetime have ever been really honest with one another. They have never faced up to the decisions that need taking because they really do not want to incur the cost of taking them. Who has ever told us the whole truth, for instance, about the repairs and dilapidations overdue in a pioneer economy now obsolescent? Take the whole lot and add them together; work it out as an annual rate of reinvestment in the nation's capital facilities—the economic infrastructure, as it is sometimes called. The result would be [...]rightening.
Take what is necessary to modernise the railways and docks over, say, fifteen years. Take what would be necessary to give us a proper road system over, say, twenty years—not the sort of road system we ought to have to-day, twenty years too late, but the road system that posterity will require in twenty years' time. Add the cost of modernising our cities on the lines of the Buchanan Report, say, over fifty years. Then consider the transfer of personnel to staff our new universities, and if all that immense sum were added up and presented as a bill to the nation, it would have to face a very unpleasant conclusion, that none of the 4 per cent. annual increment contemplated by N.E.D.C. could be handed out either as wages or as increased dividends. It all ought to be ploughed back into the economy. That is a decision I believe we do not want to take, or to face its concomitants. I do not blame any Government for this, whatever its complexion may be, past, present or future. I think it is the nation itself which does not want to face up to these things.
From this rather pessimistic conclusion I try to extract a note of optimism based upon one little acorn I can see, from which I hope one day a great oak will grow. We seem to me to need a deeper understanding of ourselves so as to take a more objective view of our troubles. For this the remedy seems to me to lie in the hands of sciences such 616 as sociology which really do study the pattern of human inter-actions, and the way that societies tend to form a culture-pattern, some of them more and some of them less neurotic than others. In speaking of politics and the inter-action between the Legislature and the Electorate, I am not concerned to join issue with one Party or another. I am not myself a professional sociologist, but it has been my hobby for many years to study what sociologists have found out about human societies.
I would ask your Lordships' indulgence if I deal rather theoretically with these matters, because they cannot be dealt with in the present stage of our knowledge in any other way. There are three matters which constantly recur in public life, and which constantly recur in debates in this House. There is mutual suspicion, which is a phenomenon like any other social phenomenon, and there is preoccupation with status. Over and over again in debates in this House we have complained that the engineer does not have the same status as, for instance, the arts graduate. To say that he ought to have the same status as the arts graduate is rather like saying that somebody ought to bell the cat. How do we set about giving him that status? The other thing about which we frequently complain is complacency and conservatism, not in the political sense, but the psychological one—a sense of self-contentment, mutual admiration and so on.
All these very much interact, and I think they bear on what my noble friend Lord Shackleton was saying about secretiveness, because the man who has a secret feels that he has been upgraded in status, and he does not want his secret taken away from him because it means down-grading. The moment he starts being secretive the natural tendency for mutual suspicion to which all human beings are prone is again aroused. So I do not believe that attempts to cure this secretiveness will ever be successful unless we go to the roots of them. We all tend to think that our own reaction to the circumstances in which we find ourselves is a sort of norm, and any reaction which differs from ours is regarded as some form of aberrant behaviour generally to the disadvantage of the community. But in fact our own reactions on all these 617 matters are merely points on a very wide range.
We have a certain level of mutual suspiciousness in this country. If one went to the Pueblo Indians in Arizona one would find a much lower level. They are an eminently reasonable people. If you went to a little group of islands near New Guinea you would find one called Dobu where the whole island is in a state of neurotic tension because everybody believes that his neighbour is trying to destroy him with black magic. This mutual suspiciousness is something which can occupy a wide ranging spectrum, and we are just one point on that range. if only we could learn how to control these factors we should be learning how to deal with the roots of the troubles from which we suffer.
As to complacency, it is in one sense a good thing. It has a stabilising effect on society that people should like the society in which they live and feel proud of belonging to it. If custom appears to have some sort of ancestral approval so that to conform to it unifies the present with the past, and the future, it stabilises society. But we have to be very careful where we apply this stabilising influence. We do not want to preserve British Railways in such a form that it would have ancestral approval. We should be introducing stability into our society at the wrong point.
The question of status we have been into many times. I am not suggesting that this whole nation is in some way at fault because our particular levels of obsession with status, complacency and mutual suspicion are very much worse than everybody else's. But I am sure in my own mind that our overall culture pattern is sub-optimal from the standpoint of the problems we have to solve, and if we only understood ourselves a little better we should know the various different ways in which we might be able to improve the society in which we live.
The official account of our constitutional democracy with its reference to the people's mandate relates to what I might call the front of our political life. Nearly all cultures have a front and a back. The front is the way things are supposed to work, which roughly correlates with how they did work a sufficiently long time ago to receive the 618 benediction of ancestral approval. The back is the way they really do work, which represents the growing point. Our traditional picture of our Parliamentary democracy seems to me the front of our politics. A sociologist studying the techniques of market research and public opinion polls would note that there is generally a low level of correlation between what people think they would like before they have had it and what they report that they did like after they have been given it. People, in fact, are unreliable judges of what they have not actually experienced themselves, so that the results of an election, as regarded by sociologists, would more probably be felt to be a verdict on the past than a mandate for the future.
From this point of view we might perhaps regard our Parliamentary democracy as a sort of symbiosis between a decision-making machine and a means for ensuring a succession between Governments, so that unpopular Governments can be dismissed at intervals sufficiently regular to avoid the build-up of undue social tension. That, I think, is the chief way in which a sociologist would approach our problems. If this is so, then one of our tasks is to become aware of it and introduce the front of our society to its back, so that the decision-making machine can do what it is for, namely, take decisions. I suspect that the alternative is an unhealthy one, namely, to allow the back to become progressively more deeply buried, and the front to become decreasingly relevant to the realities of decision-making. I think that would end with a type of politics characteristic of Byzantium, France or America, where the front end of politics had or has no discoverable content and the back end of politics is an unacknowledged power struggle: the front end frivolous and the back end sinister.
These considerations may strike your Lordships as somewhat abstract and far from any sphere of practical application but I would claim a high precedent for them. On the navel stone at Delphi the God Apollo is said to have written the phrase, "Know thyself" for the edification of mankind. In the modern world it is the sociologists and psychologists who are his acolytes and who are attempting to help us know ourselves. At present the social sciences are com- 619 pletely under-endowed compared with all the other sciences. If we get all our decisions wrong, if we fail to do what we should and blow the world to pieces, it will not be through a failure to control nuclear forces; it will be through a failure to control human forces. Therefore I believe, although it is only a small acorn from which a big oak may grow later, we ought to have a Social Sciences Research Council to sit beside the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This has been mooted many times; there have been many briefs on it. Once more, what we lack, as always, is a decision.
My Lords, we have many problems to solve and many decisions to take if we are to solve them; but one of them is critical and overriding and must be taken as a prerequisite to deciding all the others. Do we really, actually, honestly want our problems solved at the cost of solving them which solving them will entail? Will the social equivalent of a neurotic recognise that a neurosis is what he has got? That, for me, is the kernel of the problem at the heart of this debate.
§ 4.46 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, we have listened to a very interesting speech from the noble Earl and he has raised some deeper problems which go a little beyond my interpretation of the debate as it is to-day. We are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for raising this Motion. My only comment is that he cast his net very wide and it would be possible to follow him in only some of the points he mentioned.
I am sure it is right that we should so completely discard what I believe perhaps in the 18th century would have been described as the perfect Constitution of this country, though I am bound to say, perhaps from being away for four years, that I am not quite as despondent in regard to what is happening here as some noble Lords seem to be. Let us, in a very simple way, not forget that we have been through two world wars in this century without having to make any major constitutional changes. In this I think we are alone of the coun- 620 tries of the world who took part for as long as we did. I remember just after the First World War hearing a speaker talk about the Weimar Constitution in Germany which had just been drawn up. He "sold" it to me rather like a salesman selling a new car. It was full of gadgets; it had proportional representation initiative, the referendum; wonderful instruments which we ought to incorporate in our own old-fashioned Constitution. None the less, when the wind blew it was ours that stood the strain and not this brand-new model with all its wonderful institutions.
If I may, for a moment, look at this country from the outside, I think it is quite wrong to contend that our international prestige stands lower than it has done for a large number of years. I should like to take a simple example of those countries which are just setting out on the difficult track of national indepedence. To them we represent a fine and advanced example of social democracy, a word we do not use a good deal in this country. This is a country, to them, which has well-established social institutions but still retains its fundamental independence. I think we can be proud that that has been the case, and to say that our Parliament is in flagrant decay, as I read in a recent Fabian document, is, I believe, not only untrue but a disservice to this country, when probably in the long term the biggest problem facing the world is whether or not democracy will survive. I do not think it does the country much good to try to pretend that our attempt to solve these problems has been wholly and completely unsuccessful. The Westminster model has been copied in many countries. It is true that in some it has failed, but I think it is equally true that in very few has it ceased to be admired.
Of course, there are those who say—and noble Lords have probably heard this expressed, though I think it is a doctrine of despair—that democracy is an admirable instrument for getting rid of the British but is no possible use thereafter. There are many things that they admire in this country, and I think one of them we must recognise is the two-Party system. In many countries it is almost inconceivable how we could have an Opposition which is loyal: how, in 621 fact, we could pay one man to be Prime Minister and pay another to say that he is a bad Prime Minister. This is a concept which is quite alien and impossible to retain in a large number of countries; none the less, we should recognise how much this is admired.
I go on to another thing which is admired and quite rightly so: our Civil Service; the concept of a service which has at once to serve any form of master and to keep its mouth shut. I believe it is right, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said, that there is an enormous increase in the size, the power and the complexity of the work which it has to do, and it is difficult to see how we are going to reorganise this and how we are going to face the new development which is taking place. It seems to me that there are three major points at which difficulties arise. The first is the nature of departmental overlapping. Here I would say at once that it is not overcome by the proliferation of new Ministries, particularly those which are suggested for purely political reasons. I hope very much that that course will not be taken. I believe it is desirable that the parties' responsibilities should be defined as closely as possible. But this is a matter which can be resolved only within Governments, and I do not believe it can be defended entirely by institutional changes.
The second point is one which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and which I would call the isolation of the Civil Service. They are, in a way, men apart; and the noble Lord referred to their remoteness. They occupy this curious position of having to develop any policy but, at the same time, not to express their own views. I think it is true that they have to become too isolated. I think they are in a special position, and there have been a number of suggestions—the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, mentioned one—to which I should like to refer again, because I believe this is a matter of considerable importance.
We have talked about greater flexibility of entry. I should like to see a regular entry at, say, the age of 35. At the present time the normal entry is in the early twenties, or something of that kind. I believe that it should 622 be possible for civil servants with outside experience in industry or a profession to come into the Civil Service at 35. I am afraid that I would not follow the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in talking about temporary civil servants. I do not like temporary civil servants. I believe that a civil servant must attach himself fully to the loyalty of a Department. I have some doubts as to how much, except in limited spheres, use can be made of temporary men for purely advisory purposes. It is true that we require additional scientific men. What I believe is wanted is not scientific service men but scientific men in the administrative Departments, just the same as any other administrative officer.
I believe that the major problem which faces the Civil Service is the problem of centralisation. It is, of course, innate in the whole concept of the Westminster model that the Government should be considerably centralised. This is no doubt closely associated with ministerial responsibility: on the one hand Parliament, a highly political body; on the other, the Civil Service, a non-political body, joined together to some extent by the Minister. And it is his decision which no doubt has the effect in some way of acting as a centralising agent. But I believe that the real answer is that the head of any Department is responsible not only to Parliament but also to the Treasury; and the effect of this is that he inevitably wants, in answering the two major parties to whom he is responsible, to keep control both of executive action and of finance.
He is accordingly forced, I think almost inevitably, to exercise a very great degree too great a degree—of financial control and of executive control, and I believe that the problem we have before us is how to break that down, both as regards function and on a geographical basis. I think it is one of the causes of bad organisation, and also one of the things that cause Ministers to be overworked. The Civil Service do everything they can to make the Minister's job easy. I would even go so far as to say that the network in Whitehall, in the private offices, is probably the finest piece of organisation in the whole system; if it were not for that the Minister's task would be infinitely more difficult.
623 I do not think it is possible to lay down a system of organisation which would effectively decentralise. I believe that this is a decision which Parliament must take. And in so far as Parliament takes a decision that it wishes decentralisation—which I believe would secure a major economy, in so far as those who spend money are responsible for it—I believe that ways and means can be found. But at the present time I think there is a feeling (it was voiced by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, when he said that he could not get decisions made), expressed in outlying parts of Wales and Scotland, that decisions are hard to come by because they are over-centralised, and until we have the decision that we do want to decentralise I do not believe that any decentralisation will happen. I will only add this caveat. I believe it is fundamental to our way of government that we should have strong government. The defects of democracies, in most cases where they have failed, have been that they have been weak. I believe that in a sense it is centralisation which has given our Government strength. Nevertheless, I think there must be a decision to give proper decentralisation in Departments an alignment of discretion, in both finance and execution, outside London if the present system is to maintain its vigour, as I am sure it ought to do.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, we have had from the noble Earl who has just spoken, as we would expect, an interesting and far-flung speech, because he has a wide variety of experience in Government of one sort and another, including local government. I should like to join with other noble Lords in saying how grateful we are to my noble friend Lord Shackleton for having initiated this useful and valuable debate to-day. If nothing revolutionary comes out of it, that is not a condemnation of him or me; that may be owing to the facts of life. But this general review of the machinery and the organisation of Government is a useful thing, and I think the House is indebted to my noble friend for bringing it in and for the ability of the speech he made, which I have no doubt will be matched by the ability of the speech 624 of my noble friend Lord Taylor in winding up the debate.
One of the things I am a little apprehensive about is the tendency for growth in the number of Ministers. If there is need, then it is all right. But I think there has been a growth in some respects without need. There are a lot of people walking around or running around who, directly they are faced with any problem, say, "Let us have a special Minister for this subject". Some people wanted a special Minister for sport, and we got a bit of part time out of the former Lord Hailsham. That is the right thing to do, if you have to do it. During the Christmas Recess, on television in the north there was a question to a Member of Parliament—I will come clean; it was a Labour Member of Parliament—as to what he would do about the terrible problem of fatalities on the roads. He said, "I am quite clear. I would have a Minister for Road Accidents". It is an assumption that, if there is a Minister for something, the Minister will solve the problem he is put in charge of—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
—as if you can separate road accidents from roads and the people who drive on them and the regulation thereof! That is absurd. I think there is a tendency to have in some places too many Ministers. I had a Written Answer on December 10 last as to the number of Ministers over a series of years, and the noble Lord the Leader of the House said in this Written Answer that at the end of July, 1937, there were 63 Ministers of all ranks—Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and even Whips—I put them in because Whips are part of Government. At the end of July, 1939, the number was 64; it had gone up one only. When the Labour Government were completely formed there were 77. A lot of them were an overflow from the war period when Ministers naturally increased in numbers. But they were reduced later on by my noble friend Lord Attlee. The office of Minister of Information, for example, was soon abolished. By the end of July, 1950, they had gone up from that 77, and later something less, to 83. At the end of July, 1955, they had gone 625 up to 84; at the end of July, 1963, to 89; at December 3, 1963, to 90. That is a growth from 63 in 1937 to 90 in 1963—round about 50 per cent. I think that is rather strong going.
Let us have a look at some of these Ministries and as to whether they are justified or not. Dealing with the Commonwealth Relations Office, one must concede that that Department now includes the Colonies as well as the diminishing number of dependent territories. It has a Secretary of State, two Ministers of State, and three Parliamentary Secretaries. That is pretty heavy going. Then Foreign Affairs. I do not think the set-up here is heavy going, in the circumstances of the case, but I shall have something to say about it presently. In that Department there are a Secretary of State, two Ministers of State and one Parliamentary Secretary. Then. Health. That Department has one Minister and two Parliamentary Secretaries. That is a relatively small Department—a very small Department compared with the old Ministry of Health, which included town planning and the whole of local government. Even now, they have not proper financial control of it, from what I hear. Then Pensions and National Insurance. This is a job of some variety, but a lot of it must be done, according to the rules and policies, by civil servants; only the doubtful points need to come to the Minister. Here we have a Minister and two Parliamentary Secretaries, both in another place. I doubt whether it needs more than one.
The Scottish Office has a Secretary of State, a Minister of State and three Parliamentary Secretaries. Scotland has a population of about 5 million. Population is not the only factor, but it is materially less than Greater London, which has about 8,500,000. However, in the course of time the Scottish Office has been given added duties, including a number of economic functions. It has roads; it has electricity supply, and some other things that have been added to it, particularly by Conservative Governments in the hope of getting hold of Scottish Nationalist votes. The noble Lord who is going to follow me, Lord Boothby, will know more about the Scottish Nationalist vote than I do. I do not believe it has made two-penn'orth of difference to the casting of Scottish 626 Nationalist votes in Scotland. After all, most of what the Scottish Office does is what the English Ministers advise it to do. That is true—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
There would be chaos if they did not. But I am not going to stand up here and advocate the abolition of the Scottish Office. I have an eye on Scottish national sentiment, too.
