§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, to leave out from the beginning to the second "the".
§ The Chairman
I think that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we take Amendment No. 18, in Schedule 2, page 5, to leave out line 5.
Amendment No. 21, in Schedule 2, page 5, to leave out lines 13 and 14.
Amendment No. 27, in Schedule 2, page 6, to leave out line 21.
Amendment No. 31, in Schedule 2, page 7, to leave out line 8.
§ Mr. Roots
Yes, Dr. King; I am much obliged.
The Amendment I have moved relates, in particular, to the authorisation of the appointment of a Minister of Land and Natural Resources. The first thing that strikes me on reading the Clause is that it is so worded as, apparently, to apply 1554 to a Minister who is already in existence although, judging from the Bill, there is no existing authority for his appointment. I should be interested to know, first, whether, prior to the Bill, there was an existing authority for his appointment and second, apart from what is contained in the Bill, what are the statutory functions, if any, which he has been performing and what staff he already enjoys for the carrying out of the functions, statutory or otherwise. It seems to my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself that questions such as this must be answered before the Committee can properly decide whether to sanction the appointment.
Some information was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) on 26th November, in reply to a Question put to the Prime Minister. At the beginning of his Answer, the Prime Minister said thatThe Minister of Land and Natural Resources will participate in the formulation of the national and regional plans for which the First Secretary of State has overall responsibility.My first comment is that, while it is, no doubt, vital that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources should participate in the formulation of those plans, I would hope that all Ministers would participate and I would not expect that in itself to be a justification for the appointment of a new Minister. So far as I know, these national and regional plans have not been defined in terms of statutory powers and duties, and, moreover—I say this subject to correction by the right hon. Gentleman—whatever is produced will not have statutory authority. So we still wait to see what place in the constitution those plans, valuable though they may be, will attain. Apparently, this Minister is limited to participation.
The next heading given by the Prime Minister was that the Minister of Land and Natural Resourceswill be generally responsible for the availability of natural resources".The Committee will realise that this covers an immense field which calls for further definition. On the face of it, it would include all mineral extraction and products from minerals such as cement, bricks and other commodities. I can put the question quite 1555 shortly: does it? The Committee is entitled to enlightenment on just how far this general responsibility for availability goes. If it covers what one might call the whole range, the Government will be taking over a vast new field which has not been primarily the responsibility of the Government before. Equally, if we think in terms of natural resources, the first which spring to mind are coal, gas and oil, and I assume that this could not be right. Plainly, further definition is called for.
We are told that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is to take over Forestry Commission policy. This leaves the further problem of his duties in connection with private forestry development and the extent to which he is to be responsible for private forestry policy or even private advisory functions such as those which have hitherto been the interest of the Minister of Agriculture.
We are told that the Minister is to be responsible for water conservation. I presume from that that he is to be overlord of the river boards, but, arising immediately from that, is the vital if detailed matter of their land drainage functions. Is the opportunity to be taken to grasp the problem of responsibility for sea defences, or is this also to be left with another Ministry? As the Committee knows, the split in the functions between river boards for land drainage and other authorities for coast defences has proved a disadvantageous division of work.
I come now to what appears to be the main function. The Prime Minister said:Land is the most important and urgent problem, and he will be responsible for the establishment of the Land Commission." —OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 214–5.]At this stage, it is fair to ask: when is this to occur, and what are to be the powers of the Land Commission? We heard yesterday that the much heralded Ombudsman was finding his journey rather difficult; apparently, he is still engaged on the marathon of advancing and is not yet ready to enter the stadium for public gaze.
It is even more important that the Committee be given some knowledge of what is happening as regards the Lands Commission. Will a holding Bill be necessary? Can people buy and sell land 1556 for development without fear that their plans will be rendered bankrupt by the powers of the Commission? If land is subject to planning permission, will it still be liable to the administration of the Lands Commission? These are all real and pressing problems which are facing the public, not only the land owning but the land developing public. I am sure that it will be accepted on both sides that land development in its various forms cannot be dismissed as undesirable.
Returning to the statement thatLand is the most important and urgent problem".there arises the biggest query of all. What is to be the position under the Town and Country Planning Acts? According to the Prime Minister's Answer, the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is not to have any positive powers, yet he is said to be responsible for theavailability of land as the community needs it".How does he do it if he is not responsible for supervising the preparation and amendment of development plans which are concerned with just that? Apparently, the preparation and functioning of these plans is left with the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
In the Answer we also find that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is not even to have powers over the general system of planning control—in other words, the right of enforcement of plans. That, also, is reserved to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It is the latter who has to ensure that policies in regional plans are implemented in the development plans of local authorities. The more we consider the position of the proposed Minister the more empty we see it becomes. It may be that the Minister's absence today is caused by the fact that he is searching for something to do and the staff to do it. Certainly, on what is known to us, he must be feeling distinctly lonely.
The Minister's positive powers, so far as I can ascertain, relate to the control of river boards, the Forestry Commission, common lands and a non-existent Lands Commission. For everything else he is forced to wander around cap in hand to see whether someone else will be gracious enough to let him do a little talking. He has no positive powers 1557 officially that I can find. If land—by which I take it is meant "land use"—is the most important urgent problem—and I dare say that few hon. Members would quarrel with that—how can the Minister of Land and Natural Resources be divorced from all effective powers to plan and to ensure that his plans are implemented?
The fact is that, certainly in the Bill—and it is almost as much in the Answer to the Question to which I have referred—the whole matter of responsibility of the Minister, the justification for his appointment, what he is to do and whom he is to employ, is completely vague. I suggest that unless a far stronger and more positive case can be made out for a proliferation of Ministers it would be wrong to set up a fresh Ministry, with all that that involves not merely in staff but in additional complications for the person who wants to use, develop and plan his land and plan the national resources. It would be wrong simply to give carte blanche to set up a Ministry and see whether something can be found for the Minister to do by means of a subsequent Bill. It is for this reason that I move the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
There is clearly an onus lying on the Government to show the Committee the necessity for any further new Ministry, and it is clearly the duty of the Committee to ask the Government why they require further Ministries and further Ministers in charge of them. These were questions put to the Government on Second Reading, and they are questions to which we got no answer. I hope that during the Committee stage we shall get an answer about each of the new Ministries.
There may well be a need for better co-ordination of development, but if that is the case the Committee may need some convincing that the way to get quicker decisions and better co-ordination is to set up yet another Ministry. The tendency in the last Parliament was to bring Ministries together; the tendency now appears to be to proliferate. There may be good cause for this, or there may not, but so far no possible argument has been addressed to the new tendency by the Government.
If the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources were a high-level unit which 1558 was designed to ensure better liaison between the Ministries concerned with development, I believe there might well be a case for it, but so far it appears that this is the sort of job which should fall upon the First Secretary and his Ministry. The first question that I should like to ask is what will be the relationship of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources to the First Secretary and to long-term economic planning.
The next point of particular importance is what is to be the relationship of the new Ministry to local authorities. Local authorities have the main responsibility for town and country planning, and one of the difficulties is to get quick decisions in matters which affect both local authorities and the central Government. What powers will the new Ministry have in this matter? What planning powers will it have? It appears from the Answer to the Question which has been quoted to be a Ministry which will control certain matters, such as the Lands Commission, about which we do not yet know very much, but what general powers will the Minister have over planning? Finally, why is it necessary to create a new Ministry instead of equipping the First Secretary with the means of overseeing the Minister of Housing and Local Government and others of his colleagues who may be concerned with land development?
From what we have heard so far, I cannot see a strong case for creating a new Ministry and thereby setting up another centre to which correspondence will be directed and from which correspondence will flow and from which minutes will pass and to which minutes will pass back. The more Ministers there are, the more calls there are on our Civil Service, and so forth. The Government owe the Committee a much more detailed justification for the proposal than we got on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I regret that the Minister for Land and Natural Resources is not present, because I was hoping to hear him explain why he exists. I see the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sitting on the Government Front Bench. I fear that we shall hear from him one of his usual robust performances in which he condemns the 1559 Zurich bankers and others who are stopping us from obtaining land at a very cheap price. He will probably make a vigorous case for having a Ministry of Land and Natural Resources which will do away with all the evils that previously existed.
We must have an explanation of what the Ministry will do. Is the object of it to have the fiscal effect of ensuring that people do not make a profit out of land? If that is the main object of the land side of the Minister's activities, I should have thought that it could have been far better dealt with in the Treasury by the imposition of an appropriate form of taxation.
If the general objective is that the Minister should purchase all land which will be used for development, we must know the principle upon which he will thereafter use the land. Will it be used purely by local authorities, or is it the intention to lease the land to private developers, and, if the latter is the case, what steps will be taken to ensure that the developers do not make bigger profits by that means than if they had purchased the land in the normal way?
We must also discover what delays the Ministry would cause in the development of land for house building. This is a matter of real concern to the Opposition. During the election campaign it was suggested that the Labour Party's target in terms of housing would be the same as ours—400,000. It was also suggested that there should be more local authority houses. This presumably means that there will be fewer houses for owner occupiers. We must know how the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources will fit in with the programme and housing policy that we desire, one which will enable home ownership to take place to a larger extent.
I cannot see anything which has been said so far about the Minister of Land and Natural Resources which will reduce the price of houses. If one uses the method of compulsorily purchasing the land at relatively low prices, the prices will be below the market prices. If the land is released for the purpose of private use development, the price of the house will not be the component cost of the lease of the land and the building cost; it will still represent the supply and demand position in houses. Eventually, 1560 the price of houses can be reduced only by meeting the supply and demand position. I cannot see how the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources in any way eases that situation, but I see many ways in which it can substantially delay the house building programme.
We have had no explanation so far of the duties of the Minister. What about the iron ore industry? We have a substantial iron ore industry, and it might well be affected by the Minister. Will he use his Ministerial powers to take that into public ownership as part of the general steel plan? There are many activities of his which are unknown as yet. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will avoid giving us one of his very enjoyable performances at the Dispatch Box, making a vigorous and rumbustious case about the errors of Toryism, but will give us the details that we want to know about the Minister.
Unless the right hon. Gentleman does that, I hope that the Committee will support our Amendment and reject the creation of the proposed Ministry.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster always answers debates most amiably, but I wish that we had the Minister of Land and Natural Resources here to tell us what he will do and what his responsibilities will be.
There are one or two particular spheres in which I should like to question the Minister on how these responsibilities will work out. Take, for instance, the river boards and water resources, forestry and also common land. With regard to the river boards and water resources, these, previously, were under the executive authority of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Forestry, which includes both the public sector of the Forestry Commission and the private sector as well, came under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. These are, therefore, two very big departures which will affect very much large areas of the countryside.
The first question that I ask in a general sense is: how does the Minister think that the new Minister will carry out his responsibilities and how far will he be executively responsible for both these? Secondly, concerning Wales, there is a very special problem with regard to 1561 executive responsibility. Take, first, the river boards and water resources. Will the new Minister be responsible for them, or will they come under the new Secretary of State for Wales? As to the Forestry Commission, are we, in fact, to have the position, important as it is, of the integration of forestry and farming, not only in the Principality of Wales, but in the country as a whole? Is there to be a definite executive responsibility under the new Ministry of Land and Natural Resources?
Quite shortly, I would ask him those two questions, particularly with regard to the river boards and water resources and also forestry, which is such a very big industry, particularly in Wales. Can he be quite specific as to what the responsibilities of this new Ministry will be?
I hope that if the Government cannot satisfy us on these most important sides of this issue we shall press for this Amendment.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree
I would have liked to ask the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what his plans were to increase the supply of land and natural resources. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be able to say what his right hon. Friend's plans are and what his powers to do so are likely to be. We have not many natural resources in this country other than the great skill of our own people and of coal, about which the Minister can do nothing. But he can do something about water, much of which runs to waste. The more one goes round the world, the more one realises the immense luck of this country in having an adequate rainfall spread reasonably over all the months of the year.
One has only to have fine weather for a few weeks in various areas of the country to talk about drought. My own City of Liverpool has done much to bring the water of Wales both from Lake Vyrnwy and from Treweryn via the natural aqueduct of the Dee to the city, yet one is only allowed to use in one's garden a hose if one holds it in one's hand. It hardly seems to me as if the Socialist government of Liverpool has reached the technological age, because if one has an ordinary mechanical 1562 sprayer one has to pay a very large sum for a meter, even though one only uses this bit of mechanical apparatus for a very few days during the year.
Compare that with the dryest state of the dryest continent, South Australia, where the sprinklers can be seen in the fields, or even with Alice Springs, where one sees the sprinklers going in gardens in an area which has about three inches of rain in 10 months. It seems to me that the Minister will have to look into this problem and that it is tied up to some extent with an increase in the supply of land and of land reclamation, especially along the shores of the Duchy of which the right hon. Gentleman is Chancellor. So far as I know, no Ministry has been responsible for this.
There has been talk on the Mersey of the creation of an artificial island. The Institute of Hydraulics, a few years ago, looked into this to see whether money could not be saved on dredging by increasing the scour of the river and also providing, for the whole of Merseyside possibly, quite a substantial recreational area. What will be the powers of the Minister in relation to the statutory body of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board? Who is to go into a matter of that kind?
I am not suggesting that we should start reclaiming the Wash, because that is an area where reclaimed agricultural land is a long way from the great cities. Where land is really badly wanted is near the great urban conurbations, particularly in the north-west of England. It seems to me that as capital invested in industry produces much more than capital invested in agricultural land, it is in that sort of area where land reclamation could be considered.
It is not the job of any impoverished local authority—there are too many of them—and it is not the job, as I see it, of any Ministry so far, to see whether we cannot transform say Morecambe Bay or the Dees Estuary into freshwater lakes. Yet both water and recreational facilities for sailing or fishing are required there. They would be of immense benefit. I would like to ask the Chancellor when he replies to tell us what thought has been given by the Government to these areas.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Houghton)
It may help the Committee if I say something about this Amendment now. It is the first of three Amendments to Clause 1, each of which proposes to delete mention of the Minister referred to in the Amendment from Clause 1. I judge from that that right hon. and hon. Members opposite do not want a Minister of Land and Natural Resources, [HON. MEMBERS: "Justify it."] I judge that they do not want a Minister of Overseas Development. I judge that they do not want a Minister of Technology. I am only trying to understand what the Amendments mean. The Amendments propose to delete from Clause 1 references to each of these three Ministers.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)
On a point of order, Dr. King. We are, as I understand, considering the first Amendment, which refers to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources. The right hon. Gentleman's reply on behalf of the Government is referring also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. While I support Amendment No. 1, I do not think that I support Amendment No. 3, and, as we have not agreed to take all these Amendments together, should not the right hon. Gentleman confine his remarks to Amendment No. 1.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman will find that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is going to confine himself to the first Amendment, but the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to make passing reference to the other Amendments which are to be discussed.
§ Mr. Houghton
I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who has just blown in, will allow me to deploy my case in a reasonable manner. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) for referring in complimentary terms to my customary robustness. I am not feeling particularly robust. However, I may gather strength as the day goes on. At the moment. I am anxious to be helpful to the Committee, if hon. Members will only listen to me.
I was trying to understand the general strategy behind the Amendments. Each of the three we are discussing seeks to destroy a Minister who has been appointed under the Royal Prerogative 1564 and for whom this Bill proposes, in Schedule 1, to provide statutory authority for his Ministry. Clause 1 proposes to bring each of the three Ministers within Schedule 1, which gives statutory authority for the creation of their Ministries.
There have been many questions about what the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is to do and how he will do it, and I do not think that any hon. Member provided reasons for not having such a Minister. There were numerous questions about how the Lands Commission will work, whether it will restrain the use of land, whether it will increase the value of land—whether my right hon. Friend will do this, that or the other. But those questions are related to the policies of the Minister, the proposals which he may, in due course, bring before the House. They are questions of policy and have no relation to the creation of the Ministry itself.
I suggest that what I have to do now is to defend the creation of the Ministry and not to explain all its policies and say exactly what the Lands Commission will do, or what powers it will possess or anything of that kind. These are matters for another day when proposals are brought before the House for setting up the Lands Commission. Then will come the opportunity to go into all these questions relating to the Commission. At the moment, the Government have to justify the creation of the Ministry.
Reference has been made to the absence of my right hon. Friends concerned. I will be candid. I advised them that I saw no reason for them to come here to defend their existence when this is a Government Measure giving statutory authority to the new Ministries and making proposals for other changes which the Prime Minister believes to be essential to the conduct of government under the present Administration. We are thus dealing with machinery, with Ministers and Ministries, the boundaries of their activities, their functions and their responsibilities. We are not dealing with detailed questions relating to possible steps which a Minister may take in due time and bring before the House for debate in the usual way.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister decided to advise the Crown 1565 to appoint a Minister of Land and Natural Resources because he felt, as the Government feel, that it is time that general oversight of the use of our scarcest commodity should be undertaken, so that land use can be looked at in the broad to see whether the best use is being made of it for forestry, agriculture and urban development and whether and how land at present unused can be brought into use.
These are all factors connected with the use of land with which, in recent years, the country has become increasingly concerned. Other factors include the rising prices of land, whether steps may be necessary to curb the exploitation of land value, the high cost of land for development and other aspects of the shortage of land with which all right hon. and hon. Members are familiar.
The Prime Minister, therefore, made an announcement to the House on 26th November giving in some outline the functions of the new Minister of Land and Natural Resources. My right hon. Friend mentioned, in reply to one question which I have also been asked today, that the new Minister would become responsible, with the Secretary of State for Scotland, for the Forestry Commission and for forestry policy, which seems to put that responsibility firmly within the scope of the new Ministry.
I have been asked about water. This, also, was dealt with in the Prime Minister's statement:… the Minister will also have responsibilities for the conservation of water and its availability for the various needs of the community. The precise allocation of the statutory responsibilities of the several Ministers concerned with water is a complicated matter and a detailed statement about this will be made in due course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 215.]I cannot add to that at the moment. It is clear that the new Minister is intended to be responsible for the conservation of water, which is another commodity which is becoming scarcer as the population increases and as there is more and more use of water for all purposes, both domestic and industrial.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
There is a point here which I hope the right hon. Gentleman 1566 will make abundantly clear. Responsibility for water conservation in Wales has so far lain with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Will that responsibility now go to the Secretary of State for Wales, or will the, Minister of Land and Natural Resources take it over, although the Prime Minister said that it would be taken over by the Secretary of State for Wales?
§ Mr. Houghton
In England, water conservation will be in the hands of the new Minister of Land and Natural Resources. What may be the relationship between him and the Secretary of State for Wales in his responsibility is part of the consideration now being given to the relationship between the Minister of Land and Natural Resources and those Ministries now responsible for water. I hope that the Committee is trying to understand the distinction between the justification of the Ministry and the precise boundaries of its activities and responsibility and details of its future policies.
With this new Ministry, we are trying to bring together a body of knowledge about land and its uses in a way which has never previously been brought together under one Minister. This will include the survey of land resources and the development of techniques for evaluating the comparative uses of land. The Minister will be in a position to bring expert advice to bear on general national and regional plans. Hitherto, Ministries which have wanted land have simply sought to get it. There has been no Minister providing a general survey of land use throughout the country.
I have been asked about the First Secretary. He is First Secretary in charge of economic development. He may want land for industrial and other development. The Minister of Housing and Local Government will want land for housing and for new towns, and so on. The Secretary of State for Education and Science will be building new schools and there will be new universities, and so on. In general, all Ministries wanting land have used the machinery available to them to get what they wanted, subject to planning permission, but not subject to any general oversight or assessment of the use of land throughout the country as a whole.
1567 My right hon. Friend felt that this was something which should now be done. I believe that it is long overdue. Had there been a Minister of Land and Natural Resources years ago, we would have been spared some of the hideous things which have happened to land in the intervening years. The case for this Ministry rests on the urgent need to match the new and great importance of the problems for which it will be responsible with an adequate focus for study and initiative in the Government machine and sound technical backing.
When a particular problem becomes very important in our national life, it is entirely in accordance with pragmatic British traditions to appoint a Minister, with proper departmental support, to concentrate and co-ordinate Government policy where it may previously have been diffused through many Departments. I do not think that hon. Members can question this.
We find examples of it in almost every branch of government administration. When pensions and social security became a matter of great national importance, a Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was set up. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Aviation have all reflected mounting public interest in and concern with new aspects of the development of our economy, or the use of our resources. If we are to tackle the central problem of land use and land value and the wide range of related problems throughout our natural resources, it is appropriate that some Minister should have the responsibility. He will be able to advise other Ministries as to their demands for additional land and how their requisitions may have a bearing upon the most efficient and economical use of land throughout the country.
Obviously, this Ministry will have to work very closely with others, because it will not have a veto over others. It will have to work in co-operation with other Ministers who have land requirements. However, the system of interdepartmental co-operation is nothing new. The genius of public administration in this country and the common sense and tolerance of Ministers of all Administrations have made this form of interdepartmental co-operation possible and 1568 fruitful, and I am sure that right hon. Gentlemen opposite found that when they were in office.
Co-operation will undoubtedly be the keynote of the success of this Ministry, but at least there will be a Minister who can tell all the other Ministers his broader view of the use of land. [Laughter.] I suppose that it is very amusing. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will probably tell us when the giggling has to stop. I do not know whether it will be at three in the morning, or eleven o'clock tomorrow, or when it will be, but we are here and we shall stay here.
§ Mr. Houghton
As long as I am on my feet for the moment, that is all that matters. I am trying to throw some serious argument and consideration into the discussion of the need for a Minister of Land and Natural Resources.
I repeat that in none of the speeches I heard did anyone say that this Minister would be useless and would not be able to do anything and that there was nothing for him to do so that there was no reason to have him.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Gentleman will say anything when the time comes, wise or unwise. I assume that he is here as a responsible Member of Parliament, with a responsibility to his constituents, who have a very close interest in the use of land. I hope that we may have a little sobriety and wisdom brought to bear on this subject.
Governments operate in a living world of rapidly changing conditions and we have to adjust the machinery of government to changes in national need. We are a very flexible Administration. We see the need for changes in government administration probably a little clearer than hon. Members opposite, perhaps a little further ahead. We have our own ideas about what we want to do.
This new Ministry is part of the expression of a new initiative and a new vigour and a new survey of the use of land in these crowded islands, where, if judgment is not brought to bear, we may destroy the remaining beauty and be congested with an urban sprawl for scores of miles on 1569 end. The prospect of what might happen to Britain in the next 50 years unless there is some oversight and control is quite frightening to those of us who care for the beauty of this country and the way of life which we have built up here.
The problems of commuters and the horrible conditions in which many people have to go to and from work, the congested towns putting great strain on services and on transport, the need to preserve the green belt and to prevent the kind of urban sprawl which took place years ago leaving permanent marks on the countryside are all part of the responsibility of the Minister who will advise the Government about them.
I sincerely hope that the Committee will see that there is justification in the appointment of a Minister of Land and Natural Resources with this overriding responsibility, giving the best possible advice to all Ministries who wish to use additional land, advising the First Secretary about the economic plan, possibly advising any regional organisation which we may have, and considering the use of land by all authorities throughout the country.
Here is something which ought to be separated from other Ministries and which is worth while. It will especially relieve the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, with its many other complicated tasks, and is undoubtedly a good thing in the interests of the machinery of government. I therefore hope that the Committee will approve the inclusion of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources and will resist the Amendment.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said one thing with which all of us can agree—that he was not very robust today. Indeed, his speech recalled to mind the remark made of another speech in similar circumstances—that no cliché was omitted except, "Please adjust your dress before leaving". The point raised in this Amendment—it is necessary to remind the right hon. Gentleman of this, if not the Committee—is: is this Ministry really necessary?
The right hon. Gentleman waved his hand airily and said that by putting 1570 down this Amendment we were saying that we did not want a Minister of Land and Natural Resources. I do not think that he understood the point put very clearly by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), that the onus is on the Government to justify the creation of a new Department by showing that there are functions whose performance demand the appointment not only of a Minister but a Parliamentary Secretary, a Permanent Secretary and a full official staff, to discharge them. Unless the Government can discharge the onus of showing that for good administration such a Department is required, the expense and charge on the taxpayer of creating such a Department cannot be justified.
