§ *EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON rose to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether it is in contemplation to make arrangements for the more effective representation of the principal Departments of Government in this House.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I feel I ought to apologise to your Lordships for trespassing so much on your time this evening, but it really was for the convenience of the House that I took the 528 liberty of placing these three Questions on the Paper on the same day. The third of them relates to the question of the representation of the principal Departments of Government in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will remember that we had an important debate upon this question in June, 1912. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition and who introduced the subject on that occasion reviewed the history of the case over a number of years and drew attention to the legal and constitutional aspects of the question. I shall be spared from the necessity of attempting to re-cover any of the ground in that respect which he then traversed.
§ The upshot of the discussion in 1912 was, I think, to show conclusively that it is the established custom of Government in this country that the main Departments of the Administration should be represented in both Houses of Parliament, and this custom arises not merely from convention or even from motives of convenience only, but from the highest considerations of Constitutional and administrative propriety. As long as we have in this country a system of Government by two Chambers, each of them taking an equal or a nearly equal part in legislation and administration, each of them, in fact, a co-ordinate factor in the Government, so long is it desirable that Ministers should be here on behalf of every considerable Department of Government to answer questions, to give information, to offer explanations where necessary of their policy or their administration, and to defend that policy or that administration if attacked. And this I submit to your Lordships without fear of contradiction can only be effectively done by Ministers who are fully equipped for the purpose, who have an interior knowledge of the Office which they are called upon to represent, who have access to Papers in that Office, who enjoy the intimate confidence of its Chief, and who, therefore, possess some share of official responsibility themselves.
This proposition was frankly accepted by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in our debate in June of 1912. He then used these words—
I quite agree that this House should be guarded against unfair treatment in this matter. It is one of the Houses of Parliament; all matters
have to come before this House equally in theory with the other, and every Government ought therefore to he represented adequately here.
And I would point out that this position has not been in the smallest degree affected by the passing of the Parliament Act. I think that was admitted by the noble Marquess in the discussion we had on the last occasion. The fact that our powers with regard to the rejection of legislation have been curtailed, or that our powers to deal with Finance Bills have been much more strictly defined, does not alter the fact that as a Legislative Chamber we possess a joint share in the government of this country. Let me put it this way. If, as happens under our new Constitution, a measure is to become law, provided it has three times passed the other House of Parliament, at the end of three years, it does not therefore follow that that measure ought not to be closely examined, criticised, discussed, if you like amended, in this House. On the contrary, rather more so; because as we all remember, one of the main arguments that were used by the supporters of the Parliament Act was that the opportunities of discussion, revision, and amendment would remain unimpaired in this House. And if it is to be so, it follows that we ought to have from the Government Bench that assistance in the process of discussion and amendment to which I have referred. That, I think, so far is a general proposition which nobody will dispute.
§ In the year 1912 the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) analysed the position of the various Departments of Government, and he showed how inadequate at that time the representation of some of those Departments in this House was. In reply the noble Marquess who leads the House was I remember in his suavest and most conciliatory mood. He sympathised with us here, he gave us a little consolation there, and finally he accepted the Motion which my noble friend had moved; and he accepted it, to use his own language, as expressing "the opinion that there ought to be in general a proper representation of the great Departments in this House." It is upon those two admissions of the noble Marquess and of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack whom I quoted just now that I found my case for reopening the question this afternoon. But satisfactory and encouraging as these two statements which I have quoted were, I 530 think I shall carry your Lordships with me if I say that nothing substantial, nothing material, has been done in the interval to improve the situation. In fact, I think I shall presently be in a position to show that in some respects it is worse now than it was then.