But this idea that it is possible, by decentralisation, by transferring functions from the National Government to a Scottish Administration or to a Welsh Administration (because the Welsh are on the rampage, too), to save time, is really nonsense. Every decision about education has to be taken by England, Scotland and Wales, even if there are three Departments concerned with education. Similarly with health. Therefore, the idea that decentralisation saves time is not true; on the whole, it probably loses time. By all means let Scotland have its Scottish Office, though I think it is unwise to overdo it. For the result is that, although the population in Scotland, for which I have the most admirable and high regard, is limited, the amount of work the Scottish Office has to do because of the wide variety of its functions is considerable. That is the only case they have for this collection of a Secretary of State, a Minister of State and three Parliamentary Secretaries. I am not sure that they are needed.
Then I come to Transport. Here one would expect to see a body of some importance. The Department has a Minister, who is a man of some importance, and three Parliamentary Secretaries. I am a little doubtful whether that Department needs three Parliamentary Secretaries. I agree—and this applies particularly to the Foreign Office—that there may be a case for a Minister of State and one or two Parliamentary Secretaries if there is adequate delegation of executive decision, up to a point, from the Minister to the Minister of State and the Parliamentary Secretaries. My noble friend Lord Mabane, who is sitting opposite, will know what I did at the Home Office, where there were three Parliamentary Secretaries, one for the Home Office and two for the Minis- 627 try of Home Security. God forbid that I shall any more have two Parliamentary Secretaries!—I shall not, anyway—because dividing up their functions between them is a most delicate operation. But I divided up the functions on a list in writing, and I said, "Now you get on with this; but if it is tricky, or if you disagree with the higher civil servants about it, or if there is likely to be a row, you must come to me. If you make mistakes and do not, then there is going to be a row between you and me". But that method worked; there was no trouble about it. I must say that in my experience in those days—it may have changed now—the civil servants preferred to deal direct with the Minister and not with one of the Parliamentary Secretaries.
However, another thing I decided was that everything that came to me must come through the Parliamentary Secretaries, so that it would be part of their education in experience. It may have made added work for the civil servants at the top, and I quite understand that it was a nuisance to them but it was part of the business of the delegation of the hard work of the Minister to the Parliamentary Secretaries, and part of the education of the Parliamentary Secretaries, who hoped to be full Ministers some day. Therefore, only on that basis is any number of Parliamentary Secretaries or Ministers of State justified; and I believe that in some of these cases they cannot be justified at all.
At the Foreign Office I had the same problem. I would say that the two hardest-worked Ministers in the Government, certainly ever since 1945, and perhaps before, are the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Many tears are shed over the poor overworked Prime Ministers. My Lords, spare your tears! Most of the Prime Ministers are not worth all that sympathy, not because they are not able men—they are—but because, in fact, they are less overworked than the Foreign Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I say this in no disparaging way of Prime Ministers. Good luck to them if they can get to bed at midnight, instead of at 2, 3 or 4 o'clock, as I did in some of the Departments in which I served!
628 The Foreign Office is a heavy Department, and as Lord Strang, to whom we are indebted for a most able and thoughtful speech this afternoon, and who I found to be a most adaptable and co-operative Permanent Under-Secretary, will know, the curse of the place is that it is a hard show. Moreover, whereas the Home Secretary or the Minister of Housing and Local Government can, on the whole, control their own agenda, their own day's work, the poor Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs cannot. It is the foreigners—I nearly said the "something foreigners"—who control the work of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. They are the chaps who can drop troublesome items on the desk of the Foreign Secretary. It must be so in the nature of the office. Consequently, it is a heavy job day by day.
Again, I pursued the policy of trying to delegate, which I think as regards Germany had started under Mr. Ernest Bevin. My noble friend Lord Henderson was in charge of Germany, and the policy worked very well. I put Kenneth Younger in charge of the Far East, so far as the Foreign Office was concerned. I was on the way to doing other things as well, but there was resistance, not from every civil servant, but from a number of them in the Foreign Office, partly for my own sake, because they told me: "You know, Secretary of State, if anything goes wrong your head will be on the block." I said: "I know. I will accept responsibility if something goes wrong, but I would sooner be a live man than a dead one—and the way you chaps are running me I shall be a dead one before long." Therefore, there had to be delegation, and Ministers must insist on it even if there is resistance in some parts of the Civil Service. There are some Ministers who do not want to delegate; there are some Ministers in this Government who treat their Parliamentary Secretaries very badly; and there were a few in the Labour Government, too. It is wrong. Parliamentary Secretaries should be treated as adult people who have a responsibility, and they should be brought into conferences so that they know what is going on.
There are two Ministers in this Government, one of whom is to reply 629 to this debate, as to whom I am very doubtful whether they have a real job of work to do at all as Ministers. One is the Minister without Portfolio in charge of Government publicity. I did that job in my spare time, among a number of other jobs, when I was Lord President of the Council. It was hard going, but I did them. Now there is a Minister with nothing else to do but supervise the Government information services. I think it is a scandal. It is not a full-time job. I do not believe that in that capacity he needs to spend more than an hour or, at the outside, two hours a day on that work—about equivalent to the executive work of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which everybody knows is very small indeed. This Minister of Information is therefore tempted to become more than a Minister of Information or a Minister supervising the information services. He must be tempted to become a Minister of Party political propaganda. And that we should never allow in the Labour Government—and we did not.
I will give your Lordships an example. I do not think there is anything for anybody to resign about, but it is indicative of a tendency. I have here the report Central Scotland. A Programme for Development and Growth. So far so good. In the very first paragraph—and I do not want to make heavy weather of this, but I am going to make some weather of it—referring to some proposals about North-East England, it says:These contained proposals for regional development involving a major new departure from the policies which had hitherto been followed by the Governments of all Parties.This is what my noble friend Lord Taylor calls giving a valued judgment in the course of a White Paper. It is comment. It is comment of a political nature claiming a particular virtue for the Government of the day. There is another one in paragraph 3:This programme"—that is, the Central Scotland Pro-gramme—represents a more positive approach to regional economic development than any Government in this country has yet attempted.It is not wholly true because much was done in this field by the Labour Government. I am not so much concerned as to whether or not it is true, but it is 630 language which is inappropriate in a White Paper, for a White Paper should be devoid of anything in the nature of Party political propaganda. That is one of the temptations of having a full-time Minister in charge of information services with nothing else to do. He is tempted to go in for Government propaganda, and this is wrong.
Then there is the noble Viscount, the Deputy Leader of the House, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I dare say he has a little to do inside the Government. He has got the Duchy to look after, which, as Sir Oswald Mosley used to say, takes about half an hour a week; and he may have to deal with one or two Government committees. But I would say the major job of the noble Viscount the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is as Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation, and I think that is wrong. It is wrong that the taxpayer should be called upon to find the salary of a gentleman who is essentially in charge of Party political organisation and Party political propaganda. I think that somebody else should have that job, somebody who is not a Minister and who is paid by the Conservative Party for doing it. I do not want to make partisan points more than I can help, but I must make this point because it is related to the machinery of Government and its possible degeneration.
A Minister who is overworked—the previous two I mentioned are underworked—is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, under his wider functions of economic affairs as well as budgetary and purely financial matters. I think that here is an arguable case for a Ministry of Economic Affairs or Ministry of Production to relieve the Chancellor of much of the work of economic co-ordination and of fashioning the country's economic development, otherwise he might break down. If he has deputies—and he has the first Secretary to the Treasury, as I think he is called, the Economic Secretary and the Financial Secretary—again there should be real delegation so long as things are as they are now; but I think that there is a case for the appointment of such a Minister as I have mentioned.
I feel that other Ministers who may be underworked are, first, the Minister of Power, who supervises three public 631 corporations—which should not take a lot of time—gas, electricity and coal, and I think he has responsibility for steel as well. I do not think that is a heavy enough job and I think he could do some other things as well. And the Ministry of Health is, I think, a little on the small side. I personally take the view that the proposal for the new Ministry of Defence is right. Under the old organisation there were possible conflicts between the three Armed Services—not of a brutal character, but they did happen. I should like to say that all of us on this side, and I imagine those on the other side, of the House who are taking part in this debate are speaking for ourselves. There is not sufficient coherent doctrine in any political Party for anybody to speak for a political Party collectively on a matter such as this. In my view it is wrong to try to carve up the Ministry of Education. I thought that the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—who was then by some mistake a Baron, and has now rightly caught up with the political machinery and become a Viscount, on which I congratulate him—was convincing, and I think that it is a backward move to try to cut education in half in this way. Therefore, I think that it should be a Ministry of all education.
There is an argument going on in the columns of the Economist to build up a more comprehensive, somewhat more spectacular Prime Minister's Office, so that it should have a varied staff which could keep a grip on all the Government Departments and the whole machinery of Government. I think that this is contrary to British tradition and the British instinct. The Prime Minister is important—he ought to be important and ought to be the best man we can get as Prime Minister—but I do not think he should be more than primus inter pares. I think that to make him the actual declared boss of the Government in that crude sense is wrong. He is bound to have the major influence, he should be the strongest Minister, but to build him up so that every Minister is dependent upon him and his mere mouthpiece is contrary to the doctrine of Cabinet Government. It is bad for democratic administration and tends towards a sense of dictatorship. "But, ah!", it is said, "that is the way 632 we are going. Modern Prime Ministers are presidential Prime Ministers". I do not know. All the Prime Ministers in history have varied from time to time.
We do not yet know what sort of Prime Minister we have now—he has not been there long enough for us to find out—but undoubtedly Mr. Chamberlain was a strong Prime Minister. It did not save him, but he was a strong Prime Minister, as they go. I should say that Mr. Baldwin was a weak Prime Minister, and that Mr. Asquith was a good Prime Minister, but not a very strong one. On the other hand, Mr. Lloyd George was a strong Prime Minister. The idea about the strength of the presidential Prime Minister is a new thing. It has been said that all the Prime Ministers of the 19th century were easy-going chaps who did not boss the show. Well, has anybody heard of Mr. Gladstone; has anybody heard of Mr. Disraeli? I should say they were pretty strong Prime Ministers, and the country thought so at the time.
Therefore I say: let the Prime Minister be the "number one," but do not let us build him up into a United States President or into a dictator. Let the Cabinet have a right freely to argue and to decide, and people who do not agree with a decision can resign, whether it be a Minister, a Prime Minister or anybody else; and, of course, that will be avoided if it can be avoided. But let the Cabinet argue and let the Cabinet rule. I do not believe in this idea of building another garden suburb at No. 10 Downing Street, with the Prime Minister's office built up into a powerful machine dominating the whole field of government.
In regard to the non-Departmental Ministers, I ought to say this, in fairness to the Ministers who I said are under-worked. There is a need in Government for a certain number of non-Departmental Ministers, as chairmen of Cabinet Committees, for co-ordination of a considerable variety of various functions, and for the purpose of relieving the Cabinet and the Prime Minister and, to some extent, the other Ministers. It was said by my noble friend Lord Shackleton that it is very unfair that Ministers—the Foreign Secretary, for example—should be getting only the same salary as—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend, because he has now moved on to another point? Nobody in this debate—certainly not I—has advocated approaching the presidential form of Government. The purpose of my remarks was to establish what was myth and what was reality; and it is, of course, on the record, as I mentioned before, not only by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, but by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, that the Prime Minister is more than primus inter pares. It may be that different Governments give different experience, but the point is that if the Prime Minister is more, then one needs to recognise this important fact. It may be that my noble friend is absolutely right: a Prime Minister should not be more. But I wonder whether my noble friend would comment on the statements I quoted from people like Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I was not myself replying to my noble friend. In fact, I am not sure that I had reached the House at the time he made these observations. I was getting at the Economist, and it is a very risky thing to do, to criticise any newspaper, because although they are good at criticising other people they get very cross when they are criticised themselves. But I was criticising the Economist and not my noble friend. But on the point my noble friend has raised, I would not yet take the present Prime Minister's word on the subject as gospel. He has become Prime Minister and he is obviously enjoying it up till now, and it is a natural instinct to want to make the job look as big as it can look. Therefore I shall let him have another few years—if he gets another few years.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I interrupt? Sir Alec said it when he had no expectation of being Prime Minister.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
Then that falls. I still think he was wrong. I think that if the Prime Minister is primus inter pares he is not on a bad wicket; he is in a pretty good position. Of course, some will be more primus than others, as I have indicated. But I do not think it is too bad a position. What I do not want is for him to be elevated into a position whereby he is determining the policy of every Government Department himself, which policy 634 should be determined primarily by the Departmental Minister and should be a subject of controversy in the Cabinet itself.
There is something to be said for the case that was put by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for seconding out of Government into other walks of life, and into Government from other walks of life, if it can be done without abuse. It might be a very good thing if a number of civil servants—especially where they have to deal with local authorities—were sent out into local government for a limited time and brought back again, and if some important local government officers could be put into Whitehall and then sent hack to their local authorities; and, similarly, possibly with public corporations that could be done between the economic departments. I would even contemplate it as far as exchanges with private enterprise were concerned, but that is more difficult; not because I want to accuse private enterprise of corruption, but because of the possibility that, when the civil servant has been out into the field of private enterprise and comes back to the State Department dealing with governmental relations with private enterprise, he may be inclined to be a little more favourable, or suspected to be more favourable—which is nearly as bad—than otherwise to the firm with which he has associated outside. That is the difficulty about that. Nevertheless, in principle I think the idea is worth thinking about.
My Lords, it was asked: "Is it right that the present Foreign Secretary should get only the same salary as Lord Palmerston?" As a matter of fact he gets £750 more because of the Parliamentary allowance, so let us be just. I do not know about this. These questions of ministerial salaries are arguable. It may be held that they are a bit on the low side. I am sure the allowances of Members of Parliament are on the low side, and I am sure the allowances to noble Lords are on the low side, too. That we do know about. But I do not want the view accepted that being a Minister should be a highly remunerated and profitable job. That idea can be overdone. An element of sacrifice when entering the public service is not in itself a bad thing; it is a good moral experience. I got a kick out of being Leader 635 of the London County Council for not a penny of pay, and it was a job which was equal to that of a full Cabinet Minister or some Ministers of State, though not all of them. I got a snobbish satisfaction out of doing that job for nothing. My Lords, one may laugh at that, but it is a worthy public spirit; the satisfaction of doing a job for nothing. That is clearly impossible in the case of Ministers, and I think there may be a case—I am not sure—for an increase. The other question we might ask is not whether the present Ministers are underpaid, but whether Lord Palmerston was overpaid. That is a legitimate question. For remember that Lord Palmerston, by drawing £5,000 a year. was then drawing the equivalent of what would now be £20,000 a year, possibly £25,000 or possibly even £30,000.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The noble Lord opposite says £250,000. That suits me very well, and I am not going to dispute what he said. But the case could be held that those gentlemen were overpaid in those days. By all means let that be thought about and considered, but I should not like to overdo it. In relation to the number of Ministers, I would say only this: one should add to those Ministers the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, because they have to vote with the Government; at any rate, they cannot vote against it. Therefore what we are doing is upsetting the balance of power in the House of Commons between the Executive and Back-Benchers.
I am not sure about Parliamentary Committees on given subjects. I think there may be a case for them on a particular problem for a temporary period. But the idea of Standing Parliamentary Committees in relation to the Departments of State, as is done in the United States Congress and as was done in the French Chamber (I do not know whether it is still done), is not, I think, good. There is a danger about it. The Minister will have to be in charge; it will be a drain on the energies of the Minister; the Opposition may be there and may get seduced by the Minister—I am not talking about anything 636 wicked: I am talking only about something politically bad; they may be led astray by the Minister, and it may take the sting out of the Parliamentary Opposition. Anyway, I still think that the place for sharp Parliamentary debate is on the Floor of the House of Commons or the Floor of the House of Lords, and I do not believe in transferring departmental functions to Committees upstairs, except on special and particular occasions.
There is, of course, a problem about the composition of the House of Commons. When I first went there, there were quite a considerable number of Conservative aristocrats, proud of their aristocracy and of giving up their time to public service. My Lords, there are not many there now. There are some heirs, but there are not many aristocrats actively functioning in the House of Commons to-day. There were also a considerable number of "big business" men. There are not many there now; those that are there are on the second, third or fourth tier of economic affairs. There were quite a number of trade union men, General Secretaries, that it was good for the House of Commons to have as an institution—and good for the Labour Party, too, because it was a good liaison between the political and industrial sides of the Labour Movement. It is almost a universal rule of the trade unions now—not quite, but almost—that the General Secretary cannot be a Member of the House of Commons. So the House of Commons has changed in its class composition—and I do not think wholly for the better. This is one of the problems. Of course, noble Lords associated with big business become Members of this House. Sometimes we see them, but often we do not. That applies to noble Lords on both sides of the House. I wish we saw more of them, because one of the attractions of this place is that while it is not representative in its selection, it is varied in its composition and character, so that it can make a unique contribution to the debates of the nation.
