§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of the Bill is to authorise the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary at the Home Office, and another at the Scottish Office. Before I discuss the provisions of the Bill I want briefly to indicate the background against which these proposals are put forward, and that means indicating very shortly the party policy which was put before the electors and on which they are based.
Perhaps I may begin with the question of Wales. The pamphlet, "The Conservative Policy for Wales and Monmouthshire," pointed out that there was no single person responsible for seeing that Wales is not forgotten in connection with her special questions and for seeing that in any matters where Welsh conditions are distinct, account is taken of them; or that where Wales needs to be treated as a separate entity, she is so treated. We felt that what Wales needed was to obtain steady representation at the highest level in all aspects of national policy and we suggested that one member of the Cabinet should be given special responsibility for Wales, and that that responsibility should be clearly marked and recognised.
The lot has fallen upon me and I want to say—and I hope the House will accept that I speak with complete sincerity—that I am deeply conscious of my own privilege and of the prime responsibility which rests upon me. My function, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on 13th November, is:To inform himself of the Welsh aspect of business by visiting the Principality and by discussion with representatives of Welsh life and to speak in Cabinet on behalf of the special interests and aspirations of Wales. He will be assisted by a Welsh Under-Secretary.1740It is not proposed to confer executive power on the Home Secretary as Minister of Welsh Affairs and he will have no direct responsibility to Parliament for education, health or agriculture in Wales or for the administration in Wales on any services for which other Ministers are Departmentally responsible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 817.]Perhaps I may pass for the moment to pick up the corresponding background of the proposal in regard to Scotland, again starting with the policy document, the pamphlet "Scottish Control of Scottish Affairs ", which was issued in 1949. In that pamphlet we emphasised that year by year the responsibility of the holder of the Office of Secretary of State for Scotland increased and that it was of the first importance that this post should not become overwhelmed with Departmental detail. We therefore proposed that a Minister of State for Scotland should be appointed as deputy to the Secretary of State and that a third Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State should be appointed so that the burden of Departmental duties could be properly distributed.
It might be convenient if I passed from that aspect to the legislation which we desire to amend by this Bill. Before either of the two new Ministers can receive a salary in respect of his office and sit and vote in this House, the legislation which at present governs these matters must be amended; and I hope the House will bear with me while, very shortly, I deal, as simply as I can, with the involved position in which the law now stands.
The principal Act is The Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, which lays down, in Section 2, the number of persons to whom salaries may be paid under that Act. Section 9 (1, c) fixes the maximum number of those persons entitled to sit and vote in our House as Parliamentary Under-Secretaries at 20.
This Act has been considerably amended by other Acts and by the Defence Regulations. First of all, The Ministry of Supply Act, 1939, added not only the Minister but a Parliamentary Secretary to the list of Ministers to whom the Act of 1937 applied and increased the number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and raised the maximum number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries who could sit and vote in our House to 21. To show 1741 the difficulty of these interlocking Acts, that number was subsequently reduced to 20 by The Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945.
Then followed The Ministers of the Crown (Treasury Secretaries) Act, 1947, which authorised three Parliamentary Secretaries for the Treasury. Turning to Defence Regulations, by The Defence (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Regulations, 1940, provision was made for a third Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Admiralty and the War Office and a second at the Scottish Office, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
One would think one had already a large corpus of legislation dealing with this matter, but I can assure the House, without going into it in detail, that there are a number of other Acts like The Ministry of National Insurance Act, The Ministry of Fuel and Power Act and The Ministry of Defence Act, which provided for the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries; but all these Acts are independent of the Act of 1937 with which we are dealing today.
I am sorry to have taken so long, but I wanted the House to appreciate the somewhat complicated basis on which we have to act. I would say this in extenuation: although it sounds complicated it is a very important matter, in which, historically, this House has always been most interested, to see that the strictest rules are applied to those who are paid by the Crown; and it is because of that that we have these complicated provisions.
May I sum up the position and explain what it means in actual persons at the present time? Under The Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, as amended, the total number of salaries authorised for Parliamentary Under-Secretaries is 31 and the maximum number who may sit in the House of Commons is 26. Apart from the Defence Regulations, which I mentioned, the numbers were 25, whose salaries are authorised, and 20; those are the potential numbers. Today, the number of these Parliamentary Under-Secretaries actually en poste and sitting either in this House or in another place is 23. This Bill authorises the appointment of an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Office and 1742 for the Scottish Office and increases by two the number of Under-Secretaries who may sit in this House. It also aims at clarifying the law and getting rid of some unnecessary provisions.
The way in which it has been done is, first, to substitute new provisions for Section 2 (2) and Section 9 of the Act of 1937; second, to repeal the Defence (Parliamentary Under-Secretaries) Regulations—and I do not think that any one who took part in the debate a fortnight ago on the Defence Regulations will complain about this method of repealing Regulations and getting rid of unnecessary provisions; and third, to proceed further to tidy the law, and to make certain consequential Amendments to recognise the existing situation, by, for instance, repealing the part of the Act of 1937 which includes the India and Burma Office which is now an unnecessary provision.
Clause 1 (1) fixes the number of Under-Secretaries at the Scottish Office at three; in the Home Office and Ministry of Agriculture at two; and, by referring to Departments which I have mentioned, abolishes additional posts authorised by the Defence Regulations for the Service Departments and the Ministry of Labour; so that it makes the total potential number now, by statute, 27.
Let me remind the House of the figures so that hon. Members will know just what is being done. Taking into account the Defence Regulations the potential number was 31. Six of these were justified by Defence Regulations. so these come off, and bring the number down to 25; and then we add the two for which we are asking, which makes the number 27, and of these 22 will now be able to sit in the House of Commons. Again, comparing the number, which was 26 with the Defence Regulations, it is 20 when we take off the six justified by Defence Regulations; add these two to it, and we have 22 as against the old 26.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Does that mean that Parliamentary Secretaries will in future, from the passing of this Measure, be appointed under Acts of Parliament and none under Defence Regulations?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Under subsection (2) the number that can sit in this House is 22.
Subsection (3) removes the India and Burma Offices from the list of Departments in the Second Schedule of the Act. I have a full note here of the repeals which take place of different parts of the various statutes I have mentioned. I do not intend to inflict it upon the House, but if any hon. Member is interested I shall be only too pleased to give it to him.
That being the statutory web of enactments which we have tried to dust a little in this Bill, then we come to my special charge, in which, I know, a number of Members are interested, and that is, What is the additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Home Office to do? Actually, his work now is to deal with the duties which relate to Wales. That does not mean that my hon. Friend who has already been appointed has not been dealing with Wales. I think that hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House know that he has. But that is the additional work which it is desired to cover. He will be able to devote a substantial part of his time to Welsh matters, and it will be his task to keep himself especially familiar with the general trend of Welsh opinion.
I hope the House will not mind my referring to a practical matter. I think my hon. Friend has been with me a matter of four weeks, and, as hon. Members opposite know, he sits for one of the Cardiff divisions, but, apart from that, he has been to Caernarvon and Aberystwyth, so, as soon as possible, he was in both north and central Wales.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I intervene only for the sake of clarification. I gathered that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary would devote a substantial part of his time to Welsh affairs. Do we gather from that that he will not devote the whole of his time to Welsh affairs?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, who has been a Minister and has had to conduct important offices, knows that when people are under the same roof, occasionally it is necessary that one should help another. What is in my mind is that, 1744 apart from that, it would be Welsh affairs that would be his subject, and not only his main but his dominant subject. I hope that that clarifies the point. That is what is in my mind and in the minds of my right hon. Friends.
As I have said, he has made a beginning. It will be part of his duty to pay frequent visits to Wales, and he will be provided with accommodation in Cardiff from which he can be in touch with the actual physical offices which are situated there; and he will become Chairman of the Conference of the Heads of Government Offices in Wales, which meets quarterly. And, in addition to that, he will give me his information and advice on the major issues of special interest to Wales, so that I may be fully briefed in such matters as are to be discussed in the Cabinet; and he will assist me in relations with the Council for Wales, and will receive deputations either in Wales or London from the Council or other representative Welsh bodies.
I want to say at once—and I hope the House will not think this a personal intrusion—that I do not want to create the impression that this appointment means, or is to be taken as an excuse for, any inactivity in Welsh matters on my own part. I have already had the great pleasure of being able to arrange visits to Wales in the course of the Recess, and perhaps I may be allowed to say that I am almost overwhelmed by the traditional hospitality which has already been offered to me for that purpose.
I believe that the arrangements that I have indicated to the House will result in Welsh interests and Welsh problems being brought before the Government at the highest level, and with a force and clarity which previous methods of co-ordination have been unable to achieve. We shall always be prepared to listen and learn—and improve when the listening and learning convince us.
I am not suggesting for a moment that this is the final solution. What I am putting to the House is that it is a good start, and I hope that the House will accept it in that way. It will be my care, with the help of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, if the House passes the Bill, to ensure that the new arrangement works smoothly and satisfactorily, and I am sure that, irrespective 1745 of party or of the part of Wales with which he is particularly associated, every one who has at heart the best interests of Wales will help us.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
On a point of order. May I ask, Sir, whether it is in order for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to import into the Chamber what, from this angle and point of vantage, appears as a floral tribute intended for the Under-Secretary of State-designate for Wales?
