§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lord BIRDWOOD
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for giving the House a chance to air a subject which is, rightly, starting to cause concern. As everyone knows, we have a constraint on our discussions here of financial matters. I have noticed that this discipline runs through all our debates as a sort of good manners and, oddly enough, this allows us to be more, rather than less, free in the way we can dissect activities where money is an issue. Today's debate is a case in point. Because we can neither add to nor take away from the appropriations and salaries of the parties in question—these so-called QUANGOs; I wish someone had come up with a more helpful acronym—and because we cannot change the finances of the system, we are, paradoxically, better placed to warn of abuses and recommend change.
For myself, the question of the cost of QUANGOs is less important than the political principles which lie behind their emergence. In absolute terms, the whole lot cost the country the equivalent of, say, a few miles of motorway or the wing of a Concorde, and I am of course leaving out the element of the dispersal of funds and just talking about the net non-recoverable expense. Even so, some costs are worth looking at in detail.
There has just been published the new issue of A Directory of Paid Public Appointments. I have it with me and I see a couple of other copies on display. It comfortably qualifies as a rare book in library classification and I believe that, as a result of an industrial dispute in HMSO, my copy is one of just a handful that have seen the light of day. This work is the revised version of the original publication with the same title which was one of the first tasks tackled by the Public Appointments Unit when it was established by the Civil Service Department. I have that, too, and, taken together, some interesting financial comparisons can be made. With the indulgence of the House I will list some percentage increases based on the information in these two volumes, published two years apart.
753 We can note, for instance, that the salary of the chairman of the National Ports Council has been hiked from £4,400 to £9,920, an increase of 125.4 per cent. Three part-time members of the Price Commission are enjoying, if that is the word, increases of 109 per cent., with basic pay being lifted from £1,716 to £3,600 in this period. The chairmen of the North West, Severn, Trent and Thames Water Authorities are now paid—and nobody proposes they should not be—£13,892, which is a 75.7 per cent. improvement on the previous £7,905. The chairmanship of the British Tourist Authority carries a justifiable price tag of £11,132, which is a 73.5 per cent. rise on the old figure of £6,415. The Scottish and Welsh Consumer Council's chairmen now collect £825 as opposed to £500, a 65 per cent. improvement, and the list goes on: 53.7 per cent. for the Anglian, Southern and Yorkshire Water Authority chairmen; 29.6 per cent. for the University Grants Committee; 91.8 per cent. for the Housing Corporation chair; 83 per cent. for the National Dock Labour Board; 115 per cent. for a position on the Dental Assessment Panels; and 62.8 per cent. for the Sports Council chairman. I could go on but I would be straining the patience of the House, and I have made the point.
It is most important that I should emphasise my belief that the revised salaries are fair, and in some cases on the low side, if individuals of quality are to be attracted into these positions, and in any case tax will largely wipe out the net benefits. As I said earlier, my point lies not in the actual sums involved but rather in the principles concealed by the discussion of money. I recall the words "gravy train "frequently used by honourable Members on the Government Benches in another place. If a catalogue of similar percentage increases in the private sector were to be aired, I suspect that we might hear that word once more.
Far more disturbing than the money involved is the question of patronage. And it disturbs the Party in power whatever its political colouring. I hope noble Lords will recall that the extent of patronage was first revealed by some outstanding questioning by Maurice Edelman about three or four years ago, I think—I can be corrected on that. The figures then were startling and they still are. We have already had one of them and I have no 754 shame at all in quoting it again: 17 Ministers have in their gift 8,411 paid appointments. Can any of us see that figure going down? No, it is not in the nature of things. What this debate is really about is power. In August of this year the honourable Member for Carlton (again his work has been extensively quoted) Philip Holland collaborated with Michael Fallon to bring out that concise piece which people have waved around—and I do not suppose we have heard the last of it yet—called "The QUANGO Explosion".
In the section on patronage they remark:… The principal beneficiaries of this largesse have been the senior trade union leaders …The authors then go on to list some of these and note that the Secertary of State for Employment in July last year estimated that the 39 members of the TUC General Council held between them a total of 180 State appointments. I for one find no surprise in these figures, because this is the reality of power. By the simple test of: A can act without consulting B but B cannot act without consulting A, where A is the TUC and B is the Government, then A is, by definition, more powerful than B. And the recognition of power in any organised community is to hold positions of power within the community: even where those positions are irrelevant to the experience of the individual.
Perhaps the thing that makes me unhappy most is that one deduces QUANGO jobs are powerful by the very fact that TUC members are in so many of them. And, of course, it follows that there will be a significant political tilt to the organisations in question: an irreversible tilt, getting steeper, and self-perpetuating. Again referring to Mr. Holland's publication, the political nature of appointments is well documented and I commend your Lordships to read it. This is neither the time nor the place to examine this aspect, but, for sure, it makes a nonsense out of claims to be independent by numbers of QUANGO-like bodies.
When I thought to contribute today I realised how hazardous it might be to criticise these bodies. When you see them listed, you feel that there is an essential worthiness in all these corporate titles which makes anybody questioning their: existence sound as frivolous as questioning "motherhood" or "apple-pie"; but 755 there is a need to question—and to go on questioning. And the means exist without any further bodies being formed. If I can digress for a moment, it would not take the most nimble-witted Parliamentarian to work out that to monitor QUANGOs by forming yet one more is logical rubbish. But monitoring these bodies using Parliament itself is not fanciful and is most desirable. The noble Baroness, Lady White, said that this could not be done because of time availability. I dispute this but, of course, I would bow to her greater knowledge.
§ Baroness WHITE
My Lords, I did not say that time was not available; I said that time would be misdirected and that Members were elected to another place for wider interests than a minute examination of a vast number of QUANGOs.
§ Lord BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I take the point made by the noble Baroness. Would she concede that it is not beyond the wit of man to suppose a committee with monitoring capabilities? I am going to suggest a simple system; and I use an in-word for it which is "zero-budgeting". It is so easy to see how a QUANGO comes into being, a by-blow of the ego of a Minister whose outrage at some empty space in bureaucracy is filled, first, by a Bill, then an Act and then an institution to bear witness to the Act. But why should such institutions enjoy immortality? I suggest zero budgeting on a three-year cycle would be a neat, cheap discipline which could be run within the structure of Parliament. In simple terms, this would mean that the onus was on the body to prove its validity every three years as funds would be absolutely denied it after a fixed date.
But, quis custodiet… well, I agree with Mr. Holland and Mr. Fallon, the authors of that little book, that Parliament should be, and can be, the scrutineers. I hardly need to repeat here the elegant arguments of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham at the time of the formation of the Commission for Racial Equality. Maybe, instead, a quote from The Times will do about that topic. Said The Times:That will not happen if one and the same body is seen one day to be championing the interests of an anxious minority and the next 756 to be determining whether a particular practice that operates to their disadvantage constitutes a case of discrimination in law".I am not a lawyer, but I can share with lawyers of all political persuasions a distaste at the blurring of boundaries between law, non-law and semi-law which some recently formed QUANGOs now offer. I have also no fanatical devotion to codification for its own sake. But this mushrooming of bodies with sketchy powers but all the weight of official authority must have some kind of self-discipline. I have suggested a simple cash accountability. Maybe there should be a process of self-justification built into every Act of Parliament which produced a body under these terms of reference, or even, Heaven forbid! an actual set of terms of reference. Withal, my Lords, there is a political theology of which QUANGOs are just an outward and visible sign; the political heretic does not ask: "How many QUANGOs?" but: "How much Government?"
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, I regret the turn of this debate. I think that this would have been an opportunity to look at the reality. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising the issue but I regret that the slant from some of the speakers seems to be that the Labour Government are getting accused. I do not want to bore the House; I am going to speak briefly; but I have been looking at what is an analysis of the agreed definition of "QUANGO". It is a horrible acronym. We are using these words. They are all "buzz words". I have heard "cosmetic" until I am tired of hearing it. I do not think that the people who use it really know the etymology of the word and its meaning. We get this rubbish day in, day out; and it is put on record as a speech.
We have been talking about QUANGOs. Would noble Lords who decry the QUANGOs get rid of, say, the Radiological Institute that is searching into nuclear activity and radioactive waste? Would they get rid of the National Radiological Protection Board, which is a QUANGO or a fringe body, which is doing a useful job and some of it is voluntary. We had Professor Blackett in this House some years ago. That man gave years of his skill to the country—and 757 most of it for nothing. It was a joy to listen to him; although he was then in decline, as most of us are beginning to become. It was a joy to listen to him educating this House on the problems of nuclear power. We decry the whole gamut of the QUANGOs, which have come into a sort of derogatory position this evening. Take the Medical Research Council. The medical profession are very proud of the Medical Research Council; they criticise it; but there are men of eminence in all branches of medicine who give their service to that QUANGO. Let us try to find out what it is that we are talking about.
I want to pay tribute to Gordon Bowen, a retired civil servant, who made the first real survey of fringe bodies. The word "QUANGO" came into this. It is an ugly word: I would rather it had been called "fringe body". I would pay to him (as he did to her) a tribute to Mrs. B. V. Lindsay who helped for the first time to do this massive job of work, to look into these fringe bodies linked with Government.