As to regionalism, in this sense I think there is a case for decentralisation. I wish that all the Government Departments dealing with regional and local affairs had regional offices, preferably in one building, as is now contemplated at Newcastle and as existed, I think, 637 to some extent, at St. Andrew's House in Edinburgh, although the Scottish Office makes that a rather different story. But, my Lords, there is a case to decentralise from Whitehall. Here again, from my own experience at the Ministry of Home Security, I found that they were rather tending to hold too much in Whitehall. I argued about it, and they said, "They may let you down, and you will be responsible". I said, "I will chance that"; and we argued and argued. I always believed in civil servants' arguing, so long as I had the last word. But in the end I had to send them a Minute (and there is a lot to be said for a written Minute: it settles things) saving that nothing that could be done regionally or by the local authorities was to be done in Whitehall. That idea worked, and there was no great trouble. I still think a lot might be done in that way now. Some of the councillors will not like it, of course, because they will not have so much excuse to come to London. Some of the town clerks will not like it, for the same reason. But never mind! Let Whitehall decentralise a lot of its administration—in housing, education, town planning, highways—to regional offices. I would not have a regional local government authority, because that means a third tier in local government in the main—the county, the county district and the region. But I would have a regional consultative committee, representative of the local authorities, who would meet the officers in the regional office—headed, perhaps, not by a Minister but by a person experienced in public affairs; not a traditional civil servant—so that they could consult, discuss and seek to reach agreement about planning and various other things.
In my view, too, Parliament ought to have more debates about public corporations, and about economic controls. Somehow, if another place could save time on some of the things on which it now needlessly uses up time, including some of the details of legislation, if it could be as expeditious but as effective as this House is in examining legislation, and thereby leave itself more time for debates and discussions about public corporations and economic controls and administration, I think that would be a good thing. There is, of course, 638 another idea, that of shifting Parliament altogether from London and putting it up in the wilds of the rural parts of the Yorkshire Moors. This is another idea that the Economist is running—and probably it has got itself talked about quite a lot. But I do not like it. I must say that if I compare the capital of the United States in Washington, D.C., with the capital of the United Kingdom (this has nothing to do with my being a Londoner), I prefer the British model. I would say the same if I knew Canberra, and I am sure it is the same with the new artificial capital of Brazil. The seat of government should be with the people, or at any rate with a considerable number of the people: otherwise, it gets cut off and becomes artificial.
My Lords, I have spoken longer than I meant to, and probably longer than I ought to have done. If so, I apologise; but the subject is so fascinating and so varied that it is difficult not to go on. If I have not advocated some changes that some people would like advocated, I would plead this in self-defence: I am a Socialist, and I have spent my life in effecting changes—and I have had a fair amount of reward in that respect. But I never believed, and I still do not believe, in advocating change merely for the sake of change. I will advocate change if benefit is thereby to be anticipated; but unless that is shown to be reasonably so, then I think it is a bit of humbug to talk about change merely for the sake of doing it. That is the spirit in which I have tried to approach this very important debate, which I am sure will be valuable to the House and valuable to the country outside.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I am sure we shall all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that this subject is so fascinating that almost any one of us could happily go on for two or three hours. I hasten to assure your Lordships that that is not my intention, but I think that one of the reasons why we should be particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, for raising this question is that the structure of Government is not a subject that, among active politicians, has had very much consideration during the 639 last fifty years. I have been looking up records a bit; and it seems to me that the only people who have given a good deal of time and study to the matter have been the late Lord Haldane, the late L. S. Amery and, in another place, Richard Crossman. Otherwise, it is not a subject which has been very much discussed in either House. I think that Ministers as such have been so driven and so busy that they have not had the time to give a great deal of thought to this subject, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has said, is of immense importance.
My own excuse for intervening is that I have sat in one or other House of Parliament for just on forty years—a terrible thought!—and I ask myself: what has happened? I suggest to your Lordships, first of all, that during the past century (not half century, but century) we have passed almost unobserved from an era of what Bagehot would have described as classical Parliamentary democracy to one of machine democracy; and that makes a very great difference. The transition is now complete. The House of Commons has lost its status as an electoral college, and become no more than a forum of debate between two well-disciplined political armies, which is quite a different thing. In this process, my Lords, it has lost most of its old sovereign powers, and much of its influence. In some respects your Lordships' House has more influence upon Government policy to-day than another place. That is partly due to the absence of the whipping system, in the sense that it exists in another place.
I can think of one debate, that on Education, which took place in your Lordships' House in which all the "stars"—Lord Adrian and Lord James of Rusholme among others—took part; and there is absolutely no doubt that the effect of that debate was to alter, materially and substantially, Government policy, so far as university education was concerned, in quite a short space of time. I do not think that, with all the Whips on, the House of Commons could have had a comparable effect on Government policy.
There is another point arising from this transition from classic Parliamen- 640 tary democracy to machine democracy. The point of decision—which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, described as "sharp Parliamentary debate"—has been to a large extent removed from the Floor of the House of Commons and the Division Lobbies to Committee rooms upstairs. Here, in Committee rooms upstairs, the real battles of the Conservative Party over Munich, over the payment of Members and over Suez were fought. And the Labour Party have carried this further, because they vote in Committee rooms upstairs in the House of Commons, and in secret. The late Aneurin Bevan wrote:We get into a Party meeting upstairs. Then we come down to the floor of the House of Commons. We make speeches and if they do not accord with what has been decided in private upstairs we are threatened with expulsion. Is that democracy? It is conspiracy.…The caucus is getting more powerful than the electorate itself.He wrote that, my Lords, towards the end of his career.
This is what has practically destroyed the independence of the Private Member, and has transformed the character of the House of Commons. The constitutional doctrine laid down by Burke, that a Member of Parliament is not a delegate but the representative of his constituency as a whole, and as such should vote always in accordance with the dictates of his own convictions, has been tacitly abandoned. To-day the primary responsibility of the Member of Parliament is no longer to his conscience or to his constituents but to the Party machine, which can make him or break him, and without the support of which he cannot hope to be re-elected.
Mr. Sydney Silverman summed it up when he said:The right to dissent in debate is no adequate compensation for being compelled to vote in conformity. The function of Parliament then becomes one of giving public assent to decisions arrived at secretly elsewhere.That is the thing we all have to face; that is what is going on to-day in the House of Commons. By voting at private meetings the Labour Party have carried this process further than the Conservative Party. In my submission to your Lordships, votes in Parliament should never be taken in secret; but always in public. Nevertheless, such is 641 the power of the Party machines and of the Whips, in my 34 years' membership of the House of Commons I can recall only one vote that I ever gave which could legitimately be described as of decisive importance. That was when I was one of 33 Conservative Members of Parliament who voted against the Chamberlain Government in May, 1940. One vote in 34 years is not a lot. Yet they still tell you—and we pay lip service to the idea—that the House of Commons exercises and wields real power.
To what has this led? In conjunction with irresistible economic forces, it has led to an immense concentration of power, and to an equally immense diminution of political control over the Executive. Where is this power? I should like here to take up a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. This power, to a very large extent, is in the hands of the Prime Minister. We are approaching—if we have not already reached—a presidential system in this country. In fact the Prime Minister, in certain respects, wields greater effective power in this country than does the President in the United States of America. In the words of our present Prime Minister, which have already been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton:Every Cabinet Minister is in a sense the Prime Minister's agentHe said that long before he became Prime Minister and when, in fact, he never expected to become Prime Minister. But I believe it to be true. For some years now—in fact, since the war—the Secretary of the Cabinet has been in effect, if not in name, the Prime Minister's chef du cabinet; and I do not think this is a process that, with modern means of communication and, particularly, television and radio, can easily be reversed.
Here I dissent from the view of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. At the next Election the ordinary elector is much more likely to vote for Sir Alec Douglas-Home or Mr. Harold Wilson than for the Conservative Party or the Labour Party. They will be projected to him on every screen. If this is the case, if it is difficult if not impossible to reverse this process, then I think we have to make the best of it. I shall make a few suggestions now as to how we might do this; but, of course, the noble Lord, 642 Lord Shackleton, anticipated that I might have a few observations to make on the subject of the power which has passed into the hands of the Treasury. The late Aneurin Bevan, who knew a great deal about administration, was perpetually complaining about this.
No other finance Ministry in the world assumes the status, or adopts the pretensions, of the British Treasury: economic planning, such as it is; the Budget; ultimate control over all revenue and expenditure; the direction of monetary policy, exercised through the Bank of England in secret; and control over the personnel of the entire Civil Service in every Department, under the head of the Treasury. It is too much. And it has certainly not produced demonstrably superior results.
The course of events has led, I think, to a sharp decline in the system of Cabinet Government. The Cabinet is no longer, as such, an effective instrument of Government. It has become a rubber stamp for giving formal sanction to the decisions and actions of Ministers regarding which, in the complexities of the modern world, the Cabinet as a whole cannot be expected to have more than superficial knowledge. To-day we have the largest Cabinet in history. There are 23 members. The deference and respect for authority engrained in my nature make me hesitate to describe the Cabinet as "a rabble". But it is certainly an assembly, rather than a decision-making authority. What I do say is that executive power in this country is now exercised, on the authority of the Prime Minister and the Treasury, through a small group of Ministers chosen by him, or by Cabinet committees whose chairmen are appointed by him and who are his agents.
Finally, there is the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, called our attention: the development of what Professor Brian Chapman has described in his book British Government Observed as privy Government. He writes:The whole structure of British Government is designed to protect the policy-making function of Government from public scrutiny.And Sir Charles Snow refers, in Science and Government, to the "euphoria of secrecy" in Whitehall. I suggest that far too many decisions of vital importance are taken in the secret corridors 643 of power, without Parliament or even the Cabinet being made aware of them, still less of the reasons for them.
Let me give one or two examples. First of all, the power wielded by Lindemann under the personal autocracy of the Prime Minister during the war, often in the teeth of informed scientific opinion. But war is war; and there may have been some excuse for this, if not justification. But what about peace? The decision to manufacture atomic weapons was taken by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, without the knowledge of Parliament and without, I am told, the knowledge of the full Cabinet. The decision to make the plans and issue the directives for the attack on Port Said at the time of the Suez crisis was taken in the same way. Now take defence. I have been looking at the White Papers on defence from 1957 onwards; and, looked at quite objectively, in the cold light of after events, one would suppose from reading them that we had had a series of Ministers of Defence who had taken complete leave of their senses: one can only suppose that they were all mad. Every one of the Defence White Papers flatly contradicts the others and, jumbled up together, they do not make any sense. It is an "Alice-In-Wonderland" world. What is the reason for this? I am not suggesting that successive Ministers of Defence have been mad. It is simply because Parliament has never been in possession of the facts. Perhaps we could not be, on security grounds, though I am not so sure about that. I will come to that in a moment. The fact remains that these Defence White Papers make absolutely fascinating reading to-day; and, if any of your Lordships want an enjoyable evening, I recommend them to get them and skim through them, because they will give you a good laugh.
The concentration of power in Downing Street and the Treasury has been accompanied by a corresponding growth of what Mr. Crossman has described as an "oligoply" in finance and industry, in the trade unions, newspapers and in television. And in so far as it lacks any kind of effective democratic control, this power is irresponsible. It was Rathenau, the Foreign Minister of 644 Germany in 1921 and 1922, and the originator of industrial rationalisation, who said of the modern State:It has already become a collection of separate semi-autonomous States, a multiplicity of slanting cones on the same level, the points of which are lost in the Parliamentary clouds.… They receive their popular admixture solely through the medium of the communal and completely inadequate central organism of the political Parliament.Sooner or later, every one of these States will have to be given democratic roots of its own; but to-day we are dealing only with the structure of Government. With this subject, and in conclusion, I should like to put forward a number of tentative suggestions in what I might describe as telegraphic form. I have no time to give reasons, because there are a great many other speakers. if your Lordships want the reasons I commend to your attention Thoughts On The Constitution by L. S. Amery,Science and Government by C. P. Snow, British Government Observed by Professor Brian Chapman, and an altogether admirable book called My Yesterday, Your Tomorrow, the name of whose author modesty compels me to conceal.
In order to free the United Kingdom Parliament from a mass of unnecessary detail, I would go much further than the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, about Scotland and Wales. I would give them both Parliaments and Governments of their own, similar to the Parliament of Northern Ireland. No more, but no less. This Parliament would retain its Scottish Members. They are indeed indispensable, because without the Scots the English would be sunk. The United Kingdom Parliament would then slough off all this welter of detailed administration and local administration to Governments in Edinburgh and Cardiff. This is an admirable and excellent suggestion. It was, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who pointed out that the entire population of Scotland is considerably less than that of London. I agree. But one cannot judge a nation simply by adding up the number of people it contains. Scotland is extremely important, not only to England, but to the whole world, and Scotland deserves a Government and a Parliament of her own. But she also deserves a say in what I would then hope would become the federal Government of the United Kingdom. I think 645 there is a great deal to be said for this, because we have an example in Stormont which works.
Secondly, as I have already suggested, the supremacy of the Prime Minister should now be accepted. As First Lord of the Treasury—and he is First Lord of the Treasury—he should direct economic policy, as Chairman of a Cabinet Committee, which would include the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Minister of Economic Planning (who would necessarily be much concerned with monetary policy), the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and the Ministers in charge of production, labour and transport.
Thirdly, I think that the size of the Cabinet should be reduced to a point at which, after hearing the submissions of Ministers, one at a time, it can think. decide and act on the basis of full knowledge, and not simply give formal sanction to actions about which under existing conditions it is bound to be ill-informed, and which, indeed, may sometimes have already been taken. Here there are two alternatives. There is the alternative of Mr. Lloyd George's War Cabinet of 1917—and this may be of some interest to your Lordships. I remember Mr. Lloyd George saying that, as an instrument of Government, it was by far the most effective he had ever known. There were five or six Ministers without Portfolio. He told me how much he relied on men of the calibre of Balfour and Smuts and, above all, of Milner, in 1917. These men met daily. They were free from routine work and from departmental responsibilities. They heard the Ministers, and then took the decisions. The Haldane Committee, on the other hand, recommended a Cabinet of not more than twelve. The choice, of course, must also depend to a large extent on the inclinations of the Prime Minister of the day; but I am sure that a Cabinet of 23 no longer meets the requirements of the second half of the twentieth century.
Fourthly, I would suggest that research should be intensified at all levels of Government, and co-ordinated under a Ministry of Research and Technology, adequately staffed. We have not such a Ministry at the present time, and we should have.
646 Fifthly, I think that your Lordships' House should now be developed on functional lines. Gone are the days when the landed interests constituted in themselves an Estate of the Realm of sufficient importance to enable them to claim the preponderance. Let me give, as an example, the field of journalism. Our national newspapers are now controlled by eight men. Three of them sit in your Lordships' House. I suggest that the remaining five should immediately be ennobled; and that it should be put to them that they would be expected to come here at least twice a year and sit on these Cross Benches all eight of them: and a splendid sight it would be! We then should have the right to criticise them and compel them to listen to our criticism—and, indeed, some of them might be disposed to answer. If I can judge from a letter which I received this morning from Mr. Roy Thomson, he certainly would not be backward in replying to any criticisms that were made. I have a notion that this would be far more effective than any Press Council could possibly he. Just think of them—two Astors, Roy Thomson, Berry, Carr and King, flanked by Beaver-brook and Rothermere—it would he an awe-inspiring spectacle. It would do them good, and it would do us good.
My next suggestion in this field is that it nonsensical to assume that a Government should he expected to resign on "snap" votes in the House of Commons. Governments in the modern world should resign only if a formal Vote of no confidence is carried against them in the House of Commons—not in this House. That would relieve all the tension and unhappiness that goes on in another place, when a majority is not very large; and would stop ill people from being carried from their beds to the Division Lobby, which is a ludicrous spectacle.
Finally, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, about functional Committees of Parliament. I think that such Committees should be established, with power to send for persons and papers, and to sit in secret session, when the Minister deems it advisable. Thus, and thus alone, can Government policy be subjected to informed criticism before a policy is put into effect, and not afterwards. Clearly there should he such Committees on economics, defence, external affairs and 647 internal affairs. I do not think there is any reason to fear here the log-jam that at present exists between the President and Congress, because these Committees would reflect in their composition the majority on which the authority of the Prime Minister rests, and would therefore reproduce in miniature his basic relationship and that of his Ministers with Parliament as a whole.
My Lords, I have nearly done. I should like to quote, before I sit down. from Mr. Amery's book. He had, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, will admit, vast political and administrative experience. He said, as against Lord Morrison of Lambeth:My own experience in the offices which I have held is that I should have gained by such regular opportunities of giving information and explaining my policies and of gathering the views of those interested, and that the effect upon the quality of debates would have been extremely beneficial.The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, thought that that would not be the case, but that was Mr. Amery's views of functional committees. What, my Lords, should we be trying to do? We should be trying to combine efficient government in the modern world with individual freedom and responsibility. It is a formidable task. But, not for the first time, the world is looking to us to give a lead based on our vast experience; and, in my submission, we are not at present giving it.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, any speech after that to which we have just listened from the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, must, I fear, seem boring in the extreme, but this is indeed a fascinating subject for debate. To those of us who have never been in the Government service it presents considerable difficulty, and I am afraid it may well be a matter of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread for amateurs like myself. But the strength of your Lordships' House has always been that we are able to look at any subject of debate from a variety of angles, and I should like to make a few comments on these problems as seen from one section of industry which has a close relationship with Government Departments.