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I do not know what the noble Lord is talking about—other than that I share his admiration for the flowers. They have nothing to do with me.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
Further to that point of order. May we know, whether the flowers are a tribute or not, whether it is in order for flowers to be in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I cannot see any flowers.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
I hope the House will not expect me to make any comment at all upon the question of flowers in the Chamber. I have no doubt that they were intended as some tribute to the new Under-Secretary of State.
I am sure that the House will agree that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given a very clear exposition of the surrounding details of this Bill, and I am sure that we shall not seek to quarrel with him upon the way that it has been done. We are, of course, dealing principally with the proposal to appoint an additional Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office who is to be specially charged with Welsh affairs. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) from north of the Border will be dealing with the matter relating to the Scottish Office. I, therefore, propose to confine my remarks to the proposal for the authorisation of an additional Under-Secretary of State in the Home Office.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It has been represented to me unofficially and as a proposal for the House that it would be 1746 convenient if we divided this debate into two parts, so that those who are interested in Welsh matters could take the first part—as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) has started—and, if the House will give me leave to speak again, I should be more than glad to answer any questions; and then hon. Gentlemen who are more interested in the other part could speak and the Secretary of State for Scotland would deal with that. I know that this may be somewhat irregular, but if it meets with the convenience of the whole House we would ask you, Sir, to agree to that course being followed, for the convenience of everyone.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman dealt with the general principle first of all, and then particularly with Wales. Am Ito understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland, when the time comes to shift to the Scottish aspect of the matter, will make a brief explanation and then reply to questions afterwards?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I did think that I had covered the reason for the Scottish appointment. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will want to met everyone's convenience. I did give the reasons for the set-up. However, we are very anxious to meet the convenience of the House. I speak for my right hon. Friend as well in saying so.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am quite sure that it would save the time of the House a good deal if Scottish Members did not have to deal with a conjecture as to what this was all about, but had a definite picture of the purposes and circumstances of this proposal. That might prevent a great deal of debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) would be in a better position to discuss the matter intelligently if a picture of all the purposes and circumstances were put before the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
In reply to the last question, I understand, and have always understood, that it is a very im 1747 proper thing for any Englishman ever to speak in a Scottish debate.
§ Mr. Ede
I know that that has long been the opinion of back benchers, but it is the first time that it has been announced from the Chair. May I suggest, in view of the difficulties with which we are now confronted, that it will be almost impossible for the Englishman, as we have a Scottish Speaker, a Scottish Chairman of Ways and Means and a Welsh Deputy-Chairman, ever to get in at all?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that it will work in the reverse way, because all the occupants of the Chair are so very keen to be honest that they will give the Englishman the advantage. With regard to the Home Secretary's suggestion, if that is the wish of the House, I am perfectly happy about it. Therefore, for the first part of the debate I shall call no Scotsman—if that is the idea—and after the Hone Secretary has spoken again we will have Scotsmen only.
§ Mr. West
After that interchange of conversation, may I now deal with some aspects of the Welsh matter which is occupying the attention of the House? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out, this Bill is necessary so that the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) is able to take up his duties formally as the Under-Secretary specially charged with Welsh affairs.
I think that this was anticipated by the Prime Minister in his speech in the debate on the Address, when he said that such a course would be necessary. May I take this opportunity of congratulating, first of all, the hon. Gentleman upon his appointment and to wish him well in the new office which this Bill seeks to create. We shall, of course, as Welsh Members, do all that we can to encourage him in his efforts to promote the best interests of Wales. We shall also prod him on if we consider that is necessary for the benefit of the Principality.
Having said that, I must confess that the proposal to appoint an additional Under-Secretary in the Home Office came to Wales as something of a surprise. So far as I am aware, it was not part of the Conservative policy for Wales. I do not think that it was mentioned, or even hinted at, in any of their Election manifestos, and I am quite certain that, so far 1748 as the speeches of Members of the Tory Front Bench were concerned, it was never mentioned in any of our debates on Welsh affairs.
The intention of the Tory Party, as I understood it, was to appoint a Minister who was to be answerable in Parliament for the Government's policy in so far as it affected Wales. He was to present Welsh reports, lead Welsh debates, preside in Wales over Welsh inter-Departmental conferences and help to coordinate the affairs of Government Departments in so far as they affected Wales, and this Minister was to be a member of the Cabinet and specially charged with Welsh affairs. But a few days ago, the Prime Minister in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), as the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned in his opening speech, defined what the Minister for Wales was to do, or rather what he was not to be permitted to do.
The Minister for Wales will have no executive powers. He will have no direct responsibility to Parliament for education, health and agriculture in Wales or for any services for which other Ministers are Departmentally responsible. We know that the hon. Gentleman is to be appointed under the provisions of this Bill to assist the Minister. I think that we may, therefore, well ask: What are the functions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in which he is to be given the assistance of an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary?
The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has taken part in our debates on Welsh affairs, said on one occasion that his party did not want the Minister for Wales to be a messenger boy. We can well understand that there would be no need for the appointment of a Parliamentary Under-Secretary for that purpose. What they wanted, he said, was a Minister for Wales as a watchdog, and I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) inquiring whether this watch-dog would have anything more than a bark. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told him that the Conservative dog would be complete in every respect.
Naturally, from the statements made by hon. Members of the Tory Front Bench 1749 in the debates in the House on Welsh affairs, the people of Wales were led to expect that when the Conservatives got into power they would, at any rate, have a good Welsh corgi, but when the Conservatives were elected, apparently, the Prime Minister looked round his kennels but he was not able to find a good Welsh corgi. Of course, there is not a good Tory corgi in Wales at all, and so he gave to the people of Wales, instead, a Scottish terrier which had strayed into an English seaport town. I am quite sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not take it amiss when I say that it was a good dog, but of the wrong breed.
§ Lord John Hope
In fairness, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will at least admit that the dog's name is David.
§ Mr. West
That was a situation which, one can well understand, the Prime Minister was anxious to try to justify in some way. In his speech on the debate on the Address, the Prime Minister said:I wonder whether it is a wise attitude for Welshmen to take, that their affairs can only be dealt with in the United Kingdom Parliament by one of their own race and nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 75.'Then, I think, the proposal to appoint an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary came as a sop, or, as the Prime Minister said, "To give pleasure," and to give pleasure he announced the appointment of a Welshman to be Under-Secretary of the Home Department, specially charged with Welsh affairs.
So what the people of Wales are to have is a watch-dog unable to bite and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary who in the present set-up, must inevitably prove ineffective. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Wales is at the present time under a serious disadvantage when we compare their position under the Labour Government. We have in our long history in Wales produced many great men who have done great things for England, and I think it is fair to say that during the last six years in the Labour Government we have had great Welshmen who have done great things for Wales. It is quite true that since 1945 in the Labour Government we have had great Welshmen in the Cabinet doing great things for the people of Wales, and, as a result, the economic life of Wales has been completely transformed.
1750 We have had my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), former Minister of National Insurance and afterwards Secretary of State for the Colonies, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who was the Minister of Health and afterwards the Minister of Labour and National Service—[HON. MEMBERS: "And after that?"]—and others. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—who is a Welshman, although representing an English constituency, was the one man—the great architect—who planned the development of industrial Wales after the period of depression which was imposed upon Wales by the party opposite. He is the man who devised the plan for bringing industries into Wales, and we remember that he was the originator of that famous phrase, now so much quoted, and that he was at the Treasury making the financial provisions necessary for the development of Wales.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
On a point of order. I understand that this Bill is technically a Bill to enable the House to constitutionally provide an additional Under-Secretary for the Home Office and for the Scottish Office. Since it is proposed that the new Under-Secretary for Wales shall devote a substantial part of his time to Welsh affairs, surely my hon. Friend was in Order in the remarks he was making.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was only pointing out that my duty is to see that we do not go beyond the scope of the Bill, and I think the hon. Member was going beyond it, if he intended to deal with Welsh development and that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Surely, Sir, it would be in order to discuss the responsibilities of the new Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. West
I bow to your Ruling, Sir. I was contrasting the position in respect of the appointment of a Parliamentary Under-Secretary specially 1751 charged with Welsh affairs with that which prevailed in the last Parliament under a Labour Government, and the argument which I was addressing to the House was upon that point.
I was dealing with the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland, and seeking to demonstrate to the House that as a Welshman and in charge, as he was at that time, of the Treasury when he was making the financial arrangement for the development of Wales, he was the originator of the now famous phrase—he did it with a song in his heart. I submit that so far as I was contrasting the situation when a Labour Government was concerned and the situation as envisaged in this Bill, I was in order. However, I have dealt with that point.
I submit, therefore, that in those days there was no need for a Parliamentary Under-Secretary charged with Welsh affairs at all, but now we realise that circumstances have changed. Now we have a Conservative Government and a Bill for the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary in the Home Office. I do not think that Wales can expect in the present set-up very much benefit from the creation of this new Under-Secretary-ship. On the other hand, I do not think that he will do much harm, and, therefore, we do not propose to oppose the Bill.
I would, however, point out to the hon. Gentleman who occupies the post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary charged with Welsh Affairs that we will do everything possible to make him do something with his new appointment. We know that he has little or no executive powers. In fact, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has indicated that really all he will have to do is to try and gather what are the feelings of the people of Wales and report to him.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to be unfair on an important point. It may be that I did not make it clear. I would like to remind him that my hon. Friend becomes Chairman of the Conference of the Heads of Government Offices in Wales, which meet quarterly, and that is an important point. I probably did not make it sufficiently clear in my speech, 1752 otherwise I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not have omitted reference to it.