It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to make a speech in genial and, if I may say so, very imprecise terms and merely rely on the allegation that we had not demonstrated the contrary. It is for him and his colleagues to demonstrate positively to the Committee that his right hon. Friend is a necessary part of the Administration.
That brings me to the point on which several hon. Members have remarked, namely, the conspicuous absence of the right hon. Gentleman whose Ministry we are discussing. The choice of Government speakers is a matter for the Government. Why they should choose the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to speak on this matter, I do not know. I should have thought that a Minister whose ministerial existence was being challenged would insist on coming forward himself and justifying his existence, or that he would at least have paid the Committee the basic courtesy of being present to hear the discussion.
I understand that the responsibility for that is that not of what I may call our absent friends but of the right hon. Gentleman because he says that he advised the Minister of Land and Natural Resources not to be present. I think that it was very bad advice. The reason which he gave for it was even worse. It was that the Prime Minister had decided that there should be such a Ministry and that therefore, apparently, all argument, whether on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman who is put in the office or of this Committee, was somewhat superfluous: the Prime Minister wishes 1571 it. Some of us who served in the 1945 Parliament have heard those accents before. We do not like them, and they did no good to those who used them at that time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman reflects very seriously before he takes that line again.
It shows contempt of this Committee for the Minister not to be here to tell us what his plans are and what he proposes to do. It is no good the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster saying that the question of ministerial functions is a matter for another occasion. The question is whether there are any ministerial functions the discharge of which demand the appointment of a full-blown Minister of the Crown.
It is no good saying that the Prime Minister, for reasons which he himself has not divulged to us, desires to create this Ministry, as he apparently desires to create many additional appointments, and that, therefore, we are not to hear from the Minister or from a Treasury Minister in discharge of the Treasury's responsibility for the machinery of Government why this innovation has been effected. Instead, we have heard from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whose functions, we have been told, are wholly different. That of itself is an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs.
This is part of the general policy of the Government of not so much 100 days of dynamic action, but 100 appointments of undynamic Ministers.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
That is a great deal better than the hon. Gentleman.
What have we heard about the Minister's functions? We are told that he is to apply his serene intelligence to brooding generally over the problems of land and to advise his colleagues upon them. No doubt they need advice, but they would do better to take it from the House of Commons. If an adviser was wanted, was there not a Hungarian going who would have done it perhaps a little more cheaply? [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] I agree; it would have been cheaper.
Most of us like personally the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, and if he had been here I should have told 1572 him so. But to appoint him to give advice to his colleagues who have the real responsibility for these matters, as I shall hope to demonstrate, is not the beginning of a justification for appointing a full Minister of the Crown for this job. Those of us who, in the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster's words, were not necessarily thinking that we did not want such a Minister before he spoke, are convinced by the inadequacy of his justification that there is no need for one.
Let me take what was, perhaps, a more serious attempt to justify this constitutional innovation, namely, the Written Answer of the Prime Minister to which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred. The Prime Minister said:My right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources will participate in the formulation of the national and regional plans for which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State has overall responsibility.Therefore, the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is only a participant and not the responsible Minister in these matters.
The Prime Minister went on:My right hon. Friend the Minister will be generally responsible for the availability of natural resources to meet the needs of the community and it will be, for him to consider the use made of natural resources, the development of new resources and the better use of natural resources of which inadequate use is made at present.That simply is not true.
The late Aneurin Bevan once observed on the subject of natural resources, that this island was mainly composed of coal and almost completely surrounded by fish. With neither of those natural resources is the Minister concerned. One is the responsibility of the Minister of Power, and the other the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If one goes through the list of natural resources and responsibilities for them, there are other Ministers whose duties, I understand, remain unabated. The greatest natural resource is agricultural land.
We have yet to hear that the Minister of Agriculture has been eliminated. As I understand, he is responsible for agricultural land. The Minister of Power is responsible for the extraction of sources of power from the land, be it coal or oil. It is not true to say, as the Prime Minister 1573 said in an apparently considered Written Answer, that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources was generally responsible for these natural resources.
The Prime Minister had a burst of candour at the end of his Answer when he pointed out, "to avoid misunderstanding", as said:the Minister of Housing and Local Government will have an important interest in the preparation of the national and regional plans, because of his responsibility for housing and for the conditions in which people live, and for the general system of planning control. He will be responsible for seeing that the policies in the regional plans are implemented in the development plans of planning authorities…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 214–5.]Here, of course, we come to the nub of the matter. The effective instrument for controlling the use of land is planning control. That, as I understand it, remains with the Minister of Housing and Local Government. It is he who hears appeals from the local planning authorities on the use of land. It is he, for example, who was responsible for the decision the other day to create a commuter village in the urban green belt in Kent.
I think that I should be out of order if I made any comment on that decision, but it is a decision—[An HON. MEMBER: "Shocking."] Whether shocking or not, that is the effective decision on land use. It is the Minister of Housing who decided that that land, which it had previously been thought would be part of the green belt, should be used to create a commuter village.
That is the effective control of land use. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster coming forward and saying that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources is concerned with controlling land use when the effective decision lies with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. If the Minister of Land and Natural Resources was really to be a Minister charged with controlling the use of land it would have been necessary to transfer to him responsibility for planning control, because, after all, a planning decision can affect the use of any parcel of land. From time to time, planning decisions do affect large parts of the land. It is creating a sham to suggest that there 1574 is a Minister controlling land use, when he has no authority to decide planning matters, which are the effective instruments in determining the way in which land is used.
In those circumstances, I still pose the question: is this Ministry really necessary? Much of what the right hon. Gentleman said might well have been relevant to installing an adviser, to an advisory committee, or to some method of ministerial co-ordination in dealing with what is, in a small island like this, a matter of the very greatest importance. But the setting up of a Department headed by a Minister outside the Cabinet, with no control over planning, only participating in the preparation of plans for which more senior colleagues are responsible, is not a reality.
It is either part of the Prime Minister's plan, for whatever reasons he has, in creating a large number of Departments, or it is an attempt to delude us that this real problem of land use is being given a new approach and new and effective handling. It is the very antithesis of this "streamlined Government" which the Prime Minister promised us. It is the creation of a Department which will involve some public expense and which, so far from serving the great purpose of securing effective use of our land, will make its effective use more difficult. slower and more expensive.
I would suggest, therefore, that we should seek to remove this office from the Bill.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), used an extraordinary doctrine when he complained about this side of the Committee not having produced any reasons for not having this Minister at all. It is not for us to show this. His justification for this particular piece of balkanisation of Whitehall was that this Ministry would bring together a body of knowledge which had never been brought together before.
Of course it has not, because this body can only be produced by tearing limbs off a great many other Ministries and thereby making the functions which this Ministry is designed to carry out far 1575 more difficult to perform. Everything which the Minister mentioned can be done far better—with regard to water, for example—by the Minister of Agriculture and other Ministers.
The right hon. Gentleman said that, historically, British tradition had always been to create a Ministry when there was an objective need for it. I should have thought that, historically, this is not so. Ministries have far more often been produced as a result of personal and political factors than by an objective need. For at least one of the examples he gave this is certainly true. What is odd about this Ministry is that it is not produced to give somebody a job. It is produced to take away a job from somebody else. It is designed to take away functions from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The job of the nationalised Lands Commission most naturally belongs to that Minister and it is from him that it has been taken away.
As a result, now that we have two Ministers concerned with housing and land, the functions of one of which we are still doubtful about. The other, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, has already said of mortgages that he is not going to do anything at all, because he has not yet found what he can do. It seems to me very odd that the Minister of Land and Natural Resources should have taken the advice of his right hon. Friend not to come here. He said on the steps in Downing Street, after he had been offered his appointment, that it was a very difficult job. No doubt he meant that it would he very difficult to find something to do. I prefer to believe that it is because he still has not found anything to do that he has not come here today, and that his absence is not the result of advice from his right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), I was very disappointed with what the Chancellor of the Duchy said, because, although new Ministers have been appointed in the past, in every case when a new Ministry has been formed there has been an explanation from the Government Front Bench not only of the functions of the Ministry, but 1576 of what staff they would have and of what staff they would be taking from other Ministries. There was no attempt in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to show what part of what Ministries would be taken over by the Ministry of Land.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) said, when one gets to planning, the Chancellor of the Duchy said that the green belts would be under the authority of the Minister of Land, but in fact that is not true. The green belts will remain the function of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and the town maps which are being prepared will be the function of that Minister also. National and regional planning, which were itemised by the Chancellor, will not be the function of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources; they will be the function of the First Secretary of State. Therefore, on this side of the Committee, we have a very difficult picture to understand, or to have any reason for justifying the new Ministry.
I want to turn to two other points. The first is the Forestry Commission. In the period of the Forestry Commission from 1945 onwards, under Sir Roy Robinson, as he then was, the Chief Forestry Commissioner, there was a complete divorce of forestry planning. That meant that we had large forests that were often using good agricultural land. The policy of the Forestry Commission and the successive Ministers of Agriculture recently has been to bring forestry and agriculture into harmony and to have in the forest areas both agriculture under the Forestry Commission and forestry. although the agricultural part is managed by the Lands Commissioners of the Ministry of Agriculture.
What is to be the policy for the administration of these forest areas under the new Ministry? Part of the land which has been taken over, presumably by the Minister of Land and Natural Resources will be land that is not devoted to the growing of a crop of trees, but to the growing of agricultural crops, and, therefore, should be hived off from the Ministry of Land and kept with the Ministry of Agriculture. What part of the Ministry of Agriculture is to be taken away from that Ministry and put into this new Department? Are all the Lands 1577 Commissioners, who, presumably, will have something to do with the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, to be transferred, or will they remain with the Ministry of Agriculture?
I know that it is difficult for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who deals with the Welfare State, to have to answer detailed questions on the Bill, but he is responsible for all this. If these arrangements are to be justified, we must know what is to be the set-up and the division of staff in the Ministries. If the right hon. Gentleman does not have either his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture or his right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources here to advise him, I suggest that he must get that information before the House of Commons can justify the creation of the new Ministry.
I understand that the river boards will be transferred to this new Department. Do we understand that all the drainage authorities will also be transferred to the new Department? If so, what will happen to the drainage advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture? At the moment, we have an efficient regional system in the Ministry of Agriculture with each county aiding the production of food. Under the new arrangement, it looks as if there will be a complete divorce in every region between the work carried out between the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources and that carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise that we cannot possibly vote for a new Ministry and its creation unless we know what is to be the division of responsibility between that new Ministry and the existing Departments.
After the sketchy outline that we have had from the right hon. Gentleman, I can find no reason why I, representing my constituency, should think that the proliferation of Ministries to this extent will bring any value to any of my constituents.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
I realise that there is no point in asking questions of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because he is not answering them. We are faced with a diktat. That is the method chosen by right hon. and hon. Members opposite to impose their will.
1578 As there is no need to ask questions, I should like to follow up what my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has said about the Forestry Commission. In many of these matters, there is a great element of dubiety. Opinions differ. To use a canned phrase with regard to the Forestry Commission, there is no need to peer into the crystal when one can read the book—and the book is the Seventh Report of the Estimates Committee, Session 1963–64, Cmd. 274. This Report has not yet been answered, no doubt because the Minister who would normally be expected to answer it has probably been able to shelve it.
Although numerous criticisms were made in that Report, it shows that it was agreed by all parts of the forestry world that the working arrangements with the Ministry of Agriculture were extremely good and, furthermore, prevented conflict about the use of land which the Minister of Agriculture, in his capacity as Forestry Minister, was able to deal with with the minimum of extraneous questions and the maximum satisfation for the parties concerned.
We are now moving to a situation in which the forestry Minister is to be the Minister whose appointment we are now discussing. In the event of future discussion, business will have to be carried on between the Minister of Agriculture and his colleague. No argument has been deduced to show that this will in any way speed up the conduct of Government business, improve upon the decisions or give any greater satisfaction to the parties concerned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has indicated forcibly that in planning matters the new Ministry will be relatively powerless. I emphasise that in the question of forestry the new Minister will not only be redundant, but will be a nuisance.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Dr. King? It is obvious that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, one of the most courteous of hon. Members, is severely embarrassed because he cannot answer numbers of the questions which have been put by right hon. and and hon. Friends. In view of this, and 1579 as we are trying to justify this considerable expenditure of public money, would it be in order for me to move to report Progress so that we may save the right hon. Gentleman from further embarassment and he can secure the attendance of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government? To the extent that all this may well impinge upon the authority of the Secretary of State for Scotland, perhaps we may secure his attendance, also.
I should like to know, Dr. King, whether it would be in order for me to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is a sufficiently experienced and old Parliamentarian to know that the point which he has raised is not so much a point of order as a point which is argued in the debates upon the Clause.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has asked—I do not quite know why—that we on this side should make a case against the establishment of the new Ministry. The first reason which I put forward is that the confusion which the right hon. Gentleman has described will become more confounded; the second, that delays will be caused to local authorities with their building programme; and thirdly, the cost of the new Ministry. Those are three straightforward reasons against establishing this new Ministry.
I had the privilege of serving under the right hon. Gentleman when he was the last Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. At that time, he was extremely jealous of the work of Ministries. At one stage in that Committee, we discussed in detail the overlapping of Ministries. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that one of the Ministries which had the greatest difficulty with its accounting officer was the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, because certain Votes went through that Ministry for which it was not responsible. The Committee was extremely critical and the right hon. Gentleman, its Chairman, was in agreement.
On this occasion, the right hon. Gentleman has been put in the unfortunate position of completely changing ground. He 1580 has not in any way explained to us under what Vote the new Ministry will come. He has not explained what the accounting officer will be responsible for in the Ministry. These are fundamental factors which need to be brought before the House of Commons in justifying the establishment of a Ministry.
Hon. Members on this side have brought out a number of specialised individual points. I will not waste time recapitulating them, but I agree with them all. I merely emphasise that in my constituency, the Borough of Folkestone has already pressed me to get a ruling from the new Minister. The letter has not been replied to. The borough has pointed out clearly that its housing programme is held up until it can get a decision from the Ministry. If that is the sort of progress that is to be made, there is no justification for a new Ministry.
We sympathise with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in having to deal with a difficult case. The best that he has done is to give a possible reason for appointing a consultant. All the things that the right hon. Gentleman has spoken about could be better done by a consultant without this great proliferation of Ministries and Ministry officials who must get together round the conference table. If the House of Commons cannot decide what the duties of these people are to be, how will it be done? I strongly suggest that the Committee should reject the idea of forming this new Ministry.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
I really think that the reply—or the brief, or whatever it was—which the right hon. Gentleman gave us was most disappointing. I think that I saw a general point in this Ministry before he got up, but now I am very much at a loss, because he pitched his claim for it so high, saying that it was essential to the conduct of the Government to have this Ministry. I really wonder. Essential to the conduct of the Government, which cannot carry on without this Ministry? It is sometimes difficult, when one goes to the Table Office about Questions, to have Questions accepted as being in order, but it is almost impossible to say what Questions will be in order if they are about this Ministry.
§ The right hon. Gentleman spoke about consultation with this Ministry on land use, as though it had not long been the practice of all Ministries acquiring or disposing of land to consult other Ministries. It has long been the case, but, so far as I can see, this is to be only one more Minister to consult in each case and so will lead to delays even further to those there are at present. Anyone acquainted with administration in these matters will know that these delays have tended to be very vexing.
§ I come now to another question which has been raised by my hon. and right hon. Friends and that is about the Forestry Commission. Although, generally speaking, its connection with the Ministry of Agriculture has worked well, there has always been the complaint that the Permanent Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary were not responsible for forestry while it was under the Ministry of Agriculture. Is that still to be the case, or is the responsibility to be one of a changed kind?1582
§ One of the biggest questions about overall land use is whether certain land should be under agriculture or under forestry. For many years we have had the position where this dispute could be settled within one Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture. Now it is to become once again a war between Departments, and I cannot believe that that is satisfactory. Nor can I really see how a new and not very powerful Ministry like this will be the best one to conduct the affairs of the Forestry Commission.
§ I hope we shall be told a little more about this arrangement for forestry. We have been told very little so far. I understand that an Order will have to be made later, but I think that now at this stage we are entitled to be told more about it, because this is one of the definite responsibilities being given to this new Ministry, which has been so ill justified this afternoon.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 255, Noes 235.1585
|Division No. 36.]||AYES||[5.3 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Craddock, George(Bradford, S.)||Garrow, A.|
|Albu, Austen||Crawshaw, Richard||George, Lady Megan Lloyd|
|Allaun, Frank(Salford, E.)||Cronin, John||Ginsburg, David|
|Alldritt, w. H.||Grossman, Rt. Hn. R. H.S.||Gourlay, Harry|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dalyell, Tam||Gregory, Arnold|
|Atkinson, Norman||Darling, George||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, R. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Barnett, Joel||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Baxter, William||Davies, S.O.(Merthyr)||Hannan, William|
|Beaney, Alan||Delargy, Hugh||Harrison, Walter(Wakefield)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Dell, Edmund||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Bence, Cyril||Dempsey, James||Hattersley, Ray|
|Bennett, J.(Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Diamond, John||Hayman, F.H.|
|Binns, John||Dodds, Norman||Hazell, Bert|
|Bishop, E.S.||Doig, Peter||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Blackburn, F.||Donnelly, Desmond||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Driberg, Tom||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Boardman, H.||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Hill, J.(Midlothian)|
|Boston, T.G.||Dunn, James A.||Hobden, Dennis(Brighton, K' town)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H.W.(Leics S.W.)||Dunnett, Jack||Holman, Percy|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Horner, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E.M.||Edwards, Robert(Bilston)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bradley, Tom||English, Michael||Howarth, Harry(Wellingborough)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Ennals, David||Howarth, Robert L.(Bolton, E.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A.D.D.||Ensor, David||Howell, Denis(Small Heath)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George(Belper)||Evans, Albert(Islington, S.W.)||Howie, W.|
|Brown, Hugh D.(Glasgow, Provan)||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Fernyhough, E.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce(Wood Green)||Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Carmichael, Neil||Foley, Maurice||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Chapman, Donald||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Ford, Ben||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Garrett, W. E.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||O'Malley, Brian||Solomons, Henry|
|Kelly, Richard||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Orbach, Maurice||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R' ter & Chatham)||Orme, Stanley||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Kerr, Dr. David(W' worth, Central)||Oswald, Thomas||Stonehouse, John|
|Lawson, George||Owen, Will||Stones, William|
|Ledger, Ron||Padley, Walter||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Paget, R. T.||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Palmer, Arthur||Swain, Thomas|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Swingler, Stephen|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pargiter, G. A.||Symonds, J. B.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Park, Trevor(Derbyshire, S.E.)||Taverne, Dick|
|McBride, Neil||Parkin, B. T.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|MacColl, James||Pavitt, Laurence||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McGuire, Michael||Pentland, Norman||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|McInnes, James||Popplewell, Ernest||Thornton, Ernest|
|MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Prentice, R. E.||Tinn, James|
|McLeavy, Frank||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Tomney, Frank|
|MacMillan, Malcolm||Rankin, John||Tuck, Raphael|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Redhead, Edward||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mallalieu, E.L.(Brigg)||Roberts, Albert(Normanton)||Walden, Brian(All Saints)|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Manuel, Archie||Robertson, John(Paisley)||Wallace, George|
|Mapp, Charles||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K.(St. Pancras, N.)||Warbey, William|
|Marsh, Richard||Rodgers, William(Stockton)||Watkins, Tudor|
|Maxwell, Robert||Rogers, George(Kensington, N.)||Weitzman, David|
|Mellish, Robert||Rose, Paul B.||Wells, William(Walsall, N.)|
|Mendelson, J.J.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rowland, Christopher||Whitlock, William|
|Millan, Bruce||Sheldon, Robert||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Miller, Dr. M.S.||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Monslow, Walter||Short, Rt. Hn. E.(N 'c' tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W' hampton, N.E.)||Willis, George(Edinburgh, E.)|
|Morris, John(Aberavon)||Silkin John(Deptford)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Murray, Albert||Silver-man, Julius (Aston)||Winter-bottom, R. E.|
|Neal, Harold||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Newens, Stan||Skeffington, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Vales, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Oakes, Cordon||Small, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ogden, Eric||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Mr. Grey and Mr. Harper.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Allan, Robert(Paddington, S.)||Buck, Anthony||Farr, John|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hémpstead)||Bullus Sir Eric||Fell, Anthony|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Burden F. A.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)|
|Astor, John||Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Campbell, Gordon||Forrest, George|
|Awdry, Daniel||Carlisle, Mark||Foster, Sir John|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.|
|Bainiel, Lord||Chataway, Christopher||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Barlow, Sir John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)|
|Batsford, Brian||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Bell, Ronald||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Cole, Norman||Goodhart, Philip|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Cooke, Robert||Goodhew, Victor|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Cooper, A.E.||Cower, Raymond|
|Bessell, Peter||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Biffen, John||Costain, A.P.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Gurden, Harold|
|Blaker, Peter||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hall-Davis, A.G.F.|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Dance, James||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Box, Donald||d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Braine, Bernard||Doughty, Charles||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles' d)|
|Brewis, John||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Harvey, John (Walthamstow E.)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Drayson, G. B.||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Eden, Sir John||Hawkins, Paul|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Elliott, R.W.(N 'c' tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hay, John|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Emery, Peter||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Marten, Neil||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Mathew, Robert||Roots, William|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Maude, Angus E.U.||Royle, Anthony|
|Hiley, Joseph||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Hill, J.E. It.(S. Norfolk)||Mawby, Ray||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Sharpies, Richard|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Shepherd, William|
|Hordern, Peter||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hornby, Richard||Miscampbell, Norman||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Monro, Hector||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||More, Jasper||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Jenkin, Patrick(Woodford)||Morrison, Charles(Devizes)||Speir, Sir Rupert|
|Johnston, Russell(Inverness)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Jopling, Michael||Murton, Oscar||Taylor, Edward M. (G 'gow, Cathcart)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Neave, Airey||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Noble Rt. Hn. Michael||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard||Thorneycrott, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Onslow, Cranley||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Kitson, Timothy||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Tilney, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Lancaster, Co. C.G.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Litchfield, Capt. John||Peel, John||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield>||Percival, Ian||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Peyton, John||Wall, Partick|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pickthorn Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth||Walters, Dennis|
|Longbottom, Charles||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pitt, Dame Edith||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Lubbock, Eric||Pounder, Rafton||Whitelaw, William|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Prior, J. M. L.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pym, Francis||Wise, A. R.|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)||Quennell, Miss J.M.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|McMaster, Stanley||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Woodnutt, Mark|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Rees-Davies W. R.||Wylie, N. R.|
|Maginnis, John E.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Younger, Hn. George|
|Maitland, Sir John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Marples Rt. Hn. Ernest||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. McLaren and Mr. Ian Fraser.|
§ 5.15 p.m
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 6, to leave outthe Minister of Overseas Development".
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Jennings)
I think that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if with that Amendment the following Amendments are discussed: No. 19, in Schedule 2, page 5, leave out line 6.
No. 22, in page 5, leave out lines 15 and 16.
No. 28, in page 6, leave out line 22.
No. 32, in page 7, leave out line 9.
§ Mr. Carr
This is an exploratory Amendment. We on this side of the Committee support the objective of the new Ministry of Overseas Development. We want to see the momentum of aid for the developing countries sustained, and indeed increased.
There is a sharp distinction between our attitude to this Amendment and to the last one. As we made clear, not only 1586 by our speeches but by our vote, we believe that the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources is a badly designed instrument for achieving an ill-conceived purpose. We want to bring this new Ministry of Overseas Development as it were out for inquiry and questioning before Parliament legitimises the Minister and her Department. We want to seek information about a number of important points concerned with this Department, and, because in principle we approve of the objectives of this Ministry, we do not intend to divide the Committee on the Amendment, provided—and I must enter this proviso—we consider that the answers we get are reasonably full and satisfactory. But whereas I had little doubt about that on coming to the Committee this afternoon, I cannot help having some doubt about it in view of what has recently transpired. I hope that we may have an early reply from the Government in response to my questions, because I think this will help us to complete our consideration and come to a decision on the Amendment.