§ Let me, before I proceed to analyse the case of the different Departments in their representation here, give your Lordships a brief summary in a few sentences of the case as it now exists. Firstly, out of a Cabinet of twenty members only six are members of your Lordships' House, and one of these, the Secretary of State for War, who holds what I may call a national rather than a political or a Parliamentary office, is precluded, as we all know, by the conditions of his work and employment from appearing at all frequently in your Lordships' House. Secondly, in the House of Commons at the present time the effective members—by which I mean the members who take part in debate in defending or expounding the policy of the Government—who sit upon the Front Ministerial Bench (excluding the Whips) are thirty in number. In this House there are only eleven, and six of these noble Lords double their offices and answer for Departments with which they have no immediate or obvious connection. Two more noble Lords reply for Departments with which their association is equally slender. Thirdly, of the principal Departments of State the following have at the present moment no direct and responsible representation in this House—The Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, the Treasury, the Board of Education, the Scottish Office, the Irish Office, and the Post Office. That is ten Departments in all. And remember, my Lords, with regard to the principal of these Departments, that this is at a time when this country is involved in the greatest crisis through which it has passed certainly for one hundred years, probably in the whole of its existence, and when, if not at this precise moment, at any time from day to day or from week to week, we may be bound by our sense of Parliamentary duty to raise questions of the highest importance affecting any one of these Departments.
§ I venture to say that the situation which I have summarised in these few sentences 531 is one which is not merely invidious but disrespectful to the House to which I hope the great majority of us are proud to belong; and, further, that it is not consistent either with the public interest or with the constitutional rights of Parliament. That is the proposition which I submit to your Lordships this afternoon.
§ Now I will proceed to a brief but rather a closer analysis of the different Departments to which I have referred. I will first take the Foreign Office. Since Sir Edward Grey has been Foreign Secretary both he and his Under-Secretary have sat in the House of Commons. I make no complaint of that; it is an obvious sequel to having the Foreign Secretary in the Lower House. But what I do ask is that there should be in this House henceforth and continuously some noble Lord capable of speaking with authority and responsibility for that most important Office. For a while after the formation of the present Government your Lordships will recollect that such a place was filled generally by the noble Lord the relative of my noble friend behind me, Lord Fitzmaurice. He spoke with intimate knowledge of foreign affairs, having served in the Department many years before; and both before and after he joined the Cabinet it was impossible to imagine a better or more acceptable representation of foreign affairs in this House. But after a short time the noble Lord to whom I refer was unfortunately incapacitated by illness and could no longer attend our proceedings.
§ Then we come to 1912 when in the debate to which I have alluded the noble Marquess opposite pointed out that the interests of the Foreign Office would in future be represented by Lord Morley and himself; and from that time onward, generally speaking, the noble Viscount (Lord Morley) assumed the charge of the affairs of that Department. And as one of those who, I am afraid, caused him most trouble in that capacity, I can honestly say that whether the question was one of Turkey, Macedonia, or Persia, the Baghdad Railway, or Tibet, the noble Viscount was always equal to the situation, and I believe took immense trouble about it. Certainly we on this side of the House had never reason to be otherwise than grateful for being confronted in discussion by a noble Lord so thoroughly qualified to represent the department even although he had not immediate and direct connection with it. 532 But now in the passage of time the noble Viscount has retired. He no longer represents that Office, and I was told the other day that it was the intention of the Government to place in the vacant chair my noble friend Lord Herschell. I should be absolutely the last person in this House to disparage either the talents or the popularity of Lord Herschell, both of which stand deservedly high in the esteem of your Lordships' House; but that noble Lord is engaged elsewhere serving his country in some capacity, and for some time previously he has been prevented from attending our proceedings by ill-health. And even if he were here at the moment, with the best will in the world, I venture to say he could not, being outside the Foreign Office, at a juncture like this afford an adequate representation of its business or its interests.
§ We are as a rule—I think rightly—sparing in our interrogations about foreign affairs in this House, and I should be very slow to suggest any change of that general inclination. But in the first place it must be remembered that there are in this House quite a considerable number of noble Lords who speak with no small authority on the question of foreign affairs, some who have enjoyed wide and eminent diplomatic experience abroad, and a time may arise—I think it must arise a little later, probably within the course of the next year—when most important debates must take place in this House on questions of foreign affairs arising out of the war. The whole future of Europe practically has to be settled, an adjustment of boundaries will take place on a scale never previously known; the map of the world, one may almost say, will, at any rate in some important particulars, require to be reconstituted. I invite His Majesty's Government, if I may, to consider whether in these circumstances it is not desirable, in the interests of the Government, of this House, and of the country, that steps should be taken once again to place in our midst some Minister who can speak with authority for that great Department of Government.