I well recognise the dangers: that false conclusions can be drawn from inade- 648 quate evidence; it is all too easy to argue from the particular to the general; and that unfair criticism may be made due to incomplete knowledge from, a limited angle. I shall try to avoid those pitfalls. It is, I believe, common ground that there have been tremendous changes in the tasks of Government over the last thirty or forty years. No longer do the Government deal only with the political background of our lives. Now the Government intervene more broadly in everyone's affairs—in finance, in industry and in commerce. For instance, at home a major preoccupation of any modern Government is to maintain full employment without inflation, and that involves frequent intervention in economic policy. Abroad, too, the pattern has changed by the extensive growth of international institutions concerned with the growth of trade.
The first question to ask is, therefore, how successfully has the structure of Government adapted itself to these changed conditions as regards Parliament, the Executive and the Civil Service? To put the question into its right perspective, I should like to state two principles—perhaps they are platitudes. First of all, good men can produce results from a hopeless organisation. And the opposite is also true, that incompetent men can wreck a perfect organisation. But our objective must surely be to produce the best structure in which competent men can give of their best. Secondly, an ideal structure of Government is no substitute whatever for a policy. I think it is noticeable that in time of war or crisis we have obtained great and satisfactory results from a machine that before the crisis arose appeared to be creaking and outdated. The reason for that, I suggest, is that as soon as the crisis arises the policy becomes firm and the objective is clear, and those facts are felt in every corner of the organisation. In war-time every convenience, our liberty and even life itself, is sacrificed to achieve the objective that everybody sees, whereas in peace-time it sometimes seems so difficult to define a clear policy in many important fields as a basis for effective action.
In discussing this Motion we must beware of jumping to the conclusion that every failure of the Government machine that appears is due to a bad 649 structure of Government. Often it may well be the manifestation of lack of a policy. But it would be equally wrong to jump to the other extreme and to assume that the structure of Government is therefore relatively unimportant. That is certainly not the case. For the structure itself has a great effect on the formulation of the policy. With those considerations in mind, I should like to make a few comments on the Government machine.
I will take, first of all, the position of Ministers, which has already been touched upon by many noble Lords. All your Lordships who have been Ministers know well the heavy burden of Cabinet office, and those of us who have had fathers who have been Cabinet Ministers have some idea of the great burden and the strains and stresses that this involves. That burden and strain has certainly increased many-fold over the last thirty or forty years. Now, as we have already heard from many noble Lords, Ministers are not only underpaid, but most of them are grossly overloaded in their Parliamentary duties, in their decision making and their policy forming. I believe that anyone who has had to make decisions, far less onerous than those Cabinet Ministers have to make, knows only too well that if he is not feeling in top form and fit, but is tired and overworked, he will find it much harder to make the right decision and to make it quickly than if he is fit and well. So believe that Ministers to-day are often working well below their optimum efficiency, and that is no sound way to produce a firm policy or correct decisions.
The classical answer to suit a situation is delegation. But to whom can Ministers delegate? The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has already mentioned this point. They can to only a limited extent delegate to their senior civil servants, because they cannot answer in Parliament. Their function is to devise and administer settled policy. They can delegate hardly at all, although the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, seems to have achieved it, to Parliamentary Secretaries. They are, in effect, junior to many civil servants and their authority is strictly limited. But the function of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Ministers of State is 650 entirely different. To them it is perfectly possible for Ministers to delegate adequately. Would it not be wise that such arrangements should be far more widely adopted? Should not every Cabinet Minister have to support him a Deputy Minister or Minister of State to whom he can delegate authority over a wide field? That in itself would not be enough, and to be fully effective Parliament would have to co-operate. It would be no use if Parliament continued to regard the Minister only as the fountain head of any decisions. Parliament would have to accept that the last word could also come from these Ministers of State or Deputy Ministers.
The second point, my Lords, is that there is frequent criticism of the Government machine in industry that it is too slow. Some say that this is simply a reflection of the complexity of the issues with which it has to deal. Others see in the Government machine some of the symptoms of inefficiency that have been recognised in large industrial units. Many of these great units in industry have found that the right answer is to replace responsibility of boards and committees by personal responsibility to the greatest possible extent. I believe that principle, too, could be adopted through the Civil Service with great benefit.
There is another important factor which I believe delays decision and action in Government Departments. This is that when an issue affects many different Departments it often has to be referred up and down two, three, four or five different Departments, perhaps to the Ministers at the top. This often seems to happen and appears to be accepted. But cases arise, such as arose not so long ago, when the Government became concerned and dissatisfied with the employment and development situation on the North-East coast, with the result that a temporary overlord was appointed with limited authority in the particular field necessary over certain Departments. Very soon a report was issued and action was under way. Should we conclude from this that the remedy for delays is the appointment of a number of overlords? Surely the experience of the first Conservative post-war Government is all against that. The failure, I suggest—I think it is well known, and it is not for me to suggest—of those overlords was 651 that they had no Departments to support them. But I believe that the regrouping of Departments into a small number of large units, each presided over by a Cabinet Minister, could be an effective solution to many of our problems.
The new reorganisation of the Defence system has already set the pattern. But why stop at Defence? Why not have Secretaries of State for overseas affairs, for economic and trade development, for home affairs, for welfare services, for education and a number of others? Perhaps they would amount to ten or twelve in all, each with an adequate complement of deputy Ministers or Ministers of State. Such an organisation would surely combine many advantages. It would produce a smaller Cabinet, which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, wants. It would enable a better sharing of the burden of day-to-day decision-making to be achieved and also of Parliamentary duties. It would, above all, bring more problems within the jurisdiction of one Cabinet Minister and, therefore, would lead to less interdepartmental discussion and more rapid decision taking.
Thirdly, there is the vexed issue of recruitment to the Civil Service, which has already been touched upon. Whatever reorganisation of Ministers and Departments takes place, no one can doubt the importance of the Civil Service. We are fortunate in this country in having a Civil Service with a wonderful reputation for devotion to duty and integrity. But there is often a criticism from industry that the Civil Service is remote and lacking in appreciation of the problems of industry. This, I think, is particularly said of the Treasury. In modern conditions relations with industry, for the reasons with which I started, are of the utmost importance, and above all these relations must be improved. The sad fact is that at the moment neither does industry understand the problems of the Civil Service, nor does the Civil Service fully appreciate the problems of industry. That is not surprising, considering that there is virtually no exchange between the two in peace time, in complete contra-distinction of what happens in war time, when a splendid spirit of co-operation was built up between industry and the Civil Service. So I 652 believe, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has said, that it is of great importance to facilitate a two-way flow between industry and the Civil Service. I think we should aim to have in the Civil Service at the levels above principal, about one-third of the members recruited from industry, and the same would go for the executive grade.
We must also facilitate the reverse flow, and that will involve sweeping changes in the regulations for pension transfer. At the moment there is rather an incredible anomaly in that the civil servant can only come out of the Civil Service and take any pension rights with him when he has passed the age of 50. At a time when the Government are urging industry to make pensions readily transferable this seems to be rather a surprising survival from an earlier age. If there is to be an adequate flow between the Civil Service and industry and vice versa, these questions of pension transfers must be tackled.
I would not disagree that secondment to industry from the Civil Service for six months or a year is also valuable to gain experience, but I do not believe it is any substitute for a permanent policy for recruitment, such as I have described. Such a new avenue for recruitment would, I believe, also help the great difficulty which the Civil Service Commission is having in attracting an adequate number of recruits of a high standard at the present age of entry.
That brings me to my final point, the position of the Treasury. To industry, the Treasury is still very remote, and no doubt if we could obtain a flow between the Civil Service and industry as I have suggested, that would go far to eliminate the remoteness of the Treasury. But I must say that I should still like to see Treasury officials coming out to meet industrial leaders far more frequently than they do at the moment, and to discuss their problems face to face with them, instead of always having to do it through other Departments. There remains the function of the Treasury, and at this late hour I am certainly not going to embark upon a discussion of that. In any case, it has already been dealt with by several noble Lords, and it is well covered in the Plowden Report. But 653 I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether the recommendations in that Report for the future organisation, activities and responsibilities of the Treasury are being implemented rapidly.
In conclusion, it is certainly not easy to combine our pattern of democracy and Parliamentary control with an efficient Government machine, but it is not the slightest good making proposals that would cut across and conflict completely with our system of Parliamentary democracy. But some changes must be made, and I believe that those suggested are compatible with our way of life and our way of Parliamentary Government. Also, they would go a long way towards reshaping the structure of Government to meet the needs of this fast moving and competitive age.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, it is obvious that we can only skate over the surface of this vast subject this afternoon, but I think it is quite a good thing that the bees which are obviously buzzing in so many of our bonnets should be liberated so that they may fly around and sting somebody into doing something about this obviously most important matter fairly soon. Now, if we are to talk about the reform of Government as a whole, we must talk a little about the reform of this House. It has hardly been mentioned, but a few words might not come amiss, if only from a comparatively new boy. So I should like to say that it is not evident to me that there is any compelling reason to reform this House at all. I believe that we have little, if any, real power, and personally I think that is a very good thing. But we do have considerable influence, and also, as it seems to me, we do an effective job in revising legislation. What we want to aim at, therefore, is being more and more a sort of disinterested Council of State recruited from the professional classes, from industry as a whole, and from people with long experience of politics.
I have made a little calculation, although I do not know whether it is right. Peers of first creation and Life Peers, who are, after all, drawn from the three elements I have mentioned, already number about 140. So if we add in about another 30 or 40 Labour Life Peers, or, at any rate, Peers from the 654 Left in general, there would, if we deduct the Cross-Benchers, be something like equality in this section between the major political Parties. If we add, possibly, 30 or 40 drawn, say, for each Session from the ranks of the hereditary Peers who have made their mark in this House, it would give, as it seems to me, a very workable Chamber, of about 200 or so, which any Government of any complexion could use to excellent advantage. It should, I think, be the convention that the Government, whatever Government it is, should not be defeated in this House on any major issue of policy. But, clearly, unless our debates are going to become extremely dull, it will be necessary to allow for the possibility that the Government may occasionally be defeated on a non-Money Bill, with the result, I suppose, of a certain legislative delay.
My Lords, in addition to this, all I need to say—and it completes my view on this point—is that all Members of the reformed House should be paid a living wage, provided that they attend more than a certain number of debates. All this seems to me to be eminently desirable and I cannot really see why it should be apparently regarded by all the major Parties as such a tremendously hot potato. I hope therefore that everybody will soon see the necessity, if the House is going to be reformed at all, to reform it broadly on these lines and as quickly as possible.
Now we approach what I think is the much greater problem posed by the other place, which I think I am not in order in calling by its name. Here, it seems to me—and I say this with the greatest deference because, though I have not been a Member, I am passionately in favour of the other place—reform is not merely desirable, as it is for us, but positively essential. Here, after all, is, or at any rate, should be, the ultimate seat of power; and it is therefore extremely important that it should function efficiently.
Some Members of the other place, I know, tend, or, anyhow, affect, to regard this House as a sort of gilded mausoleum where active politicians are often buried alive. Since the passage of the Peerage Bill this last accusation is obviously no longer valid. Nor is there any reason why active politicians 655 in the other place should come here and be buried alive without their own consent. But, as things are, a number of very active and intelligent politicians in the other part of this building seem themselves to be enclosed in a sort of mausoleum. After all, between half and three-quarters of them can never expect any kind of office; while, owing to the fact that Privy Counsellors are always called on first, very few of them can get an opportunity to speak in any major debate except at rare intervals.
Even their Questions are often not now reached, and all they do, in practice, is vote, tramping through the Division Lobbies under the eagle eye of Whips, under an odd system where Divisions seem to take place all the time, even on questions of small importance. Also, and very properly, they act as welfare officers for their constituents, and since many of them cannot even afford a temporary secretary, this kind of activity occupies a great deal of their time. They may perhaps, if they are lucky, have some small rôle to play in a Standing Committee or something, but these bodies, we know, do not get much publicity; and, in any event, only a few M.P.s serve on them. For all this they are paid little more than an expert steelworker; and for this exiguous pay they have normally to support two residences. At the risk of being taken for a Mirabeau or a John Wilkes, I say that this is an extraordinary way to treat the representatives of the people! Why, in such circumstances, anybody goes into politics is something of a mystery. People say that, as a club, it is agreeable, and that the mere fact of being boxed up all the time, often far into the night, with old cronies, political opponents and deadly enemies, produces a strange sort of corporate feeling which is in itself enjoyable. That may be so.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord to say that it produces a strange sort of animosity?
§ LORD GLADWYN
I am sorry to hear that. I thought it was the reverse and the experiences of other Members of Parliament seem to be different from that of the noble Lord.
However, apart from this, it is difficult for an outsider, at any rate, to under- 656 stand how a system under which a majority of Members of Parliament have practically no opportunity of giving public expression to the presumptive wishes of their constituents can even be held to be particularly democratic; or how one which results in appalling legislative bottlenecks can be thought to be particularly effective. All this, unhappily, tends to reduce the prestige of the other place. If it were televised it might perhaps be a step in advance, but, of course, as things are it would be rather difficult to know exactly what to televise.
The fact is that modern inventions, and notably mass communications, greatly reduce the sense of individual and personal responsibility. They also tend to credit the notion that one man and one man alone must take the responsibility of deciding on all matters of crucial importance. This results, as we know and as so many of your Lordships have now said, in the increased and growing power of the Prime Minister. Short of illness or some national disaster, he is probably now in Downing Street for the quadrennial or quin-quennial period between Elections. His power is tremendous. Collective Cabinet responsibility in the old sense hardly seems to exist any longer. The Prime Minister can get rid of his colleagues if they are not congenial or if they just do not do what he wants. It is still true that if he gets rid of somebody who is very popular with his own Party there may be a row, but if he is determined to ride out the storm it is difficult to see how his own resignation can successfully be demanded at the obvious expense of a fresh General Election.
This tendency towards greater power in the hands of the ruler—and here I think I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby—is, I think, inevitable, given modern conditions. Perhaps, given such conditions, it is even desirable. In the United States personal power is held in some check, as noble Lords know, by the Constitution, but, as Commander-in-Chief in the present nuclear age, it is evident that the President has at least one tremendous power. In France, in Russia, in Spain, in India, in Pakistan, in China—in all these great and ancient countries, to say nothing of the newer countries of Asia, of Africa and South 657 America, one man and one man only seems now to be largely in charge, at any rate for a period of time. It has been calculated, I believe, that Parliamentary democracies more or less analogous to our system here, now exist in only about a dozen countries; most of them small.
If we do not look out, and if we really cannot bring it up to date, it may well be that our Parliament here will come to resemble the Palais Bourbon in Paris. Gaullism as a system seems to suit the French fairly well and might also suit the British. The power of Prime Ministers, as I have said, is growing all the time, and if one of them became a really popular personality and very good at television it might be that, even here in this country, we should reach a stage in which effectively he could not be turned out. In principle, therefore, the effective power and prestige of the parliamentarians should somehow or other be increased as a check in some way on the inevitable power of the Prime Minister.
What, if anything, can we do about it? In the first place, obviously, more pay. I know that this is being examined at the moment, but, in my personal view, Members of Parliament ought to get at least £2,500 or £3,000 a year, plus an expense account of up to £1,500, drawn on by vouchers out of which would come the salary of a secretary and all expenses shown which are necessary in the performance of their job. After all, this is only the salary of a manager, a professor or a moderately senior civil servant, and why M.P.s should not be considered as at least coming into these grades has always beaten me. Of course there ought also to be a pension scheme for M.P.s and Ministers too, dependent on the length of their service; it could easily be worked out. All M.P.s ought to have a secretary and a desk somewhere, if not an office. The Palace of Westminster could not accommodate all these offices. Why not therefore tear down all those horrible buildings on the other side of the street and build a great block where M.P.s offices could be situated.?
But what would the well-paid legislators in my reformed Parliament actually do? That is the great question. I am only liberating bees in my bonnet 658 and they may be bad bees, but at any rate they are bees. In the first place, I would reduce them—the M.P.s, I mean—to about 400 or 450 by enlarging the constituencies. There is no reason why an M.P. should not represent 150,000 rather than 100,000 people. It is not less democratic. It would make the whole body more manageable. Of that reduced body those not in the Government should be divided up into various commissions—foreign affairs, economic, social, education and so on, and the existing Public Accounts. Here I agree absolutely with what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said. These commissions would take the place of the existing Standing Committees.