§ Mr. West
I was glad of the intervention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. What I was going to say on that point was that in the Conservative Manifesto for Wales it was stated that the person who was to be charged with the responsibility of presiding over the inter-Departmental conferences was the Home Secretary. What is happening now is that the Under-Secretary of State will preside over these conferences, and relieve the right hon. and learned Gentleman of his responsibility, although a pledge was given to the people of Wales on the subject.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary a few questions about the Under-Secretary of State. What is to be the relationship between the hon. Gentleman and the Welsh Industries Board? We know that the hon. Gentleman is to preside over the inter-Departmental conferences. What is the right hon. and learned Gentleman to do about his functions when the Under-Secretary is presiding over these conferences? We also want to know what is to be the policy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Under-Secretary about the Remploy factories of Wales? What association will the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman have with the Grenfell factories for providing employment for disabled people in Wales?
What is to be the relationship of the Minister for Welsh Affairs and the Under-Secretary and the local authority? If the local authority have to deal with the Health Department, will they first have to go to the right hon. and learned Gentleman or his Under-Secretary? Are the local authorities in Wales to have direct access to Government Departments as they have had in the past, or is there to be intervention by the Minister for Welsh Affairs or the Under-Secretary to act as a buffer between them and the Ministers concerned?
We want to see in practice what the Under-Secretary will be doing. We shall watch him very carefully and seek to help him all we can. At the same time it must be remembered that his functions, as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, were to ascertain the trend of public opinion in Wales. The Labour 1753 Government appointed a Council for Wales, and one of the things which that Council did was to ascertain the trends of opinion of the people in Wales. They have produced most valuable reports.
What is to be the future of the Council of Wales now that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been appointed Minister for Welsh Affairs and has an Under-Secretary? Is it to be continued? We believe that this Under-Secretaryship can do very little good, but on the other hand, it will not do much harm. In those circumstances we shall watch and see what the hon. Gentleman makes of the new position to which he has been appointed.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I hope I shall be forgiven if I intervene in this part of the debate, for as I have a Scottish name it may be said that I am cutting across the arrangement which has been suggested and agreed to on both sides of the House. May I plead in extenuation that although I am some generations removed, unfortunately, from Scotland, I am still interested in this proposal which the Bill enshrines?
The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) was not very warm in the welcome which he gave to it. He praised it with faint damns if I may say so. What he appeared to think was, because it was the policy of this Government to charge my right hon. and learned Friend with special responsibility for looking after Welsh affairs, and that he should have the support of my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary in discharging that obligation, that that was unsatisfactory.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, despite the presence of very distinguished Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, some of whom the hon. Member for Pontypool mentioned by name, and who at the moment are adorning the Front Opposition Bench, the last Government never did anything of the kind which we propose to assist the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Hay
I am talking about a constitutional point which the hon. Member for Pontypool raised, and I think it is necessary for us to look at these proposals in that light. The hon. Gentleman made a great deal of one point, namely, that 1754 the Government were, as he put it, backing down on the pledge which was given to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Wales. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has really appreciated the point. The Home Secretary is in the Cabinet but he has also been given these additional Welsh responsibilities. Therefore, I suggest that there is a Minister for Welsh Affairs appointed, and that the statement of policy, to which reference was made earlier, has been fully honoured through my right hon. and learned Friend's appointment.
My right hon. and learned Friend will have to attend to a great many other matters which arise in the Home Office. He will have the assistance, therefore, of an Under-Secretary to help him in his Welsh tasks. As one who entered this House with my hon. Friend the new Under-Secretary, I would say how much we welcome his appointment, which we feel is richly deserved. We wish him every success in the new office he has taken over.
The hon. Member for Pontypool raised another point that was connected with the part which this new arrangement will play in the representation of Welsh opinion and Welsh affairs in this House. I do not think there is anything in this new proposal—[HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members had better wait for what I have to say. I do not think there is anything in this new proposal which will in any way cut across the arrangements which the last Government and previous Governments introduced from time to time to provide for the adequate representation of Welsh opinion in this House.
As I see it, the new proposal, which the Bill will endeavour to place in a statutory form, gives added emphasis to that opinion, which at the moment is rather diffuse and amorphous. There are a great number of Welsh Members in this House, particularly below the Gangway, who seldom lose an opportunity of making their voices heard in the interests of their constituents. If we have this new arrangement, that influence can be brought to a point where action can result from it, which is the great virtue of the proposal the House is asked to approve.
Another point in connection with this Bill has been overlooked. At present we have my right hon. and learned Friend as Home Secretary and Minister for 1755 Welsh Affairs and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, if the Bill goes through, will have thrust upon his shoulders the task of assisting my right hon. and learned Friend in Welsh affairs. But the Bill provides for two Under-Secretaries of State at the Home Office, and it should be remembered that what this Bill is doing is regularising a situation which ought to have been looked at a considerable time ago. Across the years the Home Office has been acquiring numerous new responsibilities, and there should be additional assistance in the form of an additional Under-Secretary in that Department.
For my part I, and several of my hon. Friends on this side of the House wish these new proposals well. We believe that this is something which is long overdue. It will do a great deal to assist and help opinion in Wales, which needs to be fully expressed at Governmental level. I hope sincerely that my hon. Friend will have a long and successful career in the new responsibility, and that he will show the House and the nation what he is capable of.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Although I cannot subscribe to the principle underlying this Bill, particularly in its impact on Wales, I would join with my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) in wishing the new Under-Secretary well in his new office. It is significant to note that the creation of an Under-Secretaryship for Wales is a new idea. As my hon. Friend said, there was no mention of it in the Conservative Party Manifesto, to which the Home Secretary has referred. Indeed, that document promised a Minister of Cabinet rank to have charge of Welsh affairs, and the Welsh people—I was one of them—thought that if the party opposite won the Election there would be a Cabinet Minister whose sole charge would be Welsh affairs. At all events, that was the opinion of the Welsh people in Anglesey, and that is what the Conservative candidate there said on his platform.
§ Mr. Hughes
I cannot agree with the hon. Member. That was not the impression given by the Tory candidate in Anglesey. It may be that it is capable of two constructions, but that is true of many other matters in the Conservative Party Manifesto. It seems to me that the idea of a junior Minister was conceived when the Prime Minister realised that Wales felt she was being "led up the garden path" by the party opposite. That is why there are many things about this appointment which need clarification. I was very disappointed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's definition of the Under-Secretary's duties. This is the first time that we have heard he is not to be a full-time Under-Secretary for Wales it is to be a part-time job.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I tried to make it clear in answer to questions that apart from giving particular aid in Departmental work, which cannot be avoided if people are working under the same roof, my hon. Friend would be dominantly in charge of Welsh affairs.
§ Mr. Hughes
The fact remains that Wales will be extremely disappointed that the Under-Secretary is not devoting his entire time to Wales. The Home Secretary has the burden of an important Department on his shoulders, but when he has time to spare it will be devoted to Welsh matters. We are now informed that the Under-Secretary will also devote part of his time to Wales.
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he would devote a substantial part of his time to Welsh affairs. We listened very carefully to the Prime Minister's reply to a Question put on 13th November, by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to which reference has been made by the Home Secretary. We assumed that the Under-Secretary's duties would be in the same terms as those of his right hon. and learned Friend. This is what the Prime Minister said:The function of the Minister in charge of Welsh affairs is to inform himself of the Welsh aspect of business by visiting the Principality and by discussion with representatives of Welsh life and to speak in Cabinet on behalf of the special interests and aspirations of Wales.1757 That part of the reply was very vague and nebulous.
These are not very heavy responsibilities, and, on the face of it, they are not responsibilities commensurate with the position, or with the salary attached to it. This is not carping criticism on my part. I agree with the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), that the Under-Secretary will be making a contribution of some value if he conveys authentic Welsh opinion to his Government and to this House. The party opposite have never been noted for their interpretation of Welsh opinion on any matter, but that is not enough, because we are all here to interpret Welsh opinion and if we fail to do it we are failing in one of our major duties as Members of this House.
The factor that really weakens this appointment is that it will not carry with it executive powers. I quote again from the latter part of the Prime Minister's reply to the Question asked by my hon. Friend, when he said:It is not proposed to confer executive powers on the Home Secretary…,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1951; Vol. 493. c. 817.]
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Will my hon. Friend say in the course of his speech whether there is any other junior Minister or Minister of the Crown without executive power over the Department for which he is responsible?
§ Mr. Hughes
When the Under-Secretary comes to reply he will have to admit that himself. I assume that Questions on such general matters as the capital of Wales—I know that the hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted me has a vested interest in this matter—will be dealt with by him, but there are other questions which closely affect the day-to-day life and prosperity of the Principality which will be quite outside his purview.
It is a case of the status quo once again. We have in Wales a number of administrative bodies, for example the Welsh Board of Health, the Welsh Joint Education Committee, and the Welsh Department of Education attached to the Ministry in London. It is significant that, during the six-and-a-half years of Labour Government, Wales had a greater measure of administrative devolution granted to her than ever before. The fact remains that the administrative set-up for Wales is untidy and ill-conceived.
1758 The question which emerges is whether the new appointment will improve the position or make it more obscure than it is now. The fact that the Under-Secretary will be chairman of the inter-Departmental conferences does not interest me. Lastly, there is the Council for Wales. What will be the relationship of the new Under-Secretary to that body? It is well to remember that this body, which was created by the Labour Government, has done some very good and solid work within the limitations imposed on it.