§ I pass to the War Office. I have already briefly mentioned the conditions which render the Secretary of State in that Department as a rule not available for our proceedings here. I have observed during the last few weeks that he has been replaced by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who has 533 previous experience of that Department, and who, although he has now wandered away, in the strictest sense of the term, to "fresh woods and pastures new," still retains muck of his knowledge and, for all I know, much of his enthusiasm for the Department which he once served. And behind the noble Lord, or whoever speaks for the War Office, we have the inexhaustible fertility, if I may so describe it, of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. Therefore perhaps in respect of the War Office we are well off. But I think it will be not unfair if I ask this question, whether the services of Lord Lucas, in so far as lie can tear himself away from the Board of Agriculture, are really to be placed at our disposal to represent the War Office throughout the war, or whether it was an accidental and fugitive appearance on his part that we witnessed the other day? It will certainly reconcile us to our position to know that we have him and the Lord Chancellor behind him to deal with war matters as they arise.
§ I pass on to the Admiralty; and here we are in a singularly unfortunate position. The three representatives of the Admiralty—the First Lord; the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Civil Lord—all sit in the House of Commons. I am well aware that the same conditions prevailed for a time both in the administration of Lord George Hamilton and, at a later date, of Mr. Goschen; but at that time the Admiralty had, as I remember, a singularly capable spokesman in this House, and they were not war conditions.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The remark of the noble Marquess would be true as regards the South African War, but I do not think he will contend that in that war naval operations played anything like the same part that they do now, or rendered it so likely that naval matters would come up for discussion in 534 your Lordships' House. On the last occasion when this question was debated the noble Marquess defended the non-representation of the Admiralty here on the ground that there were so few Admirals in this House. I am not aware that there are any more Admirals in the House of Commons. And if that is the argument which he employs, it would be equally fair to apply it to the War Office, in respect of which we have, I think, five, and a short time ago had six, Field-Marshals in this House. But the obvious criterion of Departmental representation is not the naval or military rank of the critics; it is the importance of the Department concerned and the subjects that are likely to be raised. Is it not unfortunate that at a time when we are involved in this great war, when questions affecting the Navy may be raised any week, we have nobody except the noble Marquess—who is chivalrous enough to undertake almost any burden—to:reply? My noble friend Lord Selborne has down upon the Paper a most important Motion with regard to the continued existence of Courts-Martial, and so far as we at present know there is nobody with any special obligation to reply to him. I believe that in the arrangements contemplated at the beginning of the session, the Admiralty was to be replied for, among other duties, by Lord Wimborne; but that noble Lord has either fled or is in the process of fleeing to Ireland, and I do not suppose anybody will contend that it is possible for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to respond for the Admiralty in your Lordships' House.
I next pass to the Home Office. Here again the practice has been for many years that both the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary should have seats in the House of Commons. I do not complain of that; there are obvious reasons for it. But I do ask that there should be some direct representative of the Home Office here. I am sorry not to see in his place my noble friend Lord Allendale, who as a rule responds for that Department. He gives us, as we all remember, with great courtesy the answers which are provided for him by the Department, but he I am sure would be the last to object if I said that his connection with the Department is not of a character to enable him to deal either exhaustively or authoritatively with many of the matters about which we ask for information; and we are too painfully 535 familiar with the situation in which a noble Lord placed in his position—I do not speak of the noble Lord himself—having exhausted the information with which he has been supplied, having done his duty to the brief with which he has been furnished, runs dry, so to speak, and no further information can be extracted from him except by a further reference to the Department with which his connection is of the somewhat flimsy character that I have described.