I have nothing to do with QUANGOs. I do not get a penny from any odd job. I earn mine in my own funny way. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has always a kindly nature until sometimes she has to push the Party line a little more than she likes. She said that she was on the British Railways Board. Southern Region are having trouble at the moment, and I hope that on that QUANGO she knows about poor little Mrs. Nicola Wilson. She applied for a job cleaning railway carriages. This particular fringe organisation put a form in front of the poor wench, who is a master of the bucket and mop. Her job was to clean railway carriages and, according to the Guardian last Friday, poor Mrs. Nicola Wilson, whose only job was to clean railway carriages and get rid of graffiti that the "yobos" write all over them, was asked to fill in a form which had 78 questions on it.
There is a spiritual Member of the House in his place and I apologise to him for what I am going to say. The poor girl was asked: "Would you be embarrassed if you had to strip off in a nudist colony? Answer, (a) Yes, (b) Doubtful, or (c) No. "I am sure that it is the lead in the atmosphere that is affecting us! British Rail also wanted to 758 know whether she liked watching team games. I wish she had watched the All Blacks last Saturday. Also, whether she preferred people who were (a) reserved, (b) in-between—God knows what that means!—(c) made friends quickly, and whether she preferred having lunch (a) with a lot of other people, (b) in-between, or (c) by herself.
Mrs. Wilson struggled; the poor girl persevered through the form. We all remember doing that, my Lords, when we were youngsters. She came to a question which was: "Would you like to be (a) a bishop, (b) doubtful or (c) a colonel? "Later, she said forlornly, "I did not want to be a bishop or a colonel and I certainly was not doubtful about either fact. I only wanted to clean trains." So she left the questions blank and she did not get the job. Mrs. Wilson is still unemployed and the Southern Region are still looking for railway carriage cleaners.
Who is going daft in the world, my Lords? Much of this debate is a struggle to find some political point that will appeal to the public. Come off it, my Lords! Let us look into the real problems facing this twentieth century society, with its growing rapidity of methods of communication, its massive expansion of knowledge and its growth of industrial, technological and electronic know-how. In that kind of society two Houses, such as the House of Commons and your Lordships' House, have to have some subsidiary bodies or fringe bodies, call them what you may, with the expertise that is needed from cleaning railway carriages to making an equation on nuclear physics. In this society, whichever Government are in power, these bodies will grow. This has been proved because before 1900 there were only 10 fringe bodies. I am quoting from the same volume as the noble Baroness. By 1949, there were 84 bodies; from 1950 to 1959, there were 103; from 1960 to 1965, there were 150; from 1966 to 1971, there were 196. I do not want to be nasty, but between 1971 and 1975 there were 235 bodies, but the Conservatives were in power during that time. So they do it, too, not because they want to but because it is forced upon them.
What we should be trying to find out is this: with the growth of these bodies 759 how do you create democracy and prevent bureaucracy? This is the problem confronting whichever Party wins the next Election, the terrible growth of bureaucracy within society. Regarding finding a definition, I will not bore the House by reading from the survey, because this is an intelligent audience, but on page 3 of the survey there is detailed the committee's efforts to define a QUANGO. But where do you stop, my Lords? It is no good frightening people by saying that there are 120,000 of them. For instance, we are given the figure of 120,000 charities registered with the Charity Commission. Are they a fringe body? Yes, they are my Lords. There are 1,300 other organisations that are interested in public life, and so it goes on. One could amaze the House by instancing hundreds of thousands of all types of organisations such as that. They have grown up like Topsy because of the cumbersome way that mankind has to learn to govern itself.
I pay a tribute to the noble Baroness for raising this debate. When we have more time and we do not have the great industrial problems, both sides of the House should be trying to blunt the keen sword of bureaucracy that is growing throughout the whole of the world. Devolution may be a step in the right direction because it sends the fulcrum of power nearer to the people and these are the things that are needed.
There is no point in reiterating what has already been said, but what I do not like is when it is said that trade unionists are capturing these jobs.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, "Hear, hear!" says somebody. That is a cosmetic answer. Be fair. A noble Lord now nodding his head was chairman of one of these QUANGOs, the Metrication Board. One has to be careful because these bodies spread everywhere. Probably there are noble Lords serving on them not knowing it, doing it for nothing, bless them! It is like the people that I and noble Lords on both sides of the House know who, since World War I, have run the National Savings movement in schools and collected National Savings. There are probably hundreds of thousands 760 of men in that QUANGO who for over half a century have collected millions of pounds for the people of Britain in National Savings. They are from all Parties. Are we to hurl smears at those people? Consequently, when we are talking about these QUANGOs, and fringe bodies—and your Lordships will be pleased to know that this is the final minute of my speech—let us lift it out of the sludge of hurling abuse at some able trade unionist or able director—maybe from the Institute of Directors—making a contribution to society. If this House wants to justify its existence, as a number of people have suggested, this is a job of work to which we could appeal.
Now may I say this to the Leader of the House: perhaps the Stationery Office could serve us a little better than we are served at the present moment in getting information when we want it. The pamphlet that has been published regarding the number of salaries paid should be available from the Printed Paper Office. They have been trying for days to get it. Please see that, when we have debates like this, papers are available from the Printed Paper Office.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, I do not think that I shall be alone in your Lordships' House or outside, when I say that there is a great body of opinion in this country that feels that we are over-taxed, over-governed and over-manned. The Motion moved by the Baroness, Lady Young, has touched on all those points. The noble Baroness also dealt with the constitutional issue of bodies not responsible to Parliament, and therefore I need not deal with that point.
I have here the green book: the noble Lord said it was a very rare book, but fortunately I have a copy, thanks to the courtesy of the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who kindly sent it to me in reply to a request I made some months ago. He promised me a copy when it was published, and I am grateful to him for sending it to me. This is a most revealing book. It reveals the existence of over 400 QUANGOs, employing about 4,000 people, who enjoy paid patronage by the current Government of the day. I am not saying anything about misues of patronage; what I am saying is that I 761 think it is wrong that any Government should have this degree of patronage in their hands.
The number of QUANGOs is growing, at an unknown cost to the taxpayer. The situation is like Topsy—it just growed. It slowly grows, all the time. I know that economy in expenditure is not a popular departmental word in the corridors of Whitehall; it is out of fashion. But I think it must be admitted that economy is necessary, and I believe that the time has come when I would support what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. together with what was said by the speaker from the Liberal Party. I believe the time has come for a drastic review of the growth of the existing and of the proposed QUANGOs.
What should be done by Ministers and by civil servants should be reviewed in relation to these QUANGOs. I believe ' there should be a rationalisation of the existing ones, together with a limit to future development. I think that review must be wide and it must be ruthless. I do not believe it is any good asking any single department to review the QUANGOs with which it is associated. It must be done from an independent point of view. One noble Lord suggested the setting up of a Parliamentary committee, but I believe that the Treasury should associate itself perhaps with some well-known outside business person or persons to carry out this drastic review.
The password for such a review should be "Is your QUANGO really necessary? "I think it will be found in many cases that a QUANGO is not necessary. In looking through this list I cannot help querying, as just an ordinary chap, some of the QUANGOs and their functions that are listed here. I should like very briefly to take your Lordships through one or two. On page 21 of the green book appears a QUANGO, the National Seed Development Organisation, which has a function to undertake the work of multiplying and distributing seed of plant varieties. It has a part-time chairman who receives £2,208 and a vice-chairman who receives £1,000. There are six members who receive £650 a year. That is all right. But then one turns over a page or two, and on page 24 we see the United Kingdom Seed Executive and its function is to co-ordinate administration throughout the United Kingdom, 762 with special reference to EEC seeds. Both organisations, curious to say, are located at Huntingdon. I cannot help but think that here there are grounds for investigation at any rate, as to whether it is necessary to have both those bodies dealing with seeds located at Huntingdon.
Then, on page 17 we have the Apple and Pear Development Council. Let us see what its functions are. They are to promote home-grown apple and pear sales and to provide research and development services for growers in England and Wales. I believe that the pear and apple growers of the orchards in Kent and elsewhere are perfectly able to promote their sales and their development. I believe that the housewives of Britain will buy apples and pears when they wish. I question whether we can really afford a part-time chairman on £3,763 a year and 20 members each receiving £17 per day. One may ask: Is not their function duplicated to some extent?—because if we turn to page 18 we see the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development of Agriculture and Food. They have very much the same function as the body I have just cited to your Lordships. I repeat, as an ordinary man, reading this book, that I cannot help feeling there are some grounds for investigation.
Let me take two more examples. First, there is the Egg Authority. I read in my daily paper yesterday that poultry farmers are to be asked to double the levies they pay the Egg Authority, so that twice as much can be spent on advertising eggs. That Authority has a part-time chairman at £6,894, a deputy at £4,420 (part-time), and 11 members who each receive £1,100 a year. What is the good of advertising a surplus such as we have at the present time? Or indeed, when July comes and there is a shortage, what is the good of advertising that shortage? I have yet to learn the answers to those questions.
Turning next to page 27, the Ministry of Defence has really some very valuable QUANGOs. They have a Meteorological Committee, whose function is to keep under review the working and efficiency of the meteorological service. We have also a meteorological research committee, to advise the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Defence for the Royal Air Force on the general lines along which meteorological and geophysical research should be 763 developed. It seems to me there is a duplication in those functions. I am quite sure that any proposal for rationalisation will be resisted firmly and with great strength by the departmental officials, and possibly by the Ministers concerned; but even so, I believe that ruthless investigation by the Treasury would reveal a measure of duplication.