I would draw the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friend to the last paragraph in the Council's last report. It is:There is an urgent need for a more detailed and authoritative investigation by the Council, with full. Government authority and direction, into all aspects of Welsh administration and the relationship between Government offices in Wales and the central departments.That is putting the case very mildly. We are entitled to know what the new Minister's position will be vis-à-vis the Council for Wales.
There is no cohesion in Welsh administration. If we are to have these new creations without a plan and a pattern, we shall have confusion worse confounded in the Principality. There is a very large element of Welsh thought today which gives the hon. Gentleman every good wish in his new post but which looks beyond the appointment, and beyond the other existing administrative bodies that we have in Wales, to a more comprehensive and co-ordinated system of devolution that will be acceptable to the Welsh people, not the hit-or-miss contributions that Wales has had thrown at it up to the present. This appointment can claim justification if, and only if, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman prove that they have the vision and the will to work towards that goal.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)
The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) has taken up a view which was expressed by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West), that there is a great preponderance of Socialist votes in Wales. They pointed to the paucity of material available on this side of the House, as 1759 they allege, for the appointment which is under contemplation for Wales. That only illustrates the great disinterestedness of the Tory Party and its readiness to take an entirely impartial view. In spite of the large majority of Socialist votes in Wales, the Tory Party is prepared to give the benefit of its great wisdom to that country.
Some play has been made by both hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken with the point that the pledge given in my party's Manifesto has not been fully kept by the procedure suggested in the Bill. That is not really the case. The hon. Member for Anglesey appears to think that what was contemplated was the appointment of a Cabinet Minister with full executive authority devoted to nothing but the problems of Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I quite understand the difficulties which hon. Gentlemen from Wales have in understanding the English language, but it is perfectly clear to anybody who reads the Manifesto that it could not have meant that at all. If it had that meaning it would mean also the setting up of a Welsh Office.
§ Mr. Marlowe
If it really means the setting up of an executive Cabinet Minister for Wales who had no other duties whatever, that would involve the creation of a Welsh Office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Nobody on this side of the House, so far as I know, has ever suggested that that was the intention.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
Is the hon. and learned Member aware that my right hon. Friend who has just interrupted him was, before his party came into power, a strong advocate of the setting up of a Secretary of State for Wales?
§ Mr. Marlowe
I am reminded by the hon. Gentleman of what is perfectly true, but for the moment I am dealing with a definite charge of breach of faith which is being made against my party, and I hope hon. Gentlemen will think I am entitled to defend it. If we say we shall appoint a Minister, or a Minister of Cabinet rank, we cannot possibly read into it the setting up of the great machinery of a separate office, with all the executive powers contained in such an 1760 Nobody ever interpreted that pledge in that way on this side of the House, so far as I know, and I am sorry if hon. Gentlemen opposite should have read it differently. If they did misunderstand it, the slightest inquiry would have clarified it. It is open to any hon. Gentleman or any of his constituents to question Conservative candidates at Election meetings on what this means. [HON. MEMBERS: "We did."] I have no doubt they did.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I have been dealing with the allegation of breach of faith, and I hope that the charge will not be persisted in because it is completely unfounded.
I have very considerable sympathy, and I always have had, with the point of view that there should be a considerable delegation of powers in relation to Wales and Scotland. It can only be done by stages, as the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has reminded us. The last Government gave a specific pledge about it which they never kept, and it has been necessary to remedy their lack in that respect.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I have always held the view to which reference has been made, and I hold it now. Many members of my party share it, but the Labour Party has never given such a pledge.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement that no pledge was given. I have considerable sympathy both in regard to Wales and Scotland, and it becomes all the warmer when Scottish Questions are being answered. A large number of hon. Members would be glad to see some of those Questions answered in Scotland.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have already asked the hon. and learned Gentleman to keep his remarks within the bounds of the Bill.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I am not intentionally wasting time, but time has to be spent on discussion of such an important matter as this. I did not notice that there was any great rush of speakers from this side 1761 of the House so I felt entitled to take up a little time in discussing the Bill. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
On a point of order. Should not the hon. and learned Gentleman have a quiet hearing, in view of the fact that there are no Tory Members for Wales except one, and he does not understand these matters? We ought to give him a fair chance.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Perhaps it is my fault. I thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite audible.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I will not detain the House for much longer. The only other point I wish to make relates to the Financial Memorandum which is printed on the front of the Bill. It is of wider interest than its application to the Bill. It is said that the salaries payable under the Act of 1937 to the Ministers authorised by the Bill will be £1,500 each. These Under-Secretaries, in common with all other Under-Secretaries, are very much underpaid in relation to modern standards. There is a case, to argue which would be out of order on the Bill, for an increase in all Department. However, I hope I shall be in order if I limit the case to the two Under-Secretaries contemplated by the Bill.
I suppose it is generally understood nowadays that anyone accepting an appointment of this kind probably decreases his net salary in relation to the Parliamentary salary which he receives. As a member of a party which has always been associated with the incentive motive, I cannot believe that that is a very good thing. I hope that when the opportunity arises—I have to limit what I am saying to the Under-Secretaries referred to in the Bill—proper consideration will be given to rewarding the Under-Secretaries properly for the very heavy tasks which they have to undertake, and to bringing their salaries into line with the modern cost of living.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I hope I am interpreting the general opinion of the House by intervening now. We have divided the debate into two parts, and I am sure we want to make the division as fair as we can. I wish to confine my remarks to answering the points which have been raised.
1762 I shall first endeavour to answer the points raised by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). His first point was that the Under-Secretary was not mentioned in the policy statement. The hon. Member will find it confirmed: I have checked it up. An assistant for the Minister was not mentioned in "The Conservative Policy for Wales" published in February, 1949. It was mentioned by my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council in a speech at Anglesey, and it was also mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in a speech at Cardiff as an extension which we thought was the logical need of the policy we had outlined.
The hon. Member raised a general question, which is a difficult one and one into which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would not allow me to go in detail, and that is the constitutional and administrative problem. Given a century-old unified administration, with the activities of government growing and operating in different Departments from the centre and spreading into Wales, how are we to make the change? I cannot go into it—despite a little provocation, I shall not go into party points because, to put it selfishly, I want the maximum good will in the job I have to do, irrespective of the background—but, given that problem, I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate the need for what may be a transitional period when we can study how the different Government activities react on each other and on the general feeling of Wales as a whole.
It is a difficult problem, and I believe the hon. Member recognised that, even if he were convinced that there should be either a Welsh Office or a Welsh Parliament—rightly, he has not gone into that today but we may hear it some time—there must still be a transitional period. It is with the first period of study that I am now beginning to deal.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I said that we were going to listen and learn, and that 1763 we would not shut our minds to the consequences of anything that we heard and learned during that time.
The next point made by the hon. Gentleman, after his canine exegesis, into which I shall not follow him, was the broad one that the last Government had contained three distinguished Welshmen and that that must be set against any constitutional proposals. Again I resist temptation, and I simply say that in the course of, on a rough calculation, 900 speeches criticising the policy of the last two Governments, in certainly 800 out of the 900 I mentioned two of the right hon. Gentlemen to whom the hon. Member for Pontypool referred, but never in one of those 800 speeches did I mention anything that they had to do with Wales, because I had never heard of it. We will not follow that point in case we incur the disapproval of the Chair.
§ Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon)
Do I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the functions would be limited to a study and an investigation of conditions in Wales? If they are not limited in that way, can he tell the House what powers the hon. Gentleman will have to do anything of any value for Wales?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It would have been more convenient if, before posing that question, the hon. Gentleman had come in earlier for the debate and heard the points that have already been discussed, because I have already dealt with that, and I am very anxious not to re-tread ground that I have already trodden.
Let me very shortly remind the House of the sort of functions which it is designed that I should have. I am given the special responsibility for Wales. In addition to that, I have to answer in Parliament, as the Prime Minister has made clear, for the Government's policy as a whole in its effect on Wales, and I have also to present and deal with the debate on the Welsh reports, and in any Welsh debates I have to take the lead. I have also to co-ordinate any plans for the whole or part of Wales which involve different Departments.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
Is real power of co-ordination given in the sense that the other overlords have real power?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I hope the House will do me the justice of believing that I try to deal with questions that are put to me. I am not resiling for a moment from what I have said. To begin with, it is an advisory and persuasive power that I have. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that, given the administrative set-up that I have at the moment—I do not care with what plan the administrative set-up is approached—there must be a time when the power of a Minister whose duty it is to apply a general conspectus must be persuasive and advisory and the like, and I am not the least ashamed of having taken on the job with that in mind.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I was about to explain that. This is the way it came up. The policy statement was put out in February, 1949. The idea of giving me an assistant was a later addition to the policy. I believe that it is the best use that I can make of that additional power that my hon. Friend should preside as a matter of routine at the conferences. That would not prevent me from presiding—I assure the House that I should do so—if a matter of special importance arose. That is how it came up, and I do not resent the criticism of the hon. Gentleman. That is not in the document, but I have now given the explanation of how it came about.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
We ought to press the right hon. and learned Gentleman upon this because it is a matter not just of an Election manifesto but of substance. We feel that most of the experience of Welsh affairs will be at second-hand, and it seems to me that to ask him to preside over a meeting of this sort once a quarter is not asking too much. There may be occasions when he is not able to do so, but surely it should be the rule that he should preside and the exception that his hon. Friend should preside.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am very glad to have the views of the House. I am giving the House the view that influenced me. The advantage of a debate is that 1765 it presents other views, and I shall take them into account. I hope to have many opportunities of accounting to the House for the policy that I pursue. May we leave it at the moment that I will give the hon. Lady's suggestion every attention? I do not pledge myself at the moment to follow that course, for I should like to think it out.