1587 I am concerned about who is going to reply for the Government. I presume, from what has been said earlier, that it will be the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,—
§ Mr. Carr
—for he is to reply to most debates in this Committee. I cannot help saying, however, that we had hoped and expected that it would be his right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development, because the questions which I am going to ask are naturally mostly concerned with overseas development and I would have thought could properly be answered only by the Minister herself.
However that may be, I take it very much amiss that neither the Minister nor her Parliamentary Secretary has done the Committee the courtesy to be present to listen to this debate. I regard it not only as a discourtesy, but as gross contempt for the Committee. I thought it was an elementary duty on Ministers to be present in this House, whether we were sitting as a House or as a Committee of the whole House, when their Department's affairs were being debated, discussed and questioned, and I want to register the strongest possible protest against this discourtesy and indeed contempt. It worries me for other reasons, too, because it makes me wonder how, with the best will in the world, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can possibly give adequate answers to some of the questions which I propose to ask.
The appropriate machinery for administering this country's aid effort depends on two main factors. First, the quantity of aid that we are giving. Obviously if the country were giving very little aid, it would not be necessary to have a separate Ministry and Minister to administer it. I am glad to say that the last Conservative Government gave increasing priority to aid as a theme of national policy and purpose, and that under our Administration Government aid expenditure doubled in the last six years, and in the last financial year, 1963–64, reached the record level of £175 1588 million. So a very big aid expenditure is being made by the Government and, therefore, we need special and proper machinery to administer it.
In 1961 the late Government set up the Department of Technical Co-operation. This was a recognition of the growing priority and scale of our aid at that time, and as it has increased further since then to the record high level of last year, which I mentioned, it may well be that there is now a case for expanding the responsibilities and scope of the Department of Technical Co-operation which we set up in 1961 and which was appropriate to the needs of that time.
This, however, is very much a question of judging promise and performance. New machinery, I suggest, is in essence a response to the growing momentum of aid, and in justification of the new Ministry we shall want to have an assurance that the momentum of aid which we have been giving will be maintained and, indeed, increased. We have heard a great deal about this from the Labour Party leaders in the last 12 months, and I should like to draw the Committee's attention to some of the statements and promises that have been made by leading members of the Government. For example, the right hon. Lady who is now the Minister of Overseas Development said in the House on 3rd February when we were debating the International Development Association:We are all agreed that the amount of aid which we give ought to be increased: 1 per cent. is no longer adequate and 2 per cent. ought to be the goal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 844.]So the first question that I want answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy is whether that is still the goal of the Labour Government—2 per cent. or 1 per cent. of our national income—and whether we can be given some idea as to how quickly that target is to be reached.
The Labour Party manifesto in the recent General Election said on page 20:Labour will increase the share of our national income devoted to essential aid programmes.Therefore, we should like to know something about the statement of the right hon. Lady which I quoted a 1589 moment ago. If I may quote her again, she said on 28th July this year, only just over four months ago:… the burden of aid on the balance of payments has been exaggerated, and … this should therefore not be advanced as a reason why the Government should not immediately increase their overseas aid …".—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 28th July, 1964; Vol. 699, c. 1213–14.]The present Minister made that statement, that the balance of payments argument should not be advanced as a reason why the British Government should not immediately increase their overseas aid. Can we be assured that the present Government are going immediately to increase their overseas aid as the right hon. Lady said should be done?
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Will it be in order, Mr. Jennings, for the rest of the Committee to discuss the full question of how much aid is to be given? Does that come into the field of discussing whether we should set up a new Ministry or not?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I think that is a valid point, but this could be a fairly wide debate when dealing with a Department that takes in overseas development. If hon. Members keep well within that broad generalisation, I think that that would be in order.
§ Mr. Carr
I will not, of course, broaden my argument further than I need, but the point I am trying to make is that we believe that there may well be a real justification for this Ministry if we really intend, as the previous Government stated publicly before and during the General Election that they intended to do if re-elected, to go on increasing our aid effort. If this is intended then there is a justification for the new Ministry, but if that is not so and if the Government are going back on the statement which I have quoted then the need for the new Ministry becomes much more doubtful.
The second factor affecting what is the appropriate aid machinery is the state of the political and economic development of the countries which we are trying to assist. The major part of our aid in the past has, of course, gone to Commonwealth countries. Although I am glad that with the rapid increase in the aid programme in recent years an increasing amount of aid has been able 1590 to be given to foreign countries outside the Commonwealth, it will undoubtedly continue to be the case that the lion's share of our aid programme will go to the Commonwealth. So it is, I suggest, the structure and the state of development of the Commonwealth which determines, as much as anything, what is the appropriate machinery for us to have in this country for administering our aid programme.
Some time ago, when nearly all our aid went to dependent territories in the Commonwealth, there was obviously no need for any separate aid Ministry, but as the number of independent countries grew and aid increased in priority it was appropriate to set up the Department of Technological Co-operation. Now, since further great strides have been taken under the administration of the late Conservative Government in converting the Commonwealth into a partnership of independent countries, the position has developed, and so it may well be that the appropriate moment has now come with this great growth in the number of independent countries in the Commonwealth to take a further step in adjusting our system of aid in this country and to create this new Ministry. But it must be clearly defined in its purpose and responsibility, and it is not so defined at the moment.
On 10th November this year the Minister of Overseas Development came to the House and explained at some length the assumption by her Ministry of responsibilities previously discharged by the Treasury, the Department of Technical Co-operation and by the Overseas Departments. Her statement has left in its wake a great deal of confusion which we would like cleared up this evening. Since the Minister's statement on 10th November, my right hon. and hon. Friends tabled Questions on aid to the Commonwealth Secretary, in some cases to find them transferred to the Minister of Overseas Development and in other cases to find them not so transferred. The final peak of absurdity was reached a week ago yesterday when my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) tabled two Questions of a similar nature to the Commonwealth Secretary only to find that one relating to aid to Zambia was transferred to the Minister of Overseas Development, but that the other, on aid to Ceylon, was answered 1591 by the Commonwealth Secretary. Both Questions had been tabled on the same day and both after the Minister's statement on 10th November which claimed to define the issue of responsibility.
What we want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is where, then, does the underlying responsibility for Government aid now really lie, because, without far clearer and more detailed answers to this question, it is difficult to form a proper judgment of the value of the new Department. It seems to us that the disbursement of aid involves moral, economic and political considerations. The acceptance of aid as a prior call on the national wealth may represent a predominantly moral decision by this country, but its distribution will be determined principally on economic and political grounds.
Given the fact that the supply of aid resources which we have is unlikely in any foreseeable future to be nearly as great as the demand for it from the developing countries, we are faced with the fact that major political decisions have to be taken which are basic to Britain's Commonwealth and foreign policy, as to which countries shall receive aid from Britain and among those which do receive it what proportion of our total aid shall be allocated to each.
Hitherto, the prime responsibility for making these political decisions rested clearly with the Commonwealth and Foreign Secretaries. What I want to ask—and what I want a very clear answer to—is the question: what is the present position? It may well be right—I am one of those who think it is—for the management of all forms of aid now to be concentrated in a single separate Ministry. It would certainly be right that such a single separate Ministry should be given full opportunity to contribute to the making of the basic policy questions of the kind to which I have referred. But I feel equally sure that the prime responsibility for those actual decisions should rest, as it has done hitherto, with the Commonwealth and Foreign Secretaries, because these questions are absolutely basic to this country's Commonwealth and foreign policies. We therefore ask for an unequivocal statement from the Government, telling us 1592 how this responsibility is now to be divided between the new Ministry and the Overseas Departments.
I also ask for something else, in due course. Not immediately, but in some months' time, the new Ministry should agree to publish a White Paper setting out, in far more detail than it was possible for the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development to give in answers at Question Time, the organisation, objectives and methods of the new Department. About nine months after the Department of Technical Cooperation was set up such a White Paper was issued, giving a similar account of the Department's work. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to undertake to see that the new Ministry will take a like step at some reasonable time in the future. I do not want to be dogmatic as to when that should be. I fully understand that the new Ministry needs some months to get on its feet before it can publish a significant White Paper of that kind, but it would be helpful to have a White Paper, say, about nine months or a year after the setting up of the new Ministry. I hope that we can have an assurance on the matter.
Before I leave the overall question of the Ministry and turn to my final rather constitutional point, I cannot help reflecting on the difference in the way in which the Department of Technical Co-operation was set up under the previous Conservative Government, in 1961, and the way in which this Ministry is being set up today. In the former case the Government, as was their job, took a decision that such a Ministry was needed, but before taking further action they consulted the House and persuaded the House to pass legislation. Then and only then did they set up the Ministry. We are passing this legislation after a month of the new Parliament's life. I simply cannot believe that it was necessary, except as a bit of political gimmickry, to rush ahead and set up this Department without doing Parliament the courtesy and, as I think, fulfilling the proper constitutional duty of a Government, of seeking permission of the House of Commons and getting a proper Act passed before doing it.
What we got from this Government was a diktat from the Prime Minister, who then came to Parliament to whitewash 1593 his actions afterwards. Even if, as in this case, they are actions that we approve of, it is wrong in constitutional principle, and is to be deplored for that reason.
I have one more point to raise, of a detailed constitutional nature, concerned not with overseas development as such but with the constitutional procedure of the actual establishment of the new Ministry of Overseas Development. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) raised this point a week or two ago in the Second Reading debate. He asked several questions, and although the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster replied to the debate I am sorry to say that he did not answer those questions. I must therefore repeat them.
Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 provides that:The Minister may appoint such secretaries, officers and servantsas are required. Have the secretaries, officers and servants already been appointed? If so, by what authority? Paragraph 3 provides thatThere shall be paid to the secretaries … such salaries or remuneration as the Treasury may determine".Paragraph 4 provides thatThe expenses of the Minister, including any salaries or remuneration payable under paragraph 3 of this Schedule, shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament".Have the salaries been paid? Were they determined by the Treasury? Has Parliament voted the money, as laid down in Schedule 1? If they have all been appointed, and all these actions have been taken, we want to be told under what authority they were taken.
I am sure that in bringing individuals into this question the Committee will realise I am nevertheless introducing an entirely impersonal point. Many distinguished public servants affected by this legislation were my excellent advisers when I was Secretary of Technical Cooperation in the Last Administration. I am glad to rate many of them as my personal friends, and I am delighted for their sakes and for the country's sake that their responsibilities are being increased in this way. Nevertheless, I feel that the Committee should also be concerned with maintaining Parliament's authority, and I do not think that these things, however desirable they are, 1594 should take place until every proper authority has been given.
Those are the questions which my hon. Friends and I want to have answered. If we feel that they are answered reasonbly and fully we shall not advise the Committee to divide on this issue, because, basically, we welcome the establishment of this new Ministry and want to wish it well.
§ Mr. Houghton
I rise now only in response to the right hon. Gentleman's request that he should not have to wait too long before his questions were answered. I have no desire to stand in the way of other Members who wish to join in the debate later, and any further points that are made can no doubt he dealt with subsequently.
I am sure that the Committee listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman, because of his special responsibilities in a former Administration as Secretary for Technical Co-operation, and we are bound to hear his views not only with interest but with respect. It is gratifying to know that on this Amendment the Government have a measure of good will, which was not in very clear evidence on the last Amendment. On overseas development hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are with us; on land—especially on any cure for land racketeering—hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are not with us. That is the difference between their approach to the two Amendments.
I am anxious to respond to the mood which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed so far. First, he referred to the setting up of the Department of Technical Co-operation and said that the then Government brought to the House a Bill which was properly debated and passed through all its stages before the Ministry was set up. That is true. But Parliament was then in being. Parliament was in session, and there would have been no excuse for the Government's having acted otherwise than they did on that occasion. I should hope that any Government would do the same thing. But on this occasion we were at the beginning of a new Parliament. Parliament was not sitting. Steps had to be taken by a newly appointed Prime Minister to arrange his Ministerial strategy, look at the policy of his Government, and find Ministerial ways and 1595 means of giving effect to it. In creating new Ministries at that stage no opportunity existed to come to the House of Commons for approval. The Prime Minister had to use the Prerogative for appointing Ministers in those circumstances. These are the Ministers referred to in Clause 1.
Having used the Prerogative for appointment, my right hon. Friend then has to come to the House of Commons for the necessary sanction for expenditure and the creation of the Ministries appropriate to the Ministers. The constitutional position seems to be this. The House of Commons has no control over the exercise of the prerogative. Therefore, the House of Commons cannot destroy a Minister appointed by the Crown. What it can do is to deny funds to a Minister so appointed. It can decline to pay him any salary. It can decline to provide any machinery for his functions. It can, indeed—we shall deal later on in the Bill with some aspects of this matter—exclude him from the House of Commons, but it cannot destroy him. Clearly there is no point in having a Minister without a department, without the approval of the House of Commons, and without a seat in the House of Commons. He cannot carry on very long like that, can he?
§ Mr. R. Carr
Are there equal rights for women in these exclusion powers that the right hon. Gentleman has been talking about?
§ Mr. Houghton
Yes. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman understands that. I did not want to refer especially to women, because it comes a little closer to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development. I think that is a pretty good explanation of the difference in procedure on the setting up of the Department of Technical Co-operation and the Ministry of Overseas Development. We are coming to the House of Commons for the necessary approval for the creation of these Ministries.
That brings me to the next point, because the right hon. Gentleman complained, rather bitterly and in quite strong language for him, at the absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development. I can only tell the Committee that I take full 1596 responsibility for that on this matter, as I did before. I will explain why. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is the normal custom in the House of Commons for a Minister to be present when the work of his Department is under discussion. With great respect to the Committee, the work of this Ministry is not under discussion. What is under discussion is the creation of the Minister of Overseas Development and the provision of the constitutional framwork under which that Minister can function. That is what we are discussing today. In due time there will come before the House of Commons Transfer of Functions Orders and Estimates, when the work of the Department will be debated and when the full delineation of its function before the Committee and the House of Commons and everything connected with the work of the Department will be available for debate.
I am sorry to keep stressing the fact that we are now discussing the creation of a Ministry and the provision of the constitutional framework for it to function. That is what we are doing today. Therefore, it does not rest upon the Minister to come here and explain the work of the Department. This is a Machinery of Government Bill. This is not a debate on a Supply Day or on Estimates or on a Transfer of Functions Order. I submit that what we have to do, difficult as it is within the framework of today's debate, is to keep strictly to the question of the justification for the creation of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
The right hon. Gentleman rightly says that we are discussing the creation of a new Ministry and the constitutional means of its functioning. Would he not agree that the only way in which one can seriously argue whether it is right or wrong to approve of that decision is by looking to some extent at the duties which the Ministry has to perform? Unless one includes that in one's thinking, as my right hon. Friend did, it is very difficult to come to a conclusion on the questions which we have posed and which his right hon. Friend the Minister concerned is not here to listen to.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
I do not deny that, as a matter of order and of defining the scope 1597 of the debate, there are obvious difficulties. But we are discussing what the new Ministry will do. We are not entitled to ask the Minister to come here this afternoon and answer the question, "What are you doing?"—[Interruption.] This is hard going for the dull intellects, but we shall have to get on as best we can with these difficulties in mind. My job, on behalf of the Government, is to try to satisfy the Committee that this Ministry should be set up. One can distinguish between that responsibility and calling the Minister to the Dispatch Box to answer questions about what she may he doing or what her exact functions are at the moment, when we are still dealing with the constitutional framework of the Ministry. There will be plenty of opportunities later for discussing what the Minister is doing, what is the policy of her Department, and all matters connected with the transfer of functions from other Departments to her own. I think that should satisfy the Committee as to the direction—
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
On a point of order. The Committee has been put in an absurd position, in that the Minister concerned is not present, for the reasons that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has stated. Would you, Mr. Jennings, be prepared to accept a motion to report Progress while the Minister is asked to attend?
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Gentleman is slipping. I thought that we had the good will of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am doing my best to steer the debate on a rational course at the present moment. I am trying to avoid getting unduly mixed up discussion which is appropriate to a Machinery of Government Bill for the creation of the constitutional sanction for these Ministries and the natural interest of right hon. and hon. Members in matters which can more appropriately be dealt with when the Minister can be held to account for her actions and policy and when the House of Commons will be asked to approve Transfer of Functions Orders which will then define the boundaries of her responsibility and what responsibilities will be released from other Departments to the newly created Department.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
The right hon. Gentleman is always so disarming and charming that one is tempted not to interrupt him, but this is a very unsatisfactory position. We on this side just do not know where the division of responsibility comes between the right hon. Lady's Department, the Commonwealth Secretary and the Colonial Secretary. It is not helpful to try to evade the issue. The right hon. Gentleman does it beautifully, but he will not be able to answer the legitimate questions which will be asked throughout the debate by hon. Members on this side. He will prolong the debate. I hope that the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to help us. She is the only Minister concerned who has had the courtesy to attend.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mrs. Eirene White) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Fisher
I warn the right hon. Gentleman that, with all his charm, he will delay the debate, because with the best will in the world he will not be able to answer questions on the division of responsibility.
§ Mr. Houghton
It is very difficult when an hon. Member opposite says, "What we want is answers to our questions but the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to give them".
§ Mr. Houghton
At least the hon. Gentleman might give me a chance. I am prepared to put up with any criticism that is reasonable in the circumstances after I sit down, but I am still trying to convince the Committee that our task this afternoon is to erect the constitutional framework to support a Minister already appointed under the Prerogative. That is what we are doing. I must keep on ramming that home, otherwise we shall roam over the whole field of overseas development, aid to other countries, the economic situation, whether momentum is to be maintained, whether what the right hon. Lady said in July still holds good, and many other questions that the right hon. Gentleman has asked.
1599 The whole purpose behind the new Ministry is to bring together overseas aid which up till now has been in the hands of several Ministries. The Department of Technical Co-operation was a similar, an earlier, exercise. I very well remember that debate on the setting up of the Department of Technical Co-operation, and the purpose in doing so. The purpose was to bring together under one Minister the calls that were being made throughout the world, and particularly in the Commonwealth, for all types of personal service, and assistance in economic, scientific and civil engineering projects in different parts of the Commonwealth.
It was, as it were, the recruiting agency and clearing house for the services of persons. If countries wanted teachers in English, or scientists, or bridge builders, research workers or doctors, and the rest, it was to the Department of Technical Co-operation that they applied. That Ministry was able to deploy the available resources to the best advantage in meeting the calls made upon it.
I remember that when I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee we examined the accounting officer of the Department, and were most interested to hear how it was getting on, and how its work of co-ordination and centralisation of supply of services to the Commonwealth and other countries was progressing. It seemed to us at the time that it was a good step in the right direction.
We propose to carry it further, because although the Department of Technical Co-operation was responsible for providing the services of persons it was not responsible for the provision of economic aid. It did not have responsibility for financing projects in other countries. That rested with the Commonwealth Relations Office or the Colonial Office as the case may be—and, in some cases, probably the Foreign Office, especially if the call was for some assistance to projects undertaken by U.N.E.S.C.O. or the United Nations Organisation.
It therefore seemed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, well before the General Election, that there was a case for bringing together a still wider range of overseas aid under one Minister. The Committee will remember that my right hon. Friend said, before the General 1600 Election, that if he became Prime Minister it was his intention to create a Minister of Overseas Development, with a seat in the Cabinet. That has been done. So, to the extent to which my right hon. Friend's views were made known before the election, we can say that there is at least some sanction for what he did in our being on this side of the Chamber at present.
This new Ministry, and new Minister with a seat in the Cabinet, will give fresh prestige and significance to what he hope to do—indeed, what we are doing—in economic aid and in the work of the Department of Technical Co-operation which is being transferred to the new Ministry.
I would here digress for a moment to refer to the right hon. Gentleman's questions about the authority for any expenditure already incurred in connection with the new Ministry. Since the same point arises in connection with all three of the new Ministeries mentioned in Clause 1, I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we dealt with it on the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill. It is the same point in all cases.
Returning, now, to the reason for the setting up of the new Ministry, I say at once that there was no dissatisfaction with the work being done by the Department of Technical Co-operation. We fully approved of its being set up. We watched its progress with interest and approval. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will say that whenever he spoke to the House on the work of his Department he received the closest interest and warmest approval from us, when in Opposition, for his work. I want to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman's own work there, and to that of his Department. Those of us who know the officials to whom he referred realise what strength and enthusiasm and administrative ability lay there for the task that his Department had to discharge. I am happy to say that a good deal of that, if not all of it, is available in the new Ministry.
The Committee will probably agree that, having seen the work in the past and wishing to propel it forward with a new initiative, a new significance and a higher prestige throughout the Commonwealth and the world, this is a natural 1601 step for us to take. It brings the whole complex of overseas development under the surveillance, and to a large measure under the control, of one Minister. It will be the job of the new Minister to bring the varying requirements of Commonwealth and other countries and of the United Nations together in her Ministry in order that what aid we can give—and we hope that it will be an increasing volume of aid—can be deployed to the best advantage in the interests of developing nations and the improvement in their economic and social conditions that they wish to achieve—
§ Mr. Tilney
Does that mean that it will be the decision of the right hon. Lady what aid, capital or otherwise, shall be given, and not the decisions of the Secretaries of State for the overseas Departments?
§ Mr. Houghton
I was just coming to that point. I would remind the Committee that on 10th November my right hon. Friend made a statement to the House to which reference has already been made, and which can be found in columns 840 and 841 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
On the point just raised by the hon. Gentleman and raised also by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), I can, say that in the past few weeks there have been extensive discussions between the Ministry of Overseas Development and the three overseas Departments about the detailed implementation and practice of the transfer of responsibilities on which the Government have decided. Here, again, we are in difficulties in giving to the Committee the completed picture of the transfer of functions and responsibilities when, so far, all we can embark upon is the constitutional sanction for the Ministry itself. Hon. Members will have the opportunity to debate this matter of the transfer of functions when it comes up in the customary way, on the Estimates of the Department, and so on.
I submit that what we have to be satisfied about at this stage is that there is a prima facie case for the creation of the Ministry—[Interruption.] Surely, that is so. When the Bill creating the Department of Technical Co-operation was before the House, about all that the Government could ask the Opposition to interest themselves in was whether there 1602 was a prima facie case for the new Ministry—
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
If what the right hon. Gentleman seeks to do is to establish a prima facie case, the best person to do it is the Minister, and that is the complaint that we on this side make. The right hon. Gentleman has gone on to define the functions of the Ministry. It is very gallant of him to protect his right hon. Friend, a lady, from the Committee, but the point is that if the right hon. Lady does not know what her Ministry is doing, how on earth can the right hon. Gentleman? I must ask him this very simple question. He is trying to tell us what the Ministry is, but he does not, apparently, intend to allow us to ask the Minister what her Ministry will do. It seems to me quite absurd to make this distinction. Surely it is not too much to ask, and not really a party point, that the Minister should come here and tell us what it is her Ministry proposes to do. We are not asking very much more.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
We are getting back into the old dilemma and into the old confusion. It is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who has said that he wants a Minister of Overseas Development.
§ Mr. Houghton
Therefore, it is the Prime Minister's responsibility to advise the Crown on the use of the Prerogative to create the Minister. That is the first stage. It is then the Government's responsibility to ask the House of Commons for the necessary approval in the constitutional way for the step which the Prime Minister has taken. I submit, therefore, that it is not the responsibility of the Minister concerned to be accountable to this Committee for her existence.
It is the Government's responsibility to satisfy the Committee that this Minister is required. I can see that hon. Members opposite are still having difficulty in their minds about this, but I am making it as clear as I can. It is as clear as a pikestaff to me, because I understand these fine distinctions in constitutional procedure.