Finally, the Department of Trade is doing pretty well: it has 19 QUANGOs. It is beaten by several other departments, but it is doing pretty well. Then there is the British Tourist Authority, which has the function of promoting tourism. We have an English Tourist Board, which has the same broad function, and we have tourist boards for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I quite understand that those territories desire, for reasons of national patriotism and also because of some peculiar characteristics of the territories they administer, to have their own tourist boards. But is it really necessary, as well as having those regional tourist boards, to have a British Tourist Authority with a part-time chairman, and these other chairman, costing £30,000?
Let me here ask the Minister a very serious question. It is serious for the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, as well as for any Scottish Peer. The chairman for Scotland gets £5,085, so why does the chairman for Wales get £5,295? Perhaps that question can be answered by the Minister.
I have taken at random some obvious cases that give me cause for some misgiving and provoke my wish for a review. It may well be that the Minister will say: "This cannot be done." But what are Ministers for, except to decide on these matters? I maintain that we cannot afford these trimmings to the system of government which are not answerable to Parliament. I conclude by appealing to the Minister to give Topsy a sleeping draught. Send Topsy to sleep for a bit and let the taxpayers rest from the burdens due to the development of the QUANGO system.
§ 5.2 p.m.
My Lords, I have been in the past 33 years employed by, or working for, QUANGOs. I was under 764 the delusion that I was performing a useful public service, but the noble Baroness, Lady Young, would suggest that perhaps that was not so. I have been sacked by QUANGOs, and I have been re-appointed to QUANGOs. As a member of a QUANGO, I have never earned more than £600 a year, and during the period when I was earning £600 a year the QUANGO on which I served was making a profit for Her Majesty's Treasury of between £2 million and £3 million a year for 12 out of the 16 years in which I worked on it. That QUANGO was, in fact, the Harlow Development Corporation. I have sometimes sacked myself from a QUANGO. I must say that it was because I found that I was purely ornamental and the QUANGO was working well, so I did not feel that I was performing a very useful service.
In modern form, the QUANGO was really invented by the Conservative | Government in 1927, when Mr. Baldwin and his colleagues decided that radio i broadcasting was too powerful and too dangerous to be left either to private enterprise or to the Government. Hence the conception of appointed trustees charged with carrying out a particular individual service and operating solely in the public interest, without regard to day-to-day political pressures or immediate profitability. Those are the things which make QUANGOs unique, and also make them essential in modern society.
Many of us who grew up before the war were deeply impressed with the BBC as a pattern of good public service, and it was always my hope that the National; Health Service, for example, would develop i like the BBC, or rather like a series of BBCs, because it would be too big as a single organisation; and that is still my hope. I do not see a solution to the problems of the National Health Service in democratising it, because although democracy may be an excellent method of legislation, it is not necessarily the best method of specialised administration. In fact, how on earth one can expect the public intelligently to elect the directors of companies or of public bodies, I fail to see. Like my noble friend Lady White, I would far rather have a good ministerial appointment and a Civil Service appointment. You are then far more likely to get good people than if you appeal to the 765 public and attempt to elect the ratcatchers, as the Americans do.
I have worked in Government-run hospitals, I have worked in municipally-run hospitals, and I found that both were far less efficient than the QUANGO-run hospitals of the old regional hospital boards. Here is the dilemma of modern society. Is efficiency more important than democracy? In some areas it is; you have to make this choice. But I suggest that in health, for example, it is far more important to have efficiency than democracy. I do not wish to have a vote taken on what my disease is. I do not think it is likely to be an accurate vote. In health services, we have to go for efficiency.
I feel exactly the same way about the Radiological Protection Service. Surely what is important is efficiency. We must have the best people running our Radiological Protection Service. The same applies to the seed development organisations. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, was poking fun at the two bodies concerned with seed development, but if he went into the history of those organisations he would find that they were perfectly rational and reasonable arrangements.
He could make just as much fun of the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Commission. In fact, the Commission is not an organisation at all; it is the board which runs the Health and Safety Executive. There appear to be two QUANGOs, but in fact it is a very good and sensible way of devolving responsibility from what was the Ministry of Labour, and enabling the Factory Inspectorate and the Medical Factory Inspectorate to operate, as I believe, far more efficiently than in the past.
Two other pre-war QUANGOs were the UGC and the MRC, to which my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek referred. The MRC was created by Lloyd George's Government in 1920. Like the BBC, those are both immense success stories and the only tragedy of the Medical Research Council is that it was, as I think, very badly emasculated as a result of the Think Tank's report which took away a number of its functions. The UGC is of immense theoretical interest, 766 because it has financed the universities with a measure of Government control; that is to say, universities cannot create major new capital-expensive departments without seeking and obtaining the approval of the University Grants Committee, which in itself works in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science, and very reasonably so. Yet there has been no serious curtailment of academic freedom. The universities are now financed by the Government by up to 90 per cent. or more. They are themselves very successful QUANGOs, and they are operating at one degree removed from the Government, thanks to the success of the UGC.
I have run a university in a Commonwealth country where there was no UGC. I had to negotiate direct with the Minister of Education and, when he was not available, with the Premier of the province in Canada where my university was. I missed the UGC. I was going to say that I bullied the Premier in order to get what was needed for the university; this was not so, though on occasion I may have tried. But in this country we have the immense advantage of the UGC, and indeed many countries have followed our QUANGO example and have created UGCs of their own.
I have never been greatly impressed or depressed by talk about patronage. We have just the same problems in every board of directors in every private enterprise. How do you pick the people? Who makes the selection? The chairman usually makes the selection in a private enterprise, and sometimes he picks winners and sometimes he picks duds. The same goes for all of us when we are trying to select people. Every time one appoints someone to do a particular job it is a bit of a gamble, and joint selection by politicians and civil servants is not at all a bad method.
During the reappointment of members it is usual to consult the chairman of the QUANGO, provided he is being re-appointed himself. That seems to me to be most sensible. It is important to cast the net widely in trying to get the appropriate people. As has been said by the noble Lord for the Liberal Party, there is something to be said for advertising the posts and I have never come across any objection to that. We advertise the 767 officers of the QUANGO posts as a routine. Every medical post in the National Health Service is advertised. It does not present an insuperable difficulty. I do not see any objection to advertising these posts, but I do not think that one should ever exclude "non-advertised persons", because as some noble Lords have said, the people one may particularly want may be those who are particularly busy and who would not themselves normally apply.
As a result of having watched so many QUANGOs in operation I venture to offer 12 simple rules for QUANGOs. First, there should be a clear statement of objectives. Secondly, efficiency varies directly with the degree of autonomy. Charters give greater independence to QUANGOs than Statutory Instruments or Government statements of intent. A good QUANGO will sometimes want to say "Boo!" to the Government. It is vital for Governments, Members of Parliament, civil servants and local authorities to exercise the greatest possible self-restraint and keep their fingers out of the work of QUANGOs.
Thirdly, QUANGOs must not be unduly secretive. They must publish annual reports and they must build up their own machinery for public relations in its broadest sense. They must make available to the public, knowledge of what they are doing and they must be sensitive to reasonable public opinion without being excessively sensitive to campaigns run against them, which is a very popular form of activity among those who have axes to grind. One of the very best machines of public relations has been established by the BBC in the shape of its General Advisory Council and its Special Advisory Councils. The work of those councils has been extremely good and that is testified to by the success of the BBC over the years. One should also add the work of the BBC's own machinery for reception of complaints. Its investigation of complaints machinery—the committee upon which the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, served—with the publication of the results of the finding of the committee in the Listener, is a model of intelligent investigation of the work of a QUANGO. Meetings of any board in such an organisation should not be public. 768 It is bad to have a statutory machine for complaints and grumbling—a most unattractive human characteristic—is to be discouraged rather than encouraged. The ultimate sanction of public performance of a QUANGO is dismissal of its governors.
Fourth, efficiency varies inversely with the size of the board and that applies above seven. Five to seven is the best. Twenty-four is pretty awful. I have served on one with 24. It can just be made to work, but it throws more and more responsibility on the chairman and chief officers. If one really wants to control the QUANGO one should keep the board small. Fifth, quality of work depends on the quality of the chairman and the quality of the chief officer. Therefore, appoint the best chairman one can and leave him to get on with the work.
Sixth, do not be afraid to reappoint if the member concerned is both willing and doing a good job. Seventh, do not appoint someone who is "clapped out", that is, who lacks the necessary initiative. Some are clapped out at 50; some are still full of go and vigour at 70. I shall not be invidious about this matter. There are certain types of job, usually with a very high level of strain in them, where intellectual fatigue seems to set in early. However, I shall not particularise on what those sorts of jobs are. I shall tell my noble friend later if he wants to know. Eighth, the politics of conflict and confrontation have no part in the work of QUANGOs: We, the QUANGO, are the servants of Government and of the public. We are a machine for getting things done and we try to do it as well as we possibly can without regard to party rows.
Ninth, the area of work of any QUANGO must not be too big. The answer to excessive size is not delegation but separation and the creation of new autonomous bodies like new town development corporations. Imagine if one simply extended a new town development corporation to take in the next new town. The success of the new town development corporations is due to the fact that each one has been an entity and each one has been doing a specific job in a specific area. When things go wrong it is almost always because the QUANGO has been 769 given too much to do. I should say that British Leyland is a case in point. If ever there was a case not for delegation but for splitting the thing up into smaller really autonomous units, I should have thought that that was a beauty.