I have no complaint to make about the India Office or the Colonial Office. In the case of the India Office we have had the advantage, at any rate for all the time I have had the honour of a seat in your Lordships' House, of the Secretary of State's presence here—first, Lord Morley, and, second, the noble Marquess who leads the House (Lord Crewe), and the interest which I think has really attached to many of our Indian debates is a fair measure of the regret that many of us feel that the same chances are not offered in respect of other Departments. As to the Colonial Office, we have the advantage under the present arrangement of the presence of the Under-Secretary in this House; but by an extraordinary arrangement, which must, I think, surprise that noble Lord himself, he also has to answer for the Board of Trade, a Department which, as we know, includes matters of such importance as railways, the mercantile marine, industry and commerce, and very often relations with foreign countries. In 1912, when we last raised the question here, we had for the Board of Trade half of the Master of the Horse, the other half of that noble Earl being then absorbed in the study of the Navy. On the present occasion we have half of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. It would be invidious if I were to say whether we have or have not profited by the exchange. In the same way the Scottish Office is doubled by the noble Lord, Lord Emmott, whose representation of any Department with which he is concerned—
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I regret to say that that arrangement is stopped. I wish Lord Emmott were there still.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I deeply regret Lord Emmott's apparent severance from the Scottish Office, although 536 I can imagine he must sometimes have wondered what his connection across the border was. But if Lord Emmott no longer represents the Scottish Office there is a blank which has to be filled, and again I adopt a position of respectful curiosity and ask who our representative of the Scottish Office is to be.
Finally there is the Irish Office, which so far as I know has no present representative at all. Lord Wimborne has gone or is about to go away to Ireland, as I said just now. It may be that his place here will shortly be taken by the noble Marquess whom he succeeds in the high office of Lord Lieutenant, of whose departure from Ireland amid so many acclamations we were reading only an hour ago in the newspapers, and upon whose enhanced title—a matter of much congratulation to his friends, not unattended with some anxiety to himself—we heartily congratulate him in your Lordships' House. But if Lord Aberdeen is not going to appear on that Bench and represent the Irish Office, may we ask that some one may be deputed to do so?
In the present circumstances the situation is constantly arising that a wholly disproportionate burden is thrown upon the shoulders of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House and in a perhaps slightly less degree on the shoulders of the noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack. Nobody admires more than I do the unselfish and almost heroic devotion and the amazing versatility with which the two noble Lords address themselves to the task that is so often laid upon them and the manner in which they come to the rescue of their frequently absent and generally silent colleagues. But many of us are apt to think that the strain placed upon these two noble Lords is rather excessive, and I am sure it would be one of the pleasantest results of any readjustment if we could learn that something has been done to relieve them of its weight.
In case it should be said that my remarks have been purely critical and negative may I—although it is no part of my business to make suggestions on the matter to His Majesty's Government—may I say that I have in my own mind an idea of something that might be done? I sometimes wonder whether the best 537 possible use is made of the material which is at the disposal of the noble Marquess. It seems to me, if I may adopt a sporting metaphor, that the best racehorses are taken out to run too many races while the others are left to kick up their heels unoccupied in the stable. I was very sorry to see the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, leave the House just as I was coming to this point, because I was going to suggest that the noble Earl might, perhaps, render even greater services to this House than are involved in representing the Privy Council and the Board of Education, the two Departments which I understand he represents here and which cannot very well absorb all his time. The noble Earl fills a position which I once for a short time occupied myself—namely, that of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. As such he wears the uniform of an Admiral, and has on occasions to act in the capacity of a General. Moreover, he has upon his shoulders the traditions of the immortal Mr. Pitt. I therefore think that these latent martial capacities of my noble friend Lord Beauchamp might be utilised by His Majesty's Government, more especially as we recognise that the representation of the Navy is vacant and the representation of the War Office is not always in permanent hands. Furthermore, we look at that (the Ministerial) side of the House and often see upon those Benches the forms of the Lord Steward, the Lord Chamberlain, and the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. We have the authority of the poet for saying that "They also serve who only stand and wait." But, my Lords, in this House the service of those noble Lords, however effectively it may be discharged elsewhere, is a purely silent service, and I often say as I look at noble Lords opposite, Why is it they should not be allowed from time to time to break into speech, and why should they not lift from the shoulders of their chief some of the burden by which he is overcome? I think in that direction we might, perhaps, secure some little improvement.