§ Mr. Griffiths rose—1603
§ Mr. Houghton
Oh, no, not again. I repeat that we are not discussing the functions of this Department, because they will come before the House of Commons in proper fashion and in due season. That is when the House of Commons will look at the functions of the new Ministry. I shall not go on repeating myself on this question, but I submit to the Committee once more that here we are asked to give constitutional sanction to a step taken by the Prime Minister and to make provision for this new Ministry. It is, therefore, only common sense to suggest that before giving approval to the creation of the new Ministry the Committee naturally wishes to know whether the new Ministry is justified.
It is not a responsible attitude for hon. and right hon. Members opposite to ask for satisfaction on every conceivable point of detail, and not even on some questions of importance, in connection with the functions and the policy of the new Ministry. The Committee has to see whether there is a prima facie case for it, and give its approval if it thinks so and reject it if it does not think so.
§ Mr. R. Carr
With respect, I did not put to the right hon. Gentleman questions of detail. I put to him questions of broad policy and principle. The Committee should not be insulted by being asked to give its approval if the Government cannot take the trouble to explain to us what they wish the Ministry to do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mischief."]
§ Mr. Houghton
I am trying to give a reasonable answer. I was in the course of explaining to the Committee that the several directions in which aid is given should be brought together under one Minister. It surprises me that the right hon. Member for Mitcham, who was himself Secretary for Technical Co-operation, does not appreciate the need for the steps which the Government are now taking.
§ Mr. Carr
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I made it absolutely clear that I appreciated the step. I made clear the good will of this side of the Committee for what we believe 1604 to be the principle, but we are entitled to know something about the broad functions and polices which justify the setting up of the Department. We want to give good will to this, but this way of going about it is calculated to lose the good will and also to delay the proceedings of the Committee. I simply cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman and the Government as a whole cannot reasonably give us the answer for which we ask. I am sorry for the right hon. Gentleman. He says that I know about this subject. I therefore appreciate how terribly difficult and almost impossible it must be for anybody except the Minister to give broad assurances on questions of policy which the Committee ought to have before they are asked to take this step.
§ Mr. Houghton
The right hon. Gentleman says that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are anxious to help and that they agree with the broad principle. Is not that the whole point, and is not that what the Committee is asked to do? It is being asked to agree to the principle of setting up a new Ministry and to discuss its functions in detail when those functions come before the House of Commons in the proper manner and to look at the level of aid and other expenditure of the Department when those come before the House. I am surprised that a former Secretary for Technical Co-operation is not more forthcoming in accepting the principle of the new Ministry, because the right hon. Gentleman must have seen the limitations of his own functions and activities very clearly when he was in office. He must have wished many times that he had wider responsibilities than were given to him in that Department.
This is what the Government are proposing. It is the Government's responsibility and the Government spokesman's responsibility to convince the Committee, if possible, that there is a prima facie case for this new Ministry and to ask the Committee to approve the principle. When the right hon. Gentleman says that his hon. and right hon. Friends are anxious to have answers to questions, I can only point out to him that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development made a long statement on 10th November which covered a pretty wide field. I invite hon. Members to cast their eyes down her 1605 statement. They will see that she referred not only to the Commonwealth and other countries but to aid to be given to the United Nations Organisation, to U.N.E.S.C.O. and to the F.A.O. That is a clear enough answer about the general scope of the new Ministry and the direction in which it proposes to go.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham asked whether it was the Government's intention to maintain the momentum of aid. He referred to a speech made by my right hon. Friend in the summer, but with great respect I am not called upon to say now what the level of aid can be next year, or what may be the financial limits of the activities of the new Ministry. All I say is that it is the pledge of a Labour Government to increase the momentum of overseas development as rapidly and as extensively as circumstances allow. No one can be expected to go further than that.
The Committee is aware of the economic problems now besetting the country, which one cannot ignore even in the field of overseas development, especially where they affect the balance of payments. But just as the Labour Government resolved that the social benefits to bring overdue relief to old people, the sick, the disabled, the widows and others should not be deferred in present economic circumstances, so a Labour Government has resolved that we should maintain the momentum of overseas aid to the limit of economic possibility—and that will be the function of the new Ministry.
Naturally, there are considerations of policy at the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. As I have said. discussion is in train for the transfer of functions, and this will come before the House in due course. In the meantime, my right hon. Friend will act in co-operation and consultation with the other overseas Departments. Obviously, she will need to act in harmony with the policies of the overseas Departments, and all sorts of considerations will arise in regard to which harmony and cooperation in policies will be needed. But I stress again that here is a function for a Ministry which expresses the hope and will of the new Government to bring overseas development within the responsibility, as far as possible, of one 1606 Minister, so that there may be coordination of the aid given and there may be a general review of needs throughout the Commonwealth and the world. We believe that it will make more sense to have this work concentrated in the hands of one Minister rather than divided as hitherto.
I have done my best to satisfy the Committee that there is a case in principle for the new Ministry and that there is a convincing enough case for sanctioning the setting up of the new Ministry as provided by the Clause. I hope that we shall have the co-operation of the Committee in the establishment of this new Department with such noble work to do on such an extensive scale which will surely be the expression of the good will and intention of the nation as a whole.
§ Mr. Grimond
I do not want to add to the amount of heat rather than light which has been generated so far this afternoon. I had intended to ask one or two rather simple questions, but I do not think that we can allow the right hon. Gentleman's speech to pass without comment. His argument appears to be that the Committee should agree to a prima facie case that, in principle, a new Ministry should be set up. How can the Committee agree unless it knows what the new Ministry is to do?
I agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy in not wanting the Minister here, but I want to be told what the functions of the new Ministry will be. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Set up the new Ministry, and we shall find some functions for it". He does not know what the functions are. In the debate on the last Amendment, it was clear that he did not know what the planning functions of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources will be, or what its relationship with the Forestry Commission will be. He could not answer a very pertinent question about ultimate decisions in those matters. These are not details. They are the functions of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Houghton
Has the right hon. Gentleman read the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House?
§ Mr. Grimond
Of course, I have.
The House of Commons is not, as he implied at one point, concerned here with standing up to land racketeers. It 1607 is examining, as is its duty, what the Government are doing in setting up more Ministries and, as a related matter, causing more public expense. This is an issue for the whole House, not just for the Opposition. I am rather surprised at the attitude taken by the Chancellor of the Duchy himself, because when he sat on this side of the Committee, he was a great one for examining accounts in some detail; and rightly so. He was a stickler for the rights of the House of Commons, demanding that the Government should account for their actions. Quite right. That is what we are doing now. It is our duty.
There were moments when the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to me to resemble the hon. Member whom we used to know. He seemed to be more a sort of emanation from Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in his latter years. We were told that the Government would go on and on and up and up, and that, if they thought anything important, they would set up a Ministry. There will be a Ministry for the sun and moon at this rate. The right hon. Gentleman has made no real attempt to justify these Ministries, and I do not think that we shall improve the speed of progress today unless he can answer some questions about their functions, not questions about details of policy but about what they will try to do.
I should regard it as Alice in Wonderland if we were to accept the setting up of a Ministry without knowing what its functions were and having had no more than a promise that, at some future date, an Order would be brought before the House telling us what they would be. If the Government do not know what the Ministry will do, what is the urgency in setting it up?
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimond
The right hon. Gentleman reiterated something which he had said on Second Reading, that the Prime Minister, in a sober and constructive spirit, had made known over television and radio the changes necessary in the Government. So he did. One of the points he made was that a Cabinet of 23 was far too big. He has set up a Cabinet of 23, and this Minister is in it. There 1608 may be reasons for it, but it is not something which was explained to the nation at large over television and radio.
I feel some concern about the relationship of this Ministry to various other Ministries which, in my view, should take a keen interest in aid to overseas countries. I do not believe that a country in Britain's state, with a vast deficit, is in a very good position, at present, to invest very largely overseas. As far as direct investment is concerned, I should not have thought that this was the ideal moment to set up a Ministry primarily for that purpose. However, there are very important functions as regards trade, education, technical assistance and technical training, and these all affect other Departments of the Government, and I should be extremely sorry if, for instance, the Ministry of Education were to plan for places available in further education without taking into account the number of applications which may come from overseas students. The Board of Trade should be vitally concerned in aid to under-developed countries, and the Foreign Office should, too.
It would be extremely difficult for this or for any other country to support really effective programmes of overseas aid on its own. Therefore, the co-operation of this new Ministry with representatives of the United Nations and with the other overseas Departments will be extremely important.
I have read the statement by the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development, 10th November, and I am glad to know that the Chancellor of the Duchy has read it, because I thought, from his speech, that he regarded it as unnecessary to read it. At one point, the right hon. Lady said:In addition, because of the importance of aid and technical assistance in the activities of U.N.E.S.C.O. and F.A.O.. the Ministry of assume the prime responsibility for relations with these bodies from the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food respectively."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 841.]I do not suppose that we shall have an assurance today, but I should like to leave on record the point that I very much hope that this Ministry will work in the very closest co-operation with the other Ministries concerned and that the setting-up of the new Ministry, of which 1609 I approve, will not mean that the other Ministers will feel that they can set aside those responsibilities as they will no longer be within their strict terms of reference.
§ Mr. Charles Longbottom (York)
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has treated the Committee in a quite extraordinary way this afternoon, asking us to accept what he regards as a prima facie case for instituting the new Ministry without giving us any details of what it would do. It is extraordinary to expect us to give carte blanche in that way without answering the most pertinent questions which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) asked in moving the Amendment. I think that the whole Committee agrees in principle that co-ordination in our aid effort is very much needed. Many of us argued that case long before this, and many of us have welcomed the new Ministry, but, before we pass from the Amendment. we are entitled to be told a little more about what the broad functions are to be.
What are to be the broad functions of the new Ministry as regards the United Nations Trade and Development Council? What harmony will there be between it and the Board of Trade and the Treasury as regards Britain's policy towards this new United Nations body, a body which was set up after a great deal of hard work by the President of the Board of Trade in the last Administration, a body which went forward from Geneva to the United Nations in New York, a body which, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will recognise, as many others will, is being looked to with great enthusiasm and great expectation by developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere? What will be the broad policy and the broad relationship between the Ministry of Overseas Development, the Board of Trade, the Treasury and the other overseas Departments with regard to this most important new body? It is not clear from the Minister's statement.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could answer this question. One has noticed in recent weeks, and has been glad to notice it, that the right hon. Lady has been seeing a number of 1610 Commonwealth Finance and Trade Ministers who have been passing through London on their way to the United Nations. No doubt she has been having talks with them in broad general principle about aid for their countries, and this we welcome. But perhaps the Committee could be told whether it has yet been decided whether the right hon. Lady will have her own representatives serving overseas and attached to embassies or whether she will have to rely upon staff from the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office according to the territory.
Will the right hon. Lady have her own representation abroad? How is it being organised? This is very pertinent. If she and her Department are to make decisions in this country in conjunction with Finance and Trade Ministers from overseas territories, we must know how the aid projects are to be carried forward. Are they to be carried forward by her Department with representatives of its own attached to our embassies, or will she have to rely on the staff of other overseas Departments?
Finally, looking at the whole broad question, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not appreciate that in setting up the Ministry of Overseas Development the Government have created great expectations in the minds of people in the developing countries. They are not just expecting another Ministry. They are expecting great things to happen through this Ministry. It would be very wrong to ask the Committee to approve the establishment of a new Ministry just on a prima facie case put forward by the Chancellor of the Duchy when so many people in so many countries are looking with great expectations to the new Ministry. The Committee is entitled to know in a little more detail whether those expectations will be satisfied.
§ Mr. Turton
When we were discussing the previous Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) pointed out that the proposal was in conflict with a recommendation of the Estimates Committee, but this proposal, whether it is right or wrong, is in direct conflict with the recommendation of the Select Committee on Estimates in its Fourth Report in the 1611 1959–60 Session. I hope that before they go forward with this the Government will explain why they have rejected the recommendation of the Select Committee.
It was suggested in the Select Committee, after a very full inquiry, that there should be a merger of the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office and that there should be created one large Commonwealth Office divided into three Departments, one to deal with relations, one to deal with responsibilities and one to deal with overseas aid. I am open to be convinced that the Select Committee was wrong and that the Government have a better system. I suspect, however, that the new proposal is wrong in that it is keeping a division between the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office.
According to the explanation given by the right hon. Lady on 10th November, the responsibility for aid in any particular country is hers and not that of the Commonwealth Secretary or the Colonial Secretary. Aid being a principal instrument of policy within the Colonial Office, it is wrong to have a separate Minister who is not under the Minister for Overseas Development. The only justification for the proposed set-up, as explained partially by the Chancellor of the Duchy and in fuller detail by the right hon. Lady in reply to a Question, would be to have the right hon. Lady as Minister for Overseas Development in the Cabinet and for her to have two Ministers of State—the Colonial Secretary and the Commonwealth Secretary, for I cannot see how they can properly administer their Departments without having any responsibility for aid. We have been tabling Questions during the last fortnight about the future of land in Kenya. Our whole policy towards Kenya depends upon aid. The Commonwealth Secretary and his Department have nothing to do with it. It is the Minister for Overseas Development who is ably interviewing visiting Ministers. The others are shorn of all responsibility. I fear that the Prime Minister's set-up will be very wasteful in manpower and will create a great deal of confusion between Ministers, because we shall have two Ministers who will be completely emasculated in regard to their responsibilities.
1612 The right hon. Lady has inherited the responsibility in the domain which was so very well looked after by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). The weakness of the old Department of Technical Co-operation was that it had some 950 staff all of whom were home-based. We ought to be told before we finish the debate whether the right hon. Lady will have any staff overseas. I cannot see how she can operate unless she has her advisers in every country in the Commonwealth and a number of foreign countries. At the present time those advisers are on the payroll of the Colonial Office or the Commonwealth Relations Office. How can one justify the continuance of the three Departments if one is to have the Minister for Overseas Development doing the work that both sides of the House want her to do? There is no real division in the House about the work to be done, but I have very grave hesitation in voting for this proposal when we have these three Ministers all ineffectively trying to do the same piece of work.
I hope that before we finish the debate the Chancellor of the Duchy will try to go back to the very clear evidence of Sir Hilton Poynton in column 1147 of the Report of the Select Committee to which I referred, who put out the picture of how he saw the merged Commonwealth Office working. Anyone who reads that will be struck by it. Sir Hilton knows more about it than any man living in Britain, and that was his recommendation. It was overturned in a sudden access of power in October without real thought being given to it. I hope that in this debate the Chancellor of the Duchy will not wait for any transfer of functions Order but will tell us how it will be an efficient set-up.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hornby
There are, I believe, a number of very good reasons why we probably should have a Ministry such as the one we are discussing. I start on that point because I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy suggested to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) that he was not in sympathy with the proposal. My concern is that I do not think we have heard good reasons from the right hon. Gentleman in his speech this afternoon.
1613 It seems to me that he really let the cat out of the bag, and I think I quote his words rightly when I say that he said that this Ministry will give fresh prestige and significance to what we are doing. It is my feeling that prestige is not, in fact, what we are about. What we are after is efficiency in what we are doing and in the deployment of the resources that we have available for overseas aid. That is the way that the prestige will come. It will not come by setting up yet another Ministry in Whitehall. Prestige may accrue to the right hon. Lady in charge of the Department in personal terms, but the prestige that we want is the efficient distribution of the aid that is available, and on that we have heard nothing in this debate. It was on that score that I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, who was good enough to give way to me earlier, but I think that we should have had a more careful examination of what this Ministry is to be about.
The right hon. Lady answered a question of mine earlier in which she gave the broad outlines of what was intended, hut, in fact, as my right hon. Friend said earlier, there are still very grave gaps in our knowledge of how this Ministry is to work. Certainly, there would be added significance to the deployment of our aid and added reason for giving a warm welcome to this Ministry if, for instance, we were to know that the money we spend here meant more aid in real terms on the spot, in the overseas countries to whom we give aid.
If there is that better organisation and better operation in mind, we have not been told so this afternoon or on previous occasions in what way the new Ministry will achieve more than the old methods were doing. This is what we should like to know. Again, one of the questions in our mind is: are we giving the aid which we do give to the most appropriate places? One would like to know in what way the new machinery is likely better to answer this question. We have not had any answer to it this afternoon.
Again, we should like to know and to feel that when requests are made to us in this country they are met as quickly as possible. Very often in the recruitment of a particular person it is of vital importance that the right person should he found and then have satisfactory conditions 1614 of employment agreed, and that he should then be got to the place where he is wanted. Are we to know whether the new Ministry—I think that it is quite possible that this may happen—will make it easier for this to be done? We have not had a word said about this from the Government this afternoon.
On recruitment itself, will the new Ministry make it easier, in fact, to get the right man into the right job as quickly as possible? I hope that it will—I believe it may—but we have been given absolutely no explanations of why this is likely to happen in the justification for the new Ministry for which—and this is an important point—we are asked to provide public funds.
I hope that the Government will respond to the requests made by my right hon. Friend for a White Paper, in wider explanation of what is intended, at the earliest possible moment, because on present evidence we cannot tell how this Ministry is working or whether it is likely to work well. I hope, therefore, that this proposal will go through. I believe that it can be effective, but I certainly think that the House of Commons needs to be told a great deal more about how it will work.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I think this debate is important for two reasons, first, on the broad matter of principle underlying the foundation of this new Ministry, and, secondly, because it is treating the Committee rather casually without giving it adequate information. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) thought that it was an Alice-in-Wonderland sort of debate. I think that it is much more like the hunting of the snark. The House will remember that the map provided to the crew by the skipper was one admirably suited to their intelligence, so he thought, because it was "a perfect and absolute blank". Then, by the constant repetition of his arguments, the right hon. Gentleman reminded me of the character who kept on saying, "What I tell you three times is true". Finally, he seems to be like the poor man who forgot everything, including his own name, and the climax of the tragedy was that he had 28 boxes all carefully packed with his name printed clearly on each, but since he omitted to mention the fact, they were all left behind on the beach. All the 1615 arguments of the right hon. Gentleman have been left behind on the beach.
But, seriously, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the relations between this new Department and the Treasury? It is vital for the House to know what measure of control the Treasury can exercise over this Department. Will there be a limit to the aid in any particular case that can be given to a Commonwealth or foreign country? Will there be a block grant given under the Estimates to this Department and will its distribution be entirely at the disposal of the Minister? That is one of the things that I want to know. But these are questions of relative detail. The really serious aspect of the matter was brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that the establishment of this Ministry is a thoroughly retrograde step.
I was interested in his reference to the Report of the Estimates Committee, for I was chairman of the sub-committee that produced that Report. We had masses of evidence which swung our minds round to the conviction that from the point of view of the unity of the Commonwealth in relation to the Commonwealth and colonial countries it was essential that the two Departments should be merged, and the particular point was made by the witnesses of the need for technical and other aid to be under the same directions.
Since this Government have been formed I think that there has been a demerging operation. That is a most retrograde step. This is the final act to have technical aid questions considered with no reference at all, other than departmental negotiations, to the C.R.O. or the Colonial Office, and the dividing of those two Departments is really ridiculous.
Other hon. Members have pointed out that in our relations with the Commonwealth countries, aid is the most important subject of all. Kenya has been quoted. How can relations be carried on with Kenya when one Department is distributing aid and help, and when, on the other hand, political relations are being conducted through the C.R.O.? This is a tragic and retrograde step. We have been having fun 1616 with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in accusing him about the way in which he has treated the Committee this afternoon, and I am sure that he takes that fun in good part.
It is indeed rather sad to see such a watchdog and guardian of Parliamentary propriety reduced to the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman, but that is trivial compared with what I am convinced is the grave blow at Commonwealth unity implied by this fissiparous tendency among Departments which deal with the Commonwealth. Leaving aside the fun and games and teasing in which we have been indulging today, I issue a solemn warning to the right hon. Gentleman that the Government, in splitting up the Ministries that deal with the Commonwealth and the Colonies, are doing a great deal of harm.
Sooner or later they, or a subsequent Government, will have to return to a unified Department. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will address his mind and remarks to these considerations.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I must tell the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that he has left the Committee in a very difficult position. He has failed to answer perfectly proper and pertinent questions. He has tried to fob off these questions with generalities. He seems under the impression that we are really debating the Second Reading of a Bill to set up a new Department. We are discussing in Committee an Amendment concerning a Department which has already existed for two months.
We want to know what the divisions of responsibility are. Where do the functions of the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development begin and end? That is what the discussion is about. The discussion has been prolonged because the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us what the functions of the new Department are nor the divisions of responsibility. In view of the fact that her responsibilities are being discussed, it is almost incredible that neither the right hon. Lady nor her Parliamentary Secretary are here at least to listen.
1617 I hope that we shall not be told again that this is just one of those prestige projects that do not matter. We want to be told why this new Department has been set up and what its functions are and have been hitherto. Up to now, all attempts to discover where the responsibility begins and ends and where it overlaps have been fruitless. My view is that the functions of the Department should be to administer the funds available in the territories in question as well as technical aid, including the technicians. But I find it very difficult to believe that the right hon. Lady, as the Minister responsible, is really the right member of the Government to decide priorities as between one part of the world and another.
Is the right hon. Lady to decide whether Malaysia has higher priority than Kenya, or whether Uganda must have priority over Ghana or Malawi over Jamaica? These are matters which are surely the fundamental responsibility of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) pointed out, aid is one of the principal weapons of Colonial Office policy.
The right hon. Lady made a statement on 10th November which appears to have been a sort of bible, tablets of stone drifting down from No. 10 Downing Street. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have all read that statement about the functions of the Department, and asks what more we want. Among the functions of the Minister mentioned in that statement—I will not weary the Committee by reading them all out—there are three, which I wish to refer to in particular:
- "(b) Terms and conditions of capital aid and the principles on which technical assistance is granted.
- (c) The size and the nature of the aid programme for each country.
- (d) The management of capital aid and technical assistance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 841.]
It seems to me that this could cover export credits, whether short-term or long-term, and the capital investment programme. But surely it is for the Treasury to decide to what extent we invest money overseas. In what circumstances investment is made and in which part of the world are principally the concern of the Foreign Office, the 1618 Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. If the right hon. Lady's apocrypha is correct, then, again, my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton is right—such machinery could only function efficiently within the Government if the right hon. Lady had, so to speak, under her both the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Colonies as Ministers not in the Cabinet. But that is not so. They are all in the Cabinet.
I was not surprised to be told by the right hon. Gentleman that during the last two weeks there had been discussions. I should think that there had been plenty of discussion. Until they are completed and the areas of responsibility sorted out, there must be utter chaos in Whitehall and in the Cabinet, with three Ministers of equal rank all bunched together two fences from home. It is anybody's race.
This is not good enough. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to treat it with complete contempt. We are in Committee on the Bill. We want to know where responsibilities begin and end. We want an assurance that, at least in future, unlike the past month or two, there will not be complete overlapping and uncertainty as between these three Departments concerning what they can do and what they cannot do and which does what.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
I am sure that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster realises the confusion and difficulty he has put the Committee in. I say with great respect to him that it is entirely of his own creation. The fact that he advised the Minister not to be present has made it impossible for us to get the facts we want. When I first heard of the creation of this Minister, with Cabinet rank, I was under the impression that it was being done because there was to be a considerable increase in overseas development expenditure. That, indeed, was the basis of manifestos and statements made by the party opposite during the election. But the right hon. Gentleman has held out no hope that this expenditure will be increased.
I am proud that my own party, last year, reached a record £175 million a year in overseas development expenditure. How important such expenditure 1619 is I know particularly from those countries I am interested in, in East Africa. Naturally, I wish the new Department every good fortune and my good will. Indeed, I extend my good wishes to the Minister in coping with her responsibilities. But will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is the intention of the Government to live up to what they propose during the election, and increase overseas development? If that is their intention, to what extent will it be increased?
We must avoid uncertainty about the aid to be provided. This is a very important factor. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when such aid is to be decided upon? Will we know approximately the amount of aid the Minister will be able to dispense for a year ahead? What about the priorities? Obviously, we all have different views about priorities and which countries should have priorities. We should have clarification of this aspect.