Tenth, the blame for multiplicity of QUANGOs and bad work by QUANGOs must rest largely with Parliament which has created them or passively acceded to their creation by Ministers. The eleventh point is that big big QUANGOs should be financed by block grant on a formula finance basis, preferably expressed as a percentage of the gross national product. Thus, we would have built-in incentives to economy and efficiency.
Finally, Parliament cannot will the ends without also willing the means. If the selected means are the local authorities, often nothing will happen, precisely because they are multi-purpose authorities with many calls upon their energies. I suggest that the noble Baroness, when she urges that QUANGOs should hand over to the local authorities, should look at the welfare services in connection with the hospitals. What a sad story that is. The only real alternative to local authority administration at the periphery is the QUANGO, and the only way to keep down their numbers is to keep down legislation.
§ 5.17 p.m.
The Earl of SELKIRK
My Lords, I agree with a great deal of the very interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I think that I could accept nearly all his 12 perhaps detailed and idealistic points in the structure of what QUANGOs might be if they were perfect organs of attack. However, I think that he is wrong in saying that this debate is an attack upon QUANGOs. If I understood what my noble friend said in an extremely interesting speech, this is a sort of preliminary canter. So far as I know, the word" QUANGO "has never previously appeared on a Motion in either House. One might sayall bloodless lay the untrodden snow",which may not be quite the case when the noble Lord replies. However, I think that there are some points in connection with this matter at which we ought to look.
770 The first one I refer to is the volume and random nature of these organisations. There is no doubt about that. Let us be quite frank. There are many—and no one would question this—so-called QUANGOs; and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that the acronym is not particularly happy or dignified, but none the less it is there. However, they are very varied and a number of most extraordinary arrangements exist. The noble Baroness, Lady White, referred to the irrational nature of payments. If one is put on a QUANGO one may be unpaid, but if one is paid one may receive anything up to £55 a day. It varies a great deal. Sometimes the trained lawyer receives more than the doctor, and the common layman very much less. I may say that sometimes the doctor gets more than the lawyer.
The Earl of SELKIRK
No, my Lords, but sometimes. For example, let us take an organisation like the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. It was started 40 years ago with a statement from the Home Secretary. From what I have heard I believe that it is a very valuable and extremely important body. Then there is the Location of Offices Bureau, which one sees advertises in the Underground. That was devised to decentralise office work to other parts of the country from the capital. Now it is engaged in finding offices in the capital for those who want them. The Secretary of State has made a completely 180 degree turn in his policy. Perhaps that is all right.
I believe that Scotland has an organisation called the Committee of Investigation which makes reports on the reports of the consumer committees. To me that seems to be putting it a little too far apart. Incidentally, I am told that the Land Commission is still operating, although it was "abolished" eight years ago. Therefore, these organisations are pretty hardy animals and we have to keep them going. Of course, the most serious of these is the Price Commission. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bird-wood, who pointed out that it has not kept to the 5 per cent. guidelines. This means that something pretty odd is happening in this world. It may be 771 argued that these organisations are very different in character, which they are, but there are common features. I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for publishing a Directory of Paid Public Appointments, which I found a very interesting document. However, it has the great defect that it does not give names. The first thing that we should ask for is the names of those on these committees. We ought to know who they are. I do not understand why we should not have their names. If we take as the common feature the very central address which nearly all these bodies have, I should think that 50 per cent. of them are situated within a mile of this House. That is not the cheapest area of London, or indeed of any other part of the country, in which to rent accommodation. I wonder whether that is entirely necessary.
I am afraid that I must disagree with some noble Lords who have spoken on the subject of patronage. The noble Baroness, Lady White, said that we must not be sanctimonious about it. I am sure that the extremely pure life which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has led leads him not to be very impressed with patronage. I first went into local government about 40 years ago, and my reaction is that it is astonishing how, in politics, people cling to patronage at all stages. I do not make any accusations, although of course accusations have been made. No one knows who are on these committees, so one can make any accusation one likes. Some say that there are too many professors, Peers, trade unionists or too many people from the South-East of England on them. Every kind of accusation can be brought. With 8,500 persons paid from public funds whose names have not been published, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that it is one thing to be chairman with perhaps five or 10 members to select a person to join him, but it is another thing for a Secretary of State to appoint more people than he probably even knows by sight. It leaves the matter open and it is of an entirely different character.
I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Peart, whether or not he wants this situation to continue. It is a situation which is completely open to any form of patronage, and if it exists for the next 20 or 30 years, then it will continue. I 772 shall not attempt to try to answer that. There is the question whether or not this is to continue. There are a number of simple ways of stopping it. It is not only a question whether or not there is patronage, but where there is seen not be to patronage. This is of the greatest importance. I do not believe that anyone in this country wishes to have the "spoil" system which I think once desiccated the political system in the United States of America. But we are steadily moving—and we must not underestimate it—in that direction.
There is one other matter which I must raise. There is a wider aspect to this. We know what legislature is; we know who comprise the Executive and we know the Judiciary. It was the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who spoke about law, semi-law, and non-law. Some of these organisations invent their rules, interpret them and enforce them. There may be special circumstances where that is necessary—I would not question that—because there is an infinite variety of material. However, I think that that aspect must be watched with very great care or we shall find that our basic system of freedom before the law will disappear.
Here I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. We, in Parliament, are responsible for most of this. We write laws which, we know, are incomprehensible; laws which are not adequately discussed and laws which are badly drafted. I shall not entirely exclude the draftsmen themselves. I believe that they could be taken out of their rather intellectual ivory tower and made to see how the world does, in fact, turn, round. If we have—and most of us agree with this in some degree—an interventionist policy—by that I mean intervening in the personal lives of individuals—it is very hard not to be unfair and not to be rough. Many of these bodies take the edge off the law to some extent—the sharpness which might otherwise exist. But it is a policy which means that these bodies and the decisions which they make are more important than Acts of Parliament, because that is where they get their pension, their authority and their willingness to do this.
We must ask the Government whether they will publish the names of the people on these bodies, certainly the names of the chairmen. I believe that there are at 773 least 700 or 800 bodies which could be called QUANGOs, or at least 700 or 800 chairmen, because in addition some regional bodies must be taken into account. That is a very large number and we should know the names of their members and chairmen. Secondly, we should know to whom they are responsible. There is one element of human rights which I believe is important, and that is that every citizen should know who makes the decisions. If he does not know that, there is a basic lack in the political set-up in this country.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, this is a splendidly irrational Chamber and I rise to take part in this fine debate. I should like to pay the usual thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who initiated it. I would point out that it should be noted that this debate takes place in the largest QUANGO in the land. It is a fact that we are unelected; it is a fact that we are here because of patronage. When I came to this House some four years ago the national newspaper of Wales said:And so the first, and probably the last. Lord Parry of Neyland takes his place in the House of Lords".When I was appointed to the chair of the Wales Tourist Board in the middle of this summer my irreverent and 23-year-old daughter said, "Well, Dad, perhaps you will be last QUANGO in Paris!" It seems to me that we must realise that this Chamber is undemocratic. If we pursue the logic that has been pursued resolutely and properly by noble Lords opposite, they might find themselves following it through to the point where they share with me the view that the Second Chamber in this land should also be elected.
Tonight we find ourselves taking part in a debate on our right to be represented on bodies which are elected in order to help democracy work. As well as a sense of irony, I also have a sense of déjà vu because, in the debate that took place in this House over the creation of Assemblies for Wales and Scotland, we touched upon the fact that a great many bodies that act within the Constitution are not responsive or responsible to the vote of the people. In that debate—and noble Lords will forgive me for quoting from my own speech, which is 774 something I do not very often do—on 23rd May 1978, I said:No matter how self-satisfied we may be with the eminence that we have achieved in this Chamber or in another place, it remains a fact that the people of Britain are not universally convinced that their Member of Parliament, or a noble Lord … knows better than them what is good for them".—[Official Report; cols. 915–916.]I do not want to go too far into the detail, but in case noble Lords assume, as a result of the debate tonight, that this issue was raised on the opposite side of the Chamber, I should like to point out that it was, in fact, raised and debated on this side of the House some long while ago.
In that same debate it was said that:Currently there are some 70 committees, boards and other public bodies operating in Wales which are responsible for the authorisation each year of more than £300 million of public expenditure. Some, like the Welsh Council, are merely advisory. However, the advice they give can be enormously influential in determining ministerial decisions and Government policy. Others, including the Welsh Water Authority, have executive powers; and of course the Welsh Development Agency spends a very great deal of money …".—[Official Report; 23/5/78, cols. 915–916.]I do not think I need to declare my own interest, because it is known, as the chairman of the Wales Tourist Board. The point that I was specifically making when I spoke in that debate was that there is already a third tier of Government, and those who have drawn attention to it this evening have done so rightly. What we are arguing about is not whether the system of quasi-autonomous and non-elected Government bodies is one that is a total answer to the problems that democracy creates for itself as it becomes more complicated but whether people are getting good value for money and whether the power is adequately and properly controlled.