Before these commissions members of the Government and I think also, with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, senior civil servants should be cross-examined on matters of policy. I do not think, with my noble friend Lord Strang, that this would result in more bottlenecks and more work for Ministers. I think more or less the opposite would happen. There would be fewer Parliamentary Questions to answer; M.P.s would not bother to ask Parliamentary Questions if all had a chance of playing a rôle with the commissions. The civil servants would not be kept all the time answering these questions. There would be fewer major debates. It would streamline the whole thing and give Ministers much less work rather than more. Evidence might sometimes have to be given in camera, of course, particularly on foreign affairs and defence, but I am sure in general that the commissions should be shown classified or confidential documents. Here I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said. There is no reason why they should not be shown, not absolutely top secret but perhaps even secret papers. The smaller body of 400 or 500 people would on the whole be responsible. In certain circumstances it might not be possible to circulate some papers, but I think on the whole they should see papers which inevitably in our modern world do come out; they are nearly always known after a short time.
Everyone should have complete liberty to express his view in these commissions, and I think also that what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth 659 said it is true: they might not always divide on strictly Party lines. That is so. But if in any case any particular Minister was considered to have put up a bad show in the commission it would be open to the Prime Minister to sack him. It would not matter; he would get rid of him. I think this would be all the more feasible if there were in the Government more Members of a reformed House of Lords than there are at present. For these technocrats could surely be regarded more as officials (in the American sense), and could therefore, if necessary, be "massacred" by the Prime Minister from time to time and nobody would mind. Naturally, I think, the major offices, except perhaps foreign affairs and defence, would normally be manned by Members of the House of Commons, but it would be to the corn-missions that many legislators might under my system be primarily attracted rather than towards the Cabinet itself, restricted, as I think it should be, to about twelve people who should be regarded more as the personal advisers of the Prime Minister. After all, many of the officers in the commissions would in fact be more important than many Ministers.
Even if the Minister of Defence were a Peer, the President of the defence commission of the House of Commons would be nearly as important and certainly a more permanent feature of the landscape. And, besides, by making a good speech in a commission a Back Bencher would have just as much influence, probably more, as if lie made a good speech on the Floor of the House of Commons itself. In any case there might well be advantage in allowing Ministers to speak (though not to vote) in either House. This system works quite well elsewhere; it is not regarded as undemocratic anywhere else.
By all such means I would endeavour to bring back more of the political centre of gravity to the Palace of Westminster and resist to some extent, or at any rate curb, the possibly inevitable tendency to transform the Prime Minister into something approaching a dictator. I am quite aware that such a reform on these lines might tend to weaken the present stranglehold on Parliament of the Party machines. But if you are going to inject some life 660 into our democracy I think that this would be positively desirable.
My third reform—which is more questionable and perhaps more revolutionary; I do not know—would concern the Civil Service. There is not time to do anything except to put it forward quite summarily. I suggest that after each General Election the incoming Prime Minister, in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition, should nominate a Member of this reformed House or possibly some well-known organiser from outside Parliament, from industry perhaps, to be the Secretary to the Cabinet, responsible for carrying out the Government's decisions and for taking the minutes of Cabinet meetings—frankly a political appointment, but it should be agreed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is not impossible. It seems to me that this official could have authority over the whole machine of ministerial committees and, in agreement with the head of the Civil Service, who would of course remain a civil servant, and aided by a high-level civil servant of his own, be responsible for streamlining and restaffing the whole of this very important committee machine.
It would be for this man to recommend to the Prime Minister the possible employment for certain specific purposes of experts outside the Civil Service. I do not think they would necessarily go into the Ministries as temporary civil servants, but they might well be put on these commissions. I think, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that this would do more to avoid Byzantinism and tendencies towards arteriosclerosis of the body politic than almost anything else. Since we cannot without long preparation introduce the French system of the grandes écoles, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, referred, I feel that the sort of system I am suggesting would nevertheless result in our present corps of excellent civil servants getting to know something more about the outside world, the world outside their immediate speciality, and getting them mixed up more with the outside world as a whole.
What I should like to see, in principle, is somebody like Mr. McNamara in charge of this whole operation. I am sure that it should not be for life, but 661 rather restricted to the life of any one Parliament. Otherwise such a personality would become too powerful by half. However, I think that such an appointment would lessen the burden on Ministers, just as my proposals for another place might result in greatly improving the whole legislative machine. I hope that whoever comes into power this year will really get down at any rate to far-reaching, reforms, perhaps on the general lines that I have suggested, perhaps on other lines, and not just play around with patching up the existing machine and hoping for the best. I think that either side could do it perfectly well. It is obvious that such far-reaching reforms would not be agreeable to many people—that is evident from their apparent reception by many here in this House. Nevertheless, I think they might well be in the national interest.
§ 6.41 p.m.
My Lords, I have little Parliamentary experience, and I would ask to be forgiven for putting forward the views I am going to put forward fairly strongly. They are views which I held to some degree before taking an active part in this House, and I think they represent the views of quite a number of people outside. Within six months or a year, perhaps, after getting used to the weight of experience and tradition that one finds in the House here and elsewhere, one might not be able to say the things that I am going to say quite so strongly. I am putting them forward in a strong form because I think this is the easiest way to make the point.
I think we are justifiably proud of our traditions of democracy and Parliamentary government, but if these are to endure we must be ready to adapt them to our changing needs. It follows that our Parliamentary system must continue to command the respect and affection of the electors. To-day there are many thinking people, both in and outside Parliament, who believe that the public image of Parliament is not as good as we should wish it to be. I should like to consider some of the reasons why this may be so. Students of our Constitution and Government may well discuss how far, under modern conditions, the day-to-day control over the running of our country still remains in the hands of Parliament; but in the 662 minds of the majority it is still Parliament which is responsible. They appreciate the increasing burden of work which falls on Parliament and the difficulty of finding time to consider new legislation. They therefore find it hard to understand wily so much of the valuable time is taken up in airing minor Party differences, sometimes with little apparent relevance to the subject at issue.
In the years gone by some of the greatest speeches were made on Party matters, but then they could more often be equated with major national issues. Moreover, in those more leisured days the political peccadilloes of the great could, without much harm, rank as a source of interest to all classes. To-day, not only is time at a premium but issues arc more complex, the electorate is better informed, and Party differences often hinge not on the merits of a measure but on the priority it should receive from the limited funds available—for example, roads and the increase in old age pensions.
In the change of our social order to a more classless society there have been many hardly fought battles, and their after effects are still apparent in the bitterness of some of our Parliamentary traditions and behaviour. Seen from the outside, these can give the impression that we are living in a bygone age where class prejudice and not the national interest was sometimes the more important consideration. The electorate expect a debate to deal squarely with differences in Party policy on the issues involved, but they are not sympathetic when it degenerates into a game in which the object is to score as many Party points as possible before the whistle blows or the umpire intervenes.
Fortunate as we may be to-day in having men of the highest calibre in Parliament to lead this country, this state of affairs can continue only if new men are recruited and, perhaps I should add, most carefully selected from all walks of life. The proposal to increase the present rates of remuneration is an essential first step in this direction. I think we must also ask ourselves why Parliament does not seem to attract our leaders from other spheres, in particular industry; and why employers are so unwilling to make it possible for men to go into Parliament on a temporary or 663 part-time basis. This country has never lacked men who would put the national interest before their own, and I do not believe that the loss of earnings, security or career prospects is the whole reason. I am afraid we must admit that Parliamentary office to-day no longer commands the respect it used to, and many able men feel that they could accomplish little worth while if they were to make the sacrifice. I do not pretend to offer a complete solution to this problem, but the situation must be improved if we are to retain a balanced and representative Parliament which does not suffer from the evils of professional politics with third-rate men in control.
Our Civil Service is probably one of the best in the world, but by its very constitution and traditions of service it was never designed to be the supreme governing authority of this country. Nor can it by itself be expected to initiate and co-ordinate new policies affecting the whole field of government. This was, and I believe still is, the responsibility of our Ministers. If they are to do this and be effective heads of their Ministries they must be selected with this end in view, and their debating burden eased. It must be accepted that on most matters it is sufficient for their Parliamentary Secretaries to speak for them.
Valuable as is Parliament's function as a guard against abuses and a watchdog of public morality, it would indeed be a tragedy if this became its major role, or became a part of a game played to embarrass Ministers for political ends. Government to-day is a serious matter—it is too serious to allow the judgment and efficiency of a Prime Minister, or, for that matter, of any other Minister, to be impaired by such treatment. On the two recent issues which have arisen the Opposition have shown restraint, but I cannot help wondering whether, if political circumstances had been rather different, they, or my own Party, would still have done so.
As I have already said, the general public is better informed and educated than it ever was in the past. It expects to be told the true and complete reasons for Government decisions wherever this is at all possible. Parliament, I believe, has a duty to lead public opinion and not to play down to the gallery, and 664 this duty should be done above that of Party loyalties. If this principle is established, I believe it can do more to increase the value of Parliamentary debates than almost anything else. As it is, one sometimes wonders whether our administrators may not be tempted to consider the facts on which a decision is based and those required to justify it politically in public as two distinct and separate matters.
Turning for a moment to the Press, we may perhaps with reason regret that Parliamentary proceedings and personalities are so often misrepresented: but it is not unknown for speeches to be made with an eye towards the Press Gallery, and can we expect better treatment if the Ministries so often fail to provide the information which the Press needs? The cynics sometimes say that the only morality the Press understands is its circulation. Could it also be said that ours was governed by the electoral vote?
My Lords, I have tried, with some temerity, to suggest a number of areas in which I believe improvement should be made in our Parliamentary method of Government. I should like briefly to summarise these: first, that the minor political content and Party bitterness in debates should be reduced as far as possible, and the standard of debate raised; secondly, that Parliament should try to give the public less politics and more of the reasons on which its decisions are based; thirdly, that the catchment area from which Parliamentary representatives are drawn must be widened by increasing remuneration and by making Parliamentary office more attractive to leaders in other spheres; fourthly, that Ministers' Parliamentary tasks should be eased, and that they should be selected as much for their administrative as for their political ability.
If this country is to be a leader among the newer nations, which, we hope, will also set up forms of democratic government, we must show the way. It is not enough to say that our form of government is still the best that democratic traditions have produced. Those things which are unworthy of it in the modern age must be changed. We must make politics a sphere of life which is respected and which will continue to attract the 665 best men that England can produce. If we do not do this, democracy and much else which we stand for may be in jeopardy.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, although for obvious reasons the impending General Election may well cause any legislation emanating from this debate to be delayed, nevertheless I believe one thing to be quite certain: that whoever wins the next Election, whichever Party comes to power, will really have to grasp the nettle very tightly. The House is extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for allowing us the opportunity to discuss this vital matter. The noble Lord moved the Motion with his usual courtesy and conviction, and we have been regaled with a number of speeches from distinguished Parliamentarians from all Parties and from all walks of life.
We have now a small nucleus of noble Lords who have not actually sat in Parliament but who nevertheless have a great interest in this subject. I myself held office for several years as chairman of a branch of the Young Conservatives, and even there I came across problems—not always Party political problems—not entirely unrelated to the much vaster problems posed by the subject matter of this debate. Unless something is done to deal at least partly with the implications of this matter, Parliament will grind to a halt just as surely as traffic grinds to a halt on the Brighton sea front during August Bank Holiday—and I do not think that is overstating the case.
I believe the London Government Act, as it now is, is a case in point. This House sat for very long hours on this legislation and many Members, particularly the older ones, suffered acute mental and physical discomfort over it. It poses the point whether Parliament, sitting as it does for some eight months in the year, can seriously tackle five or six major Bills each Session. The London Government Bill was the kind of Bill which, to discuss properly, whether politically or otherwise, needed a Session in itself. It is, of course, difficult to conceive of a situation whereby to-day this could become a reality, because so much legislation is 666 being asked for—legislation of a legal nature, Private Members' Bills and legislation regarding consumer protection, quite apart from foreign affairs matters. Therefore a real problem exists here, a problem which is going to need a superhuman brain to solve. If Bills such as the London Government Bill are going to get full and proper discussion, much more time has to be found for them.
It may be that in this House, rather than that we should have a Committee on the Floor of the House we need Standing Committees; but whether that would get support from the public is another matter. They may well think that this is a form of guillotine, although to my mind that is a misconception. In another place it is obvious that Standing Committees must he held, because with 600 or so Members of Parliament it is clear that if each and every one wanted to say something on a Bill time would not permit. But in this House, with a Bill such as the London Government Bill, which was a specialised Bill, I think it would be possible to appoint a Standing Committee of all those noble Lords who have an interest in the matter. As it happened, something like 30 or 40 noble Lords actually took part in those debates, and I think that it would be possible to take a Committee stage of that kind, which must necessarily be in considerable detail, upstairs, thereby leaving the Floor of the House for more general matters and saving valuable Parliamentary time.
Much has been said about the duties of Ministers and their Parliamentary Secretaries. One of the problems of Government to-day is that, with the vast changes in defence, medicine, housing and other matters, Ministers and their junior counterparts often cannot find the time or opportunity to travel around the country as much as they ought to do. I am thinking particularly in terms of their visiting hospitals, seeing housing schemes, visiting Army units, and so on. I know Ministers and Members of Parliament of all Parties do their level best irrespective of Party, but with the great changes which are taking place to-day it is questionable whether Ministers really devote enough time to seeing new projects in action. In the case of Defence, 667 I do not suppose there are many Members in either House of Parliament who have actually served with the new projects which are being operated or planned to-day. We are all used to conventional weapons, but whether we are really conversant with these great new projects is another matter. In fact it can fairly be said that Ministers, and indeed Parliament generally, are too desk-tied. It is vital that Members of Parliament, whether Front Bench or Back Bench, and Members of this House should travel more and see the many new projects and ideas, at home and abroad and in the Commonwealth, which are being put forward.
The solution of this problem is, of course, much harder than the ideas which I and other noble Lords have put forward. I am thinking largely in terms of the future, because it is people of my own age group of all Parties who will have to grapple with these problems in ten or twenty years' time. What kind of conditions we shall have then is anybody's guess; nevertheless we cannot bury our heads in the sand and we must think about these problems.
There is some cynicism about the quality of our Members of Parliament and our Ministers of the present day. To my mind, this is entirely wrong. I have in another place a number of friends of my own age group of all Parties, men and women sitting on the Opposition Benches and on the Government Benches, with whose views I may not necessarily agree but who have original ideas and ideas which should be explored.
A good deal has been said about remuneration. Here, my Lords, there are obvious difficulties. There are some Members who can afford to serve Parliament quite easily; there are others, maybe who have young families with education problems, who find it a great financial strain, not to mention a strain on their health. Here there is a case for some kind of inquiry into salaries or the ancillary assistances. The matter of secretaries is an example. I know of two Members of Parliament of my own age group who cannot afford secretaries, and they have to start typing their own letters at about 8 a.m. That is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. They may be sitting until two in the morning 668 or later and then they have to get up early, get on the typewriter, and deal with constituency problems. It is fairly obvious that the constituents concerned cannot obtain the benefit which they ought to get from their representatives. It is no fault of the representatives, but their constituents have a right to be served in a more adaptable manner.
The important point, however, is that it is the system, the organisation, which is at fault, not necessarily those who serve it. I am too young to have known great men like Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Chamberlain or even Sir Winston Churchill when he was Prime Minister, but I think our present leaders of all Parties have the same qualities as their predecessors. Perhaps their ideas are more novel, perhaps they are not so original, but I think they work just as hard, if not harder, and they have many new problems to solve.
One problem is that television and the new devices often project quite wrongly the views and the characters of our Parliamentarians. In programmes like "Any Questions", Gallery and so on, the politicians taking part are undoubtedly able, and it is often the fact that the general public gauge Parliament by people of that kind; and it is perhaps understandable that they should do so. But there are many politicians of all Parties who do not necessarily speak on the Floor of the House, who do not appear on television or on radio and who do not write books, but who nevertheless do an excellent job of work, either on Committees or elsewhere, and it is right—and this is particularly important for the future—that the country at large should know it. I would ask the Deputy Leader of the House whether he or the Government can devise ways and means of putting this over to the people.
Another problem which faces Parliament is the fact that the City, where I myself work, has become regarded as a kind of sinister bastion of Toryism, and the factory floor has become regarded by some as an equally sinister bastion of Socialism. This is a very wrong and dangerous conception. There are a number of people working in the City who are anything, but Conservative; there are many in industry, even on the shop floor, who are anything but supporters of the Labour Party. It is quite 669 wrong that the general public should gauge these organisations as in a kind of biased political contest, because by this both the City of London and the trade unions get, quite unjustly, a bad name.