Another very important point is the question of dispensing of this aid. It is common sense that it cannot be done just from Whitehall. It must be done by having people in those overseas countries with specific knowledge which enables them to say that this valuable aid, which is costly for this country, will be devoted to the best advantage of the peoples of all races in those countries. How is that to be done? I have not gathered from anything said by the right hon. Gentleman today that he can state quite clearly that the new Ministry will have overseas representatives to see these projects through.
I have the impression that the right hon. Gentleman does not know the answers to our questions. Frankly, I do not see how he can. He has the good will of most of us on all occasions, for he is very knowledgeable, but I do not see how he can have sufficient knowledge of these various subjects to be able to answer the important questions put to him this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) asked some very pertinent questions and the right hon. Gentleman answered hardly one of them.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us more detailed answers. On 1620 the face of it, he does not have any information to his hand. Unless he gives us further information, he will leave the Committee disturbed and disappointed, because, although we want the Ministry of Overseas Development to get off to a good start, and to have even more financial resources to its elbow, we know nothing about how it is to be run.
§ Mr. Tilney
The right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development, whose absence the Committee deplores, has frequently been on record as expecting an increase in aid. The public aid of this country does not compare all that well with the aid provided by some other European countries, but that is more than made up by our private investment overseas. I do not intend to go into that today, other than to say that yesterday's announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer may make it much more difficult to get the private investment which we all want to see in certain developing countries in Asia and Africa. Limited it obviously is at a time of financial crisis, be it public or private. Therefore, some decision must be made about where it goes.
Surely our friends in the world are bound to come first, not only because they are our friends, but to forward British policy as a whole. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe) asked with great clarity, who, in the end, is to decide where that aid should go? We all know of the differences of opinion among Departments. They will continue in future as they have been present in the past. What is the position of the Treasury to be? Is the right hon. Lady to be a kind of super-Treasury? I can only say that the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was as unclear as a pike in a muddy pond.
§ Mr. Fisher
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, this debate has been disgracefully handled. I mean "with great respect", because I have a great personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but I have never seen a debate worse conducted.
The right hon. Gentleman rose very early, made a very long speech, which added precisely nothing to our knowledge, and quite unnecessarily provoked 1621 many speeches from this side of the Committee which might otherwise not have been made. He delayed his own business simply and solely because the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development did not wish—goodness knows why not—to explain her own Department.
It was extraordinary that the right hon. Lady should not even wish to appear before the House of Commons during the Committee stage of the Bill, when we are entitled to ask certain questions. Through no fault of his own, the right hon. Gentleman does not know the answers. Why should he? He cannot be briefed on the sort of questions we want to ask, which he has been asked and which I propose to continue to ask.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said, there is a perfectly good general case for the co-ordination of economic aid and technical assistance, so that we do not oppose this policy in principle. However, in practice, it is very difficult to know where the division of responsibilities lies and where it should lie. In the debate on the Address, I ventured to make a short speech on this subject. I did not expect an answer then, because the right hon. Lady had no reason to be present on the Front Bench or to answer on that occasion; but I had hoped that in this debate we could get a proper answer from the responsible Minister. Apparently, we are not even to have that now.
I gather from the right hon. Lady's statement of 10th November that she is to be responsible not only for deciding the terms and conditions on which aid is to be made available and for carrying out all the aid programmes, but that she will also initiate all aid projects, except in very special circumstances which have not been defined. How will she do this? If she is to initiate new aid projects, that must mean an enormous duplication of work and the people who do the work in all the Departments concerned, if it is to be done properly.
I will give an example. If, for political reasons it becomes necessary to launch an aid project in a territory—it does not matter where—what used to happen; and I am now talking about the Colonies of which I have some little experience— 1622 was that the Colonial Office officials were entitled to approach the Treasury direct. They could argue the case from their own day-to-day knowledge, reinforced by the telegrams and reports from the people on the spot. They knew what they were talking about because they were involved. They might succeed or fail—the Treasury is composed of hardhearted, parsimonious men who would probably resist the plea—but at least the people making the case were equipped to succeed, because they knew what they were talking about.
I do not know what is to happen under the new dispensation, but I suppose that the Colonial Office officials—and the same will apply to the C.R.O.—will first have to try to convince the right hon. Lady's officials. I presume that, if they succeed, the right hon. Lady's officials will then take the case to the Treasury. However, it is clear that they will not be as good advocates as the people actually involved, because they will be speaking only at second hand. I may have this wrong, but it is important and I should like to have the answers. These are questions which we are entitled to have answered. How is the machine to work? How is the right hon. Lady's Ministry to function?
What applies to her officials applies to the right hon. Lady herself. If she has not visited these places and is not in touch with day-to-day events, if she is not framing overseas policy—and I gather that she is not—how can she possibly decide and argue the different priorities? How can she be as well equipped to do this as the Ministers personally concerned and involved? I have no doubt that the argument applies in the same way to the independent countries.
Answering the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) after her statement on 10th November, the right hon. Lady made the most extraordinary statement. She said that economic considerations would always predominate. This is a totally unrealistic conclusion to draw. If economic considerations were always to be the governing factor, the right hon. Lady would be spending all the money she could get on neglected little Colonies in the South-West Pacific and the Indian Ocean, places of which hon. Members have scarcely heard, but where the need is greatest—the Solomon Islands, 1623 the New Hebrides, Pitcairn, the Seychelles, Tristan de Cunha and others which have been neglected. There is a very good case for spending money where the need is greatest. But, unfortunately, that is not the way things work in practice.
If the right hon. Lady really believes that the money available will be spent in that way, and if economic need is to be the governing factor, either she will be proved wrong very quickly—it was a very charming and endearing thing which she said, but very naïve—or she will be unable to contribute in any way to carrying out the overseas policy of the Foreign Secretary, the Commonwealth Secretary and the Colonial Secretary. In these days, when gunboats are no longer fashionable, the main method of giving effect to overseas policy is through economic aid programmes—the timing and withholding or granting of aid. If the Minister is not taking part in shaping these policies, I genuinely do not understand how she can initiate aid projects irrespective of the political considerations.
I am sorry if this sounds cynical, but it is my experience that, in a battle between politics and economics, politics almost invariably win. I simply do not know where the right hon. Lady's Department fits in, and we are entitled to know. We have had no explanation on any of the points which my hon. Friends have raised. I do not see how the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can give us the explanation, but I hope very much that before the debate closes he will at least try to allay our anxieties, because some of these things are important. This is the Committee stage of the Bill, and if we do not have an explanation this evening we shall never have one and we shall not know what the division of responsibilities is between the Departments concerned.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
I want to press the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because I think that the Committee has been put in a difficult and, indeed, intolerable position. The trouble began when the Attorney-General described this as a technical Bill. That is the trouble from the Government's point of view. Throughout they have regarded it as a technical Bill.
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, but by the Schedule we are making it possible for Supply to be voted for these Ministries. Until we pass the Schedule, it is impossible for Supply to be voted for these Ministries. In dealing with the Bill, we have the right to say whether or not we agree that the money should be found for the new Ministry. That is the point.
We do not want to vote against this new Ministry. Whatever may have been said in the previous debate, or whatever may be said in the next debate, as I indicated on Second Reading, we feel that there is a rôle to be played by a Ministry of Overseas Development following the lines of the former Department of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). However, we feel that it will fulfil a useful function only if it is properly organised and if its duties and responsibilities are clearly defined. We are still in complete ignorance about where the policy decisions and priorities will lie.
I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to help us because the Government are trying to get not only the Committee stage but the Report and Third Reading stages of the Bill tonight. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is just not on. Even if he cannot deal with all out points tonight, he must have the opportunity to deal with some of them. We must have a clearer explanation of what the new Ministry will do. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to help us in the interests of progress with his own Bill.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I rise with a great deal of trepidation at what appears to be the end of this debate in which so many more experienced speakers than I have taken part, but I should like to revert to a point made by my right 1625 hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). He said that we on this side hoped to greet the Bill with good will and support, because there is no doubt that hon. Members on both sides recognise the importance of aid. Those of us who have seen some of the great need in poor countries certainly want Britain to do its best to relieve that need. Therefore, there can be no doubt that we on this side support in every way, as we did in Government, the principle of British overseas aid for the relief of suffering.
If the British taxpayers' money is to he spent overseas for that purpose, surely we are entitled to know whether the machinery for spending it will be efficient. That is the question we have been asking, but so far we have had no answer from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The right hon. Gentleman himself does not know what the function of the Ministry will be, and he feels under no obligation to explain it to us. He has said that the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development knows, but she is not here. Therefore, we must take it from the statement in HANSARD of 10th November, which I believe all of us have read.
But surely the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows that when the right hon. Lady made her statement there was no opportunity for hon. Members to ask her what she meant. We are entitled to investigate some of the things which she said. We are entitled to know precisely what the various points which she made, some of which were very good, mean. I believe that the taxpayer, whom we are trying to help in this matter, is entitled to an answer.
I should like to raise two very small practical considerations, having seen something of the expenditure of aid in underdeveloped countries. There is, as we all know, a very great deal of waste, and frequently aid goes down the drain. If the representative of an underdeveloped country, whether it be in Africa or Asia, goes to the British mission, be it the High Commission or embassy, and asks for assistance in a project—perhaps a bridge or a road—who will do on the ground the feasibility studies and the costing and see whether it makes sense for the economy of the country concerned that this road or 1626 bridge should be built? Will it be done, as it has been done in the past, by officials of the Colonial Office in the case of Colonial Territories, or by members of the Foreign Office? Will the technical representatives of the Minister carry out those feasibility studies and find out what the cost is and decide whether the project makes sense for the country in question? We do not know the answer, and in discussing the machinery of Government surely we are entitled to know the answer.
At the second stage, when the recommendations filter through to London from the officials who have done the costing and studied the job on the ground, to whom do they go? If the examination in the field has been done by a member of the Colonial Service, does the matter go to the Colonial Secretary—I presume that it does; and, in turn, to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Foreign Office? Or are the recommendations simply passed horizontally to the right hon. Lady so that she can decide the matter? Since we are discussing the machinery of government, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should, in fairness, tell us how it will work. That is not too much to ask.
Lastly, since the right hon. Lady and her two assistants are not able to be with us today, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is more important to her and to this country than being here when her Ministry is being debated? Surely we are entitled to that courtesy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us answers to these questions, as is his duty.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn
I wanted to ask a question which the right hon. Gentleman could answer. He has told us that the constitutional position is that the Prerogative has appointed a Minister, and that now it is only left for us to find out what the Minister has done or has to do, but especially has to do. It is easier to find out what has been done than what is to be done. Perhaps it is easier still to find out what has not been done. A Minister is not made by merely being named. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is right in using the word "Prerogative" as he has done. 1627 I happen to have it in my notes here that when Sir Edward Fellowes was appearing before the Spens Committee, in answer to a question, he said:I should not have thought that new offices could be created by the Prerogative, because I do not think that they could be paid for without some sort of Money Resolution.It did not occur to him that the offices could be created by Prerogative.
A person can be appointed to an office by Prerogative no doubt, but not necessarily an office created. The questions I wish to put are these. Since, in the right hon. Gentleman's judgment, there has been a Minister created by the Prerogative, has that Minister performed any of the functions which would have been expected if the creation had been in the more usual manner? Has there been any taking of oaths of allegiance, any taking of the official oath, any appointing of Permanent Secretaries, and so on? Has there been any offering or indication of the offering of remuneration as from the date of the Minister's appointment, or as from some later date, or as from some future date, whether or not retrospective?
These are questions clearly relevant to the matters now before us and, in particular, to this list of three Amendments. I think that this is a technical Bill in one sense, though, as I have tried to explain on Second Reading, just because it is so technical it is a matter of great constitutional importance. I think that it is a machinery Bill in some sense, but no one may say, "A mere machinery Bill". I think that it is a machinery Bill in this sense, which is important, that nothing which this side chooses to argue against or vote against now on grounds of machinery should he taken as evidence that this side is opposing something which Members on the other side mean to get done by means of this machinery.
I feel, on this question, that whatever line we take about overseas aid and all that—and I take a much meaner, more Scrooge-like line than most of the generous hon. Gentlemen opposite, who can afford to be generous since they find it so easy to borrow so many thousands of million of pounds—that any vote on this Amendment has no relevance to that. I think that this Amendment should be voted on the ground that the Bill is a bad piece of machinery, that it has not 1628 been put before us in a good mechanical way. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my questions, which are negative but concrete questions, about what the Minister has not done, or, possibly, has?
§ Mr. Houghton
What the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) has just asked is perhaps more appropriate to the debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I answer him straight away.
§ Mr. Houghton
The present activities of the new Departments are those which the Minister can appropriately carry out as a legal person, or through the exercise of the Prerogative, and are of a kind which Departments have customarily carried out without specific parliamentary authority. This is the normal practice. One case that might be instanced is that of the Welsh Office, set up in 1951 by the Conservative Administration. The Office of Minister for Welsh Affairs has been held by Conservative Home Secretaries and by Conservative Ministers of Housing and Local Government.
The Minister's functions include the general responsibility for all Welsh affairs, as well as for matters which might be deemed proper to a Minister of Housing and Local Government. There has been no transfer of functions Order, nor any specific legislation in this respect.
§ Sir K. Pickthorn rose—
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
The right hon. Baronet must contain himself for a moment longer. The Minister of Education and Science was created by Prerogative. At the time, he was Lord President of the Council, and no staff had to be authorised by Statute, but functions were transferred to him by orders under the Transfer of Functions Act, 1946.
This brings me to the nub of this debate, as in the previous one, as to what the Bill is about. It is the first phase in 1629 a series of steps which have to be taken to bring about the full constitutional existence of these Ministers. It is, so to speak, a paving Bill, so far as Clause 1 is concerned. What it is doing is relating the three Ministries concerned to the provisions of Schedule 1. In fact, Clause 1 specifically says that these Ministers shall be brought within the scope of Schedule 1 of the Bill. Schedule 1 does not deal with functions at all; it deals with various matters which are requisite to the setting up of the framework of a new Ministry. Later, other steps have to he taken, which will be brought before the House, and those will be the proper occasions for many of the questions to be asked which we have had in the course of this debate, and answers given.
I was in the middle of one sentence when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carbon interrupted me. I was saying that we had had three debates rolled into one. This Committee is not voting Supply. It is certainly enabling Supply to be voted. If the Committee rejects Clause 1, or deletes any one of the three Ministers from it, no Supply can be brought before this House for that Ministry. It virtually invalidates the creation of the Ministry—it strangles it at birth in other words. That is what rejection of this Clause would do.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd rose—
§ Mr. Houghton
Just one moment.
There is not only Supply to be voted and Supplementary Estimates to be brought before the House. There are also transfer of functions Orders which will be necessary to transfer some functions from certain of the Departments and to vest them in the new Ministries. Those are two separate steps which have to be taken before the new Ministries can be fully effective. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said that this was a technical Bill. The right hon. Baronet has just admitted that it is, in a sense, a machinery Bill, and it is. Therefore, I defend the absence of the Ministers concerned because they are not concerned with this stage in their Ministerial lives.
We are, in fact, making the initial preparation for the other steps to be taken, which the House can decline to take on subsequent stages, if it is not satisfied by the account then given by 1630 the Ministers concerned, and by the Government, for the work of their Departments and such policies as are relevant to the discussion of Supply or the transfer of functions Orders. That is why the Committee will appreciate that I am in the difficult position that I do not believe I am called upon to answer many of the questions which have been put because, strictly speaking, they are not relevant to this stage of the creation of the new Ministries. I must ask the Committee to understand that clearly.
There is no reluctance on my part to help the Committee all I can. Still less is there any discourtesy in the absence of my right hon. Friends. Had my right hon. Friends come, it is obvious from the discussion so far that they would have become embroiled in a debate on matters which are not relevant to this stage of the creation of their Ministries and for which they are properly accountable only at a later stage. Therefore, the Committee should distinguish between the several stages in the process of the creation of new Ministries.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby rose—
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester) rose—
§ Mr. Houghton
I do not know, Sir Samuel, whether there are any provisions for a ballot to be held for interruptions. I will, however, give way to the hon. Member who is being insistent.
§ Mr. Buck
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Would he not agree that this is a legitimation Bill, causing the Ministers now to become legitimate? Is it not in all decency appropriate for people to be present at such a process when they are being legitimated? Further, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is usurping the functions of the Chair? Is it not the duty of the Government to be in a position to answer all the points put by hon. Members on this side which are in order?
§ Mr. Houghton
I would not call this a legitimation Bill. It is a registration of birth. A little later the House will be able to decide whether it likes the 1631 look of the child. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the child?"] At present, all we are asking the Committee to do is to authorise us to bring the child forward for inspection later, by which time it will be in full voice and able to answer for itself.
This is a distinction which the Committee must appreciate if we are to make headway with our business this afternoon. I fully appreciate that many of the questions which have been asked are genuine, although so many of them are asked that I begin to wonder what this is all about. I hope I may be forgiven for discerning a degree of Parliamentary conspiracy on the benches opposite. Let us be candid about these things.
If the Committee is seeking genuine satisfaction, I have done my best to give it and I am still doing by best to give it. I must, however, maintain that the Committee is pressing me to give answers to questions which are not fully mature. [HON. MEMBERS: "Are not the questions in order?"] It is not for me to say whether they are in order. I am, however, entitled to say whether they are relevant, which is a quite different matter. Having regard to the constitutional position of the Bill, many of the questions about the level of economic aid, the distribution of aid throughout the Commonwealth, and so on, are matters which can be dealt with at a later stage.
In reply to the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris), I hope that I gave no impression in an earlier speech that there was any intention on the part of the Government to curb aid to developing countries or any relaxation of our determination to increase it and to press it as far as economic conditions will allow. That is a positive part of the Labour Government's policy.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
The right hon. Gentleman keeps saying that the transfer of function Orders will be dealt with by affirmative Resolution of the House. Is that an undertaking by the Government despite the terms of Section 3 of the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act, 1946?
§ Mr. Houghton
All I can say is that this is the way in which the matter is dealt with under our procedure.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
It is misleading. I received a similar reply from the Prime Minister on 10th November that there would be an affirmative Order for the transfer of the Forestry Commission. It now turns out that it is a negative Order, which is something different.
§ Mr. Houghton
As I understand, it is the negative procedure as it comes under the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act, 1946. That disposes of that point. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) asked a question on a matter of fact and I have given the answer. If I say that that disposes of the question as to a matter of fact, it is not an inadequate reply to the hon. Member's question.
§ Mr. Fisher
The right hon. Gentleman has said, both in this speech and in his first one, that we will have other opportunities later to find out what the responsibilities and functions of the Department are. In answer to my hon. Friend, it has now been revealed that there will not be these opportunities as the right hon. Gentleman had implied. When will we have the opportunity to get answers to the questions which, not as a Parliamentary manoeuvre but genuinely seeking information, a number of us have asked?
§ Mr. Houghton
The voting of Supply will be a positive procedure. When Supplementary Estimates come before the House, that will be a positive procedure, because they will have to be voted for. Those opportunities will occur.
I regret that I cannot pursue many of the lines of thought in the debate affecting questions of function and the vesting of responsibility. I have already said that discussions are in progress regarding the limitation of responsibilities with a view to concentrating as much central control over overseas development in this new Ministry as is possible. There is nothing unusual about several Ministries being concerned with particular activities. 1633 Foreign Office considerations enter into a great many matters which are the responsibility of other Ministries. Their views have to be listened to even though there may not be overriding control by one Department over the activities of another. There is, however, the machinery for co-ordination within the Government, as right hon. Members opposite fully know.
At the conclusion of this debate, right hon. and hon. Members opposite will have to decide whether, on the evidence before them, they are in favour of a Minister of Overseas Development. If they are not so satisfied, they have a clear duty to vote against the first phase of its creation. I am sorry that I cannot assist the Committee further at this stage.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Carr
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster says that he has done his best to satisfy the Committee. I have no doubt that he has, but I must tell him that he has utterly failed to do so. He puts us on this side in a position which we find genuinely difficult.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to a suspicion which is growing in his mind about a Parliamentary conspiracy. I assure him that this is not the case. We genuinely meant and wished to dispose of the Amendment without a Division in a relatively short time, because we wanted to get on and have a much longer and, perhaps, even more controversial debate on the next Amendment, as we did on the first one. That was our genuine wish and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will believe it, because that is the case.
The right hon. Gentleman keeps on telling us about this being a machinery Bill, as did the Attorney-General. He said in his earlier reply that the work of this Department is not under discussion today, but how can we decide whether we ought in this Committee, or in Parliament as a whole in due course, to agree to the establishment of this Ministry unless we know something about its functions and what it is to do. The right hon. Gentleman keeps saying that this is not the appropriate stage to go into this. But when is the appropriate stage? Because once we have passed this, this Minister and this Ministry are legitimised and set up. What opportunity then will there be to go back on that decision, when 1634 we have got the information, and were we then to think it necessary to do so? This is a ridiculous position to put the Committee in. Before Parliament can genuinely make up its mind about this, it must have this information.
Let me briefly sum up the feelings on this side of the Committee. We want to see the momentum of overseas aid maintained and increased, as we showed when we were in power. As I said in my opening remarks, aid expenditure doubled in the last six years. Most of us, if not absolutely all of us, on this side think it might well be helpful in achieving this objective to set up this Ministry, but we are genuinely in doubt on some matters, about the relationship of this Ministry with other Ministries, about the method of financing it, how it should be represented overseas and how its work should be carried out overseas. There are large and genuine gaps in our knowledge about what is intended. Surely it is reasonable and not unreasonable for us to ask for enlightenment on all these matters—in broad principle: not in complete detail, I agree—before being asked to pass the existence of this Minister and Ministry.
Surely it is not only reasonable for us to do so; it is our responsibility as Members of Parliament to do so, because once we have passed this we have created a possibility of being asked to vote Supply, to spend large sums of the taxpayer's money on this proposal. It is all very well to talk about this not being the right stage. As I said a moment ago, if we let this stage go by without getting the information, then when it is obtained, if it is not satisfactory to us, it will be too late.
So we are put in a difficult, and, indeed, I submit, a farcical position by the stubborn refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to give us this enlightenment. It is ridiculous on a matter like this, when we are so nearly in agreement, when we are genuinely sympathetic with the proposal, to be frustrated, and, I admit, irritated, by this failure to get answers to a number of reasonable questions. We are only irritated and frustrated, and the only reason why this debate on this Amendment has gone on so long is because we have been treated in a shabby, careless, contemptuous manner by the Government.
1635 The right hon. Gentleman could not even vouchsafe a reply to what is surely a reasonable request that at least the Government should undertake to publish—in due course, not immediately—a White Paper giving the details of this Ministry's organisation and methods and work. I pointed out that the previous Government did this nine months after setting up the Department of Technical Co-operation. I would have thought that we would at least have been given this very minor assurance. This feeling of frustration is widespread, and it must be obvious to the right hon. Gentleman that it is widespread. He heard how it was partly reinforced by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party.
In these circumstances we are in a difficult position. I feel that I ought to advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide on this issue, but if we do, what will be the effect? We are united in this Committee in this purpose of giving aid. There may be lots of matters about which we are disunited, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said himself, there has for a long time been a very large measure of common consent and common purpose about giving aid to developing countries, and we want that to be maintained, and it is maintained, and if we were to vote, because of our doubts which we have expressed about this Bill, what would be the effect on the world outside? We want the world outside to know that we are united about this, particularly our Commonwealth. If we divide we destroy that assurance. So it is a difficult position that we are in. As Parliamentarians we on this side think we ought to divide because we have not been fairly and properly treated, but in the circumstances which I have just mentioned—[Laughter.] Hon Members opposite may laugh if they like, but I wonder whether, if the Government go on treating Parliament in this way, they will be laughing when they go to the polls in a year or two's time.
So reluctantly and, I am sorry to say, resentfully, I want to ask leave to withdraw this Amendment, but also at the same time to say that we shall seek opportunity to return to this matter at a later stage of the Bill, when, I hope, we shall be given at least the broad outlines of the information for which we have 1636 so reasonably asked. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
With the next Amendment we can also take Amendments Nos. 20, 23, 29 and 33.