My other suggestion is this. It is probable that in any rearrangement of representation that may be decided upon there will still be some Departments—it is inevitable that there should be—which will be represented by noble Lords whose connection with them will be only secondary and fleeting. Why should not such noble 538 Lords be given the opportunities and advantages which would enable them to discharge their always difficult, and I am sure sometimes rather distasteful, task to greater advantage? I remember that in the debate of 1912 the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, speaking of the proposed representation of the War Office by Lord Herschell, said, by way of recommending the appointment to your Lordships' House, that Lord Herschell would have a room set apart for him in the War Office where he could closely study its affairs from the inside. It seemed to me that that was a most excellent suggestion and precedent; and I ask the question whether it would not be possible, in the case of the noble Lords to whom I have referred and who have to answer for Departments with which they are not directly concerned, to give them a room in the respective Departments? Might it also not be well to attach a clerk serving in the Department affected who might "devil," so to speak, for him, and effectively assist him in the acquisition of the information which he has to use in your Lordships' House? Again, would it not be a good thing if a noble Lord in such a position were invited to serve, as I am sure he would almost always be willing to serve, on Departmental Committees? —most certainly one of the best methods of acquiring an interior knowledge of administration that exists in any Department. And, lastly, might it not be a good thing if he were encouraged to attend any of the numerous deputations that are continually coming up to address his official chief? I venture to say that by some such methods as these the task of the noble Lords to whom I have alluded would be sensibly alleviated.
I have nothing more to say. I hope I have shown that there is serious ground for complaint in the present position, that the balance between the two Houses of Parliament is not fairly adjusted at the present time, and that it is eminently desirable, particularly at the present juncture, that the House of Lords should be placed in a position where it can effectively play its part. I hope that the noble Marquess, in replying to me, will not merely deliver one of those soft and sugared replies in which he, excels, but that he will exhibit some inclination, if not to remove, at any rate to mitigate, the injustice under which we on this side of the House conceive that we labour.
*THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I feel that, in turn, I too ought to apologise to your Lordships' House for taking up so much of your time this afternoon, but I have been exposed to three separate fires from the battery of the noble Earl opposite in different capacities in which I sit in this House, and I must therefore appeal for mercy. The noble Earl alluded to the debate of June, 1912, when the whole of this subject was carefully examined. The matter was introduced, I think, by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and both the noble Earl and, I think, the noble Viscount who is now on the Front Bench (Lord Midleton) also took part in the discussion. And although times change and we change with them, yet the main principles and the main facts which formed then the subject of discussion remain much as they were three years ago. In fact, I assumed that in bringing forward the subject again after such a comparatively short interval there were several special instances on which the noble Earl desired to lay particular stress. I think I was right, because though he went through a very long and perhaps almost needlessly complete list of the Departments, there were two or three on which I think he desired to lay emphasis.
The first Department—not the first in point of order but I think the first in point of importance, and with regard to which I frankly admit our case is the least defensible—is that of the Admiralty. I pointed out on the last occasion that it was a singular fact that for so many years during the life of recent Governments the Admiralty had been not directly represented in this House, and I endeavoured. I remember, to suggest some possible explanation of that fact which I think the noble Earl thought was fanciful and to which I am far from attaching great importance. But the fact remains that it has often happened that the Parliamentary representatives of the Admiralty have all sat in another place. It is a fact on which we all, speaking as members of the House of Lords and not as members of past or present Governments, are entitled to utter some complaint, and it would be particularly, I think, a matter of complaint at. the present moment but for one circumstance. The noble Earl might have pointed out, but he refrained from doing so, that there had been various changes and a 540 certain amount of reconstruction in the composition of the Government since the war broke out; and he might have pointed out, but he refrained from doing so, that that might have afforded the Prime Minister an opportunity of giving us an Admiralty representative here. But I dare say that the noble Earl did not allude to that particular point on account of the very consideration which I am going to name. It will appear, I think, to anybody who reflects that so far as the War Office and the Admiralty are concerned at this moment, considering the vast amount of pressure which falls upon those great Departments and the amount of novel work they have to do, any change in the official personnel of those Departments so far as it is humanly possible to avoid it is an undesirable thing during the progress of the war. For that reason the complaint of the noble Earl about the Admiralty, although we must all admit that it gains in intrinsic force from the fact that war is going on, yet cannot, I think, be pressed to a logical conclusion. The noble Earl pointed out that both under the administration of Lord George Hamilton and under that of Mr. Goschen, as he then was, the Admiralty was not officially represented here, and he stated that it was represented fully and most adequately, as it undoubtedly was, by Lord Hopetoun, who during about half that time held office first as Paymaster-General and afterwards as Lord Chamberlain. Lord Hopetoun happened to be a very intimate friend of mine, and although I know he took a considerable interest in naval matters he had none of the experience of the kind noble Lords opposite consider necessary for replying for a Department; and in the sense in which the noble Earl is making his point the Admiralty was then entirely unrepresented.