This is not helped by people like Professor Chapman—whose book I, and I expect other noble Lords, have read—who makes such an inaccurate survey of your Lordships' House. He says:"The real objection to it"—this being the House of Lords—is that it does not represent anything; neither industry, banking, labour, land, universities, nor even the Church of England.My Lords, a more inaccurate statement can hardly be conceived, because my own impression of this House is that all these things are admirably represented—perhaps not necessarily in number, but certainly in quality. The danger is that people from abroad read these statements and often believe them, and unless and until these statements are contradicted our Government and our system of government are going to be very much derided and scorned by many people. There are, of course, other very real problems. In the summer this House, particularly, has an enormous amount of legislation to go through, and for obvious reasons it cannot be properly discussed, either because of the time or often because of the hot weather and other reasons.
Finally, may I put one or two brief suggestions to the Minister? First, in any Department, particularly a Department where there is more than one Parliamentary Secretary, at least one person holding ministerial office should travel the country rather than be tied to the desk. This is particularly important in such offices as the Ministries of Health and Housing, where new hospital schemes and new housing schemes need to be seen by the Ministers concerned, senior or otherwise. Secondly, there is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, himself made so admirably: that consultations between industry and commercial concerns and the Government, and if necessary the Opposition leaders, should take place more often before a Bill is published. Thereby much time and much unnecessary political bickering would be saved, and the Bill would become a much 670 better Bill. Thirdly, with such Bills as the London Government Bill, which need a lot of specialised discussion, consideration should be given to having a Standing Committee rather than a Committee of the Whole House. I know that here there are difficulties, but I think these can be overcome.
My Lords, I know that the Minister has a great many points to which to reply. He has been given a great deal of ammunition; but I think all those who have taken part in this debate have had one motive for so doing. We are very anxious to ensure that, whichever Party wins the next Election—and, indeed, future Elections—the quality of Government which this country has had in the past should be continued and, indeed, bettered in the future.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ LORD TODD
My Lords, I think it must be evident to everyone that the problems that face Governments to-day impose such severe strains on the machinery of Government that further increases in the complexity of these problems, which I think we can confidently expect, are likely to lead to its complete breakdown. Like other noble Lords, I am very glad that this subject has been brought to our attention to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I was particularly interested in his introductory speech and, in particular, in one point on which he touched. Matters relating to science and Government—using the word "science" in its broadest sense—have not been touched on to any extent, I think, by earlier speakers to-day, and it is to them that I should like to address myself.
The root of our troubles, it seems to me—and not merely our troubles, but most of tile troubles in the world at the present time—is the fantastic rate of scientific and technological progress during this century, and the disparity between this and the very slow rate of change in our social attitudes and, indirectly, of course, our methods of government. We must not imagine that it is just the appearance of tremendous, new, military weapons like the atomic bomb that has altered our lives: the mere increase in the speed of communication has completely revolutionised not only the internal affairs of nations but the relationships between nations. Almost every aspect of public life is 671 to-day permeated by the advancing front of science, and the issues facing Government are affected by scientific considerations of ever-increasing complexity which, by their very nature, are simply not understood by the public at large, nor even by Parliament, and therefore cannot sensibly be debated here.
To say this is not to decry the function of Parliament—far from it! It would be absurd, to my mind, to demand or to expect that politicians should simultaneously be technical experts, just as it would be equally wrong to imagine that technical experts, merely by the fact of being technical experts, necessarily have any political capacity at all. But we have to recognise that the politician who rises to ministerial rank by the accepted route, via the House of Commons, now finds himself faced with the need to take political decisions which can sensibly be made only in the light of complex scientific considerations which he cannot fully understand; and so he must have available to him, I submit, the best possible advice. This applies to almost every Government Department and activity. I believe that this view will be generally accepted, but the question is whether we are doing enough about it. I doubt very much whether we are.
In the field of Defence, the importance of science has been, for a variety of reasons which I need not enumerate this evening, recognised for quite a long time, and the vital role which is, or should be, occupied by the scientific adviser in the field of policy is recognised in the recent proposals for the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. Now the problems of civil science are in some ways more complex than those of defence science, since they are, in a sense, a great deal less self-contained; but science is just as important on the civil as on the defence side—indeed, civil and defence science have considerable areas of contact and overlap. So much so, I may say, that there ought to be a good deal more intimate contact between the two sides than there has been in the past, and I hope that, as a result of reorganisations proposed, the position is going to get somewhat better.
672 The Haldane Report on the Machinery of Government, which has been mentioned, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in particular, recognised in 1918 the growing importance of science in the affairs of Government; and in that Report there was laid down a basic pattern for research under Government auspices which is in its general conception, I believe, as valid to-day as it was then, although naturally enough, with the passage of time and the advance of science, there are some chances of detail which are perhaps necessary. Briefly put, the sense of the recommendations was that general background research should be conducted outwith executive Departments of Government, with a large measure of freedom on what could be called the Research Council pattern, and that Departments themselves should be concerned with their own practical day-to-day research needs. I think there is very broad agreement among scientists to-day that the Research Council pattern is sound, that the Councils should be under a Minister in the Cabinet free from the responsibilities of an executive Department, and that the same Minister, with the necessary assistance of a high-level Advisory Council, should be responsible for broad issues of national scientific policy.
But in the context of our debate to-day, and particularly in connection with the problems confronting Ministers, it is the role of the scientist in executive Departments to which I should like to draw attention. Since 1947 there has been an Advisory Council on Scientific Policy which has provided successive Governments with a great deal of advice on broad policy, although it is only fair to note that not all of this advice has been implemented. In its first Report in 1947 the Council discussed this very problem and advised that executive Departments should be responsible for identifying problems, for settling their order of priority, for deciding where any necessary investigations should be carried out and for applying the results of these investigations.
To this end, the Council proposed that Departments should, as a rule, appoint a chief scientific officer whose function would be to advise generally on the scientific aspects of departmental policy; 673 that he should have a staff sufficient to carry out operational research, and that in some cases, at least, it might be advantageous to appoint an Advisory Council which would assist the Minister in formulating the scientific policy of his Department. Experience since 1947 suggests that these recommendations have not had the desirable effect that was hoped for. This is, I believe, due in part to the fact that the recommendations have, in some instances at least, received little more than lip service and there have been quite inadequate departmental staffs to carry out these recommendations.
What is not sufficiently realised is that science must be represented at the highest level in the Department if it is to be of any real value to a Minister. At present, the Permanent Secretary of a Department is usually an administrative civil servant without any scientific qualifications. I do not wish to belittle the senior administrative civil servants, and I must confess that I have the highest regard for the ability of those I have been privileged to meet. But I believe it is necessary in these days to have more than this. I think there should be in Departments, on the same level as Permanent Secretaries, someone whom we might call a Scientific Secretary, aided, where appropriate, by an Advisory Council, whose job would be to be in touch with scientific developments of actual or potential value to the Department, both inside and outside Government agencies, and who, with suitable staff, could deal with operational research and with the day-to-day scientific and technological problems of the Department's work.
To be sure, men suitable to perform adequately this function are not perhaps very numerous; but nor, for that matter, are the kind of people who make good Permanent Secretaries of the present type. I believe they might have to come from without, as well as from within, the Scientific Civil Service. They would be scientist-administrators of rather a special type; they would require to have judgment and a knowledge of the practicability as well as of the novelty of scientific advances. But to my mind there is no reason to believe that people of this type cannot be found among the ranks of those trained as 674 professional scientists or technologists, any more than there is reason to believe that they exist, ready-made, among students of the classics or any other subjects. Capacity for this kind of thing is inherent in a man and is not produced by his professional training.
It is my belief that the introduction of suitable scientists at the highest level —even if it has to be done at times by temporary secondment of an idividual for a relatively short period of years—is something that should happen in all Departments. I am, of course, using "science" here in the broadest sense to include natural sciences, engineering and social sciences; because all in their different respects might be required in different Departments. I believe that the joint advice of the administrative and scientific secretaries, if I may so call them, would ensure that the Minister has all the relevant technical evidence and advice available to him to assist him in decision-making. This would lead not only to greater confidence in the correctness of decision but also, I think, to a forward-looking departmental policy which would, or could, be in tune with modern needs.
I am not arguing for a system which is sometimes described as technocracy; but to-day the problems that face Government rest ultimately on the accelerating pace of scientific advance which, inevitably, is going to create new and potentially explosive situations, socially, economically and in international relations. They demand for their solution that science, in the broadest sense of the term, should play a central role in policy determination. And this is possible only if the best scientific advice is always available—and at the highest level—in the machinery of Government. We should remember that the second-best is useless. The old cleavage which has been maintained between science, administration and policy is outmoded. The sooner we get rid of it, the better for all concerned.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I think this is one of the most interesting debates I have ever listened to, and I should like to join with other noble Lords in giving my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for having I initiated it. I do not think I have very 675 much right to join in it, because I have never held office under Government and have not even had the privilege of sitting in another place. But, on the other hand, I have observed from outside and, for what they are worth, I will give the conclusions that an outsider can give.
Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, was quite right when he said that we have departed a very long way from what may be called democratic Government; in fact, I very much doubt if we ever had what was originally called"democracy"—in other words,Government of the people, for the people, by the people"—since it is quite obvious that the people are not governed by the people. No person in this country who does not occupy a governmental or judicial position, or who is not a member of the police force, can have the slightest power to control the actions of his fellow citizens. He can appeal to the law to do so, but that is quite a different thing. It may be claimed that, in an indirect way, people have a hand in the making of the law, but is this really so?
Just look at what happens at the election of a Member of Parliament. The constituent has two men—I need not bother to say "or possibly three", since the Liberal Benches are empty—set in front of him and he is supposed to choose which of them he wishes to represent his interests in Parliament. He has not chosen the men; he may, in fact, think them unsuitable candidates; but he has not the slightest opportunity to choose any alternative. Then comes the election. Does the constituent then vote for the man or for the Party? I think we all know the answer to that. Let us take it a little further. When the successful candidate has taken his seat in Parliament, does he, in fact, represent the constituents who voted for him? The answer, is, again, No. He represents his Party's policy. Even if in his heart of hearts he does not approve of that particular detail of its policy which they are discussing at the moment and even, perhaps, if he knows it is not in the best interests of his constituents, the Party Whip makes quite sure of securing his support. However, my Lords, having 676 said all this and having shown that democracy, even at its best, is not really what it was originally claimed to be, I am bound to admit that I think the general pattern of Government in this country to-day could not be better. I am quite certain that the purpose of the noble Lord's Motion is not to find a different system but to find means of bettering the present one.
The question has been raised whether candidates for Parliamentary election should have had some preliminary training before being allowed to stand. I think they should; or, at any rate, that they should have had some examination of their knowledge of national and international affairs. After all, we do not allow a man to drive a car, to teach in a school or even to play in an orchestra, without having had some previous experience. Why, then, should we allow an untrained man to be sent to Parliament to help shape the pattern of our national law? I am not suggesting that this training should be too intensive or too specialised. Indeed, the whole value of a two-Chamber Parliament lies in the fact that those in the first Chamber are, so to speak, the general practitioners, while in the second are the consultants or specialists. This is the system as we have it to-day, and in general it works very well.
Now I should like to deal with the Ministers and the various Ministries. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, about the relations of Ministers with the Prime Minister. They should have more power to take decisions on their own. In the days of my more extreme ignorance, I used to think that the ideal would be to have an expert at the head of each Ministry, such as a soldier at the War Office, an ex-sailor as the First Lord of the Admiralty, and so on; but of course that would be not only impossible but also undesirable, because a Minister's first duty is political. None the less, I cannot feel that the periodic reshuffles, to which we are all used, can give the public any confidence that Ministers really know what they are doing. I think that a Minister should remain in office and learn a little more about the functions with which he is dealing.
677 I should like to say a word about the Chamber in which Ministers sit. I have mentioned this before, I know. When the noble Earl, Lord Home, as he then was, was made Foreign Secretary, there was a terrific outcry from all quarters of Parliament and from outside as well. It was said that no Foreign Secretary should sit in your Lordships' House. Well, he soon proved that to be a fallacy. And I shall not forget hearing no less a person than the noble Earl who leads the Opposition (I think I am quoting him correctly) saying that we never had a better Foreign Secretary. Surely, with all the increased demands on their time Ministers would find things a great deal easier if they did not have to deal also with their constituencies. They have Parliamentary Secretaries, and these could sit in another House as a sort of deputy Minister and answer any questions which were asked of the Ministry. After all, the questions are directed to the Ministry and not to the Minister. I know that in some cases it would not be workable, but I think a much greater proportion of Ministers could be Members of your Lordships' House.
Now I would say a word about the relative status of the two Chambers. That a two-Chamber Government is desirable I do not think that anybody would deny, but though their functions and their natures are not alike, I feel that the status of the two Chambers should be much more equal than it is at present. Incidentally, I would say that this could be brought about only if we saw to it that the number of Peers who sit on the opposite Benches was roughly equal to that of those who sit on these Benches, and I think that that would be a most desirable thing. As things are at present, they can never hope to win any Division. This fact is widely known, and so any pronouncement which this House may make does not tend to bear much weight, and naturally our status falls.
I am not going to say anything about the hereditary system which to a large extent still prevails in our House, except to say that I am not among those who condemn it. I would just touch on one point which has been mentioned by both the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord Auckland—that is, remuneration. The mere fact of holding an hereditary title 678 does not mean that one necessarily holds anything else, and a great many of us are finding regular attendance a great strain on our resources. Indeed, many are prevented from attending at all owing to the fact that they have to earn their livings. I feel that if we want a full House we shall have to find some means of making it possible for Members to attend. After all, we have to look at things from a present-day point of view.
To sum up, I feel that the general pattern of our Government is as good as it could be. It just needs a few adjustments to make it the envy of the whole world.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I agree entirely with the penultimate remark of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and shall be coming to it in a moment. I have two regrets about this debate. The first is that my noble friend Lord Shackleton, in his opening remarks "pinched" my opening line, which was to say that he and I had both served as sorcerers' apprentices to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth—and a jolly good sorcerer he was to serve under! One could disagree with him violently—and he would never take offence. Mark you! he never took any notice of one's disagreement; but he was a very good trainer.
My second regret is that only one ex-Cabinet Minister has spoken so far in this debate.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I accept that correction. Anyway, I regret that we have not had more; because if more ex-Ministers had taken part in the debate we should have had a more realistic debate in one respect—that is, the relation of Ministers to the Prime Minister, whether he is primus inter pares, or an overlord. The Prime Minister must have certain powers in order to do his job—the power of dissolution and the power of the sack. In practice, he will not exercise the power of the sack against very powerful or influential or good colleagues. They have to arrive at a compromise, or Government could not go on. Whether he occupies the primus inter pares or the dictatorial position must depend enormously on the personality of the Prime Minister and on 679 the personalities of the other chief Ministers. A chief Minister who has his policy thought out and is determined will nearly always get what he wants. That is my experience.
I remember, in our excellent debate on higher education, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, describing what actually happened in the Cabinet when it came to higher education. The only time that higher education has been discussed, so he told us—and he was not repeating a Cabinet secret—was in connection with the road across Christ Church Meadow. That, I am sure, is true. I am sure the picture we have had has been just a little unrealistic in that respect, but in that respect only. In every other respect I think that this has been a first-class debate. My noble friend Lord Shackle-ton, in his splendid opening speech, offered us a wide vista of problems to consider and try to offer solutions for; and from that speech have flowed some extremely interesting contributions, some perhaps more practical than others. I propose to try to make a few practical remarks to finish up the debate from our side. In so doing, I would again reiterate what my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said; that is to say, that we are speaking individually. This is not the sort of thing on which one can or ought to take a Party line.
It seems to me that there are three most essential processes in the work of any Government. The first is decision-making, on which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, had some excellent remarks to make. The second is the right machinery for doing the particular jobs. This was something to which my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, when he was a Minister, devoted a great deal of time—and I shall say a little more about this in a few minutes. The third is selecting the right people to do particular jobs. If one does these three right—that is, if one makes the decision right, gets the machinery right and then selects the right people—one does not have much trouble.
I will deal first with decision-making. The quality of decision depends largely, but not entirely (and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Todd), on the data available to the person making the decision. The noble Lord, Lord Mel- 680 chett, said that sloppy thinking leads to ambiguous drafting; and I agree with him. And sloppy thinking springs very often from inadequate data, badly expressed to start with. If the right relevant data are fully collected and before you, most decisions almost make themselves. A little while ago I was Chairman of the Labour Party Committee on Higher Education, and we, with inadequate resources, produced almost the same document, although much shorter, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, with all the resources of Government. We did this simply because we assembled the data and drew the conclusions. If one assembles the data and draws the conclusions, one gets the thing right.
I have carefully watched the Government over the past seven years to see how they did things, when they did them right and when I thought they did them wrong. I am not making any Party point here, but merely taking them as a subject for the art of government. I think that almost all their serious mistakes have been due to poor intelligence work; to not gathering the facts—and here we might err just as much as they have; and to allowing political preconceptions to operate in making decisions instead of basing action on dispassionate analysis of the available data. This does not mean that you reach flabby conclusions, but that you base your decisions on evidence and not on prejudice.