In Schedule 2, page 5, leave out line 7; leave out line 17; in page 6, leave out line 23; in page 7, leave out line 10.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 7, to leave out "and the Minister of Technology".
I ventured to say when we were discussing the Queen's speech that I thought that this Committee, and Parliament generally, tends to pay too little attention to the actual machinery of Government. If the debates which we have been having, of which this is the third, carry any message to the Government, it is the illustration of the importance and truth of this, because I believe that in its modern rôle, we have tended to leave questions of Government machinery too much to the Executive, and perhaps too much to the actual discretion of the Prime Minister of the day. If we are to retain an active part in the control of Government business, as I know we all, on all sides of Parliament, desire to do, we ought to address ourselves to the questions of machinery; and, after all, we know, whether this is a technical Bill, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said on Second Reading, or whether it is a constitutional Bill, as some of us on this side think it is, it is a Bill about the machinery of Government, and though we may talk about principles all night and argue about policies all night, none of us knows better than hon. Gentlemen opposite that principles and policies can be frustrated and defeated by a bad piece of machinery.
Therefore, we are surely entitled to know, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said in the last debate, what are the functions of the piece of machinery which we are being invited to institute. Is it to be a good piece of machinery or a bad piece of machinery? Surely we are entitled to know these things before we set it up, and as part of the process of setting it up.
§ The Attorney-General
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is most eloquent in insisting on consideration of a review on the machinery of Government. That being so, can he explain how the Prime Minister in the last Administration refused such a suggestion, which came from this side?
§ Mr. Hogg
I was not discussing a review of the machinery of Government. The Attorney-General has misunderstood what I was saying. I was describing the importance, which I did not think had been quite fully in the mind of his right hon. Friend in the last two debates, of the discussion, on the Floor of the House of Commons, of the machinery of Government, and I was saying that when we are being asked, as we are being asked this evening, to set up a new piece of machinery we are entitled to ask what this piece of machinery is proposed to do, and whether it is likely to achieve its purpose. I had hoped that he would agree with me.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has had a horrible time this evening, and my heart went out to him. I do not know whether they are going to change the bowling and give us the Attorney-General to reply this time.
§ Mr. Hogg
If I may change my metaphor, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman makes a few more runs on this Amendment than he managed to make on the last two. If he has had a horrible time, it is partly his own fault. I say partly, because I do not blame him entirely. Nevertheless, he deserved it, because his general attitude towards these Amendments has been that he seemed to think that the mere ipse dixit of the Prime Minister in setting up a new Ministry was a prima facie reason why Parliament should agree to its institution. We on this side of the Committee do not agree with that.
The second line of country was that if there had been, as there was last time, and as there is in relation to this Amendment, a Written Answer setting out the functions of the new Ministry as they had been decided on up to this date, we were in very bad taste if we wanted to hear a little more about them. We do not agree with that either. What we want 1638 from the Government is not an amiable speech from the right hon. Gentleman, but a reply from a Minister, whoever it may be, who knows something about the subject and about the piece of machinery which is proposed.
I cannot ask, as my right hon. and hon. Friends did in the previous two debates, for the presence of the Minister of Technology. The by-election at Nuneaton has not yet taken place, and for aught I know the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), whom we know and like so much, has not yet been translated to another sphere. But surely we could have had a Minister who knows something about technology? Why not the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has consented to the mutilation of his own Department as a term of his appointment, and who replied on the technological debate? Why not the Minister of Aviation who has more scientists and technologists than any other Government Department, or all the Government Departments put together? Why not the President of the Board of Trade, or one of the Economic Ministers, since technology is something which presumably at some stage in the proceedings will have something to do with industry?
Instead, we have the right hon. Gentleman. My right hon. and hon. Friends complained that he was treating the Committee with contempt because on previous Amendments the relevant Ministers were not present. I do not think that it is the right hon. Gentleman who is treating the Committee with contempt. It may be the Ministers who are absent, but not the right hon. Gentleman, who, as he rather endearingly said, is doing his best. It is the Government who are treating the Committee with contempt on this occasion by putting up the right hon. Gentleman, who can know nothing about the subject, to answer for them. No doubt that is why he has been chosen.
They think that it is indecent that we should question the ipse dixit of the Prime Minister, but what we are discussing on this Amendment is the creation of a separate Minister of Technology. There are things about which I fancy we would all be agreed. We are all agreed, I think, about the importance of the application of technology to industrial processes in our 1639 changed economic position. That is something which is common between both sides of the Committee, and I had hoped to make that clear in the debate on the Address.
Nor do I think that in this debate, although we may at some subsequent stage be at variance, there is any particular argument about the methods to be employed. I was at pains to read the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary in another place, and also the Written Answers made here by the Prime Minister and, I think, the Secretary of State for Education and Science. They contain certain vague and threatening phrases about starting new industries and Government enterprises, which we shall want to probe, but they reveal no concrete new idea which was not being actively pursued in the previous administration, and as recently as 1st December, when my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what new projects had been authorised, or what existing projects had been cancelled, the answer in each case was none as yet. Thus, we are not arguing now about policy. We are arguing the simple point about the machinery, and that I know will be gratefully received by the right hon. Gentleman who has been trying to confine himself to that point on the other two Amendments.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is the real justification for creating a Minister of Technology, such as is proposed, a Ministry separate from the Board of Trade, separate from the Economics Ministries, separate from the Ministry of Aviation, separate from the Department of Education and Science, and the Lord Presidency of the Council. What is the justification for asking him to take over a direct rôle—as distinct from the indirect rôle, which since 1915 has been axiomatic—of administering the industrial functions of the D.S.I.R.? What is the justification for his responsibility, for the Atomic Energy Authority, whose future is apparently wholly in doubt—when I asked this question of the Secretary of State I received no answer and have received no answer to date as to what 1640 is the future of the Atomic Energy Authority. Thirdly, what is the justification for the kind of roving commission separated from the sponsorship of any particular industry except three, separate from procurement, and separate from research and development in science? What is the justification for it? I ask that because this arrangement is the worst which could have been devised if the object was to bring a new spirit of innovation into British industry, which was the prospectus on which voters were invited to cast their votes a few weeks ago.
The appointment of a separate Minister of Technology, which is what is in question here, represents a solution to the problem which bears no resemblance whatever to the solutions adopted by any other industrial country in the world. Hon. Gentlemen opposite never tire of comparing the technological situation here unfavourably with that of other countries, such as the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and so on. These unfavourable comparisons are, as I have endeavoured to show in the past, both unfair and based on a number of misrepresentations of the actual state of affairs.
But hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. If the situation in technology in these various countries is, as they claim, so superior to ours, it is surely most imprudent to ignore the whole of their experience and to go it alone by the light of nothing but their own hunch, such as it is, illumined by no experience. In another place the Parliamentary Secretary attempted to claim that the Russian arrangement was not dissimilar to the proposal which the Government have made in this Bill. I am not sure that even if this were so it is an arrangement which ought to commend itself to this Committee because, whatever else can be said about scientific organisation, it must surely be geared to the political, economic, and social system which obtains in the country in which it is to work, and one hopes that our system will remain as it is now, profoundly different from the Russian system. But the Russian system bears no relation to what is proposed here.
In Russia there is a Council of Ministers under the chairmanship of a Deputy 1641 Prime Minister. There is no divorce between science and technology, so the Deputy Prime Minister is responsible for both, as I think I am right in saying he is, at any rate through the Council of Ministers, for technical education. In other words, the situation there much more closely resembles the status quo than the proposals that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are making.
It is true that matters of pure science are controlled in Russia through the Academy of Sciences, rather as we control research and development in the industrial scientific field largely through the D.S.I.R., but as the Deputy Prime Minister arranges the budget of the Academy of Sciences and, as a Communist party cadre, functions within the Academy of Sciences to ensure that it is in normal conformity with the policy of Government, the unity of science, technology and higher education is expressly preserved. But if, as I suppose, the experience of Western countries is more germane to our problem than is the Russian experience, it is worth saying that there is nothing remotely resembling this solution anywhere in the Western world.
Secondly, as far as I know there is no considerable body here which favours the solution proposed in the Bill. In conformity with so many other decisions taken by the Government during their first weeks of office, the Prime Minister has simply blundered ahead in this matter without consulting any of those who would be most nearly affected by the decision when made, or most capable of giving him constitutional advice.
He has not consulted industry before appointing his new Minister of Technology. He has not consulted civil servants, who, I believe, are absolutely aghast at the shambles which has been made of our administrative machine. He has not consulted the unions particularly concerned, notably the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, which has made a public protest both about the decision and about the absence of consultation. He has not consulted the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, which is the constitutional adviser of Governments in such matters, and whose retiring Chairman, Lord Todd, has gone on record against the suggestion. He has not consulted the D.S.I.R., which is to be abolished as a result of this decision, and which I know 1642 to be violently opposed to anything of the kind. He has not consulted the Atomic Energy Authority, whom I would expect to be equally opposed—nor has he consulted the other research councils.
How is it that the House of Commons, in Committee, is being asked to approve a piece of Government machinery which is simply a product of some inner process of ratiocination, unsupported by any precedent and without any previous consultation with those concerned?
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us any evidence that the Civil Service is aghast at the steps which have been taken?
§ Mr. Hogg
I only said that that was my opinion, and I was giving no other evidence. It is true that in the past individuals have declared themselves in favour of what they called "a Ministry of Technology". Some have favoured turning the Ministry of Aviation into a Ministry of Technology. Indeed, the Prime Minister, in one of the six previous inconsistent policies which he tried unsuccessfully to sell to the country, at one time favoured that solution.
But that is not the solution that is proposed here, and if it were it would not require the proposals in the Bill. Under the Bill the Minister of Aviation is to continue as before except that the sponsorship—whatever that may mean in the context; and I hope that we shall be told—for electronics, is to be separated from the sponsorship for aircraft and transferred to the new Ministry, together with the sponsorship for telecommunications, which is to be transferred from the Post Office, and the sponsorship of computers, which is to be transferred from the Board of Trade.
It is also true that some people were in favour of amalgamating part of the D.S.I.R. with the National Research Development Corporation and transferring responsibility for that to the Board of Trade, and then adding to the President of the Board of Trade, among his other titles, the title of Minister of Technology. But that is not what is proposed here. The Board of Trade is to continue, so we believe, as it is.
I hope that I may be not forgiven again for saying—since I have had the honour of being a Minister for that Department 1643 —that it is somewhat woefully unscientific in its outlook. Indeed, its one window into the technological field—the National Research and Development Corporation—is now to be snatched from the Board of Trade and handed to the new Minister. Not unnaturally, Lord Halsbury, a former Chairman of the Corporation who, like everybody else, was not consulted, has declared himself unequivocally as opposed to the present arrangement.
The position at this stage, therefore, is that without a word of consultation with those most qualified to judge and those most nearly affected, and without any precedent in any other country to go on, the Prime Minister, with that unique blend of inexperience, truculence and conceit that has characterised his every action, has gone blundering on with an arrangement which, prima facie, has nothing and nobody to commend it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows nothing whatever about technology. [HON. MEMBERS: "Neither do you."] I have been responsible for the development of science and technology for about eight years. Since hon. Members do not seem to have heard it, let me tell the Committee that during that period and the period of my immediate predecessors we enlarged the proportion of the national income spent on research and development from the 1.7 per cent. at which hon. Members opposite left it in 1951 to 3 per cent. of the enlarged national income that we left six weeks ago, and increased the amount of Government money spent on civil science from the much smaller proportion which was then spent by hon. Members opposite mostly spent on defence. We enlarged the sum of Government money spent on civil research and development during that period from a beggarly £30 million to the £170 million which it is at present.
I turn from the experience of other countries and the opinion of those most affected to the statement of the Government. Since he is at present the only Minister in Parliament responsible for the Ministry I turn first to the justification for his appointment offered by the Parliamentary Secretary in another place a week ago. He said that of course there 1644 was an overwhelming reason why the new Ministry should be set up. He said:We believe … that it is passionately necessary"—I ask hon. Members to note the phrase "passionately necessary"—to give a new dynamic to industry, a new dynamic to technological innovation in industry.If this sentence, somewhat strangely illiterate on the lips of so renowned a national author, means anything, it means that he has fallen into the age-long fallacy, which was demonstrated more than once in the preceding debates, of supposing that because we have succeeded in identifying a problem and because we attach importance to the solution of the problem we are therefore entitled to propose a new Ministry to deal with it.
This is not the case. Nine times out of ten this is nothing but a recipe for administrative chaos. In my submission, in order to justify a separate Ministry we require to do two things. First, we must show—and the right hon. Gentleman has already twice signally failed to do so—that the work proposed by the new Ministry is not being and could not be better done by another existing organisation. That is the first question to which the right hon. Gentleman ought to attach his mind—not whether it is passionately necessary to introduce innovation into British industry, but whether the function of innovation is properly performed by the proposed piece of machinery.
Secondly, it must be shown that the proposed range of functions is a single subject and that it is not necessary to deal with it, as very many subjects have to be dealt with, interdepartmentally. That is the case which the right hon. Gentleman must make. To say that a separate Ministry is justified or necessary, or, for that matter, passionately necessary, whatever that may mean, simply because there is a problem and it has suddenly been identified and it is desired to solve it, is to beg each of these two separate questions.
Turning from his justification for his appointment to his prospectus, I confess that I was not particularly reassured by the Parliamentary Secretary's own prospectus for his work and for that of Mr. Cousins. This is what the Parliamentary 1645 Secretary said about what he was going to do:This country has to earn a living.When Ministers are in doubt, they always seem to take the refuge in platitudes.
§ Mr. Hogg
The Parliamentary Secretary said:This country has to earn a living …We will do that by every conceivable means which come to our hands; every conceivable idea which floats through our heads."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 2nd December, 1964; Vol. 261. c. 1117–21.]So much for the prospectus of the Parliamentary Secretary in the House of Lords. Never since the South Sea Bubble has Parliament been offered such a pig in a poke as a justification for a Cabinet Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary.
There are three distinctive features of the proposed organisation, each of which I submit is disruptive of administrative efficiency and technology. The first distinctive feature is the removal of the organisation for scientific and industrial research from the operation of a research council—that is, the D.S.I.R. or, as we would have made it, the I.R.D.A. research authority type of organisation—and handing it over to an executive Ministry. That is the first characteristic of what is proposed—the destruction of the D.S.I.R. and the substitution of direct for indirect rule.
The second characteristic is the division both of ministerial responsibility and of administrative responsibility somewhere between science and technology, as if they were two separate things which could be dealt with separately at any stage of the process. No one believes that, but that is what is proposed to be done.
The third distinctive characteristic is the divorce of responsibility for any particular technical innovation in individual industries from the N.E.D.C. and the economic ministries, on the one hand, and from the Ministries responsible as sponsors of those industries, on the other.
It has the further characteristic and disadvantage that it divorces technical education and, above all, technological education from the subject of technology. Each of those disadvantages was absent 1646 from the status quo which we left the Government only six weeks ago.
When he defended the present proposals during the debate on the Gracious Speech, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, whom I am distinctly sorry not to see in his place at the moment, made two propositions by way of defence. He first claimed that the Department of Education and Science, as it was conceived by the previous Administration, covered so large a sphere of activities that no one man could possibly manage it. I do not believe that the Secretary of State would have made that claim if he had had, as I have had, experience of the undivided Ministry.
The right hon. Gentleman argued, secondly, that, with some minor improvements, what was being proposed by the present Government did not really differ, except in unimportant matters, from the proposals accepted by their predecessors. We shall have an opportunity of debating the second proposition in its more general bearing during the Second Reading of the Science and Technology Bill on Friday.
What is material, however, is the present argument and the present Amendment is that the proposition is incorrect as regards the Ministry of Technology. When one looks at the actual transfer of functions proposed, as they were disclosed in Written Answers on Thursday, 26th November, one sees that the whole effect of the present appointment is simply to substitute direct rule by the new Minister for indirect administration through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in the whole of the traditional rôle of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, except for university grants and its fairly new activities in space research and nuclear research, which are to be transferred to the new Scientific Research Council.
This is a totally new departure from recent practice and in my opinion at least, is a most retrograde step. Ever since 1915 it has been considered axiomatic that responsibility for industrial research and development is better exercised in conjunction with research in the medical, agricultural and other fields on what I have called the Haldane principle through an independent council of industrialists, scientists and other eminent persons and not directly by a Government Department itself.
1647 It is this principle which is in issue in the present case. The Minister is apparently to take over this function. Apparently he is to be aided by a small advisory council, of which I understand he is extremely proud. As Lord Todd pointed out in another place, this substitution of a second advisory council on scientific policy for the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy which still exists and which is advisory to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and which presumably, so far as we know, will continue to exist in that capacity, is a disastrous blunder. As Lord Todd said, we must have one scientific policy in this country and not two or three.
Now we are to have one Minister to be responsible for technology, advised by one scientific council; one Minister responsible for science, advised by another scientific council; and somewhere swinging in the trees by its tail on the outside a third—the Ministry of Aviation, which employs more scientists than either. This is the set-up we are asked to support tonight. Hitherto it has been axiomatic that the same Minister responsible for industrial research should be responsible through the other research councils—medical and agricultural—for medical and agricultural research, because the relationship between those councils has hitherto been both close and of the greatest importance. Industrial research cannot be separated from industrial medical research. They are different facets of the same subject and hitherto they have been carried out by joint projects under the same Ministry by the two Councils. The somewhat traumatic experiences of the last few years have led me at any rate to the conclusion that the same Minister should also be responsible for the University Grants Committee. It is true that this was also the view of Lord Robbins.
If it had been thought—I did not think—that it was too much to ask the same Minister to be responsible for education at well, there was available to right hon. and hon. Members opposite the solution proposed by Lord Robbins which I originally favoured as a temporary expedient during the period of the crash programme. Nobody can rationally defend the present arrangement. Had the Secretary of State tried it—had he continued with the arrangements in force 1648 at the Election—he would not have been at all overworked. The idea that the Department of Education and Science as it is constituted—[Interruption.] I am afraid the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) is rather out of his depth. It is not true that the Department of Education and Science was one of the harder worked Ministries. It was nothing like as big as the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, or the Ministry of Transport. Indeed, all its operations were carried out indirectly—the schools through the education authorities, the universities through the U.G.C., and science and technology through the research council.
One more point I must make. Underlying the new Ministry is the apparent belief that Government have an important rôle to play in the encouragement of the application of new techniques to industrial processes. That has emerged in about every speech that has been made on the subject. That is a proposition with which I can wholeheartedly agree—I have said this repeatedly both in and out of office—but the new Ministry is emphatically not the way to do it.
Despite the prospectus offered to the country, it is already clear that it is not the way in which it is being done, or the way in which it will be done. Nor, in fact, can any single Ministry do it, because it is in the nature of things that the function implied cannot be divorced from procurement and sponsorship. Admittedly, there are small development contracts which can be negotiated through the N.R.D.C. or the D.S.I.R., or whatever successor bodies there may later be to them. But that is not true of the larger development contracts.
If we are to have a nuclear ship, for instance, it must be arranged through the Ministry of Transport, which sponsors the shipbuilding industry. If there is to be a supersonic airliner—and, of course, we now do not know whether or not there is to be a supersonic airliner—because this is a real development contract it must be done through the Ministry of Aviation. It cannot be done through Mr. Cousins.
If there is to be a communications satellite, as I personally would hope—unless that has a chance to be dunked, too, as a purely prestige project—that 1649 would be an important development contract, and would have to be done through the G.P.O.—not through Mr. Cousins. Mr. Cousins has not collected an adequate technical staff to develop a cornmunications satellite.
If industrialised methods of building are to be adopted to help with our housing problem— and I sincerely hope that what has been done so far will be continued—it will not be done through Mr. Cousins or the Building Research Station but through the Minister of Public Building and Works. If we are talking about advances in textile machinery or textile processes, presumably the research associations will have something to say, and so, I hope, will the technological colleges under the Secretary of State for Education and Science, but the sponsoring Ministry will not be that of Mr. Cousins but the Board of Trade.
If it is agricultural machinery or methods, again, it will not be Lord Snow who takes it on, but the Ministry of Agriculture. If it is steel and steel processing, it will be the Minister of Power—at any rate, until we know what horrors the Government have in mind for the steel industry. The schools that are needed for technological advance will be designed in Curzon Street. We do not quite know now what is to happen to the Atomic Energy Authority, but if there are to be development contracts for new reactor designs, it will be the Atomic Energy Authority, or whatever successor there may be to it, and the development contracts will go through the Central Electricity Generating Board, and the responsibility will be that of the Minister of Power.
The motor industry will be the affair of the Board of Trade. If we are to have a proper Social Services Research Council as the result of Lord Heyworth's Committee, that must come under the aegis of the Ministry for Education and Science. Technology, in any rational definition of the term is far too wide for a small trencher fed pack under the guidance of Mr. Cousins and Lord Snow.
The whole nature of this unfortunate arrangement betrays the fact, as I believe, that the Prime Minister has wholly misunderstood the nature of the problem with which he is faced. Technological innovation is a form, but only one form 1650 of investment. Specifically, it is that form of investment which invests in new projects, new processes, new materials and new knowledge. It has to compete with other forms of expenditure—wages, pensions, amenities, sales, purchases—which cannot be divorced at any stage either from economics or from education, and particularly from technical or technological education.
It is far more needed in the docks, in the railways, in the London Passenger Transport Board—which Mr. Cousins has left, and where he has not so far played a notable part in innovation. It is far more needed in the established industries than in the computer, the electronics and aircraft industries which he has now taken on. In any case, the dynamic that has brought innovation in the past, and particularly in the advanced countries which we are always being invited by hon. Members opposite to copy, has been a dynamic of economic profit and the probable availability of a market on a scale commensurate with the investment. The latter has been gravely jeopardised by a number of different actions of the present Government; the former have done, and could do, a great deal to help if they once get out of their minds that it is a bad thing to win profits by innovating investment.
I do not say, and I have not said, that the Government have not a great and increasing rôle to play in all this technological advance. I think that they have. The research stations have a rôle, and a most important rôle, but they are better run by a research council such as the D.S.I.R. or the I.R.D.A. would have been than by the heavenly but slightly incongruous twins, Mr. Cousins and Lord Snow. The research councils have a rôle, but would be better if placed under the D.S.1.R. Government buying has a very big rôle to play, but we cannot divorce Government buying from the procurement Ministries. This is a function of procurement. Development contracts have a rôle to play, and the Government information services have a rôle to play that must be based on the functions of the Department of Education and Science.
The truth is that the arrangement that has been made by the Government, and which is now proposed and under discussion—the new Ministry—is nothing 1651 more than a kind of receptacle, a sort of wastepaper basket for the functions of the I.R.D.A. in the Trend proposals, and its only distinctive nature, apart from the picturesque but incongruous nature of the two appointments, is a disastrous move towards direct rule, and away from the beneficent principle of indirect administration of a research council or authority hitherto favoured by all parties and initiated by the late Lord Haldane, who was a far more distinguished man than the Labour Party has ever harboured since or is ever likely to harbour again.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has been in great form. I should like to support a great deal of what he has said, but I think that he would be the first to agree that it is not very easy in this case to choose which is black and which is white. Whatever decision we come to on this front is bound to have its disadvantages. Before we go any further, perhaps I had better make clear exactly what I mean by the word "technology".
I shall take as my guide and mentor in this respect Lord Todd, and if I adopt his definition of technology perhaps it will help to make clear what I am not talking about. Technology is the application of the scientific method and the results of scientific research to the solution of industrial problems. I believe that definition to be as reliable as any that one is likely to get and one has to ask whether the proposed setting up of the new Ministry is the best way to ensure that that process is furthered as rapidly and as effectively as possible.
I have been trying to discover from the various writings of hon. Members opposite and their friends outside the House of Commons the origin of this conception of a Ministry of Technology. Perhaps I need go no further back than to the famous document published in March, 1961, with a foreword by the present Prime Minister, "Science and the Future of Britain". On the front of the document there is a picture of the nebulae from the constellation Andromeda. It bears a strange resemblance, in my mind, to pie in the sky.