Then as regards the Foreign Office, it would have been impossible to add to the burden which Sir Edward Grey has found a very heavy one of conducting the Foreign Office by insisting upon an increased amount of attendance in the House of Commons which is spared to my right hon. friend by the fact that his Under-Secretary also has a seat there; and I cannot believe that noble Lords opposite would have desired that that addition should be made to Sir Edward Grey after the many years of strenuous service to the State which he has given as Secretary 541 for Foreign Affairs. It is true, of course, that we cannot overrate the loss which we sustained in this particular Department by the retirement of Lord Fitzmaurice, and, I can add with equal candour, by the loss of my noble friend Lord Morley from our counsels, for this particular purpose of representation as severe a loss as we possibly could have sustained. So far as the current business of the Foreign Office is concerned I am glad to say that my noble friend Lord Herschel, although he is engaged in daily work connected with the war, will be able to give his services for the purpose of replying, if necessary, for the ordinary work of the Foreign Office. But it is important to remember that at this moment foreign policy in the usual sense of the expression must be regarded as dormant. All our policy outside the British Empire is war policy, in our dealings either with Allies, with enemies, or with neutrals; and questions of foreign policy of the sort which may and do become subjects of discussion at ordinary times can hardly arise in the present circumstances, because the area of discussion is so completely limited by the fact that we are at war. And I think it is safe to say, given the fact that the Foreign Secretary himself has not a seat in this House, that it is hardly possible for anybody except a member of the Cabinet to take charge of a debate, if one should be raised, on any subject which could be described as a question of foreign policy; and even the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, if he were to appear, probably would not be in a position to do more than follow the course which the noble Earl spoke of kindly but with a certain amount of almost regretful contempt—that of the perusal of a brief supplied in particular terms by the Department. Therefore if and when a debate should occur in this House on matters of high policy the noble Earl, I think, will have to be content with such contributions to it as can be made by those of us who are members of the Cabinet.
I was interested and attracted by the suggestion which the noble Earl appeared to make, that in view of the vast importance and the wide scope which discussions of foreign policy, strictly so called, are likely to take at the conclusion of the war, we ought to begin to put some one into training, so to speak, for the purpose of representing the Department here when 542 that time comes. Nobody, I am sure, on these Benches could fill that place or do that work better than my noble friend Lord Herschell, and I sincerely hope that in spite of the other work he has to do he will be able to keep a close and careful eye upon the various developments at the Foreign Office, a certain number of Papers of which Office he is able to study.
The noble Earl also spoke of the War Office. It is not easy, of course—and the noble Earl did not, indeed, make the attempt—to offer a complaint of the representation of the War Office in this House when the Secretary of State is himself a member of it. The noble Earl went on to admit with a great deal of candour that we were fortunate in addition to that official, who, as the noble Earl said, is not a Party representative, in having here my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, who knows all the arcana of the War Office to an extent which is surpassed by nobody, and in addition my noble friend Lord Lucas, who was Under-Secretary; and I am able I hope and believe to satisfy a query of the noble Earl by saving that my noble friend Lord Lucas will undertake, so long as he is in a position to do so, the charge of such War Office questions as Lord Kitchener does not find it possible, owing to the tremendous pressure of daily work which falls upon him, and which, as I am sure the House recognises, prevents his regular attendance in his place here, himself to deal with.