The two great fields where I think the intelligence supplied to the Government (I use "intelligence" in the technical sense) has been poor have been in demography and in the social field. I think that every Department of Government should be watching population trends; watching the movement of population and the best available forecasts, especially in those fields where the Government have to plan or make the actual provision for people, either immediately or in the years ahead. Here one is thinking of housing, education, factory building, and all the rest. Twelve years ago it was perfectly obvious to anybody who looked at the population statistics and the land-use statistics of this country that we were going to run into an increasing housing problem which could be solved only by the creation of many more new towns. There 681 was no other way to do it; the people who were going to be there could not be accommodated in any other way.
I must say that I have been advocating all this time that we should start one new town a year; because even when the decision is taken, it takes four years to get a new town going, due to time taken for the provision of sewerage works, water supplies, roads and so on. No contribution flows in terms of housing for at least four years. It has taken the Government ten years to see that this was going to happen. Now we are getting a spate of new towns started which should have been started long ago if the needs were to be fully met. I believe that the minimum need now, if we are ever to catch up, is for two new towns a year to be regularly started as part of Government policy for the future.
It is the same in the case of the crisis over higher education. If somebody had been putting the statistical facts of population before the Government the moment they were available, and pushing them to the appropriate Ministers, they would not have been caught as they have been over the bulge in the birth rate as it reached higher education level. We have exactly the same crisis over the supply of doctors, the only difference being that in this case the Government apparently still do not know that there is a crisis, and that, were it not for the doctors from Pakistan, India, the West Indies, Africa and the rest, our hospitals just could not function. Although the population has steadily gone up, there has been no real increase in the output of our medical schools. Then there is the crisis of unemployment in the North, the North Midlands and the West. The facts were there for everybody to see if only someone had been pushing them before the appropriate Ministers.
I think we need a Department of democratic planning which will be constantly watching the situation and directing the attention of all the Departments to the indications of population changes. It may be said that this is the job of the Registrar General. He operates as an adjunct to the Ministry of Health, but it is significant that some of the greatest failures of demographic planning have been in the Ministry of Health. So there is no evidence that the Registrar General in fact impinges on the Minister 682 of Health, and certainly no evidence that the Minister of Health is himself drawing the attention of his colleagues to the facts which they should be watching all the time. How you do this, I am not absolutely certain. I hesitate to suggest a Minister of Demography only because my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth is sitting below me. Any suggestion of a new Minister is to him like red rag to a bull, and a Ministry of Demography would, I am sure, drive him round the bend. But I am sure this is the sort of thing we might do, because the fact of the number of people in this country is so vital to all social planning. The impact of this must be brought to hear at ministerial level in each Department, and each Department must be forced to face the fact of what inevitably will happen if they do not do something about it.
I now come to social intelligence. This means nothing more nor less than the impact of Government action on ordinary people; how Government action affects the life of the ordinary old-age pensioner, of the person who is paying 2s. as a prescription charge—which, incidentally, is one of the silliest measures ever to be persisted in. Ask any general practitioner how it works and he will tell you that in order to save poor people money—and most sick people are poor people, because most sick people are not able to work—he over-prescribes in quantity in order to cut down the number of 2s. they have to pay. So the net result in terms of saving to the nation is very little indeed. Equally, many old-age pensioners who are entitled to reclaim their 2s. from the National Assistance Board are too proud to go, and when they go to the doctor many of them have not enough money to pay the 2s., and they have to wait until the end of the week until they get their pension in order to buy the essential drugs they need.
This sort of social intelligence, the fact that these things are happening, should be being collected by appropriate social intelligence machinery. During the war I used to run such machinery for Her Majesty's Government, when it was called the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information. Probably rightly, this was wound up at the end of the war, but this can be done and, much more important, the Govern- 683 ment have a good statistical social intelligence machine in the Government's social service which was part of our Home Intelligence Division when it was originally started. Having got the data, this Government still have—or those responsible still have—a creative job to do in reaching the right decisions. It is a process which might be called social engineering or social architecture. I am never quite sure which is the better term, because in making a good social agency there is an element of engineering, and also an element of social imagination which is required. In this, the first essential is creating the right type of agency to do the job.
To listen to most of our debate one might have thought that the whole machinery of Government consisted of Parliament, the Cabinet, the members of the Government and the Civil Service. But, of course, an immense amount of the function of Government is performed by agencies—by the University Grants Committee, the B.B.C., I.T.A., Regional Hospital Boards, New Town Development Corporations, and the National Coal Board, and very often it is not the Civil Service which is the appropriate agency for doing a particular job, for obvious reasons when one thinks about it.
I often wonder, for example, whether it is best for our prisons to be run by the Home Office, or whether they should he run by a body like a true Prison Commission, as it were, with lay members on it, just as the B.B.C. have lay members. There are, I know, special areas in connection with the prison service and the freedom of the individual which might make this inappropriate. But in essence it is a question of providing homes and treatment and care for a number of people over a wide area. I do not think these are the jobs which the Civil Service necessarily do well, and I am quite sure they are not the jobs which are suitable for continuous Parliamentary inquisition. I do not think it makes them any more efficient to subject them to that.
There is one other thing about the Civil Service which is admirable in some ways, but less so in others; that is its passion for absolute justice and equality as between individuals. This is some- 684 thing one never achieves in any case, and I think it is far better in social legislation to achieve simplicity, even if it is not absolutely fair. For example, the television licence at £4 a year is universally accepted, and is jolly good value for money.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I am inclined to agree with my noble friend. Take the whole of the National Insurance system: it is eminently fair, but it is very complicated, and if one could work out the amount of money and human effort which is spent on administering it, I think it would be found to be quite disastrous. I suggest that the keynote of all social legislation and planning which involves ordinary people should be simplicity.
Now a word about power and the lust for power. We have heard a good deal about power in relation to Ministers, but power to a large extent is in the hands of the civil servants. This is a direct result of the complexities of Government. I do not think civil servants have sought it, although some have. There are some people who seek power in every organisation. But civil servants exert an immense amount of power, and to me, at any rate, it is important that power should not come to reside in the Civil Service. Ministers are in fact the guardians of the public in this matter of power in the hands of the Civil Service. There is the power which comes from the control of the fount of honour, which operates very largely in the Civil Service. There is the power of appointment, a vast system of patronage, which is exerted by Ministers nominally but in fact by the Civil Service. It is not their fault. They have to do it. Somebody has to do it, but I often wonder whether the field from which they select is large enough.
A Question was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, not long ago whether all members of nationalised bodies who had been civil servants should have a star attached to their names in the annual official list. The noble Lord was strongly attacked for what was thought to be a derogatory remark. I do not think it was derogatory at all. The Civil Service appoints a number of ex-civil servants to nationalised bodies. I do not say 685 they do it wrongly, but they exercise a great range of power. I myself have long held the view that there are many types of higher public appointment which could and should be properly advertised, and that after advertisement should come the process of selection—for example, of the chairmen of Regional Hospital Boards. I think this is one of the most important functions which the Minister of Health performs. By his appointment of chairmen of Regional Hospital Boards he shapes the whole hospital service, because they will advise on the membership of Regional Hospital Boards. They will also largely direct the general trend of policy in each hospital region. Yet I doubt whether in many cases the Minister of Health necessarily knows or sees the people whom he appoints. I should like to see him have a choice and a committee of selection at which he would take the chair. Indeed, you can determine the result you obtain, either from an executive job or from a committee of inquiry, by the people you pick.
Now as to the work of the Minister in charge of a Department. The Minister, as is obvious, is both spokesman and managing director or chief executive. Some people in the Civil Service would like to think of the Minister as a chairman, but I think the worst Ministers are those who have sat back and exercised a chairman's functions only. Having watched my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I should say that invariably he was chairman and managing director combined, and I think that when the Civil Service get a Minister like that they appreciate having someone who will not only form policy but make decisions and implement them. He will follow the thing through himself, and not wait for them to come to him. But the more legislation with which a Minister has to deal and Push through Parliament, the less time he will have for good administration. In my view we have far too much legislation and far too little administration by our Ministers.
Here I disagree radically with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I think that one of the very good changes that has occurred in the past ten years is the growth of Ministers of State. I do not see how Ministers can possibly control Departments unless, in fact, there 686 are enough of them to do the job; and I believe that the combination of a Minister, a Minister of State and one or two Parliamentary Secretaries makes a good Parliamentary team to look after the Ministry. One of those, I should hope, would always be in your Lordships' House, because I think it is unfair upon Ministers to expect them to answer for Departments to which they do not belong. And, far more important, it is very desirable that one of the three Ministers should not spend his whole time in the House of Commons but should have time for doing what the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said: getting out of the office, and also for doing general administrative work and studying problems. This, of course, all depends on one thing which my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth stressed, the importance of delegation[...]and one's assumption is that a good Minister having, as it were, picked his team of parliamentarians to help him in his work, will use them intelligently and will give them functions to perform precisely as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth described.
When Departments get too large I think they should be split into two. I am terrified of great size in administration. incidentally, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, about the importance of having more top administrators per Department. Each Department is far too much of a hierarchy under the principal civil servant and far too little of the committee of technical directors, as it were, under the committee of political directors, which is the structure which is now emerging. I regard this as very important indeed. But where I think Departments are far too large is at the lower administrative level, with a number of clerical officers and executive officers who would not be tolerated in ordinary business, but grow by ordinary Parkinsonian methods for which there is no cash control. I should like to see whether we can have automatic splitting beyond a certain size, and to begin to introduce a slight penalty upon those who grow too big. I should like to see the man in charge of a department which does a job with one or two members of the staff which it previously did with four appropriately rewarded. In fact, under the present system he 687 would be down-graded, because the size of his emolument depends on the number of people he controls. That is quite ridiculous.
My Lords, with regard to the pay of Ministers, I could not agree more with what my noble friend Lord Shackleton said; and here I must again disagree with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. In my view, what Ministers are paid is pathetic and ridiculous. It is quite fantastic. In this House, it is mad. They do not even get their ordinary M.P.'s allowance. I cannot conceive that any Minister in this House can serve as a junior Minister unless he has a private income. It is impossible otherwise, for he could not pay the rent —at least I do not think he could; or even pay for food for his family. This is a very bad situation. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, is quite right: many of us have nothing but our titles; we are poor Lords; and many of us earn our livings. I earn my living on Monday and Friday and Wednesday morning. In fact, I have had to adjust my life in order to serve in your Lordships' House. I make no complaint about this; but, quite frankly, if I were to go over there on to the Government Bench I should be "souped".
§ LORD TAYLOR
My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth says that I must be doing well. He is talking rot! I do not make an awful lot. I make about £3,000 a year, if the noble Lord must know. If I sat opposite, I should go down to near £1,000. I cannot do it. I should not be able to pay my insurance policies. How much does a Parliamentary Secretary get?
§ LORD TAYLOR
I should drop £500 or something more. One noble Lord who spoke pointed out this question of pensions. It is fantastic. I pay into a contributory pensions scheme. I pay 5 per cent. and my employer pays 10 per cent. If one goes over there, one is "souped". One gets a commuted value; but I think an absolute minimum is that we should treat Ministers as any decent business would.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I served in the House of Commons for 34 consecutive years, and what is my pension?—Nought!
§ LORD TAYLOR
I think it is perfectly terrible. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. It is a fantastic system. I would suggest a 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. pension. Five per cent. paid in by the worker, as it were, and 10 per cent. by the employer would be a proper and reasonable kind of pensions system to have, both for M.P.s and for Ministers. It does not arise in the case of your Lordships who are not Ministers because we go on for ever.
I honestly think that we must treat our Ministers as well as we treat our civil servants. I do not quarrel with the top rates for the Civil Service. I think that when a civil servant gets to £8,000 or so a year he is doing as well as he would in industry, having regard to the security enjoyed and the chance of getting a job outside the Civil Service when he retires. I do not think that such men really have much cause for complaint. But I think the people at £2,000 or £3,000 in the Civil Service may well have some complaints. When it comes to mass transfer in and out of the Civil Service, this is a very difficult process to make work technically. I must say that in some ways I rather prefer the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Todd to bring in someone parallel—and I think one can perhaps do an occasional spot for short periods. But there are great difficulties in working people into a Government Department. The opportunity for industry perhaps to get rid of those with whom it is not quite satisfied does arise, and there are other difficulties. On the other hand, I think it would be good for everybody to make a break after about fifteen or twenty years in a job, and if it can be done it should be, but it is not easy.
I should like to say one word about your Lordships' House. I think it is a most wonderful forum for informed debate. I agree entirely with what was just said on this side of the House about its influence being so much more important than its power. I think that the method of payment of expenses for attendance is better than a salary. It is 689 a good idea, but the amount is quite ludicrous. I was talking to a great friend a little while ago, and he was telling me that on the D.S.I.R. Research Committees the normal attendance fee is 10 guineas. A little while ago I was appointed to such a D.S.I.R. Committee attached to the Building Research Station. In fact, I have not been able to attend, but the fee for attendance—that is, for a half-day attendance—is 10 guineas. I think that a proper fee for attending your Lordships' House is 10 guineas, with 5 guineas being expenses, and 5 guineas taxable. Moreover, I think that if noble Lords attend in the mornings for Committees they should get another 5 guineas. This is not a princely sum, but it would mean that a noble Lord who had no other source of income and who attended regularly might "knock up" £1,200 a year.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I would say that if we got five guineas tax-free, I reckon we should not have done badly. However, fortunately this is all going to be decided by my noble friend Lord Champion who is an adviser of the Review Committee, which, I may say, is a very good invention. I congratulate the Government. They stole the idea from the medical profession. We have a Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Kindersley, appointed by the Prime Minister, with no doctors —rather like this with no politicians only an advisory panel. It works not badly. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Champion that if he tries out this we shall not be entirely fed up with him.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I am delighted to hear it. I would say one word about committees. Some think committees are good, some think they are awful. Properly used, they are a wonderful invention; improperly used they are a curse. I think the commonest mistake we make is mixing up executive committees and advisory committees. Executive com- 690 mittees want to be small. Advisory committees can be as big as you like. But if you want a committee to do an executive job you must keep it small. It is possible sometimes with a large executive committee to "get away with it" if you are a very clever executive serving that committee. But, broadly speaking, the proper size for an executive committee is five or six or seven; the proper size for an advisory committee is eighteen, nineteen or twenty, perhaps a bit bigger still.
But time and again we find bits of Government structure where a job which is an executive job is given to a committee of advisory committee size. The great example is that mentioned by Lord Gladwyn or Lord Boothby, the Cabinet. The Cabinet should be six or seven because it is an executive committee. Such an executive committee will clearly call in a Minister concerned to put his case, to argue his case, and will argue it with him; they will decide without him, but will argue it with him because they do not know anything about technical things; they are experts on politics and life and with vast experience; and that is the proper way to do it. A huge Cabinet is as silly as a huge regional executive board or any other executive body.
I have said my say, but I should like to add that I think it has been a wonderful debate. I would congratulate my noble friend Lord Shackleton on having thought it up and on having started it in what I thought was a brilliant speech, and it has elicited some really wonderful speeches from your Lordships. If one cared to do a little sub-editing of it, we should have a very nice symposium which could be published as a Penguin, and we might split the royalties.
§ 8.15 p.m.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT BLAKEN-HAM)
My Lords, I would agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, when he said, both at the beginning and at the end of his speech, how delighted we were that the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, had enabled us to have this very valuable debate. I hope Lord Shackleton also noticed that every single speaker who has contributed—and we have had some thirteen speeches—expressed the 691 same emotion, and I am not surprised. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who said that this was the most interesting debate he had ever listened to. So far as I am concerned, this is certainly true. I would also thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackelton, for his courtesy to me in giving me some idea of the ground to be covered. His opening speech laid bare the whole subject in a most comprehensive way and, if I may say so, not too long a time. I would also agree with Lord Shackleton when he mentioned my right honourable friend Mr. Quintin Hogg. I am sure he has considerable nostalgia in not being in his old place here, because this debate would have been very much after his heart. I think that every Member of your Lordships' House knows that this is a subject to which my right honourable friend has given a great deal of thought and hard work.
When one is talking on the subject of the machinery of Government, I think the first thing one can say is that anybody who has listened to this debate to-day must be aware of the fact that your Lordships' House is uniquely placed to discuss a subject of this sort. It is not only the variety of experience, which is immense; it is somehow the ability of your Lordships to be able to deal with a highly complicated subject in a spirit of wise reflection, to stand back and look and examine how we run our affairs, which is a spirit which I think some of us who were in another place did not find quite so easy to produce.
I do not think anyone would expect me to give a clear "Yes" or "No" to the many points which have been produced in the contributions your Lordships have made to this debate. We had the revolutionary suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, which require a great deal of examination. We had the scintillating intervention of my noble friend Lord Boothby. I must say I am delighted to hear him speak. I have not heard him for some time. He has not lost his art. We had, I think, a most helpful and practical contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Melchett —I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, felt that was so. I also appreciated listening to the polished but 692 rather depressing contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. I do not want to take up his points, but I do not think the British people are quite as unprepared to face up to the facts of life as perhaps he thinks.