The hon. Gentleman asked about policy in relation to various bodies. The general answer is that these bodies will maintain their Departmental affiliations, but it may arise—I am sure the hon. Gentleman has two or three matters in mind, as I have, but it would not be convenient to give examples today when one is in the first period of study—that one may have a Departmental interest and at the same time a really strong Welsh feeling which transcends a Departmental interest. That is the sort of feeling to which I have to be able to give vent and I have to see that its influence is properly felt.
With regard to the local authorities, I shall certainly not act as a buffer or interrupt their view. They will have their approach to the appropriate Department, but, again, my hon. Friend and I will be available for special matters. I hope that the Council for Wales will be continued, and I hope it will go from strength to strength. I cannot put it more clearly than that.
I was momentarily a little cross with the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) about the reference to a part-time job. I want this to be quite clear. My hon. Friend's job is Wales, but, the truth of the matter is that when there are three Ministers in a Department one cannot say that one will not take over a job for another. Human beings and life just do not work in that way. It was because I had only that very small limitation in mind that I did not want it to be regarded as a part-time job.
The object of my hon. Friend's appointment and of the Bill is to have someone who will deal with Welsh matters. Anything else would be purely ancillary and incidental to the geographical position in which he sits in Whitehall.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Will the Under-Secretary have a secretariat and a Welsh Department in the Home Office?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
We are making arrangements for my hon. Friend to have 1766 a special relationship, not only in the office but outside it. I should like the hon. Member to give me a little time, because that, again, is not the sort of thing in which one wants to rush about. I assure the hon. Member that my hon. Friend will not be limited in staff in dealing with these matters.
As for the "nebulous duties," I have tried to answer that criticism in two ways: First, by showing the conception that I have of the principles of my own duty, and second, by showing that in all these matters the assistance of an Under-Secretary would be most helpful. I have mentioned the two other points, namely, the question of the inter-Departmental conferences and the visits to Wales which my hon. Friend will be in a position to make more often than I can, although I hope to make many myself.
I repeat, for the benefit of any hon. Member who may not have been present at the time, that I hope to be able to make several visits in the next Recess. As hon. Members know, there is an immense variety of problems in Wales, problems that are geographical and, by their very existence, raise different opinions between the people of different parts of Wales. I believe that a good piece of work will be done if we can make these people feel that the access is always open to them.
I answered the hon. Member's other point about the Council of Wales. I hope I have made it clear that the desire is that it should go on and increase from strength to strength. I have also dealt, I hope, with frankness, but with no desire to avoid it, with the question of the absence at present of executive power. This is a necessary stage, and I look forward to the problem with which I have to deal, not as an easy problem, but as one which is worthy of the greatest attention I can give to it and worthy also of the greatest assistance I can get from any proposals in the House. I hope hon. Members will forgive me for not giving way, but I have trespassed a great deal on their time, and I hope that as far as the Welsh section is concerned the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Ede
There are certain duties that are placed upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman direct as Home Secretary. I will give an example: the appeal of a 1767 police officer against a punishment awarded by the police authority. The police attach the greatest possible importance to that being dealt with by the Secretary of State. May we be assured that even with regard to a Welsh appeal of that kind, it will be dealt with direct by the Home Secretary?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I give that undertaking completely unqualified. I am sure that no one, wherever he sits, would want me to do anything else.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene very briefly at this stage. As the House will recollect, we had quite a long debate recently in connection with the Minister of State for Scottish Affairs; and that does not come within the scope of the Bill. I say with gratitude to the Home Secretary that in introducing the Bill he dealt with its general machinery as affecting not only Wales, but also Scotland. I do not, therefore, think that the House would wish me to traverse that ground again.
The object of the Bill, which has been explained by my right hon. and learned Friend, is quite clear. I will not repeat what he said except to say that amongst other things it enables an additional Under-Secretary of State to be appointed to the Scottish Office. The point which the House would wish me to explain is my views with regard to the allocation and functions of the Under-Secretaries of State in the Scottish Office. It has been the view generally that the allocation of these functions should not be too rigid, but that, at any rate at this stage, the changes which we are in course of making should be provisional and fluid. They must be liable to review in the event of changing circumstances and to meet special needs. I have no doubt whatever that as a team we can work well together.
Not wishing to take up a lot of time, because, as the House knows, other business is to follow, I will confine myself, after those preliminary remarks, to giving a brief outline or picture of my intentions with regard to the allocation of these functions or duties within the Scottish Office. Broadly speaking, it is the intention that when the additional Under- 1768 Secretary is appointed there should be a re-allocation of functions so that each Under-Secretary accepts primary responsibility for a part of the statutory field which comes within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State himself.
The intention is that these functions should be allocated in this form: that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) will be responsible for—that is to say, supervising—housing and allied subjects, health, police, fire and Civil Defence; my hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Snadden): agriculture and forestry; the additional Under-Secretary, if and when he is appointed—
Mr. Hector McNeil (Greenock)
Will he be in the Commons?
§ Mr. Stuart
We have, as the right hon. Member knows, a Minister in the other place, and I think it may be accepted that he will be in this House, although that is not for me alone to state.
§ Mr. Stuart
I think there are only three Under-Secretaries in the other place; nearly all of them are in this House. I sometimes see criticisms of the number of members of another place who are in the Government, but I believe it will be found that there are only three Under-Secretaries there.
The functions of the additional Under-Secretary would be the handling of education and the Scottish Home Department responsibilities other than police, fire and Civil Defence, to which I referred in connection with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok. I hope that that brief picture will suffice.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about fisheries. Fish and the fisheries of Scotland will be a very important question in the future. Where does that come in?
§ Mr. Stuart
I beg pardon. It is my intention, subject to the Under-Secretary being what I would regard as the right 1769 Under-Secretary, that he should also have responsibility for fisheries. I have already said that I do not want to take up a lot of time, and we covered a good deal of the ground in a recent debate as to the organisation and allocation of functions within the Scottish Office. I am glad that on this occasion the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), will be satisfied that education has not been omitted, and I hope that with this brief explanation we can proceed further with business.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
Many of us are a little disappointed by the speech that the Secretary of State has just made. He has told us of the duties that he has assigned to the Under-Secretaries as at present arranged, and has told us the duties that, he thinks, will be undertaken by a new Under-Secretary if and when he is appointed. He has not, however, told us why it was necessary to have the additional Under-Secretary at all.
The Scottish public have been led to believe that this reorganisation at the Scottish Office would give to Scotland or to Scotsmen more control over the affairs of Scotland. But there is nothing here which suggests that any more power is being given to the Scottish Office. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear that all that has happened with the addition of two Ministers at the Scottish Office is that the work that was previously done by three is now to be undertaken by five.
I regret very much that a case has not been made out. The right hon. Gentleman might have told us whether it was necessary to have this additional Under-Secretary because the administrative burdens were too heavy for the existing team. He might have told us whether it was necessary for an additional Under-Secretary because of the volume of House of Commons work, or because the Government contemplate a lot of legislation. But he has done nothing of the kind. He has not told us that there is so much work to be done in St. Andrew's House and at Fielden House that it could not possibly be done by the existing Ministers and there must be an addition to the existing personnel. He has not done that, and he has not sought to convince us that there is so much work to be done in the House of Commons by the Scottish Ministers 1770 that it was necessary to have an additional Under-Secretary.
I wonder what is the position, not only of the new Under-Secretary, but of the other Under-Secretaries under the new setup at the Scottish Office. I spent just over six years there as an Under-Secretary, and I think it was clear to hon. Members in all parts of the House that the Secretary of State—and I served under three—delegated a good deal of responsibility in certain Departments to me and to my colleague the other Under-Secretary from time to time.
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to give any real work to his Under-Secretaries at all. The right hon. Gentleman said in this House on 21st November:I was asked whether the Minister of State would handle all deputations in St. Andrew's House himself. I am going North at the end of this week, all being well, and I have meetings to carry out there myself. If an Under-Secretary were in Scotland at the time, and there was a meeting with the National Farmers' Union or the Scottish Development Council, there is no reason why he should not be present, as well as the Minister of State or myself, if I were there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 523.]It seems that when deputations are now being received in St. Andrew's House, if an Under-Secretary happens to be present when the deputation is being received by the Secretary of State, or Minister of State, he will be allowed to come along and allowed to listen.
In the last six years or so I found it of great help to me in the work I undertook to receive the deputations myself, and I have some reason to believe that the National Farmers' Union and the associations of local authorities and many other important deputations which came to St. Andrew's House were perfectly willing to be received by myself. We had discussions on matters of considerable importance in Scotland.
The members of these deputations did not say, "We must see the Secretary of State, it is no good having an Under-Secretary," but I shall be very surprised, in view of what the Secretary of State has said, whether anyone will now be content with an Under-Secretary. This decision is going to lower very much indeed the prestige of the Under-Secretary of State. His status is going to be lowered—has already been lowered. He is no 1771 longer an important person. I think of some of the very important legislation we have had in recent years. I think of the Agriculture Bill, the discussions on which interested very much the hon. Gentleman now the. Under-Secretary responsible for agriculture.
Most of the deputations to the Scottish Office made by the landowners and the National Farmers' Union in Scotland were received by myself for a long period before the Bill was introduced. When the Bill was going through this House, I think I am right in saying that the Secretary of State had not occasion to receive one representation direct from the National Farmers' Union at all. I was asked on his behalf to undertake all that work and the National Farmers' Union never once complained.