Then the noble Earl passed rapidly over a number of other Offices. It is a somewhat curious fact—I am not sure whether I alluded to it in 1912—that there are several Offices which cannot be considered anything but Offices of the very first importance of which for a number of years past the direct representation here has been sparse and infrequent. It would be, I am sure, a complete libel on this House to argue from that fact that matters of the most intimate domestic interest such as the care of the poor, the inspection of factories, and a number of other kindred subjects, are not held to be so interesting to this House as to demand regular representation here. But the fact remains that the Home Office is never represented here, that the Local Government Board scarcely ever has been, and that the Board of Trade is only very intermittently represented here, whichever Party is in power. And 543 the noble Earl, rather strangely if he will forgive my saying so, included in his list the Treasury, which has never, so far as I know, had a direct representative in this House of any kind whatever, except possibly on some occasions when the Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, may have had the principal seat on this Bench.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I only quoted it because it is down on the list which I believe was prepared by the noble Marquess himself.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The Treasury is always represented here, but it never has a direct representative. Then the noble Earl made certain suggestions towards the close of his speech of the improved manner in which we might use the material which we have at our disposal, and in some respects I think I have anticipated the proposals of the noble Earl, though not precisely in the manner in which he indicated. My noble friend Lord Emmott will cease to represent the Scottish Office in future, and he will be succeeded by Lord Stanmore, who is a member of His Majesty's Household and, although not strictly speaking a Scotsman, is at any rate of direct Scottish extraction. My noble friend Lord Emmott, being one of my two colleagues who holds an office which does not need the amount of daily drudgery which some others do, will undertake the representation of the Admiralty. He will, of course, be in a position to obtain direct information at the Office itself in the manner which I entirely agree with the noble Earl is desirable, if not merely a full reply is to be given to a Question but if a full and intelligent part is to be taken in a debate. Similarly my noble friend Lord Beauchamp, who is also one of the holders of an office (Lord President of the Council) which at ordinary times is not a very laborious one—although I am bound to say I look upon the time when I held it as involving almost the greatest labour I ever had to undertake in politics—will take upon himself the care of Irish business in this House. Those, I think, are the only changes of which I need inform the noble Earl. As regards the general recommendation of closer association with the Offices themselves of noble Lords holding appointments in His Majesty's Household who represent those Offices here, I entirely agree that where it is possible for a man to do seine regular work of the kind which 544 the noble Earl enumerated at the Office it is of great advantage to himself as a matter of political education and also of great assistance to him in doing justice to any subject with which he has to deal. I remember that when we were discussing this subject in 1912 I stated my own experience in that respect at the Board of Trade, which was a very fortunate one for me.
Then the noble Earl made a kindly reference to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and to myself and to what he considered the somewhat undue share of labour that falls upon us which we might sometimes devolve upon other people. The same idea has, perhaps, more than once occurred to my noble and learned friend and to myself; but so far as my experience in this House goes—and I suspect that the experience of the noble Marquess, who has been here even longer than I have, would be identical—the Leader of the House of the day and the Lord Chancellor, in all circumstances and in all Governments, have perpetually been found engaging in a number of debates in which they had not the smallest idea or intention of taking any part when they walked down to the House; and I very much doubt whether that particular burden —a very honourable and often a most interesting one—can be removed from the shoulders either of the occupant of the Woolsack or of the occupant of the middle of this Bench. I can assure the noble Earl so far as I am concerned—and I am certain my noble and learned friend would say so with even greater vigour than I do —that it is certainly from no desire to take an excessive part in debates or to intervene, sometimes at a most unconscionable hour of the night and even of the morning, that we so often find ourselves concluding a debate, and I can only say that I have personally always been very grateful to my noble friends and colleagues in the Cabinet who have been willing to undertake the duty in my stead.