There is a great deal of spurious stuff in this document. We start off with: 1652A man-made satellite, adventuring into Space, circles this small planet once an hour; it might be carrying an H-bomb.and we are told that science can destroy the world's population or help it to standards of life inconceivable a generation ago. I think that it was Lord Bowden who once said that if scientists went on increasing at the rate of the last few years, in the year 2,000 not only every man, woman and child, but every ox, goat and ass, and every other animal would be a scientist. In our lifetime, the rate of increaes in the number of scientists has been absolutely phenomenal.
The important thing which we have to decide is whether or not the proposal to have a separate Ministry is the best way of making use of what these scientists have disclosed for us by research. "Science and the Future of Britain" I understand, was written before the 1959 General Election, but the Labour Party could not get enough agreement to publish it. They then slightly doctored it and published it in 1961 when the one major recommendation in it had already been implemented by a Conservative Government, to wit, the appointment of a Minister for Science by the creation of my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone in that capacity.
The more one studies the way in which D.S.I.R. and all the other scientific bodies in the country have been built up the more convinced one becomes of what was so very forcibly and rightly emphasised in the Trend Report on the Organisation of Civil Science, and that is that the one thing one cannot ever hope to have done is to have scientific research and development conducted by people ther than scientists. As I see the conception of this Ministry, it is an attempt to do something which Lord Snow himself, in "Science and Government", said the scientists did not lend themselves to do, and which was not in the nature of their creative abilities, and that was to turn themselves into administrators.
There is no one in the Committee probably more qualified to talk on the abilities, the limitations and the general organisation of the Civil Service than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I know that he has dedicated his life to its well-being. One can see from "Science and Government" that Lord Snow himself 1653 is in some difficulty in having to argue in another place the case for having this Ministry. If he is to man the Ministry with people other than scientists he will run the risk very quickly of having people controlling scientific research and development who are totally unqualified so to do. If, on the other hand, he is going to have nothing but scientists in the Ministry he will have people who are not particularly gifted at administration. They are not to be condemned for that because that is not their métier.
I suggest to the Government that the one thing which they must tell us in this debate, before we decide whether this is the right thing to do, is whom it is intended to have as the manpower in this Ministry. Are they to be ordinary civil servants drawn from other Departments, taking advice from one of the Permanent Under-Secretaries to the Treasury? Or are they to be people hand-picked from the scientific world? It may be that there will be a blending of the two. We have little idea today of the intended size of this Ministry. Is it to be a corps d'élite of scientific intelligentsia going round and pontificating to people on what they should be doing? Is it to be a major Department injecting money in the right places as it thinks fit, or perhaps sending personnel into other Departments and into industry, to show how the money should he spent. We have had a list of four great industries which will be brought under the purview of this Ministry—automation. electronics, computers, and another.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Is this a case of grandmother being taught to suck eggs, or is it not? Will we have people detached from the Ministry and going into industry and telling people how the job should be done? The industries selected are the middleman industries. They are not primary industries or end-product industries. They are all making components or equipment for other industries to use to produce eventually some important manufacture which we hope will earn this country its keep. If we have any dislocation at that level of industry what a catastrophic effect this can have on the eventual output of British manufacturing industry.
1654 We must, therefore, be made clear in our minds by the Government what sort of people will be in this Ministry and what will be their function when they get there. A great deal of status symbol prestige bunkum is talked these days. This country will not earn its money through talking about prestige. It will earn its keep by what our engineers will produce, and on the assumption that they are in sufficient numbers and are properly trained.
Here I agree with everything which Lord Todd emphasised several times in his speeches in another place. I regard this as the biggest problem we have today. I see the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) in his place. He and I have today been listening to Professor Parkinson elaborating on how to get more engineers. Some of us suspect that there is too great a vested interest in the humanities and various other aspects of learning in the universities on the part of those whose business it is to teach and there is a deliberate attempt in some quarters to prevent our having enough engineers. This may be one of the problems, but I am not at all sure that having a Ministry of Technology which is divorced altogether from the Ministry of Education is the right way to set about getting enough engineers.
I was with my hon. and learned Friend all the way during his tenure of office as Minister for Education and Science in his insistence that, unquestionably, education and science must be kept together. We cannot divide the two, certainly not when we come to post-graduate university study. It is essential that there be a very clear link between the two maintained by the Government. Yet here the Government are deliberately separating the two. In the debate in another place, Lord Halsbury pointed out that a very big price has had to be paid. There has been a split. I notice that, although Lord Bowden, speaking on behalf of the Government, spoke of an "indivisible robe", a split has had to be made in it. The noble Lord went on to say that he hoped that we should be able to do what the Americans had done, that is, keep the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology together. But how are we to do it?
1655 The Government's action in proposing to set up this new Ministry is, automatically, a step to divide them. I fully understand the inherent difficulty that any federal Ministry concept has in it, the danger that the Secretary of State at the head of a federal Ministry will have so many things which he could consider that it will be beyond the power of one man to make a careful appraisal of detail. But the essence of the federal system is that the detailed day-to-day business can be taken away from the Secretary of State, who can then see things in their grand perspective.
Yet we are taking away one of the vital interests of the Minister in charge of education, the translation of all that has gone through the education machine and all the research into positive action in industry.
We are not yet fully in the picture. Even those of us who have carefully studied, as I have, everything said in another place last week, do not know what the Government's proposals really are. The debate in another place was intensely interesting, and I humbly suggest that all hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate today and on Friday would be well advised to study most carefully all that was said in another place on 2nd December. Everyone who took part had either had an active part in the scientific life of the nation or had some part in Government scientific activity or Departmental activity. I feel that those of us here who lack the experience which noble Lords have should be all the more careful that we do not commit ourselves to something which, perhaps because of our lack of adequate knowledge, might cause very great disruption in British industry.
Looking back on what the present Minister of Housing and Local Government said when he was in charge of science matters when the Labour Party was in opposition, at what the present Prime Minister has said and what various Labour Party publications have said, it always seems to me that, fundamentally, the whole of Labour Party policy in this matter has been based on a complete misconception, the idea that not enough money was being spent on the things necessary for industry.
I have here a copy of a memorandum which was prepared for me before we 1656 went off last May to Vienna to represent this House at a conference of Parliamentarians and scientists from the O.E.C.D. and the Council of Europe. Some of the information here completely belies the presuppositions of hon. and right hon. Members opposite about all this business. The idea that we have made no progress and that things have been lacking is completely inaccurate. Here is a quick summary of some of the major achievements. National expenditure on research and development in 1955–56 amounted to £300 million, and the civil part of that was only £122 million. By 1962, the total had risen to £634 million of which £388 million was civil. In 1950–51, total Government expenditure on civil scientific research was £30 million, and by 1963–64 it had risen to £172 million, a nearly sixfold increase. The total expenditure on research councils, which will come within the purview of the new Ministry, amounted in 1952–53 to £10.8 million, and the estimate for the current year is £49 million.
Never in my experience have hon. Members opposite voted against more money being provided out of the public purse for some purpose or another. It is a safe bet that there will not be a Division if more public money is being spent; the Labour Party will never oppose it. It may be that this is the sort of doctrine behind the Labour Party thinking in proposing to set up this Ministry—that the Ministry can spend public money faster. But we must be certain whether the Ministry will be able to ensure that the money has been better spent than it would otherwise have been.
However good right hon. Gentlemen opposite are at approaching matters from a Treasury point of view, what matters here is whether the right men are in charge of the operation. What matters is whether the Department, whatever Department it is which is picking the people to do the research, is capable of picking the best men available, and whether, having picked them, it is prepared to put sufficient confidence in them to let them get on with the job and not interfere with them on political grounds while they are at work.
The whole of the Ministry's conception reeks of the likelihood that we shall have Lord Snow or somebody else sailing in and saying, "I am sorry. That is inconsistent with Labour Party philosophy. 1657 You must lay off for a bit." If we are to have that sort of thing brought into the scientific effort and the application of science and technology to industry, this country will not earn its living no matter what Lord Snow says is his object.
If right hon. Gentlemen opposite want the best machinery, they had better make certain that in making the proposals which they do in the Bill they do not throw away something which will be utterly irrecoverable once it is thrown away. It is all very well to talk about the brain drain in the past. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite set about D.S.I.R. breaking it up completely and going much further than the Trend reorganisation and, as a result, finishing up with something which will mean political control of science and research and development, whatever money they spend will not ensure the safety of the British economy.
I find it lamentable that we should get this doctrinaire approach to science. I have always thought that this was one of the few issues in politics where we really could get off party politics. Yet the whole of this reeks of a dogmatic Socialist approach—that unless the Government control everything, everything cannot be done as well as it should be. In science it is utter nonsense to take that view.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) and I and several other hon. Members and several distinguished men from outside the House worked for 2½ years to produce a report called "Science in Industry: The Influence of Government Policy", which was published in November. 1962. We stressed throughout it what I think is far and away the most important thing to stress today—that what matters is not whether one should have a Ministry in charge of science, but whether every Government Department, and especially those concerned with anything in the least industrial, has a sufficient number of people adequately qualified to understand the vernacular in which scientists and technologists speak and think. In no Department is this more important than the Treasury.
I wonder very much how the new Ministry will get on with the Treasury if Lord Snow and Lord Bowden start talking in the terms in which they have been talking in another place or in the terms in which Lord Snow has been writing books and articles. The Treasury 1658 will not know what they are talking about unless the right people have been put in the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is perhaps more qualified than any of us to say whether he is satisfied that what has happened in the Treasury has so geared that part of the machinery of Government that it will be capable of meeting modern needs of science and technology.
The Treasury is the Department with its hands on the money strings. They are the people who will decide whether or not the right amount of money is spent in the right place on scientific effort of this nature. I would say that at present there is still need for a lot of improvement. What we wanted to see in the report which we produced two or three years ago was a re-gearing of the Government machine, not breaking up Departments, not destroying the good, but building on what had proved itself and ensuring that the Government machine itself, especially in the Civil Service sector of it, was better equipped than ever before to make the best of what these men had to offer. If the Government can give us an assurance that that is the way in which they approach the problem, my opposition to this Ministry would be less intense than it is.
But I recognise at once that if we do not have the Ministry, we must replace it with something else which is not included in the Bill which we shall be debating on Friday. If we do not have the Ministry we must have something that will be the equivalent of the proposals in the Trend Report of I.R.D.A., the Industrial Research Development Authority.
It is a very finely balanced argument as to which is the right way. There is something to be said for a Ministry as distinct from an authority because the Ministers, once they become Members of Parliament, will at least be capable of being questioned on the Floor of this House, whereas if we have an authority it will not be possible for it to be questioned unless the Minister agrees. Whatever we have, it must be a better machine than has existed so far to enable hon. Members On both sides of the House to be able to get at the permanent officials of the bodies that have been set up, many of them over a number of years.
1659 I know that the objection to that has been from the Treasury and not from the Departments concerned. This is the real business of who controls the Civil Service. I shall not go further into that, because the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows already that this is something which we have debated before. Nevertheless, I would say that if we are to have a really great drive to apply technology in industry better than it has ever been applied before, the way to do it is to ensure that the men who are appointed to this or that job know the best scientists and technologists to employ and who, having selected them, will let them get on with the progressing of research and development. That is the way to do it—not to have the Government deciding the progress on political grounds.
This is the great danger of having a Ministry, and for that reason I must oppose the setting up of the Ministry and much prefer the idea originally put out in the Trend Report, namely, an Industrial Research Development Authority. I believe that that would be the better way. Both, I know, have disadvantages, but, on balance, I would say that I would prefer the Authority to the Ministry.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
We were promised a long and vigorous debate and I was waiting for it to develop. I do not think that we should be afraid of innovation in public administration or in the machinery of Government. Listening to this debate very carefully and especially to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), I thought that it was too academic altogether. I think that both the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely missed the psychology of the matter which is not unimportant in a crucial stage in the development of our country.
There have been times when new Ministers have been appointed to capture the mood of the nation, or to deal with a special problem pressing upon the public conscience and providing anxiety to the Government. I remember the appointment of a Minister for Central African Affairs. It carried with it special responsibility to take care of a crisis in Central Africa. From the standpoint of sound administration and the 1660 delineation of functions and the disposition of civil servants, it would have made very little sense, but it had to do with something that, in the view of the Government of the day, needed to be done.
Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Houghton
I cannot say that I am particularly grateful for that interruption. I was saying that there are occasions in the development of public policy when the creation of new Ministries with special tasks is justified.
I think that the Prime Minister captured the public imagination and gave inspiration to a great many people in the country by the speech he made at the Scarborough conference of the Labour Party last year. He generated in the minds of many executives, scientists and technologists the feeling that at last there was a party, and possibly a Government, which would appreciate the importance of technological advance and scientific development to a greater extent than had been visible before. After all, the visibility of things matters in public affairs.
Government and Parliament are representative institutions. We have to respond to public demand, to the needs of the times. It is not possible always to put public administration to the rather arid test of O & M. There are times when one must rise above that and provide some inspiration in a direction badly needed at a particular time. I believe that this new Ministry is just such an inspiration needed just now. The job of the Ministry of Technology is to procure, develop and sell technology—and the selling of technology is an urgent need in the country on both sides of industry.
It is not without significance that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has appointed perhaps the best-known trade union leader in Britain to be Minister of Technology. This is where the influence of a Minister like Mr. Frank Cousins is of such great importance. On this side of the Committee, we believe that this Ministry can offer a new thrust and a new drive behind the 1661 acceptance of technological advance throughout industry and provide a central point for the encouragement of development, innovation and the acquisition by industry and the acceptance by the trade unions of technological equipment, new methods and the use of the latest types of machinery, the plunge into the electronic age which is needed if Britain is to survive. All this is part of the work of the new Ministry.
There has been an announcement about the intentions of the new Ministry and there has been a debate in another place and there is to be a debate in the House on Commons on Friday dealing with some aspects of the new set-up. Hon. Members must bring their best judgment to bear on the situation as they see it. I looked at the Economist last week and saw an article on who does what and to whom. There was an article in the Statist of the same week on the rôle of technology. There is support in the Statist and criticism in the Economist. Referring to a list of things which need to be done, the Statist said:Action on the problems in this list is bound to make somebody squeal, but if Mr. Cousins avoids treading on people's toes we shall know that he is not doing his job.That sums it up There will be no central control in the Ministry of Technology over the whole of the nation's scientific and technological activities and research. It is a central generating point for the work which has to be done in research and especially in the acceptance by industry of the fruits of research and technological advance.
This comes very near to the future of Britain. We all know what is the challenge before the country today, and we all accept the need for faster economic growth. We all accept the need for buoyant and expanding exports. This is the foundation of the nation's economic survival, and any step which may help and further the progress of our ability to produce goods for export is surely to be encouraged.
Everybody knows that if we are to get economic growth, we must release and foster those forces of rapid technological advance and innovation which alone can sustain our future survival. We believe that we have the men and we believe that we have the ideas. It is the urgent responsibility of any 1662 Government to ensure the maximum opportunity and freedom for those who are engaged in research and in the application of the fruits of our own brains and research.
The export industries will have to modernise themselves in many respects before they are fully equipped to compete with the rapidly developing nations in Europe and elsewhere. Developing countries are ambitious for industrialisation, and it will be our job to show the way for their own economic development. As we import so much of our food and raw materials, we have to become the most efficient converter of raw materials into manufactured goods in the world if we are to fulfil all the hopes and expectations for social advance and for an improvement in our standard of living and at the same time discharge what we believe to be our moral obligations—obligations which are also enlightened self-interest—in giving as much help as we can to other countries in the form of technological development and industrialisation.
It is against this background that my right hon. Friend decided to appoint a Minister of Technology—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) is very fidgety. He has been in this condition for quite a long time. Probably, like me. he is desperately hungry. If so, he can go out and get something to eat, but I must stay.
§ Mr. Buck
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the urgency which the Government feel about research. I was hoping to be able to ask someone more directly concerned with science—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can answer this—why it was found necessary on the first of this month for one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends to inform the House of Commons that no new research project had been authorised by the Ministry. Does not this strike the right hon. Gentleman as surprising in view of the fact that, apparently, the Ministers in the Ministry of Technology came to office bursting with new ideas?
§ Mr. Houghton
I regard these questions as most impertinent, if I may say so, from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have just quit these benches after 13½ years of dreary, incompetent 1663 government. I know how it must feel for hon. Members opposite to be in Opposition having spent so long on the Government benches. Do not we know how frustrating it is to have to oppose everything which the Government propose?
§ Mr. Houghton
I will answer if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be quiet for one moment.
We have been in office only a few weeks. The new Minister has been in office only a few weeks. The new organisation is being brought together. Surely it is not surprising that in this short time it has not been possible to launch new and, possibly, expensive and ambitious projects. These will come. Give us time. We know that time is running against us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am speaking of the country now, not of the Government. In the few weeks that we have been in office we have had to energise the nation in quite a few respects.
This is not just a matter of seeing that certain functions are competently discharged. As I said earlier, it is necessary at this time to capture the mood of the whole nation and to interest and inspire it in the direction of technological advance. If we can do that, such difficulties as there may be in administration, co-operation, lines of demarcation and the rest will be overcome in the interests of the major objective. This is where the genius of public administration in this country has expressed itself many times in improvisations and innovations which we have adopted in order to achieve an overriding purpose, notwithstanding administrative difficulties which would otherwise be regarded as important disqualifications for embarking upon them.
What we are doing is commending to this Committee, yet again, the first phase in this new Ministry. Then subsequent stages of the fulfilment of the purpose of the Ministry will be discussed in the House. We are strongly of the opinion that it is something worth doing. We think that this innovation will not only make a good deal of difference to the psychology of the situation but will also encourage, co-ordinate and, to some 1664 extent, centralise the direction of research and technological advance.
I hope that the Committee will feel that there is enough behind the proposals for the new Ministry to justify writing it into this Bill. A later stage, as I have said, will enable hon. Members on both sides to go further into the functions and the activities of the Ministry. Is this worth doing? Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen—notwithstanding the trenchant criticism that has been made—say that this is not worth doing? If they say that, which was said by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely, then they must say what else is to be done. Obviously, the present situation is not producing the results which are imperative for the advance of our prosperity and for the strengthening of our economy.
If hon. Members wish to criticise what we are doing, they should get up and say what the alternative would be for them. I suggest that this is as good a solution to a difficult and complicated problem as any that has been mentioned so far. The Committee should give it strong encouragement and hope that it will contribute something more to the future development of the country and of our economy.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has only brought forward one reason—I would say one distinctive reason—why he suggests that it is necessary to create a Ministry of Technology in order to give a greater stimulus to technology throughout the country. The reason which he gave us was psychological. He showed a good deal of contempt for organisation and methods in public administration which, I would have thought, ill becomes a right hon. Gentleman who is pleading for this country to take a more technological approach to our affairs.
I have at least this advantage over the right hon. Gentleman, that I started my industrial career as a work study man and I know a little about the analytical approach to these problems. If technology means anything, it surely means precision. Indeed, even the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who is always so keen on interrupting—[Interruption.]—will be reminded that the 1665 essence of a scientific approach is precision.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall the famous words of that great engineer and physicist, Lord Kelvin:When you can measure what you are speaking about and can express it in numbers, you know something about it; and when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.The right hon. Gentleman has been inviting us to approve the setting up of a Ministry of Technology, not in the arguments of technology but in the sort of arguments one might use to address a revivalist meeting.
I think that it is necessary, when considering the appropriate machinery of government for technology, to make one or two general points. The first is that science and technology have from time to time to be separated for purpose of organisation, but we must never lose sight of the fact that they are a continuum. I do not know how many hon. Members read the address of the President of the Royal Society, Sir Howard Florey, a few weeks ago, when he said:no hard and fast line can or should be drawn between those who apply science, and in the process make discoveries, and those who pursue what is sometimes called basic science.One could produce an extremely good case to show that many of the advances that have been made in recent years in basic science—that is, in fundamental knowledge about how our natural universe is constructed—have arisen as a result of technological improvement, by which I mean improvement in the capabilities of instruments of measurement both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm. It is not possible to separate the two, although one recognises that from time to time organisationally one must attempt it.
Secondly, the distinction that we can use is a distinction of ends. Applied science is where one is dealing with science and technology in relation to specific purposes—in relation, for example, to preparing a road with a nonskid surface. With pure science, one does not have any specific use for one's knowledge when setting out and attempting to attain it. One is researching into the unknown. The social justification for basic research is that greater knowledge 1666 of the unknown has in the long run human use.
It means, furthermore, that in any given human situation today in the modern world, technology is only part of a problem and never the whole. Technological problems cannot be divorced from economics or from human problems. Hon. Members would, I am sure, agree that one of our biggest problems is not so much getting new scientific knowledge or even getting new technology, but getting known knowledge applied in a particular situation. The obstacles are as frequently human obstacles as they are economic or scientific.
If it therefore follows that there is a technological content in every modern problem, surely, in looking at the machinery of Government, we must look at it rather in terms of how we ensure that every Department of State is more capable of looking at the technological side of a problem and how it is better technically equipped. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). Therefore, I reject the whole of Lord Snow's approach—before he went to the Ministry—in his concept of the two cultures. What we must aim at, and what through the machinery of Government we must aim at, is to be both literate and numerate. I believe that by setting up a separate Ministry of Technology, we will be reducing the chances of making the Civil Service throughout all Departments numerate as well as literate.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has, as I expected, having heard the earlier debates, told us nothing about the justification for a Ministry of Technology as being the appropriate method of getting this extra stimulus into technology, over which there is nothing between himself and myself. The right hon. Gentleman has told us nothing of the reasoning behind the creation other than that he felt that psychologically this was the moment to do it.
In our efforts to try to discover the precise purpose and the rôle of the Ministry of Technology, we on this side have to go back to earlier stages. I suppose that the best starting point is the "ark of the covenant" of the new Government, the Labour Party's recent election manifesto, in which we were promised a Ministry of Technology 1667to guide and stimulate a major national effort to bring advanced technology and new processes into industry.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is generally recognised that that is the purpose. I am glad to get from back-bench Members on the Government side agreement that I find difficult to get from the Government Front Bench.
Since the Government took office, I have been waiting patiently to learn more precisely how the new Ministry intends to quide and to stimulate. How can we in the House of Commons know whether this new Department of Technology is a necessary or a right vehicle to take the country in the direction that right hon. and hon. Members opposite want us to go? I have got sufficient respect for the intelligence of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to be certain that they have something more in mind than a general exhortation.
Therefore, I want to know, how do they intend to guide and stimulate industry? So far we have had three different pronouncements on three different occasions. I will examine them in inverse order of chronology. The most recent pronouncement, what I call the first pronouncement was made by the First Secretary of State answering a Question yesterday in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister. He told us:The Ministry of Technology will use whatever measures seem right to promote technological advance in these industries and in industry generally."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 1320.]That does not get us very much further. Indeed, I think that that Answer, in terms of sheer stonewalling, would have done credit to the Foreign Office at the height of a difficult international crisis.
We come to Lord Snow speaking in another place on 2nd December. He gave us. I am glad to say, a good deal more of an idea of how the Government see this Ministry operating. He enumerated three techniques which the new Department intends to use in order to guide and to stimulate. The first of these was the development contract, and I quote:This has been done in the defence industry for 20-odd years. The possibility that this is going occasionally to look arbitrary cannot be removed: it has not been removed ever in the defence industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1668 House of Lords, 2nd December, 1964; Vol. 261, c. 1122.]Of course, there is rôle for a civil development contract, but I do seriously put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it can never be a major stimulant to technology and technological advance in civil industry, because there is great danger in placing development contracts which are divorced from ultimate orders for hardware. Just to give an example, last summer I spent a quite considerable amount of time going round some of our major electronics firms, and discussed with them how much we, as a Government, could make use of the civil development contract, and whereas they said that there were certain things which could usefully be done, the general answer I got was that it is not generally an appropriate method, that this is no substitute for orders for hardware.