I should like, therefore, to give perhaps some of my own impressions of some of the main lines which this debate has followed. Of course I do not think anybody in this country can be blind to the vast expansion in the work of central Government that has taken place since the war, and I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would have agreed with me when I say that legislation has increased immensely since 1945. I know his objection to the large number of Government Departments; he gave some details of how it has grown. In 1914 there were only fifteen; to-day we have about twenty-five. I hope he will agree with me, and I am glad to say Lord Taylor agrees with me, that these extra Ministers of whom he disapproves are, in fact, pretty hard pressed, and if they had not been supplied with extra numbers Heaven help those Ministers who would have been left on their own to cope with this extra spate of legislation and other matters!
The noble Lord, Lord Todd, is quite right in saying that the fact that communications have brought countries so much closer together, the fact that scientific progress had really outstripped the imagination of the normal individual, has meant that we must consider most seriously the sort of schemes that he has in mind by which we can make ourselves better informed. The key presumably—your Lordships would not disagree with me here—to providing the best sort of machinery of Government lies in the management of the talent we have and in the best use of the time that is available to us. It was, I think, on the need for good management in the machinery of Government that Lord Melchett laid stress in his contribution to the debate.
When we are pleased with our system of Government we say that it is a flexible system which we can adapt as we like to the needs of the moment; and when it seems to creak we call it old-fashioned and draw attention to the need for bringing it up to date. I personally believe— 693 and I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, did too—that there are overwhelming merits in the flexibility of the Westminster model. But I think we should all be agreed that it would be better if we placed more emphasis on the need to keep our machinery of Government up-to-date rather than bringing it up-to-date, because this should be a continuous process and should be given continuous attention. This is one of the reasons why I welcome the fact that this debate has in fact taken place.
First of all, coming to Parliament, how can we best use our time in Parliament? Much of the time is taken up, as I have said, by the spate of legislation. Not only the Conservative Party are guilty of this, but certainly the Labour Party were also guilty of it when they were in office. Legislation may not be the only function of Parliament, but only in Parliament can legislation be enacted. It is true that at the end of every Session of Parliament we manage to chalk up an impressive score; but certainly, as speakers in this debate have made clear, it is obvious that there is nothing to be complacent about in this. At the end of every Session there remains a number of useful non-controversial Bills which lie neglected for want of Parliamentary time. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned two which came to his mind. Of course there are difficulties. Lord Shackleton had certain suggestions for dealing with this, and so did my noble friend Lord Auckland.
There are always difficulties about any innovations, and I wonder if we should not consider whether we cannot devise some scheme, maybe on the lines the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had in mind, for dealing less ponderously with certain items of non-controversial legislation. Such Bills are submitted (some fail to be submitted for lack of time) to the same ponderous procedure as the main Bills of a Government's programme which are, of course, bound to excite political controversy. Surely there is room here for some simple piece of machinery by which really non-controversial legislation could be recognised and agreed as non-controversial on all sides, and dealt with in some manner which would not stand in the way of the main business of Parliament and would not require the detailed atten- 694 tion of more than a handful of Members. Of course, it is a well known tactic of Opposition to delay the main programme Bills of a Government by talking on them at length, and by talking also on Bills of a non-controversial nature and thus denying the Government time. Here, again, by inter-Party agreement that difficulty could be overcome. I believe that this is an example of the way in which we might more profitably make use of our Parliamentary time. I think it would be well worth while starting an experiment of this kind.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Melchett, spoke about the need for clearer and more information being available to Members of Parliament. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, paid a tribute to the service which the Library in another place is giving. I think there is a need for as much forward-looking and as much clear information as can be supplied. The "forward looks" which have been developed following the recommendation of the Plowden Report on Public Expenditure should, I think, give people much more valuable information in the fields of finance and defence. Again, certainly your Lord ships drew attention to this, and it should be noted: but arrangements are almost invariably made to allow reasonable time to elapse after the publication of the Report of a Commission or a Committee or a White Paper, so that public opinion has time to form and those who wish to debate such a Report in Parliament may have time to prepare themselves. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that the care, skill and clarity with which these documents are drafted is of considerable importance.
Whether Parliament would do well to extend its system of Committees, and perhaps associate with them specialist assessors as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested, is clearly a subject on which people are divided. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, and I think Lord Morrison of Lambeth, did not really favour innovations of this sort, and argued with some force that if we had a system of Committees based on the American system, for instance, this would considerably clog up the machinery of both Ministerial and 695 Departmental processes. I think that there is a great deal in that argument. But certainly any device whereby we can more easily profit from professional advice deserves a great deal of consideration. Certainly there are subjects on which we are not sufficiently well in formed. But this, of course, is true not only of the machinery of Government but of life itself, and the need to improve our educational standard at all levels is widely accepted.
I think the Government's acceptance of the assumptions of the Robbins Report means that we can expect a far stronger flow of the specialists in all kinds of scientific knowledge, in its widest sense, which so many people see to-day as one of our fundamental needs. Of course this is going to take time. The country may have to wait a while before we can expect to have an appreciable increase in the proportion of men in high places whose education may have taught them (if, for the moment, I may presume to support the scientists' case) to look forward beyond the frontiers of knowledge in a way which perhaps those of us with a more traditional education are less inclined to do.
May I now turn to the organisation of Government itself? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, when he said that, although there has been this spate of interest in this debate, in fact this is a subject which has not been dealt with over the last 40 years to any appreciable extent. He instanced Lord Haldane, Mr. Amery and Mr. Crossman as being three people in the last 50 years who had made any real study of this in political circles. I think it would be wrong to say—and I do not think that many speakers in this debate have the impression—that in fact the structure of Government has remained unchanged. We have been talking about more change; but I think it is only right, in winding up a debate of this sort, to point out that within the last few years there have in fact been many major changes.
There has been, for instance, a wide reorganisation of the Scottish Departments, leading to the emergence of the new Scottish Development Department; The new Ministry of Public Building and Works has incorporated the works organ- 696 isations of the three Service Departments; the Prison Commission has been integrated with the Home Office; there has been a large scale reorganisation of our Defence arrangements—which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, commended—and new machinery has been set up for regional development. In addition, great changes have been taking place in the arrangements for dealing with the affairs of the Common wealth and of the Colonies; and, of course, we have further changes to consider in the general machinery which we need for the conduct of our external affairs.
The point which I should like to make in bringing these changes to your Lordships' notice is that they form part of a continuous process of evolution which bears witness to the never ending effort which any Government have to make to adapt themselves to the needs of the moment. Solutions very often depend on personalities, certainly on Prime Ministers, in the consideration of the right size and composition of the Cabinet itself. This is something which comes very much to the fore with the establishment of a new Administration or when an existing Administration is reshaped.
But it is not only in the structure of the great Departments of State themselves that a Government can make changes to meet new situations. There has, of course, been the establishment—I am rather surprised that nobody mentioned it in this debate—of the National Economic Development Council. And I am sure that this was a well-founded and well-conceived innovation which acknowledged the need for new policies and new attitudes from all sections of the community, if we are to attain the faster growth to the fullest extent. It is here that we seek to harness and unite for the general good the efforts of the employers who are concerned with the management of industry, the trade unions which represent the workers and the Government as a third party operating through its various instruments of economic policy.
I should like now to deal with the subject of Ministers, which has occupied a major part of your Lordships' speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in moving the Motion, had 697 very much in mind the burden of responsibility which sits upon the shoulders of Ministers, especially those with departmental responsibilities. I very much share his concern. This concern was also expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth. Rightly or wrongly, we hold the Minister responsible for all the acts of the officials of his Department. I sometimes wonder whether we realise what this means in terms of the working efficiency of Departments whose responsibilities have multiplied so many times in the last few decades. Perhaps the time has come when it should no longer he counted as a virtue that a Minister should try to know so much of what goes on in his Department. There is, after all, little profit in allowing oneself to be so overworked that no time is left for consideration of the really big issues of policy.
Do Ministers have time and opportunity to examine the various aspects of policies as a whole? Have they time to relate them to one another? Is our ministerial system well enough organised to devolve responsibility upon junior colleagues? Are senior Ministers sure enough of general support when they refuse to reopen a matter which has already been competently and adequately dealt with by a junior Minister? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. Here I think that Ministers can help themselves. My own belief is that Ministers of State, Under-Secretaries of State and Parliamentary Secretaries are people who should be kept fully in the confidence of the Minister concerned on matters of broad policy, in addition to having substantial responsibility delegated to them. But here one has to get the acceptance of Members of Parliament to the principle that Member; of Parliament and others should accept the enlarged responsibilities of the more junior Ministers and should not always expect as of right to go over their heads to the senior Minister involved.
I think that practically every one of your Lordships who has spoken in this debate has stressed the need for better remuneration, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, expressed approval for the action the Government are taking to set 698 up this fundamental review of the remuneration of Ministers of the Crown and Members of the House of Commons, as well as the allowances for Members of your Lordships' House, and your Lordships will not expect me to say anything more at the moment.
Now I should like to say something about civil servants. One of the most serious criticisms levelled at the Civil Service, particularly the higher Civil Service, is that it is in constant danger of becoming inbred. Civil servants are thought to be too little in contact with the outside world, except perhaps for the full consultations which they have to undertake with outside bodies. In this way, as it were, their antennae become dulled. Many of those who favour the introduction of men experienced in business and commerce, science and so on into the ranks of the Civil Service at a later stage in their career have in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had about the invaluable part that temporary civil servants played during the war. There is no doubt that this tremendous intake that took place provided a very valuable blood transfusion, but again we have got to keep a balance. I do not think we should take this analogy of war too far. In war time all the resources of the nation are devoted to one purpose, and to an unusual extent these resources obviously are concentrated through the Government service itself. This is not so in peace time; there are many other ways in which people can serve the country without specifically joining the Government service.
Having said that, I would add that I have great sympathy with what has been said on both sides, especially by the noble Lords, Lord Melchett and Lord Todd, about how we can make better use of our scientists, technicians and experts at all times. Should they be recruited on a short-term basis, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk? This idea was opposed by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who felt that rather than service on a short-term basis these experts should be brought in in the position of consultants. By having close working together between the people inside and outside the service we can, I think, get a far more valuable liaison and interchange of views than we are getting at the moment. I sometimes 699 think that those who talk about the amateur civil servant greatly underrate the long tradition of training and experience on which the careers of our civil servants are necessarily based. I think it was Lord Strang who used these words in this debate, when he said that administration is a skill in its own right. It is certainly a skill not easily learned, except through long years of experience.
When people talk about "amateurs" do they realise what a diversity of talent there is already within the professional classes of the Civil Service? Training, of course, is very important. I do not believe that it would be right to embark on the massive training commitments of, say, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the French Ecole Nationale d'Administration; but something more than we have had in the past is certainly needed. I am hopeful that the Centre of Administrative Studies which was set up last year will provide a first-class backing in the theory and practice of administration, and all the complications in which it is now involved, for the young civil servants of the administrative class. To an increasing degree these men must be given more chance, as their career develops, to diversify their experience within their own Departments through interchange with the staff of other Departments.
There are also, of course—and I think this is important—opportunities for civil servants to profit from a sabbatical year. This takes the shape, at the moment, of Commonwealth or Harkness, Nuffield and other Fellowships; and it is possible that here the new business schools will add to the opportunities. But perhaps we should be ready to regard it as normal for some people to come into the service at a later stage in their careers, when they have made a name and achieved their capabilities outside that Service at a later stage in their carers, be readier to see civil servants going out to industry and commerce in midcareer—either for a short period or even to complete their working life outside the Service.
In searching for ways of bringing the members of the Civil Service into closer contact with the non-governmental field, we have obviously to be vigilant to 700 ensure that we do not lose the inestimable advantages of its being an impartial service and a non-political service. I think we must also face up to the fact that, in the scramble for talent over the last decade or so, neither the public service, nationalised industry, private enterprise nor the universities have all that they would like; and able men who are doing well in a chosen line of country will not always be anxious to change careers, even temporarily. Having said that, my Lords, I would add that these are not objections of principle—nor, indeed, need they be insuperable obstacles; but they are practical difficulties which we should be foolish to overlook.
So, my Lords, I return to the point that I made at the beginning. If we are to solve our difficulties it will be only by wise management of the time and of the talent available to us. Our institutions are as flexible as they need to be, but this flexibility is of little value if we do not take the fullest advantage of it. We must keep this system in constant repair and, above all, we must somehow reserve for those who can best use it the time required to reflect on our needs and find solutions to our problems. We must not let outmoded procedures fritter away the time that we can ill afford. Nor must we be less careful in the use of the men to whom we look to run this system, whether they are politicians or civil servants. Somehow Ministers must be allowed to find time to think and plan ahead, Parliament must have the tools and facilities needed to discharge its responsibilities, and the Civil Service must, by one expedient or another, be enabled to provide advice based on the best wisdom and experience that is to be had from whatever source. My Lords, I end by saying this, as I said at the beginning. I warmly welcome this debate. As a newcomer to this House, I think it has shown your Lordships in one of your most constructive and most helpful moods.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am exceedingly grateful to your Lord ships. Everybody has agreed that it has been a very good debate, and I think it would be quite mistaken for me to pick out and deal with so many of the notable contributions. I should like to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, 701 that he went as far as I felt any Government spokesman could go, and indeed a little farther. For this we are grateful, because it is not really reasonable to expect anyone—except possibly the former noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—to ignore his Cabinet responsibility.
Of course, both my noble friend Lord Taylor and I enjoy now answering back to our noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, but I must support my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth on one point. I am not in favour of too many independent Ministries; nor do I agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor that the Cabinet is the same as an executive committee. It is neither an executive committee nor an advisory committee. I think it is important to keep this in mind. To this extent, I incline to agree very much with my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth on what might be called—and I am sorry we have to use all these terms—a federal Ministry, the Ministry of Education with wider responsibilities and real powers, and responsibility given to a Minister of State. Perhaps I should not push further my area of agreement with my noble friend.
On the subject of the Prime Minister's Office, I believe this to be important if we are seeking to establish facts. I think there is much evidence that not only is this a myth now—possibly it may have been different when my noble friend was Deputy Prime Minister—but it has been a myth ever since Bagehot wrote. I think Bagehot—and this is one of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, referring to Dick Cross-man would say—was already out of date, and his concept of primus inter pares was already no longer valid. To that extent, that is the answer when one refers to powerful Prime Ministers like Gladstone. They had already largely destroyed the earlier concept of Cabinet Government. The only reason why I stress this is that it is important, if we can, to look at our institutions as they really are, not because we wish to advocate Presidential Government—nobody wishes to do so—but if the Prime Minister is to fulfil a certain rôle it may as well be recognised, instead of being merely tacitly understood by a few people.
702 Some interesting remarks were made about the House of Lords. I could not quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that I should like to see a great equality between the two sides or, indeed, between the two Houses. I draw great comfort from a large Tory majority in this House. There is always the delightful spectacle of seeing them gradually working up to the point of ignoring the behest of the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, and overturning the Government. We must accept the reality that has existed since the days of the Reform Act of, I think, 1832, that this has essentially been a revising Chamber. As Bagehot said, the only service of the Duke of Wellington as a politician was that he did in fact, in the final stages, prevent a conflict between the House of Commons and the Lords; and the Lords accepted that the House of Commons was supreme in major matters where the popular will was involved. It is also clear that we have very great advantages because we do not have this responsibility. We have been able to talk very freely to-day and have drawn on a very wide range of interests. We have even had scientists and engineers. Two of them are present now: the noble Lord, Lord Todd, had to return to Cambridge. This is an appropriate thing for a Member of the House of Lords to have to do.
My Lords, I believe that there is one strong message which my noble friend Lord Champion will have heard and will have taken note of; and I would also ask the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, and the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, to note that we have, in fact, very firmly said in this House that something must be done about the pay of Members of Parliament, quite apart from ourselves—and I am not prepared to argue our position. In this matter, I share the difficulties of my noble friend Lord Taylor. If I may say so to the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, it is easy to point to evolution in the matter of the structure of the Government itself —the Cabinet and so on. The problems lie in Parliament, and possibly in the Administration. I suspect that they are greatest in Parliament. If we are, in fact, to fulfil the role that we believe we should play, then some reform or 703 some development is unavoidable, as practically every speaker to-day has emphasised.
When it comes to the training of the civil servants, of course we do not just want them taught, if I may say so, more theory of administration; we want them taught some of the realities with which they do not come into contact. They need more economics. They need more experience outside their Departments. The French system of pantouflage may not be appropriate to us, but speaking as somebody who calls himself an administrator (although I am not in the Civil Service) I know that we do rely on a fairly steady flow of certain people at a high level to match those who are already in the business—with the possible exception of Imperial Chemical Industries; and even they may have to go outside, to the Civil Service, to get their Chairman.
704 My Lords, I think we have had a really interesting debate. I would only ask that we continue to take this subject seriously, and we hope someone will continue to think about it and that we may return to it so that we can hear some of the eloquence and ability that has been shown in this House to-day. My Lords, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.