The Minister who is responsible in Wales for the appointment of members to these bodies and to the fringe bodies has said many times that he is anxious to pass on that responsibility to an elected Assembly. In fact, it is probably true to say that the whole issue of the QUANGO has arisen at this time because the Government raised it in the context of devolved authority for Wales and for Scotland. Therefore, there is no particular merit in asking at this time for a discussion of how best we can bring the non-elected body under the control of the elected Parliament 775 so long as we are prepared to say that then that question must also be extended to the position of this noble House.
I take the point that was very carefully made by my immediate successor in this debate, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. He will take the point that I make now: that he is the tenth in the line and that his noble family has enjoyed, under one form of government or another, political and direct patronage for a very long time indeed and has, in the process, given great service to this nation, service to which I am proud to pay respect tonight. But we are in an evolving democracy; we are in a changing situation at a time when democracy worldwide is in question and when many nations are turning against it as a political system.
I believe that Members who criticise the role of this or that particular committee must also be careful in the speeches that they make that they do not unwittingly at this precarious time undermine democracy, too, because while we pass comments about those who serve on these committees, unless we are careful to say that they have a noble record—not ennobled but noble in service—then we are doing them an injustice.
I believe that the criticism that should properly be made of this system is that the people who work within it in a part-time capacity or who sometimes devote the whole of their time to it are grossly underpaid. I believe that in the same way as those of your Lordships who properly attend to their duties in this House are underpaid and underestimated for the service that they put in, so, too, are those who, working within this system of so-called QUANGOs, put in all their energy and all their effort for very little reward indeed.
It is something which has been argued in our democracy that it was correct at one stage that Members of Parliament should not be paid by the State but should earn their living elsewhere and then give their service. We have passed beyond that stage and I think it is right that we should have passed beyond it. However, I say this: That had I given the energy, had I given the time and had I given the service that I have given in the last three months to a private enterprise body in 776 this country that I have given to the QUANGO which I have tried to serve, then I am quite certain that the financial reward I should have had would have been infinitely greater. These are so-called part-time appointments. No man, no woman can serve as the chairman of one of these bodies in any part-time sense. If noble Lords need any testimony to that, I will go with them, minute by minute, through my own diary of these last few months.
I believe that we have held a debate in wisdom and in sound common sense. I do not think that there is any need to go too deeply into some of the points which have been made, but I did take from the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, the point that he made that we are really talking about power. What we are really talking about is the redisposition of power within our democracy as it evolves into a new and complicated setting. I believe that many points have been made which will be of great value in our approach to the restaffing of QUANGOs after the next Election because, no matter how any Government elected to represent the people of this country set about governing, they will need to have at all levels people serving on bodies such as those that have been examined here tonight.
If I may take up the direct and specific point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, he properly asked why it is necessary—although he realises that it is necessary and approves that it is necessary—to have separate tourist boards for Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland. I very much welcomed his drawing attention to the fact that some chairmen are more equal than others when it comes to the disposition of cash, but there is a very responsible answer to a responsible question.
The British Tourist Authority has an overall responsibility for tourism in this country. Its responsibility extends particularly to the advertising of Britain overseas as a tourist destination. Under the Tourist Act, we as individual national boards are not allowed to advertise our own product, except through the British Tourist Authority. That is right and proper, because the Act set out to make 777 certain that the money which was spent overall was responsibly controlled and governed. While we are being offered and are happily taking an individual role in the promotion of our individual nations as part of the United Kingdom as a tourist destination, we believe that it is essential to have a British Tourist Authority with overall responsibility—not multiplying QUANGOs but exerting the very responsibility, the very control upon power which your Lordships' House has been anxious to seek.
I come to the end of what I have to say. I believe that in this debate, which was described as a preliminary gallop along the course, we have not been hearing the sound of hooves; we have been hearing the roll of distant drums. I believe that it is accepted now that, although the Prime Minister still keeps to his own bosom the secret as to when the next General Election will be, we are beginning to enter a phase in our negotiations across this table which signals that we realise that the next General Election is on. When that Election takes place, it would not surprise me if the role of the QUANGO and of the "frib" will be noised abroad from the political platforms on either side. That is wholly right. That is what democracy is about. I think that nobody has the right to expect that he should hold a salaried position in this land without that position being held up to examination. I believe it is right that the report that any body publishes should contain the salary of the chairman, and of the individual members and any other income that they receive. I have always argued that no man loses in a democracy by telling the truth, but I would urge that when this debate continues, fairness and justice should be done to those many thousands of people who, for very little financial reward, give a vast amount of time and energy because they love democracy and they want to serve Britain.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, might I refer to the fact that he compared QUANGOs to this House. However, surely one of the many differences between QUANGOs and this House is that QUANGOs have the power to use taxpayers' money, a power which this House does not possess. Regarding the noble Lord's remarks about 778 tourism, about which I know since I bring in a great deal of foreign currency to this country through tourism, I understood the noble Lord to say that it is only the British Tourist Board which can advertise tourism for this country. With due respect to the noble Lord, I have never heard such nonsense. I advertise tourism all the time, as do many of my friends. The other point I should like to put to the noble Lord is that if the Tourist Board want to help tourism, they should not charge people who wish to advertise in their publications such large fees for advertising, larger than many private publications charge for similar services.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has misunderstood the point that I was making. It is very easy to do that and I return gently to him this point. I was speaking about the role under the Act of the British Tourist Authority. I make no reference to the noble Viscount. He is a well-known tourist attraction and he and I share the pleasure of sitting in this House.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Baroness SHARPLES
My Lords, I wish to thank my noble friend Lady Young for initiating this debate today and also the noble Lord the Leader of the House, for sending me the new Directory. I am neither a QUANGO nor a fringe body. I happen to agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said; but we are faced with an ever-increasing number of QUANGOs, many of whose members are hired and fired by Ministers and their salaries are fixed and paid by Ministers. Yet when Her Majesty's Government are questioned as to why there was a 40 per cent. increase in salary to one part-time chairman, from £4,532 to £6,345, since 1976 the Minister concerned was apparently not responsible for—and these are not my words—" the notional input "What a crazy situation! Questions in another place over three months earlier this year have produced the astonishing total of 900 QUANGOs. This came out in answers to many Questions put by Members in another place.
I should like to declare my interests in both farming and forestry, because I wish to make one or two points about 779 QUANGOs in this situation. There are only some 375,000 people working on the land. That was on the 1975 figures. I expect the noble Lord the Leader of the House is aware that possibly the numbers have decreased since then. But there are 15,000 people employed at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and at least 53 QUANGOs associated with agriculture in some way. I do not believe that we can merit such attention. The cost to all of us is out of proportion. Speaking now as a farmer, I say,"Reduce our taxes, pay us more for our products and i get these people off our backs."
Has the noble Lord the Leader of the House a complete picture of where we stand today and how many more QUANGOs there will be next year? When it comes to research why can we not follow the Americans? The Salk Institute is given a grant, but only for research; the institute has to find all the money for its overheads and taxpayers, understand this. I am really scared stiff of what this country faces. Surely we can see some sense before it is too late.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Young, rather woundingly, I think, said that you only get what you pay for, and I am paid nothing for addressing your Lordships. But she has done us a great service by introducing this subject. As the last man in, I shall not be expected to remain at the wicket long or to score many runs, but by way of preface I should like to say that some noble Lords opposite seem to have come into the Chamber with a pretty clear idea of what was going to be said on this side of the House and not to have noticed that something else in fact emerged when the speeches were made. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for whom I have the highest regard and whose speech I enjoyed, referred to an indiscriminate attack upon QUANGOs and to noble Lords "hurling abuse" at them. I heard no such abuse hurled, and I did not recognise and would not participate in any such attack; and how the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, could impute to my noble friend Lady Young that she had suggested that he or the majority of his colleagues in QUANGOs were not doing a useful job, I cannot understand. I hope he will read 780 Hansard tomorrow and he will find that the imputation was misdirected.
When any species, however decorative or benevolent it may be, begins to multiply exceeding and beyond what has been normal, I know, as a farmer, that it is wise to investigate it. An investigation of QUANGOs, as some call them, or "FRIBs" as perhaps my noble friend Lord Birdwood would prefer them to be called, standing for "fringe bodies", has been due for some time and I for one approached this debate with eagerness and apprehension: eagerness to hear the Government's answer and apprehension as to what it might reveal. But I very soon discovered that the species QUANGO had never been properly investigated and catalogued. There is no Linnaean classification of these creatures. Some are huge and hungry, others timid and advisory. The science of Quang-ology—for want of a better word—is in its infancy.
The first thing that is difficult about a QUANGO is to identify it. When I started to prepare for this debate I felt that I was embarking upon something like the hunting of the snark: the nature of the quarry seemed to change whenever it was defined. Two of the most generally accepted works on the species are Bowen's Survey of Fringe Bodies and the Civil Service Department's Directory of the Paid Public Appointments made by Ministers, both of which have been freely referred to. They were brought out within four months of each other and one might expect a degree of congruence, but the former lists 245 bodies, the latter 369. That is perhaps not surprising as the directory defines by the instituting authority and the survey by function. Bowen makes a gallant attempt at a universal definition of a fringe body and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, quoted it. Had he looked a little further back to the very beginning of the report he would have seen the Foreword written by the Department which accepted the report, which says categorically that "there is no single agreed definition of the term fringe body "Therefore, we are studying an unknown species.