I think the Committee ought to remember that if we look at the use which the Americans have made of development contracts we see that they have nearly always been on specific projects to which a development contract is going to make a contribution; specific projects in defence and in civil space work where the Government are also the customers. There is, I think, a very big difference between a development contract which is to look at something in a vague sort of way and a development contract which is part of the applied research leading up to an ultimate piece of hardware for which the Government Department concerned, or one related to it, will be the ultimate customer. There is no substitute in research for the discipline of a tight timetable.
Secondly Lord Snow told us:The second technique which we propose to use is an intelligent adaptation of Mr. McNamara's purchasing. This Mr. McNamara has done with astonishing ingenuity for a number of years, and the effects on American industry, in fields I know a little about, have been dramatic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd December, 1964; Vol. 261, c. 1122.]I do not doubt for a moment that Mr. McNamara does use the purchasing power of the United States Government to considerable purpose, but do not let us in this Committee forget the fact that Mr. McNamara is Secretary of State for Defence in the United States and not a Minister of Technology. This seems to me, if this argument is to be used, an 1669 argument in favour of putting technological responsibility on to the Ministry of Aviation and incorporating the Ministry of Aviation as a fourth leg in the Ministry of Defence.
There is a fundamental difference between what the Government can do to advance technology where they are the major, or even the sole customers, and what they can do over the wide range of industry where they are at best only marginal customers. If the Government are the major customers, they can technologically force the pace, as they do in the defence fields. I do not say that there are not some products which the Government buy for civilian use which may not be amenable to this approach, but surely this is best effected by the Department or the nationalised industry concerned? Unless, of course, it is the intention of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Ministry of Technology is to become the central purchasing department for Whitehall and Central Government generally.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
The right hon. Gentleman says "Of course not." Will he ask his right hon. Friend how the Ministry of Technology is to follow the pattern of Mr. McNamara, which is what Lord Snow said? I did not say it, nor did the right hon. Gentleman.
In the last Parliament, under the able guidance of Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, the Ministry of Public Building and Works was the pioneer of the catalytic rôle of a civil Department between the purchasers of buildings on the one hand, and the building industry and the manufacturers of components and materials on the other. This is a precedent which could well be followed. It does not require the creation of a Ministry of Technology, but rather the radiation of all Departments with technological energy and expertise. Clearly there are opportunities for the Ministry of Health to take on the rôle of active catalyst between regional hospital boards and manufacturers of chemical equipment. The field of medical electronics is the most obvious one.
Much of the current expenditure by the public sector on civilian equipment is not carried out by central Government but rather by the nationalised industries, by local government, by 1670 regional hospital boards, by local education authorities, and the like. Unless purchasing decisions are to be taken out of their hands and put into the hands of the Ministry of Technology, I do not see how this Ministry can model itself on Mr. MacNamara, unless it is intended that Mr. Frank Cousins should take over the Ministry of Defence. This may be one of the new treats that we shall get after Washington.
Whereas I am of the firm opinion that individual Departments can, and should, take on the rôle of an active catalyst between suppliers and customers in the public sector, I do not believe this can be done by the Ministry of Technology as conceived by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, unless it intends to take over the technological responsibilities of all other Governments, because to take away the individual technologies from individual Departments is to dehydrate them.
I cannot think of any major question in any Department of State which has not got this technological content. The Government will find, as they come to grips with individual situations on the civil side, that there is far less in the MacNamara approach than Lord Snow appeared to think. Where it is appropriate I believe that this approach should be carried out by the Department concerned, and not by the Ministry of Technology.
The third great technique which Lord Snow told us would be used as a justification for this Department was listening. He said:The third matter method we are going to use is rather surprising and very prosaic. It is listening. We propose to listen to everyone who has an idea and who cares to talk to US …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd December, 1964; Vol. 261, c. 1122–3.]That is fine. I hope that it is not necessary for every Department to come to Parliament and say that it is prepared to listen. I have no doubt that listening will come easily to one who has for so long experienced the corridors of power. But that listening must have a purpose, and I trust that the Ministry of Technology listeners will not respond like Walter de la Mare's listeners:And he felt in his heart their strangenessTheir stillness answering his cry.What matters is not listening to fine phrases and great ideas. What matters 1671 are specific propositions which lead to new projects, new processes, or improved ones.
It is better hardware that matters. Is it for this that the Ministry will be listening? Having heard, what can it do, and what will it do, that could not have been done by an expanded N.R.D.C.? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree or disagree with the proposals that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) put forward last summer in order to expand the N.R.D.C.? What sort of people does the right hon. Gentleman think will be caught into this listening net which could not be brought in through the N.R.D.C.?
The third pronouncement that we have had on the way in which this Department will operate was on 26th November, when the Prime Minister gave us his version of the means to be used by the Minister of Technology. He said:The methods employed will include an intensified use of the appropriate Research Stations and of the National Research Development Corporation, civil development contracts and studies to identify particular industries or parts of industries suitable for action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 216.]Let us see what this means in practice. Does it justify the creation of this new Department. What is meant byan intensified use of the appropriate Research Stations"?I would remind the Committee that in 1956–57 D.S.I.R. spent £8¼ million and in 1962–63, £19½ million. Does this mean that more money will be made available to the former D.S.I.R. stations, and a bigger grant to research stations? Does it mean new research stations? Will the Ministry take over directly the work of the D.S.I.R. Council and all its committees?
As for the N.R.D.C., is the Prime Minister proposing to go a great deal further than was proposed on 28th July by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley? Does he agree with that statement, and agree on the need for expanding the terms of reference of the N.R.D.C.? Is the independence of the N.R.D.C. Council to be left or not? 1672 If it is to be left, and things are to go on under the plans already announced on 28th July, why remove it from the Board of Trade? Why set it up in the Ministry of Technology? This debate is about the machinery of Government, and the movement of the N.R.D.C. to the new Ministry of Technology is a piece of movement of that machinery that I thought the right hon. Gentleman would tell us something about it.
I have already said something about development contracts, but there is an important personnel side of the machinery of Government with regard to these contracts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to gather that development contracts will be placed in future by the Ministry. If they are to be placed by the Ministry, what size of staff will it have to have to cover the entire spectrum of possible industries and technologies in which the Ministry may be minded to place development contracts?
As my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely said earlier, it is no good asking a Department to devise and formulate the specification for a complicated development contract unless it has adequate staff to do it. We have been told about none of these things. Under the indirect principle, through the D.S.I.R. and it committees we had the machinery to do this. We have been told nothing about this. We are asked to agree to the annihilation of the old D.S.I.R. structure and system, so we must have answers to these questions.
We have the general injunctionto identify particular industries or parts of industries suitable for action.We are entitled to ask—by what criteria will they be identified? Is it to be the criterion of profitability? Is it to be the criterion of growth potential, or export potential, or employment potential? How are these criteria to be judged? Without this knowledge it is a meaningless and vacuous phrase.
Then we have the phrase "suitable for action". Suitable for what sort of action? Action by whom? Is it to be action for its own sake? Who decides?
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
On a point of order. Is it correct for a right hon. Gentleman to make interruptions in an hon. Member's speech from a sedentary position?
§ Mr. Price
The right hon. Gentleman clearly is not very interested in technology Dr in economic affairs. He has still not taken in the lesson which I read from Lord Kelvin. Until he has done that, he will still be 100 years out of date. We were discussing the proposition—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the proposition I was discussing is boring, he can have it out with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because it is the Prime Minister's proposition we are discussing.
§ Mr. Shinwell rose—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, the right hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Price
If the right hon. Gentleman needs the protection of the Chair from a younger hon. Member, he really is slipping. I was discussing the idea of the Prime Minister that the Ministry of Technology is to identify industries suitable for action. I was asking a number of questions about it to which we are entitled to have replies. Even if it is right that suitable industries should be indeterminately and indiscriminately selected for indiscriminate and indeterminate action, we are entitled to ask why it is necessary to create a Ministry of Technology to do this. What is the Ministry of Economic Affairs supposed to be doing? What is the Board of Trade supposed to be doing? We realise that the Treasury has been demoted into being merely the counting office to the First Secretary of State.
1674 Then the Prime Minister told us:The Ministry of Technology will in future be the sponsor department for the machine tools, electronics, telecommunications and computer industries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 216–17.]What does the Prime Minister mean by sponsorship? Is it the same as purchasing? Is it, on the other hand, acting in some way as a catalyst? We have had no replies to any of these questions.
The plain fact is that if the Government really want to put an economic impulse into technology they will do it from the general management of the economy and from their economic policies. It will be done by trying to expand the British market and making it larger. Therefore, our whole approach to bodies like E.F.T.A. and the Common Market is relevant if we are to have a higher technological impulse in industry. The whole question of taxation, of investment, of investment allowances—these are the relevant things and I do not believe, when we see the sort of policies that right hon. Members opposite are pursuing, that it is necessary to have this Ministry at all, and it is a complete bind.
The one hopeful sign that the Government realise that the real need is to get more competition into the economy came from the First Secretary of State when he said in a very early debate, quoting the Economic White Paper:The plain fact is that British industry needs to be more competitive and aggressive.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:In general terms, we need to create a competitive climate in which efficiency is rewarded and inefficiency penalised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 219–20.]More bankruptcies for the weak and unsuccessful and more profits for the strong and aggressive! It sounds to me more like Adam Smith than Keir Hardie, but it is none the worse for that.
From what we have been told, this new Ministry is an ill conceived child. In so far as it has an economic purpose, that purpose would be better carried out by the economic Departments, and more particularly by a relevant economic policy on the part of the Government. In so far as the Ministry of Technology is taking over the work of the D.S.I.R., the Ministry will be doing nothing that the 1675 proposed Industrial Research and Development Authority would not have done better.
In so far as the whole Government machine needs to be more numerate and more technologically conscious, the creation of the new Department is positively counter-productive. As to the means by which it will fulfil its purpose, we have little to go on besides a few sweeping generalisations and platitudes, and a vague threat by the Prime Minister to take action unspecified against industries unspecified.
What a change from the brave words of September, when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were fresh, virile and naïve. Then they were saying,Labour is ready. Poised to swing its plans into instant operation. Impatient to apply the New Thinking that will end the chaos and sterility.It must be evident to the whole Committee that precious little thinking has
§ been done about the Ministry of Technology. I wonder whether all those who were impressed by the brave words of September would have believed that by December one of the primary weapons of the new Ministry of Technology—this knight in shining armour who was to rescue the British economic maiden from the slothful dragon of Tory management—was to be listening.
§ Here is the great dynamic that was missing before. Here is planning in action. And the new St. George is to be armed, not with a lance but with a hearing aid. Is it any wonder that we have no alternative but to advise our right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against this proposed Ministry of Technology, which is no more than part of the large public relations exercise that will be known as Mr. Wilson's 100 days.
§ Question put, That the words "and the Minister of Technology" stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 230, Noes 188.1679
|Abse, Leo||Davies, Ifor(Gower)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hazell, Bert|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Delargy, Hugh||Hoffer, Eric S.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dell, Edmund||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dempsey, James||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Atkinson, Norman||Diamond, John||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dodds, Norman||Holman, Percy|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Doig, Peter||Horner, John|
|Barnett, Joel||Donnelly, Desmond||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Baxter, William||Driberg, Tom||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||Howarth, Robert L.(Bolton, E.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Dunn, James A.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow Bridgeton)||Dunnett, Jack||Hoy, James|
|Binns, John||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Blackburn, F.||English, Michael||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ennals, David||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Ensor, David||Jackson, Colin|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Bradley, Tom||Fernyhough, E.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Brown, R. W.(Shoreditch & Fbury)||Floud, Bernard||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Foley, Maurice||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Kelley, Richard|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Ford, Ben||Kerr, Mrs. Ann(R'ter & Chatham)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Garrow, A.||Ledger, Ron|
|Chapman, Donald||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Leo, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Coleman, Donald||Ginsburg, David||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gourlay, Harry||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Gregory, Arnold||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Grey, Charles||Loughlin, Charles|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McBride, Neil|
|Cronin, John||Hale, Leslie||McCann, J.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||MacColl, James|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hannan, William||MacDermot, Niall|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Harper, Joseph||McGuire, Michael|
|Dalyell, Tam||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McInnes, James|
|Darling, George||Hart, Mrs. Judith||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hattersley, Ray||MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|McLeavy, Frank||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Swingler, Stephen|
|MacMillan, Malcolm||Pentland, Norman||Symonds, J. B.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Popplewell, Ernest||Taverne, Dick|
|Mahon, Peter(Preston, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rankin, John||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Roberts Albert (Normanton)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Manuel, Archie||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Tinn, James|
|Mapp, Charles||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tomney, Frank|
|Mellish, Robert||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Millan, Bruce||Rose, Paul B.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Molloy, William||Rowland, Christopher||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Monslow, Walter||Sheldon, Robert||Wallace, George|
|Morris Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Weltzman, David|
|Morris, John(Aberavon)||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Murray, Albert||Short, Mrs. Renée (W 'hampton, N. E.)||White, Mrs, Eiren[...]|
|Neal, Harold||Silkin, John (Deptford)||Whitlock, William|
|Newens, Stan||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wiley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Oakes, Gordon||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Ogden, Eric||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Oram, Albert E.(E. Ham S.)||Snow, Julian||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Orbach, Maurice||Solomons, Henry||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Orme, Stanley||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Oswald, Thomas||Spriggs, Leslie||Woof, Robert|
|Owen, Will||Stewart Rt. Hn. Michael||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Stonehouse, John|
|Palmer, Arthur||Stones, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Mr. Lawson and Mr. Howie.|
|Parkin, B. T.||Swain, Thomas|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Currie, G. B. H.||Hooson, H. E.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dance, James||Hordern, Peter|
|Astor, John||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.|
|Atkins Humphrey||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Awdry, Daniel||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Jenkins, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Balniel, Lord||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Drayson, G. B.||Jopling, Michael|
|Batsford, Brian||Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Bell, Ronald||Errington, Sir Eric||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Farr, John||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Fisher, Nigel||Kimball, Marcus|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Bessell, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S' pton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Biffen, John||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gardner, Edward||Longbottom, Charles|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Longden, Gilbert|
|Black Sir Cyril||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Glover, Sir Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Goodhew, Victor||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Braine, Bernard||Gower, Raymond||Mackie Goorge Y.(C'ness & S'land)|
|Brewis, John||Grant, Anthony||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gresham-Cooke, R.||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Witer||Grieve, Percy||McNair-Wilson, Patrick|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marten, Neil|
|Buck, Antony||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maude, Angus|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Mawby, Ray|
|Burden, F. A.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Carlisle, Mark||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Mitchell, David|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Monro, Hector|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hawkins, Paul||More, Jasper|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hay, John||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Mott-Ra[...]clyffe, Sir Charles|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Murton, Oscar|
|Cole, Norman||Hendry, Forbes||Neave, Airey|
|Costain, A. P.||Higgins, Terence L.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hiley, Joseph||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Crawley, Aidan||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre Col. Sir Oliver||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Onslow, Cranley|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Ridsdale, Julian||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wall, Patrick|
|Peel, John||Roots, William||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Percival, Ian||Sharples, Richard||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Peyton, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Whitelaw, William|
|Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Talbot, John E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pounder, Rafton||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pym, Francis||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter||Younger, Hn. George|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin||Van Straubenzee, W. R.||Mr. McLaren and Mr MacArthur.|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
§ The Chairman
The Chair is of opinion that the principles and matters arising from the Clause have been adequately covered in the debate on the three Amendments. I propose, therefore, now to put the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
On a point of order, Dr. King. I have, of course, great respect for your decision, but may I draw to your attention—I am not sure that you were in the Chair at the time—that there was a discussion about what action had been taken by the various new Ministers pursuant to the powers which, it is said, have vested in them, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that it would be more convenient to deal with that point in discussing the three Ministries. The clear impression we got on this side of the Committee was that it would be done on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".
I wished not to make a long speech, but merely to invite the right hon. Gentleman to carry out his promise, as we understood it, which was to answer some of the questions asked by my right hon. Friend, he having said that it would be more convenient to answer them in relation to the three Ministries rather than in relation to only one.
§ The Chairman
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If the facts are as he has stated them, and if some undertaking was given from the Government Front Bench that the matter would be referred to on this Question—I was not in the Chair at the time—I am quite prepared to withdraw what I have just said.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
On the same point of order, Dr. King. Is it not the case 1680 that my right hon. Friend said at one stage of the proceedings, I think in the debate on the first Amendment, that there might be matters which he would prefer to deal with on the debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", but that those matters were, in fact, subsequently debated on the second Amendment, in particular in reply to an intervention made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn), who raised this point and my right hon. Friend said that he would deal with it at once? Therefore, I submit that the point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not cover the whole matter, and that our debates have covered the general contents of the Clause.
§ The Chairman
I think that the Committee will be well advised to leave it to the Chair. In view of what has been said, I call Mr. Selwyn Lloyd.
§ Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
This is not really a debating point. We are seriously concerned about this proposition. We have accepted—I am not sure that all my hon. and right hon. Friends went quite as far as I did in accepting it—what the right hon. Gentleman said about the appointment of a Minister by exercise of the Prerogative. I said that I thought it had to be done by the kind of enabling powers which there are in the Schedule to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had an interchange with me about how supply was voted for them and how they got the money for their expenditure. However, I think that we are in agreement that it is the Bill which, in law, constitutes the Ministries.
1681 What we want to know—this is the point with which the right hon. Gentleman promised to deal—is to what extent the Ministers appointed by exercise of the Prerogative have been seeking to exercise powers in the interim stage. What have they been doing? Have they been purporting to exercise any statutory powers? I know that my right hon. Friend the former Secretary for Technical Co-operation had given to him by Parliament certain statutory powers. I shall not list them; the right hon. Gentleman has indicated what they are. We want to know whether any of those statutory powers have been exercised by any of these three Ministers. What action have they purported to take? What legal contracts have they entered into? Whom have they sought to employ? By what right have those people been paid? In other words, has the whole paraphernalia of the exercise of ministerial right been happening, and if so, by what right? The right hon. Gentleman undertook to deal with the matter in relation to the three Ministers.
I particularly ask, in relation to the question which arose about the appointment and payment of secretaries, about the matter of the exercise of statutory powers. I want to know whether the Minister of Overseas Development has exercised any of the statutory powers which were entrusted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation. We are entitled to know what the position is, what has happened, and by what right. That is the matter with which I understood the right hon. Gentleman would deal on this Question.
§ Mr. Houghton
The answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that, in the first place, there is the exercise of the Prerogative. Then there is the machinery to write the new Ministries into the Schedule of the Bill which gives a list of Ministers and to provide for formal steps to be taken to give sanction to the existence of the Minister. The third step is the definition of the Minister's functions, and authority for those functions will need statutory cover, and that will be sought either through Orders in Council transferring functions from other Departments or through the presentation of appropriate Bills.
1682 The question asked was whether the new Ministries were already active without the benefit of that authority. The answer is that the present activities of the new Departments are those which the Ministers can properly carry out as legal persons or through the exercise of the Prerogative and are of a kind which Departments customarily carry out without specific Parliamentary approval. [HON. MEMBERS: "Such as?"] I gave that reply to the right hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pick thorn) and mentioned that this is normal practice.
The Welsh Office was set up in 1951 by a Conservative Administration and the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs was held first by the Home Secretary and then by the Minister of Housing and Local Government of the day. The Minister's responsibilities included general responsibility for all Welsh affairs as well as the duties properly falling to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. There was never a transfer of functions Order or specific legislation in that respect. I quote that case really as a precedent for the exercise of functions which have not required either transfer of function Orders or statutory authority.
In the case of the new Departments, there has been no transgression of the normal practice of Ministers exercising responsibilities which fall to them either by reason of the functions of other Ministers or under the Prerogative itself. If the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) wishes to know how expenditure incurred by the new Departments has been met, the answer is that advances from the Civil Contingencies Fund are being made use of by all five new Departments—Land and Natural Resources, Overseas Development, Technology, Economic Affairs and Welsh. This, apparently, is in accordance with previous practice. I do not know whether there is anything more that the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes me to say.
§ Mr. R. Carr
I do not know whether we have understood the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster correctly or not, but I do not think he dealt with a specific point I made in relation to the 1683 Ministry of Overseas Development. Has a Permanent Secretary been appointed? If so, has he been paid? If he has been appointed and is being paid, since when and on what authority? Have the Deputy Under-Secretary and extra Under-Secretaries been appointed? As I said, these are all appointments which I and most hon. Members welcome in principle, but we want to be sure that they have been made with proper parliamentary authority and not in advance of that authority.
§ Mr. Hogg
Will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster answer a question exactly parallel to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr)? It relates to a matter I raised. In Schedule 1, certain specific things are spoken of as in future to be authorised by this House for Ministers to do. For instance,The Minister shall take the oath of allegiance, and the official oath …Has Mr. Cousins been acting without taking the oath of allegiance and the official oath? If so, can we not be told? If he has taken the oath of allegiance and the official oath, is it to be said that he must now do so again?
The Schedule also says thatThe Minister may appoint such secretaries, officers and servants as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine.This, again, is spoken of as a future step, subject to the permission of the House, but we read in the Press that a most distinguished civil servant, who was one of my own Permanent Secretaries, has already been appointed to the Ministry of Technology and I understand that he has been acting. Has that been done without the authority of the House? If so, can we not be told?
It is rather a peculiar situation if we are to be asked to pass legislation providing for the oath of allegiance and the official oath and the appointment of Permanent Secretaries if these things have already been done without the authority of the House. If it be the case that Ministers can be appointed by Prerogative and start their official functions without taking the official oath or the oath of allegiance, we should be told at once.
§ Mr. Houghton
The oath of allegiance has been taken by those Ministers who have been sworn in as members of the Privy Council. The oath will be taken 1684 by other Ministers covered by the Bill when the Bill becomes law. That is provided in Schedule 1.
As regards the expenditure of officials in the new Ministries; the salaries of permanent officials are being carried on the Votes of their previous Departments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
§ Mr. Houghton
It has frequently been the practice to transfer civil servants from other duties, pending the passing of legislation creating a new Ministry. For example, the Ministry of Overseas Development is already covering and absorbing the work of the Department of Technical Co-operation and is using the staff of that Department for its duties. There are some temporary civil servants and advisers who have been appointed in several Departments, and to pay them use is being made of the Civil Contingencies Fund, again in accordance with previous practice. All this, we are advised, is strictly in accordance with previous practice and precedent and nothing improper or irregular has been done. We are taking a more straightlaced view of the use of the Civil Contingencies Fund than has been the case on some previous occasions. Wherever necessary, Supplementary Estimates will be presented for covering authority for expenditure which has been incurred.
§ Mr. R. Carr
I understand about the new Ministry of Overseas Development making use of the officials of my old Department, but my old Department did not have someone of the rank of Permanent Secretary. I do not understand how the Permanent Secretary of the new Ministry can, as it were, be carried on the cadre of my old Department which did not allow for such a rank.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I think we are entitled to be answered. This is a serious matter. I know that we have dealt in fairly exhaustive debates with the merits of each of the three Ministries, with lamentably little result from the Government Front Bench. These three Ministries have been subjected to devastating criticism in a series of remarkable speeches from this side of the Committee. 1685 The Government have failed to produce rational arguments to justify or explain the new Ministries. It is clear that they have been very prolific in words, now as in the General Election, but bankrupt in argument.
On the narrower issue of what has been done; it is not enough to say that this is all in accordance with previous practice and so on. What we want to know is whether these Ministers have purported to act in their new capacities. Have they entered into contracts? My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) has asked about a Permanent Secretary being carried on an old establishment when the old establishment did not allow for a Permanent Secretary. What is the constitution of these new Ministries? What have they been up to? What documents have they been signing? What contracts have they been entering into? What certificates have they been giving?
I warn the right hon. Gentleman that unless he satisfies us rather more than he has, we shall feel it right to divide against the Clause.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not rise in answer to threats but to assist the Committee and, first, to assure hon. Members that everything done by the Government has been done according to law, according to precedent and according to the former requirements of Parliament. The appointment of the Ministers themselves is an exercise of the Prerogative, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well. That is how the previous Administration—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.