I do not think I can develop the subject further. We have, I hope, made the best use of the materials at our disposal and the best provision according to the several capacities and the various knowledge of the individual noble Lords who are concerned. We might all wish that the Departments could be more fully and directly represented than they are. But it is a complaint which has often been made and is sure to be made oftener and with 545 more foundation when the Party to which I belong is in office than when the Conservative Party, with its vast plethora of experience and capacity in this House, is concerned. But I hope the noble Earl does not think that we have wilfully neglected in any way the intention which we expressed three years ago of doing our best to secure a tolerably general, although it cannot be at all a complete, representation in this House, and I hope that on this occasion he will regard my answer as not altogether unsatisfactory. I hope that lie has not considered it excessively suave, as it certainly is not intended to be, and that he will agree that we have done all we can in the matter.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, it is always difficult to press the noble Marquess on a, subject of this kind, because we recognise the extreme courtesy with which he endeavours on all occasions to reply to the somewhat numerous attacks which conic from this side of the House, and to-night he has not failed, with his usual dexterity and persuasiveness, to make the best of the material at his hand. But I think from the tone of his speech that he also is a little dissatisfied with the position at which affairs now stand; and although it is far from our wish to criticise either the ability or the acceptability of the noble Lords who are told off to reply for the particular Offices, I think I might make the same rejoinder to the noble Marquess, with regard to his defence, as was once made by Lord Granville to Lord Salisbury, who had painted in very vivid colours the qualifications of a particular noble Lord to act as Chairman of Committees. Lord Granville said—I admit alt you say. But why do you not give it post in your Government if that so?The point, we have pressed on several occasions is this. Granting the high qualifications of certain noble Lords to reply for particular Offices, why have they not been appointed to represent those Offices? Take the most important case brought up by my noble friend—namely, that of the Foreign Office. I agree with every word that Lord Curzon has said with regard to Lord Herschell's qualities, the more so as we had the pleasure for a short while of hearing him answer for the War Office. But I am sure the noble Marquess must admit that the answer given on behalf of a Department by a noble Lord who is not himself in 546 the Office and thus able to read the Papers and acquaint himself with the past history of the particular cases brought, forward, must be most inadequate, particularly with regard to questions of foreign affairs. For two years I represented the Foreign Office in the House of Commons, in pretty stormy times, and my experience was that it is impossible from a written brief to meet subjects which come up in debate, because though one may know the answer to a, particular question, one is not certain whether it is or is riot right, to give the answer. With the great array of talent in foreign affairs which is present in this House, I do think it is all-important that we should be able to have an answer from an Under-Secretary, if the Secretary of State is sitting in the other House of Parliament, or, at all events, that some one should reply who is in the Cabinet and who can speak with the knowledge which can be possessed only by those who have had before them the Foreign Office Papers.
Then one word as to the War Office. We have had a great many changes in War Office representation in the last few years, and I do not think that, the present situation is one of the best. My noble friend (Lord Curzon), speaking without perhaps the same immediate and intimate touch with the War Office which some of us possess, said that we were rather well off in the answers that we might receive. We have a necessarily absent Secretary of State for War, the necessarily somewhat perfunctory replies of a late Under-Secretary of State for War, and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. In a multitude of counsellors there is safety, but from the various counsellors in this case there is very little information given to the House. I will take one instance of the undesirability of an Office being supposed to be adequately represented by a noble Lord who has passed from that Office and whose mind is occupied with other important questions. In a speech made by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack the other day—I am not, going to refer to it in detail—a figure was given which I believe was an entirely correct one three years ago, because it was the aspiration of the War Office at the time when he was there; and no doubt the noble Viscount firmly believed that he was accurate in quoting it at this moment. He stated that 16,000 Special Reserve Artillery were available on mobilisation.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I said that the addition to the Artillery on mobilisation was 16,000. I was not referring only to the Special Reserve.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble and learned Viscount used that figure with particular force. As a matter of fact, I think the figure was nearer 5,000 or 6,000.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I did not mean to introduce this as a matter of controversy, but merely by way of illustration. Any one representing the War Office would have known what the recent figure—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I have supplied the noble and learned Viscount with the figure, and I think he will find that I am correct. MY point was not to draw him into a controversy but merely to point out that things are sprung upon Ministers who have not an immediate acquaintance with a particular Office. They are necessarily speaking away from their figures, and have not the power of pressing an argument home. Does it not really come to this, that the question lies with the Prime Minister. The noble Marquess ought not to have to resort to all these shifts and turns to attempt to find some one who may give an answer for a particular Department, very often a Minister who is hard worked in his own Office and who cannot adopt the expedient that he should be allowed a room in and have access to the Papers of the Department for which he is going to answer. I cannot help thinking that such a procedure is bad for the Government, because we do not get an adequate discussion; it certainly is bad for the House; and it is also bad for the people of the country, who do attach importance to our discussions here even though the noble Marquess may think that they do not attach any importance to the decisions of the House. The proposed change may act very beneficially. To my mind, speaking from my few years experience of your Lordships' House, the remarkable decrease in attendance when these matters are under discussion is due mainly to the fact that noble Lords think the debates perfunctory because the Departments concerned are not represented.