My noble friends, whose instincts may rightly be—as my first instinct was— to oppose and curtail every unnecessary extension of authority, have rightly re- 781 strained themselves from harrying it. We are not like elephant hunters or tiger trappers; we are in the position of Darwin, springing ashore from HMS "Beagle". And what do we find in QUANGO-land? We find a teeming population. We have already heard something of its size, and even using Bowen's very limited definition, we find an army of 184,000 whole and part-time employees, and a vastly greater one if we add those who are not paid. It is a sort of secondary system paralleling the Civil Service as the lymph glands parallel the circulation of the blood. What we need to know is whether the function it performs is as useful. This army disposes of £2,367 million of taxpayers' money. I do not find in the report a figure to show what proportion of that sum goes in salaries, expenses and staff costs and I hope the Minister will be able to give us those figures. Can he also tell us whether the figures under this head in Bowen are up to date? If not, have they changed; and, if so, by how much have they increased? I do not think anyone expects them to diminish.
I accept that we must keep an open mind about QUANGOs until we know more about them, but there are strong arguments for examination. For instance, there is a strong argument for the necessity for QUANGOs in many areas. It is necessary to interpose a buffer between the Government and a chosen sector where the Government decide the strategic policy and the body itself has to look after the sector which develops within it a sometimes quite ferocious set of tactical confrontations which it would not be proper for the Government to be involved in on one side or the other. Quite clearly, the University Grants Committee should be on any conservationist's list by those criteria.
I should further like to put it on record that even to attempt to begin to examine the workings of each of these bodies would be far beyond the scope of one week's debate, let alone one day's debate; and the noble Baroness, Lady White, when she suggested some sort of review committee, had something which I think should be examined. What we must do is to try to adduce general principles. What is it that we wish to determine? We want a whole list of things. We want to know the actual number of bodies, 782 so far as we can define them; we want to know the extent of Government patronage. My noble friend has suggested that it is far greater than has been printed in any list so far. We want to know the extent of the powers that are delegated to QUANGOs, and what rights of appeal there are to those who are effectively governed by them. We want to know the extent of their use of our common resources in the form of taxpayer's money and we want to know their degree of accountability.
To start with number, this will, of course, depend on the vexed question of definition. What we are interested in are bodies that are controlled by persons other than full-time civil servants, appointed by or under arrangements made by Ministers of the Crown, which either receive or dispose of taxpayers' money for purposes defined by Act, by Charter, by regulation or by ministerial direction, or have regulatory powers similarly derived which affect the livelihoods of those to whom they are applied. This is a sweeping definition, but I think there is no point in trawling unless you have a wide net with a fine mesh, and it is going to be a much bigger haul than you get from Bowen or from the Directory.
My Lords, as far as possible, I shall throughout avoid particularising, but sometimes one can only arrive at generalities by looking at particularities. One was brought to everybody's notice yesterday in The Times. A pair of bodies were reported, the North East Development Board and the North East Economic Planning Council. Neither of those bodies appears in either of the books to which noble Lords have referred in preparation for this debate. The former is alleged in the paper to be financed in part by the county councils of the North East and partly by a grant of £275,000 of national or taxpayers' money. To whom is it accountable for that money? It seems from the report that there is some dispute or dissatisfaction among its local government sponsors about the way that money has been used. That need not concern us. What does concern us is the fact that it is the local government authorities who have made these allegations, if they are well-founded, and yet it is taxpayers' money as well as theirs that is at risk. This debate is, after all, in part about accountability.
783 According to this report, the second body is intended by some to become, "The official voice of the North East at Westminster". I do not doubt that is a large and liberal phrase. But if these two bodies are neither QUANGOs nor FRIBs we have a right to know what they are, what they cost, how they are constituted and to whom they are answerable for the public funds which apparently they consume. I agree absolutely with the noble Lords, Lord Parry and Lord Taylor, about this principle. And how many more bodies are similarly in receipt of or dispose of public resources without appearing on public lists? If the noble Lord the Leader of the House can answer that question he will earn the thanks of the House and eventually the country.
My Lords, I referred to the extent of Government patronage. The list already published would make Walpole green with jealousy, even if it was limited to the 184,000 jobs listed by Bowen. But I suspect it is far greater in extent than that. The noble Lord will tell us when he answers my previous question. But let us recognise this, that patronage is only dangerous when it is improperly exercised. A great number of these posts, if not all of them, may well prove to be essential to fill and to be properly filled. For a number of appointments Her Majesty's Government do, I believe, apply to consultants to make the final recommendation for them. I know of at least one instance of that. Can the noble Lord tell us the extent of this practice, which would seem at first blush to have a lot to recommend it as a means of escaping the pressures for patronage which are exerted on people, regardless of the political Party to which they belong, when they are in office.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White, that the question of partiality and patronage is a tin can which can be tied to every dog's tail and not just to one. Are there any other steps taken to avoid undue political influence in the making of non-political appointments? I noted and welcomed the declaration by the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education that school managers and governors should no longer be politically appointed. That, I hope, is a practice which may be extended into QUANGO-land.
784 The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that we might expect to get better people by appointment than by election, which I found an absolutely fascinating statement in the Parliamentary context. I take it that when we come to debate reform it will be reform of the other place he will be advocating, not reform of your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I am passionately devoted to your Lordships' House. I believe I am the only person who still believes in hereditary peerages, because I believe in deoxyribonucleic acid.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord into the laboratory, but I think I might follow him into the Lobby. The principle of election can, therefore, be extended to reduce Government patronage. Does the Minister not agree that this question of patronage must be seen as a threat whichever Party is in power? I want to say that because it is quite clear that some noble Lords are speaking as though we thought that only the other side ever did things that should not be done. We are talking about human beings, whatever Party they subscribe to. I like to think that my noble friends are in some way more noble than the noble Lord's noble friends, but the ribonucleic acid to which Lord Taylor referred does something to balance that out in the long run.
We are concerned also with the extent of the powers which some bodies exercise on behalf of Government or of the community. Of course the two phrases ought to mean the same thing but too often I fear they do not. A power to grant licences, for instance, is also a power to refuse them. That amounts in some circumstances to a power of life and death in commercial terms. To take an example of some prominence, the Independent Broadcasting Authority has power to give or to withhold licences to programme contractors. Their decision, which ought to be put into effect every six years according to the Charter, may be given without explanation, and, please note, without appeal. I hear the noble Lord opposite asking his neighbour who set it up.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, I am happy for the noble Lord to say so. This is another reflex action of politicians that in this House we have to disembarrass ourselves of. If something is questionable or wrong it should be questioned or altered, whoever recognises the fact. Otherwise, in religious terms we can never have salvation because we can never repent. I am not making a political statement in defence of or against this particular example, and I will not be pinned down by the noble Lord afterwards. What I am saying is that we have here a body from which there is no appeal which can in fact bankrupt a large concern overnight—I am not saying that it would; I am saying that is the position it has been put in, and it has been put in that position without a supervisory power. I ask your Lordships to consider whether that is right as a principle.
I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will reply to the trenchant question about the curtailment of equality before the law, posed by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. Does he not agree, as I do, that members of QUANGOs should not be anonymous? And that leads me on to the next question which is that of administrative accountability. It seems to me that when a Minister who derives his power from Parliament delegates a significant part of that power away to another body he ought not thereby to break the cord of answer-ability that ought to connect the exercise of that power to its origin. In the case I have just mentioned my personal view is that the obvious appellate body would be the Home Secretary himself, who is answerable to Parliament.
As my noble friend Lady Young said, Members of Parliament and your Lordships are constantly frustrated in attempts to question the Government about Government policy when it is expressed in the supposedly independent decisions of public corporations, nationalised industries and QUANGOs. They will recognise that there is grave danger in separating executive decisions so far from Parliamentary control. Certainly we ought not to intervene in every managerial decision, but that doctrine is dangerous if it is extended to include major matters of policy. Any official review of this area —and such a review is, I submit, overdue —ought to look carefully into the extent 786 to which the actions of people in authority are exercised unaccountably. In this area I sometimes think Parliament is like a horseman with slippery reins. But the problem is a tricky one, because if you make a Minister responsible for decisions taken by a QUANGO or a fringe body you are also inviting him to interfere in the making of those decisions to protect himself from subsequent possible criticism.
Very often the function of a QUANGO is precisely to distance the Minister from the decisions. In that case to limit accountability to some particular sort of decisions, such as those against which an appeal has been made, would seem to be one way of keeping the Minister out of things as long as they are moving smoothly. The noble Baroness, Lady White, suggested another and valuable solution, which was a committee of review. In mentioning her I must refer to her attack upon the pamphlet The QUANGO Explosion which carries a clear statement, as all CPC documents do, that it was a personal expression of opinion intended to be a ginger paper and not the policy of the Front Bench.
She also said that the Land Authority for Wales had been wrongly attacked because that pamphlet said that it cost £295,000. She said it had made a profit of some £2 million. I should like just to clarify the position. On current account, which is what people usually look at when they are deciding whether a business is going well or ill—that is called the surplus account in the terminology of the Board—for the latest published period, which is 1976–77, there is a deficit of £2,295,156, but against this must be set the figure for freehold land held and not yet disposed of at £3,276,000, and a small figure for other assets such as written down office equipment. On capital account therefore, the authority is in profit, but on current account I think the pamphlet was right to draw attention to the fact that at the moment the taxpayer is standing out that amount of money. That does not necessarily mean that the Board is not being properly run, because the only authority the Board has is to borrow money and to buy land and sell it. It is a necessary condition, but it is one we should notice. That brings us to financial accountability, about which I think enough 787 has been said already, particularly as I am taking longer than I intended.