What is to be the position now? Will the National Farmers' Union make representations to the Under-Secretary? Will he be able to meet them and discuss their problems? I should think not in view of what the Secretary of State said, but, if the Under-Secretary happens to be in the same country and in the same town, he can come and carry the Secretary of State's bag, or can scribble notes and pass them to the officials and receive notes back and hand them to the Secretary of State. That is not good enough.
I wish to refer to another matter. When we made our criticisms of the appointment of the Minister of State, when we conducted our inquiry into the reason for it, we asked a lot of questions and the right hon. Gentleman said that we would have to see how he got on with this thing. He said that he had better not be too categorical or too dogmatic for the time being. Then he was pressed to produce a White Paper to let us see what the set-up was. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), asked:Will a comprehensive picture of all the consequent developments proposed for Scotland be produced, in due course, in the form of a White Paper?The Secretary of State replied:I have not thought about that. This is only one step—' one step enough for tonight '—but we may reach that stage later. I shall be very glad to consider such a proposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 524.]In view of my apprehensions that the Under-Secretaries of State are going 1772 to have no work to do at the Scottish Office at all under this new régime, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to tell us at the end of this debate that he is now in a position to say that in a few weeks, or soon after we resume after the Christmas Recess, he will present a White Paper to us telling us what these Under-Secretaries and the Minister of State at the Scottish Office are to do.
We have been told that this has all been carefully worked out by the Tory Party. I have the impression that even the Tory Party in Scotland is not very enamoured of this set-up and have taken very little interest in it. One has only to look at the Government benches and one discovers that, apart from Members of the Government, there are four Scottish Government supporters in the Chamber present. I am sorry I did not include the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), who has not yet realised that there has been a change in Government, and is sitting in the seat he occupied before the last General Election.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
May I point out that the Scottish Liberal Party is in Australia?
§ Mr. Fraser
We are not going to oppose this Bill. We think that a Government should be given considerable freedom to work out the organisation of government in the light of experience. My own criticism of this proposal is that it was not made from any experience that the Tory Party had had in government. It was not experience that dictated this course at all. The Secretary of State told us in the earlier debate on 21st November that this was a recommendation of a Tory Party committee. He said:As Leader of the party, the Prime Minister set up a committee to consider how we could make improvements for the better control and administration of our affairs in Scotland. I had the honour of being the chairman of that committee, which contained at least two ex-Secretaries of State. We reported in November, 1949."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 481.]I quote that because I think it is worth noting the date upon which this party recommendation in favour of these additional ministerial appointments came out. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), 1773 who made a speech on behalf of the Tory Party and told us all about the party's policy for Scotland when we were debating the King's Speech, also made a speech in November, 1949, at the time when this Tory Party committee reported. He is reported in the "Glasgow Evening Times" of 29th November, 1949, as having addressed a meeting of the Kelvingrove Junior Unionists and as saying:All this emotion which is being generated in Scotland"—Nationalist emotion—can properly he turned into the channel of getting rid of the Socialist Government.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
When I quoted the "Glasgow Evening Times" of 29th November, 1949, I quoted what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove said, including his words thatthis emotion could properly be turned into the channel of getting rid of the Socialist Government.The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, "And a damned good thing too." I wonder whether it is in order for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If I had heard the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that, I would have asked him to withdraw it, but I did not hear it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I have every intention now of speaking later in the Debate. If I used an expression which went beyond the bounds of Parliamentary propriety I withdraw it and I should say that it is an excellent thing, a very fine thing, and thank heaven they are on the other side of the House.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am really obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman because what he has confirmed is that this Tory Party committee made this recommendation in favour of appointing additional Ministers, not because the better government of Scotland made it desirable, but because it was a useful means of attacking the Socialist Government through the 1774 Nationalist Party. This was done for party purposes and has nothing to do with the government of Scotland whatever. The mere fact that these additional appointments have been unaccompanied by any proposal to give any additional power to the Scottish Office seems to be proof of my contention.
It is not our intention to vote against the Bill—
§ Mr. Fraser
We do think that any Government has a right, indeed, a responsibility, to come forward with proposals which it thinks are likely to lead to the more efficient organisation of government. We think that any Government, in the light of experience, ought to be quite free to come before the House and say, "We think this job of government would be better done by the appointment of additional Ministers" and get the approval of the House for the appointment of the Ministers. It would be very foolish for the Opposition at any tim2 to say, "We know more about government than you do." Therefore we think this additional appointment ought to be made.
That is why we shall not vote against it. We have not, however, been convinced of the necessity for it. I think there is no reason at all to believe that the administration in the time of the last Government was not efficiently done by the Ministers at the Scottish Office at that time. These great bodies from whom deputations are to be received by the Minister of State were received by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretaries when we were in occupation of the desks at the Scottish Office. I know of no complaint that they could not be received because all of us were too busy in London.
I think it will be a very bad thing for the government of Scotland if the Secretary of State is going to be sheltered from contact with the local authorities, local authorities' associations and the National Farmers' Union and such bodies, the Highland Panel included, by having the job undertaken by his right hon. Friend the Minister of State. It is absolutely essential for good government and good administration that the policy 1775 maker should get as near as possible to the people he is trying to govern. The Minister of State is merely to pass on information to the Secretary of State that could equally well be done by the staff at St. Andrew's House.
I turn to the Under-Secretaries. I wish I could feel they were to be asked to undertake real and useful work. The hon. Member who is to look after agriculture would do his job better if he were able to have discussions with the National Farmers' Union. If he is merely to look at a piece of paper passed to him by the Minister of State in order to learn what the National Farmers' Union are saying, he will not be so well informed of the views and opinions of the National Farmers' Union as if he were able to meet them himself. It is desirable at all times that Ministers should not only meet representatives of organisations but that they should meet the people they are seeking to govern.
I very much fear that this new set-up in Scotland will lead, not to more expeditious decisions at all as has been suggested, but to a quite unjustifiable delay in decisions being reached. I think it is inevitable that there must be a tremendous passage of paper between the Secretary of State, the Minister of State and the Under-Secretaries of State. There must be additional civil servants employed to look after this bigger administrative machine and there will be a lot of paper floating about in St. Andrew's House.
Somebody said there was a breeze blowing through St. Andrew's House. Well, if the window is open there will be a shower of paper, a bigger shower of paper than ever before, in consequence of the new set-up. I hope that this decision, which was taken for purely electoral purposes, may at the end of the day be found to be one which is helpful for the Government of Scotland. We all profoundly wish it well. We only regret the purpose for which the decision was taken.
As I said before, we shall not vote against this Bill, but we hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies later in this debate he will be able to tell us a little more about this set-up and be able to say something more in justification of these appointments than was said by the 1776 right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove to his junior unionists a couple of years ago. I hope also he will be able to assure us that, as soon as he can, he will produce a White Paper showing what the different Ministers in the Scottish Office are to do in the future.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) seems to be suffering a little from the recent electoral defeat which his party has undergone. There was a particularly querulous note about his remarks. He seemed to feel that his right hon. Friend the ex-Secretary of State had not fully made out a case against the appointment of a Minister of State, and so, instead of devoting his attention to the subject under discussion, namely, the appointment of a new Under-Secretary, he spent most of his time attacking the position of the Minister of State. If the—
May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite clearly suggesting that my hon. Friend was out of order. We are here discussing a Bill and I cannot imagine that my hon. Friend devoted himself otherwise than to the Bill or you, Sir, or your Deputy, would have called him to order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman has rushed to the defence of his junior in a very gallant way. The hon. Member needs that defence it is true—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, his senior."]—no, if I may say so, Mr. Speaker does not need the defence of any right hon. or hon. Gentleman in this House. The right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) rushed forward to defend his unhappy junior, who was a little unfortunate in his remarks to the House.
The previous attack against my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was that he had done nothing in the way of looking after the Departmental administrative of Scotland. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), in our last debate spent a long time explaining that not enough attention was being given to education. She went 1777 through a careful analysis of the educational records of various hon. Members on this side of the House. She said that education was being left out and neglected, and she trusted very much that further attention would be given to education. That attention is now being given. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
The ex-Secretary of State knows as well as anyone in this House that the Home Department was specially given fisheries, which have been taken away from agriculture as that was not the best set-up. Ts the ex-junior Secretary complaining because the Secretary of State is giving special attention to fisheries? This is a typical anomaly of the complaints made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now she complains that special attention is being given to fisheries. Why should it not be given—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes—
I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and I will not attempt to quarrel on this subject. We are both agreed on the importance of it. But I think it a little rash for him to argue that we are now having demonstrated the importance which this Government attaches to education; for the Secretary of State for Scotland has told us that this new Under-Secretary, if he is appointed, will, among his multifarious duties, take over education and fisheries—and some other odds and ends.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Exactly, and the right hon. Gentleman said "fisheries" in a very denigratory fashion, as if there was some objection to the Under-Secretary giving special attention to the problem of fisheries as apart from the problem of agriculture. As he well knows, the difficulties of the Scottish fisheries require more attention than could be given by the Minister whose main interest is in agriculture. And I welcome the change. I would certainly welcome the fact that the Under-Secretary is to give special attention to the problem of fisheries in Scotland. I think it is a good thing, and a necessary thing, and a valuable set-up. Fisheries, as is well known, occupy a larger portion of our national economy than is the case in England.