Nothing I have said should be construed as hostile to QUANGOs as a species. They are useful creatures and I doubt whether we could manage without many of them. But do we need so many? I much liked my noble friend Lord Balfour's list of bodies. He told us that the Apples and Pears Authority's work would be done for it by the housewives of England. If it was not I am sure that there would be a great deal of trouble and strife. But they give rise to a certain number—not that Board, but all these Boards—of complaints and grumbles. I may have misheard the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I thought I heard him say that grumbling was a bad thing and ought to be discouraged.
§ Lord ELTON
Well he did, and I am glad he confirmed it, but it does alarm me, because when you couple that with his preference for appointed over elected officials, and a good deal else that he said, I really come to believe that he honestly thinks that the gentleman from Whitehall, preferably advised by himself, does know best. I suspect that that is what this debate is about, because most of us in running our private affairs do not believe that that is the case and passionately resist it when it is put forward.
I would not quarrel with the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, in saying that they are a useful means of drawing people into Government service. But I do wonder whether so many need to be drawn. This is an appropriate point to pay tribute, with the noble Lord, Lord Parry, to the admirable and often self- sacrificing work done by many members unsung and unpraised. We have said that there ought to be openness. Surely this is another argument for the publication of reports and of lists of members.
The plain fact is that the British public has suddenly woken up, for whatever reason, to the fact that they know very little about QUANGOs and they would like to know more, and that is exactly the position that we are in in this House. Parliament ought to be informed. It can best be informed by an inquiry on a 788 more ambitious scale than Mr. Bowen's work. It ought to establish the number and categories of function of these bodies and their provenance and accountability and the extent of their influence upon the lives of individuals and of the community. Parliament, on considering that report, should consider what changes, if any, should be made. Until that process has been completed, "Quangology" will be an imprecise science and "Quango-philes" few and far between. In the meantime we shall be in a much better position to frame the terms of reference and judge the necessary resources to be devoted to such an inquiry when we have heard what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has to say, and I apologise for having delayed it being said for longer than I intended.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will not apologise too much. I think that he made a positive contribution, as indeed did the noble Baroness in opening this debate and setting its tone, and this was reinforced by an excellent speech from the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton. It has been a wide-ranging debate covering a very large number of topics in almost every area of Government activity. It has been particularly helpful to have contributions from noble Lords who are directly involved in the running of the kind of public organisations we are looking at. My noble friend Lady White has had tremendous experience in this field, in which she has worked so hard over the years, and many of the points she mentioned I shall take up. If I do not answer every question tonight I shall write to noble Lords, but I shall try and do my best.
It has been an excellent debate. I cannot deal with all the points. Many of those that have arisen relate specifically to the operations of individual bodies. These are really matters for my right honourable friends who carry responsibility for the particular bodies to which reference has been made, and I am sure that they will take careful note of the comments made by noble Lords. In the time available to me I will concentrate first on the rather broad themes and then when I conclude 789 that I shall try to answer quickly specific points which have been raised.
The term QUANGO has been mentioned by all of us. The first point is about the term. There is no agreed definition—not even about what the word stands for. Some say Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations; and others say Quasi-Autonomous National Government Organisations, and we could go on. Both in this debate, and more generally in articles and speeches outside this House, the term has been used in a great variety of ways to cover entirely different types of organisation which have little or nothing in common with each other.
The term QUANGO can include the very substantial number of advisory committees and consultative councils. By their nature these bodies do not have executive powers, they do not spend money, they do not take decisions which affect the individual citizen and the vast majority of their members are unsalaried. While there will always be a need for Ministers to review the continuing justification for existing advisory bodies, it has been long accepted by all Parties that it is right and proper for Ministers to seek advice in this way widely from outside their Department. Apart from these purely advisory bodies, there are a number of distinct categories, each entirely different in character and function. For example, there are quasi-judicial bodies such as administrative tribunals, and at the other end of the spectrum nationalised industries and other bodies operating in a commercial way.
My second main point is this. There has been a tendency even in this debate for the emphasis on the problems of public bodies of one kind or another to distract attention from the advantages they can bring. We must put this in perspective. There are perfectly good and respectable reasons for creating organisations which operate at arm's length from Ministers, with some degree of independence in day-to-day management. This has been the experience of successive Governments of all Parties. Noble Lords with ministerial experience will be well aware of these reasons, but it might be helpful if I give some examples of the type of consideration which has led Governments over the years to establish semi-independent bodies 790 of one kind or another. Sometimes it has been felt appropriate to set up a body where a substantial element of artistic, and cultural judgment is involved. In this category fall the Arts Council and also the British Council, the continued existence of which noble Lords strongly supported late last year in the debate on the Central Policy Review Staff Report on Overseas Representation.
There is sometimes the need to distance a body from Government Departments to ensure that independence of judgment can be exercised and, equally important, be seen to be so exercised. This applies for example to the various quasi-judicial bodies and organisations operating in sensitive areas, such as the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service in the field of industrial relations. Another reason has been a desire directly to involve people outside Government in executive action in certain fields. A number of bodies of this kind, created by both Conservative and Labour Governments, involve representatives of the CBI and TUC in areas of industrial and employment action. Or, again, the need to ensure a measure of flexibility of management and entrepreneurial freedom has been seen as a justification for the creation of organisations operating at one remove from Government. That was obviously a major consideration in the creation of the great public corporations, but it also applies to a number of other commercial and promotional agencies.
I hope these illustrative examples help to answer the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who asked what were the criteria for deciding to establish bodies headed by ministerial appointees. There can be no hard and fast rules on this; each situation has to be judged in the light of all the circumstances of the time, but I have indicated some of the factors—and there are many more—which point in favour of machinery of this kind. Consider the proposed registrar for the Public Lending Right scheme, about which the noble Baroness asked. There will be a full opportunity for discussion of that when the Bill comes to this House, but I can give her the assurance that the machinery for administering the scheme has been most carefully considered by the Government before putting forward these proposals. The Government feel there will be 791 advantage in having the scheme implemented by an office holder who can be clearly seen to operate independently of Ministers on individual cases. There are many long-standing precedents for this kind of arrangement; well-known examples are the Registrars General for England and Wales and for Scotland, dating from last century.
I have also been asked whether the work which appointed bodies undertake could not better be done by local authorities or by the voluntary sector, an argument which is often deployed. Each case must of course be considered on its merits, but I do not readily see the scope for any general transfer of tasks of this kind. Appointed bodies at national level are generally undertaking functions affecting the country as a whole, not particular localities. The Manpower Services Commission, the Arts Council, the Price Commission, Research Councils and so on, all must certainly take account of local interests and variations, but essentially they are serving national objectives and carrying out country-wide tasks. Quite properly, therefore, responsibility for appointments to these bodies and for setting their overall objectives should rest with Ministers answerable to Parliament rather than with local authorities.
Now the argument in relation to QUANGOs or voluntary bodies. As for the voluntary movement, the Government believe that it has a vital role to play in our society and, as noble Lords will know, it has recently issued a consultative document on this following the valuable report from the Wolfenden Committee. But while, as the noble Baroness, I think, believes, voluntary bodies perform some tasks akin to those undertaken by appointed bodies, there is a fundamental distinction. It is of the essence of voluntary bodies that they should be able to decide what activities they wish to pursue and how. Sometimes the Government will wish to encourage these activities and offer assistance to that end. But that is an entirely different situation from a body created with the specific purpose of undertaking some task on behalf of Government and which would not exist had Government not decided that it was needed to fulfil that role. If voluntary bodies took over this latter role, it is 792 inevitable that they would lose their "voluntary" status and become in effect an arm of Government. I am not at all sure that the voluntary movement itself would want that to happen.
I will deal quickly with Government policy on new and existing QUANGOs, and this is my third main point. While the creation of new organisations will from time to time continue to be the right course to take, the Government fully accept the need to scrutinise each new proposal most carefully and to keep under review the working of existing bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, emphasised the need for scrutiny. I repeat, we fully accept the need to scrutinise each new proposal and we wish to keep proposals under review.
It is clearly essential for me to describe the Government's position on this in a little detail because the debate has revealed a number of misapprehensions and confusions about it. In the first place, it is not true to say that the Government set up new organisations without proper examination of the need for them. Each Minister proposing the creation of a new body recognises a clear responsibility to scrutinise the case and satisfy himself that a new organisation is essential. It is an important part of this scrutiny to see that the new body will not duplicate the functions of any existing authority and to ensure that the new task could not be more effectively and economically performed by adapting or strengthening an existing organisation. Moreover, in the vast majority of cases—and in all important ones—Parliament in the end has a full opportunity to examine the proposal because legislation will be required.
Secondly, the Government are particularly concerned to ensure that where there are areas of activity where Parliament has a reasonable expectation that Ministers should be prepared to answer in detail, there should be a disposition in favour of Ministers undertaking the function at their own hand within their Department. For this reason, the Government believe that most major existing areas of Government activity are unsuitable for hiving off into separate organisations and that in those cases where hiving off is possible, great care has to be taken to strike a correct balance between the degree of freedom of action 793 given to the new authority and the degree of control and answerability retained by Ministers.