§ Miss Herbison
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting that the problems of agriculture and fisheries are so very great that it will take the whole 1778 of the time of one Under-Secretary; and that the problems of education in Scotland are so slight that whoever is in charge of education can give far more time to fisheries and other parts of the Home Department?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Lady has had enough experience of administration not to attempt to spread so obvious a net in the face of, if I may say so, a bird who has at least had as much experience of Scottish administration as she has.
The problems of agriculture do require a considerable amount of attention and a considerable amount of travel, and the problems of fisheries do also. The problems of fisheries can well require more attention than is given by a Minister whose main attention must be devoted to the problems of agriculture, though they do not, naturally, require his whole time.
The hon. Lady was just complaining that education was not receiving sufficient attention. Now a new Minister has been appointed, one of whose main tasks will be the task of education; and it is a little churlish to her own remarks if she now says that that is not giving proper attention to education. It is more attention than was given by her Government, a great deal more; and she cannot complain that we are not giving enough attention to it if we are giving more attention than was given by the Administration of which she was a very distinguished, perhaps sometimes the most distinguished, ornament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, she must have been the most distinguished ornament. She was chosen by her party to broadcast. None of the others were.
The new set-up is obviously good and sound. Scottish administration falls naturally into the three divisions to which the Secretary of State has referred. The hon. Member for Hamilton tried to bring out that the existence of a Minister of State was a bad idea. But he and his hon. Friends should have voted against the appointment of a Minister of State when the proposal was made. But that is their position. They are willing to wound but afraid to strike. They know that these are good changes or they would vote against them. They would vote against them if they think they are bad. But they are perfectly willing to make 1779 denigratory remarks, and run down the proposal, and invent all sorts of imaginary difficulties. But when it comes to the acid test in the House of Commons, "Are you going to register disapproval by your vote?" oh, no!
They say that Governments are entitled to have their way. Well, are they? Will hon. Gentlemen opposite give this Government its way in all the subjects proposed? I have not seen much sign of that so far. If they thought they had a chance, either here in the House or in Scotland, they would turn into the Division Lobbies within the next half-hour. It is because these proposals are well liked and well thought of in Scotland that they are afraid to vote against them. Otherwise, they would vote against them.
These proposals commended themselves to the people of Scotland at the General Election and they have commended themselves since. The right hon. Gentleman has brought up no objection on the part of anybody in Scotland, and a great deal of favourable comment has been made in Scotland about the increased attention which this Government is giving to Scottish affairs. The new appointments have been well received and I venture to predict that this new appointment, if and when it is sanctioned, will also be well received.
The hon. Member for Hamilton was good enough—and I applaud his intensive research—to quote a speech of mine to the K elvingrove junior Unionists. I recognise his assiduity. I recommend him to read my remarks yet again. Let him go on reading my speeches and he will expand his reputation both at that Box and elsewhere. He is apparently so convinced by those that he did read that he fears to vote against the proposal we bring forward. It is a very strong example of action at a distance, that a speech of mine in November, 1949, has been able to influence a speech which the hon. Member has just been making—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Whether his hon. Friends like to read the speeches of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or not I do not know, but manifestly they do not like to hear his speeches, as there are only two of his Scottish colleague 1780 back benchers in the Chamber at the present time.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
We on this side of the House have confidence in our Government. It is well known that these proposals have our approval. They have our confidence. We are perfectly willing to let them go forward and, indeed, we do not find it necessary to go on underlining the essentials. I am speaking because the hon. Member for Hamilton chose to challenge me and to quote some of my speech. Otherwise, I certainly would not have troubled the House—
§ Several Hon. Members rose— —
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Hon. Members opposite must decide among themselves which of them is to rise—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting that if I had not quoted him he would not even have troubled to come to the House to discuss a matter which is so essential to us on whichever side of the House we are?
§ Lieut-Colonel Elliot
Really, the hon. Member is beginning to fall over his own bootlaces. How should I have known he was speaking if I had not been in the House? The hon. Member really ought to know the line of iris attack before set sets out. If he would exercise more restraint and allow himself to be defended by his right hon. Friend he would be more successful in his career in opposition.
As I said at the time it was very desirable that the nationalist feeling in Scotland should realise where its main enemy was, and its main enemy is—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Indeed the electrical set-up is one of the worst examples of splitting Scotland down the middle. We shall have something to say about that later. But the whole tendency of the party opposite is a denial and distrust of the national spirit of Scotland. I need not refer to their electoral records and 1781 previous policies on the matter. I do say that Scotland is well aware that the centralisation of its forces in London is one of the greatest menaces which the country has to fear and the apostles of centralisation are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
This is a subject which affects all of us. Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would explain in what fashion devolution from the Scottish Office has now taken place?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman, who challenged me earlier on the danger of getting out of order, would not wish me to risk incurring the wrath of Mr. Speaker, but I will say that a greater increase in the powers of the Scottish administration over Scottish affairs is enshrined in this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, and it is enshrined in the appointment of a Minister of State primarily resident in Scotland.
This is of tremendous importance. Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will tell the House what additional powers the Scottish Office derives from any or all of these changes? Where is there one single additional power? That is what we want to know.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance on this matter, Mr. Speaker? Is it the case that this debate is supposed to terminate at 7 o'clock, or has it terminated?
§ Mr. Speaker
This is not strictly a point for me at all, but I was told by both sides of the House that it was their desire if they could to terminate the debate at 7 o'clock, and that then we should go on to the subject of Christmas food supplies. That is all I know. I have no power to stop the debate.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It is a characteristic of our voluble race that, not only do they all wish to speak, but they all wish to speak at the same time, and it is one of our greatest difficulties. Anybody addressing Scotsmen finds that so many wish to interrupt that it is difficult for him to confine his speech within the narrow limits which he would wish to do. It is my desire, as soon as possible, to terminate the remarks I wished to make, but I am being lured on to speak further by 1782 a concatenation of admiration from the other side which extends to Ministers. Under-Secretaries and back benchers as well.
I only say that, enshrined in this Bill, is a greater control and grasp over the affairs of Scotland by Scotsmen, that the Minister of State, who has been referred to, though, naturally, one cannot refer to him at length here, is another example of the greater devolution which Scotland is having. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly. We cannot govern the country from a sleeping car, as everybody knows. I have seen one Secretary of State after another, and one need only quote the case of Tom Johnston, a strong and powerful man, who injured his health in attending to the endless tasks which he had to undertake and which were far more than could be handled by one man.
The necessity for devolution and reinforcement, and, if possible, a resident Minister in Scotland, could be seen on the features of Tom Johnston, before he laid down his office. He undertook what was obviously more than we could reasonably ask any man to do. The result of that system, even on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock, was that we had eventually a sick Secretary of State, weary and exhausted by the burden he was carrying. We made no complaint when, as he was perfectly entitled to do, he took a few days' holiday. We well remember that he suffered from a painful and troublesome ailment. We knew the burden that was placed upon him was more than one man ought to carry.
When we take administrative steps to deal with that burden, I think it comes poorly from those who have themselves suffered under that strain to say to us that this is not necessary for the better administration of Scotland. What was it that broke down Tom Johnston? What was it that caused the sickness of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? It was the burden of administration. These are the facts.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), was once also an inhabitant of Arcady, but he 1783 deserted us and left us for another part of the country, Let him not interrupt in a Scottish debate.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton was a speech made with the obvious embarrassment of one who was making a speech against a proposal which, in essence, he admired. He was making a speech upon a proposal which he was neither himself going to vote against nor ask his hon. Friends to vote against. The same process was gone through on the appointment of the Minister of State. There again, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, although they were willing enough to niggle and query, were unwilling to take action and vote in the Division Lobby.
On account of that, we say that these proposals stand. They have the approval of all hon. Members who support the Government. They also have the tacit approval of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. On that ground, we are glad to see the proposals brought forward and we wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I am quite sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), when he challenges hon. Members on this side of the House to take this matter to a Division, must surely forget that this is not a Bill which simply applies to Scotland, but is, in fact, a Bill for providing some additional Parliamentary Secretaries.
Having listened to the first part of the debate, I can well imagine that such a Bill, with the addition of a Parliamentary Secretary to deal with Wales, might indeed be the stepping-tone to further improvements, but, having heard the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the speech to which we have just listened, I am satisfied that this Measure is more likely to become a stumbling-block rather than a stepping stone.
I am satisfied that much of the work which has arisen in Scotland has arisen because of the legislation passed during the past six and a half years, and because, 1784 for the first time, there has been some action on behalf of the Scottish people. If there is now additional work being done by the Scottish office, it surely has arisen from that fact, and from the opportunities which the Scottish people have had as the result of the legislation passed in the last six and a half years.
We might, indeed, have welcomed the Bill if we had understood that there would be a great burden and an increased volume of Scottish legislation to come before Parliament in the near future. When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was describing the difficulties of Tom Johnston in regard to his duties in this House, he might also have thought of the time when Joe Westward was Secretary of State for Scotland, when a great deal of legislation, which is indeed benefiting the people of Scotland today, was passing through the House. It was legislation in connection with housing, agriculture, education and many other matters, and if the Secretary of State for Scotland had told us today that it is proposed to introduce further legislation of equal benefit to the people of Scotland, we might have been in a position to welcome this Bill.