But even where it has been decided that a body operating at arm's length from Ministers is appropriate and that it should enjoy a substantial degree of managerial freedom of action, there is no question of the Government creating unaccountable organisations which are out of control. Limits of discretion are defined and, though Ministers will generally not be involved in matters of day-to-day management, they are ultimately answerable to Parliament for overall performance, and that is right.
Talk of uncontrolled public expenditure, which we hear in the Press as well as in Parliament and staffing by bodies operating at one remove from Ministers is particularly wide of the mark. The primary responsibility for ensuring the efficient and economical conduct of the affairs of a body lies of course within its management. But any expenditure of public funds, by such organisations comes within the public expenditure provision for the relevant Department, which in turn is subject to the Government's public expenditure control and priority-setting procedures. In other words, Departments have to weigh up the claims from public bodies operating in their functional area against all their other expenditure priorities. The degree of Departmental monitoring is naturally greater the more dependent the body is on public funds.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, at the beginning of the passage with which the noble Lord is now dealing I thought he said that Ministers were answerable to Parliament, and therefore QUANGOs were answerable to Parliament, too. Does that mean that, in his definition of a QUANGO, he has excluded all the bodies which give us greatest concern, which are those over which Ministers and Parliament do not have control?
§ Lord PEART
No, I have not done that, my Lords, and I do not think I implied that in what I said. Where fringe bodies are financed mainly out of public funds, there are generally arrangements whereby Government control their administrative costs including levels and grading of manpower. levels of pay and pension agreements. Again, where bodies are 794 mainly financed out of public funds, the general rule is that their accounts are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, so there is accountability to Parliament for their spending. I recognise that in certain cases the arrangements for controlling these organisations have not proved to be wholly adequate; this point has been made. Where this has been found to be the case, appropriate steps are taken to rectify the situation. By and large, however, I think I can say that fringe bodies operate efficiently and effectively and, as I am sure several noble Lords will agree, do a good job in carrying out the tasks given to them by this, and preceding, Governments.
I also recognise that it is insufficient for any Government to ignore arrangements for controlling fringe bodies until something happens to go wrong. That in itself would be wrong, and it is this Government's policy constantly to strive to find ways of improving the framework within which fringe bodies operate. This must be consistent with the need to control public expenditure and the desirability of providing these bodies with an appropriate degree of managerial or commercial independence in carrying out their tasks.
I know that often appointments made by Ministers are criticised and there is some suggestion of abuse of patronage. In response to this I wish to make one or two points. The power—and, indeed, the duty—to make the major appointments is vested in Ministers by Parliament, and it is to Parliament that Ministers are responsible for the way in which this power is exercised. I suggest that this is a sound principle, and one that should be strenuously upheld. Critics of our present arrangements sometimes forget that the statutes which impose upon a Minister the power and duty to appoint sometimes give clear guidance upon the criteria that he is to apply, or the organisations that he is to consult. Where they do not, the choice is his, but he is fully and totally answerable for it. It is right that in making their choice Ministers should have access to a wide range of advice, and that where they should seek it depends to a large extent upon the nature of the work. This Government have sought—and are seeking—to extend the range of names available to Ministers 795 when they make appointments. The Public Appointments Unit, which the last Prime Minister set up within the Civil Service Department—and I am responsible for that Department—is constantly engaged upon this task. Ministers are concerned to have an adequate flow of names from all parts of the country and sectors of the community—including of course minorities—and the Government will do their best to ensure that this aim is achieved.
I can assure noble Lords that when I was a senior Minister in the Department of Agriculture I never thought at all about political patronage. I was determined that we should have the best men or women for the many bodies for which I was responsible. I am sure that if noble Lords care to look at the appointments which I made, they will agree that I was right.
I want to sum up briefly, though I also want to answer some specific questions. On my main theme I hope that we can all agree that wholesale criticism of QUANGOs, however defined, is mistaken. The fact is that Governments of both political Parties have felt it right, in certain circumstances, to create bodies which operate at some distance from Ministers, and to appoint those who by qualification and experience will be best able to run the operations of the bodies in the most effective and efficient manner. I should like to acknowledge the valuable contribution of those who serve in this way on these bodies. I have outlined what the Government do to scrutinise the case for new bodies, to keep the progress of existing bodies under review, and to achieve a very difficult, but essential balance; that is between the independence and flexibility of action which such bodies should have, and the need to ensure a proper degree of ministerial accountability and control. There will always be scope for improvements in these arrangements, and I assure noble Lords that the Government will make these wherever possible.
I should like to answer some specific points. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked me about a happening in the North of England, the area from which I originally came. The noble Lord mentioned the Northern Economic Planning Council 796 and the position of appointments under the regional economic planning councils. With regard to the Northern Economic Planning Council, it is in the Directory of Paid Public Appointments, under regional economic planning councils. The North of England Development Council is not a Government body, but the Government naturally ensure that any money which they give is properly spent. I have further details, and if he wishes I could send a fuller account to the noble Lord.
I think that I have dealt with the power of patronage which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton. However, there is one matter upon which I feel very strongly; I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I appear to be passionate about this. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, is a great lover of the farming community, as well as being a farmer herself, and I was amazed that she should attack some of the organisations which are listed. I was also surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, criticised the National Seed Development Organisation. Let me point out that in this list there is the Milk Marketing Board, which is one of the finest organisations which we have for the farming community. My noble friend Lord Netherthorpe has just left the Chamber, but I am sure that upon his return he will confirm what I am saying. Fancy attacking the Milk Marketing Board—people who respect the farming industry! I cannot understand this.
The National Seed Development Organisation plays a most important part in seed development, which is so vital for new crops, and I am amazed that the noble Lord should criticise this body. I could go on and mention other organisations, such as the Hops Marketing Board, which is very important—for an obvious reason. There is also the Eggs Authority. What is wrong with eggs? Egg marketing is very important. There are also the Joint Consultative Organisation for Research and Development in Agriculture and Food, the British Sugar Corporation, the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales, and the Agricultural Training Board, which I helped to set up. These are wonderful organisations. So I hope that noble Lords—especially those from the farming community—will think again, rather than attack these organisations.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, the noble Lord cited a whole range of organisations which I never mentioned at all. I mentioned certain organisations, not in terms of attacking them, but of asking whether the economy in their administration was perfect or could perhaps be looked at. I certainly never mentioned the Milk Marketing Board or a whole range of other agricultural organisations.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, they are all in the Directory, listed close to the Seed Development Board. I am glad that the noble Lord has read this very carefully.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, the noble Lord said that the North of England Planning Council was mentioned in the Directory. Can he tell me on which page it is listed, as I cannot find it?
§ Baroness SHARPLES
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to point out that I did not attack the organisations. I queried the necessity for having at least 54 different boards.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness is being a little sensitive. I thought that she should be reminded of the importance of what I said about agriculture.
Baroness WARD of NORTH TYNE-SIDE
My Lords, if the noble Lord is to let my noble friend have details about the North, will he kindly remember that I was in the House of Commons for 38 years representing a Northern constituency? I should like to have the information which the noble Lord is to send to someone who, after all, does not know the North-East in the way that I know it.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, with regard to the query raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I have just been told that the entry is on page 41 of the Directory. I know that the noble Baroness is a great defender of the North-East, and I shall certainly keep her informed about this matter.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, at the conclusion of this debate I should like once again to thank all those who have taken part in it. I should particularly like to thank my noble friend Lord Elton for what I considered a most thoughtful and thought provoking contribution. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for the trouble which I can see that he has taken to answer all the points that I put to him before I introduced the debate at all.
May I say in conclusion that I raised this debate because I think that this is a subject that demands the very serious attention of all people who care about public life. I particularly did not intend it as a criticism of any individual, which is not the purpose of such a debate, and I would not wish it to be regarded as a wholesale criticism of QUANGOs or those who serve on them. That clearly would be an absurd statement to make. In the course of my remarks I tried to define some of the criteria by which QUANGOs should be judged and had I had longer I would have given more. However, I feel that what has emerged from this debate is the recognition, from all parts of the House, that we have here a totally confused world. Nobody can define QUANGOs or fringe bodies, knows how extensive they are or really what is going on. We are all worried about their extension unless very clear lines are laid down. We have had some discussion on this, but I hope that we shall take it further.
In my view there is some confusion of thought over the kind of criteria to be applied because the noble Lord, Lord Peart, if I understood him correctly-—I shall, of course, read his comments with great care tomorrow—said, for example, that voluntary organisations ought not to assume the functions of QUANGOs because they must be made and should remain independent. I agree with him that voluntary organisations should remain independent and yet, just before he made that statement, he said that one of the reasons for establishing QUANGOs was that they could give independent advise to a Minister. One really cannot have both definitions and both criteria: either one or the other is right. It is that kind of confusion that needs to be looked 799 at and requires, I believe, very careful study.
I should like to thank all my noble friends who have taken part for the detailed points that they have raised. I think that we shall all go away from this debate to read it again in Hansard tomorrow and consider carefully the other points that should arise. I feel that this is a useful subject for the House of Lords to debate. It gives us an opportunity to think about general questions which members of the public would like us to discuss. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.