I am satisfied that no one would expect us to welcome that part of the Bill that will apply to Scotland in the light of the fact that no information has been given to us that would justify us in doing so. We have merely been told that a promise had been made by the Tory Party that, if returned, they would make additional appointments. Today, we have to understand that the people of Scotland have to pay for the implementation of a promise which the Tory Party gave to Scotland without being told what benefit they are to receive from it.
I have the agreement of my hon. Friend, who was Under-Secretary of State during the last Parliament, that the closer the contact of the Secretary of State for Scotland with the people of Scotland, the better it will be, not only for the Scottish local authorities, the National Farmers' Union and various other interests, but for the Secretary of State himself. When I realise that, if such were the case, and if any indication had been given by the Secretary of State that this proposal would be beneficial to the people of Scotland and would bring improvement in their lives, we could have welcomed it.
1785 We must, of necessity accept this Bill, because it is to provide additional Parliamentary Secretaries. When I realise that the contribution which the people of Scotland are making at the present moment, in regard to mining, in which they have shown the highest increase in coal production of any part of the country, and when, at the same time, I realise that the Scottish miners are actually being paid less than those south of the Border, I think that, if we could have an additional Parliamentary Secretary and that he could in some way solve that problem, we could welcome this Bill today.
When we also realise the great work which is being done at the moment by Scottish agriculture, both in regard to stock breeding and agricultural produce, and if the Bill were likely to assist in that direction, we would, as I have said, have been glad to welcome it. That is not the position. It is not a question of the policy of the Government being one for helping the consumers of food in Scotland, because they will have to pay more for food as a result of the policy of the Minister of Agriculture. If the Secretary of State could tell us that the people of Scotland and consumers in Scotland would be exempt from the new policy announced by the Minister of Agriculture, we might have welcomed the Bill.
It is perfectly true that some three million people signed the Covenant Association's plebiscite in Scotland, and that fact had a tremendous effect on the speech which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to the junior Unionists. I suggest that, even if they are satisfied that the most extreme nationalist feeling in Scotland is on the side of Scottish devolution, the natural repercussions on the Tory Party will come as a great shock to them at some time in the future.
While right hon. Gentlemen opposite often make rather sarcastic remarks about the defeat of the Labour Party at the recent Election, I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that every hon. Member on this side has a certain sympathy with his position in speaking from the third bench below the Gangway rather than from the Front Bench. We do not rejoice in that fact; we have a great sympathy with him.
Nothing has been said today that will give any reassurance to the people of 1786 Scotland that they are likely to move any further forward as a result of this additional appointment. The appointment of a Minister of State simply means to the people of Scotland that they are to have a Secretary of State, three Under-Secretaries, a Minister of State and two Law Officers doing the work previously done by three Ministers. That will entail additional staff and additional expense, and all these Ministers are now going to do precisely the same work as was done before, and it does not necessarily follow that it will be done any better. Indeed, my experience has taught me that one very seldom improves anything by splitting it. By this proposal, the Government are splitting responsibility in Scotland without giving any evidence of the benefits to be expected from it.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
The prevailing opinion north of the Tweed tonight as the outcome of this discussion in the House will be "Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, because he will not he disappointed." The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) challenged us to a Division. I can assure him that I for one will cast my vote against any such provision as is contained in this Bill, because it is clearly not there for the purpose of improving the lot of the people of Scotland.
During the recent Election I made a challenge that the Tory Party could not improve the conditions of the people of Scotland. I repeat that challenge tonight, because to give Scotland a Minister of State who is a Member of another place is simply to add insult to injury. To divide up the work at present applicable to the Secretary of State for Scotland among three Under-Secretaries instead of two is a pure travesty. What kind of mixture do we get? Fishes and teachers.
I want to know whether any one of the three Under-Secretaries will undertake a job which was previously performed by the Departments that determine the fate of the people of Scotland. Is it not perfectly true to say that the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour have a far greater influence in Scotland than some of the functions which are here being divided up? Is it not also perfectly true to say that all we are doing here tonight is to add some other influence on the people of 1787 Scotland who, one day, will do what the miners in Scotland did when they did not want some people in the pits. They lifted the rails. The day may not be far distant when the people of Scotland will say. "We are going to lift the rails and man the Border."
In Scotland, of course, we suffer from ills which are unknown in England and Wales. Look at our housing problem and our unemployment. There are places in my own constituency which under the Distribution of Industries Act have been scheduled for industry. I am not sparing my own people who were in office from 1945 until quite recently, because, even up to today the Board of Trade have paid no attention to that particular Act. In Midlothian and in the Tweed Valley we have unemployment today. There are no subsidiary industries in which to employ the people of Scotland. These are evils due, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove said, to centralisation in London. Only when we get a Parliament in Edinburgh which will deal with special Scottish affairs will the people of Scotland be satisfied that everything is being done to meet their ills.
Is it not perfectly true to say that the great City of Glasgow cannot lay down a new sewer unless it promotes private legislation which must come before this House and be sanctioned by it? Is it not true to say that Edinburgh must not take powers to regulate certain aspects of public life within its boundaries unless it promotes private legislation which must receive the sanction of this House? And even when such Bills come up for Report, any English Member may rise in his place and object, and force a Division against them. We on this side of the House who have been engaged in industry, and know something about industrial matters, realise that in Scotland many of those operating in industry are worse paid than their English confrères.
Men in the Scottish mines who are producing a larger output than in certain parts of the English and Welsh coalfields are working for as much as 3s. a shift less. The question which really matters is that of the bread and butter of the people of Scotland, and this Bill will have no effect at all on that. I challenge the Govern- 1788 ment to come out with a policy for Scotland and show how they will improve the economic conditions of the people of Scotland.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Stuart
While I very much dislike having to intervene again in the debate, I believe that, in view of the time, it will be for the general convenience of all concerned if I endeavour to answer some of the questions before 7 o'clock. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) spoke of the Bill in its particular relation to Scotland. Nobody should know better than he himself the answer to some of the questions which he asked regarding the amount of work which confronts the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretaries in the Scottish Office, because he has a long experience of that Office.
The other night I gave certain examples regarding the Minister of State's functions. I mentioned the receiving of deputations, but I think the hon. Member knows very well that it is not my intention to crowd out the Under-Secretary or to meet all deputations myself. Indeed, it would not be possible for me to do so. All I meant to say was that when I was in Edinburgh or when it was necessary that I should do so, or it was convenient, then, of course, it would be for me to be present. I have the greatest confidence in the ability of my hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Snadden) to handle, for instance, deputations from the National Farmers' Union.
Perhaps ought to have been a little more careful in what I said the other night, but, as the hon. Member for Hamilton knows very well, it would not be possible for me to meet the representatives of all these bodies myself. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I have divided up the functions among the Scottish team, if I may call it that, in what seems to be a suitable manner. I, personally, hope and believe that it will prove to be effective, and that it will work satisfactorily.
The whole object of the Bill is, I must repeat, to improve the administration and control of our affairs in Scotland, and we hope and pray that that will be so. But nothing is static in the field of government, and as I said the other night, I may not have achieved perfection, but 1789 our whole object is improvement. I have considered the point raised again this evening with regard to a White Paper. I really do not feel that in this case it is a necessary production, and in saying that perhaps I might refer once again to what the position really is. There is no change in the Departmental set-up of the Scottish Office. The same Departments remain and operate. All we have done is to have a Minister of State resident in Scotland and an additional Under-Secretary in order, we believe, to improve the management of our Scottish affairs.
§ Mr. Rankin
Would the right hon. Gentleman please clear up one point? The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) made a good deal of play with the condition to which the duties of the Scottish Office and its powers have brought Mr. Tom Johnston and others. He seemed to indicate that there would now be a change for the better. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether any of the powers and duties which attached to that Office before this Bill was introduced will now cease to rest upon his own shoulders?
§ Mr. Stuart
No, Sir. The responsibilities of the Scottish Office are unchanged, but the Secretary of State for Scotland will have more assistance in that there will be an additional Minister and an additional Under-Secretary. I am very grateful to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) because he has helped me a great deal. It is difficult to talk about one's own labours and the state of one's own health. As the House knows, my right hon. and gallant Friend was connected with the medical profession some years ago, and being a close personal friend of mine he is also concerned that I should be physically capable of carrying out my duties.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The suggestion has been made that there will be some great scheme of decentralisation combined with these appointments. What I was asking the Secretary of State was what the new or semi-completed plans for all this cen- 1790 tralisation would be, so that we could see the picture as a whole.
§ Mr. Stuart
I hope the House will agree that I have given a picture. There is decentralisation in that we have a Minister mainly resident in the capital of Scotland. That is decentralising part of the Ministerial team from Whitehall, and is a step in the direction I have directed.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is the decentralisation confined to Ministerial decentralisation? I understood that it was to be in a wide field of industry.
§ Mr. Stuart
The right hon. Gentleman would not be correct in thinking that.
I endeavoured to give the picture the other night and have supplemented it today regarding the position of the new Under-Secretary. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove referred to the fact that the Fishery Department is, of course, a part of the Home Department. The right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) mixed up education with fish. But, of course, as all hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies know, there are four Departments in the Scottish Office, and also Forestry. It is difficult to divide either four or five by three, with the result that there has to be one over. It is not one Department per Under-Secretary. I hope I have answered the main points.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Is it the intention to give a greater degree of responsibility to Under-Secretaries speaking in this House, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and is that part of the reason for the additional appointment?
§ Mr. Stuart
The whole reason for the appointment is the improvement of our administration and the conduct of our affairs in Scotland. The degree of responsibility is not altered; it is merely spread between three instead of two. I hope that the House will now be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.