HL Deb 21 December 1964 vol 262 cc640-57

2.54 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Longford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord Merthyr in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:

Consequential amendments and repeals

(2) Subsection (2) of section 5 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957 (reprinting of Schedule 1 as from time to time amended) shall apply to provisions of that Act other than Schedule 1 as it applies to that Schedule.

VISCOUNT DILHORNE moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble and learned Viscount said: I have put down this Amendment as a probing Amendment. Section 5 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, provides for altering the First Schedule to that Act when Amendments have been made to that Schedule by Order in Council under subsection (1) of that section of the Act. That is a convenient system, so that anyone who is considering whether or not he is, or may be, disqualified from standing for election to the House of Commons can look at the Schedule which should be up to date at that time. It is obviously right that if, under Section 5 (1), it is possible to amend the Schedule by Order in Council there should be provision for reprinting the Schedule as amended. What puzzles me is that power is now taken, by this particular subsection (2) of Clause 5 of the present Bill to reprint also the Act, as amended. What puzzles me is why this power to reprint the Schedule, as amended, given by subsection (2), should be applied to the body of the Act as a whole when it is not possible to amend the 1957 Act by Older in Council. There may be some technical reason for it, but at the present moment it escapes me.

When we passed the 1957 Bill and it became an Act, we put into it these provisions for amending the First Schedule and for republication of the First Schedule as amended. There are no provisions in the 1957 Act for amending that Act; nor does this Bill purport to give power to amend that Act. Why this present sub-section, applying subsection (2) to the Act as a whole, is required puzzles me at the moment, and I have put down this Amendment in the hope of eliciting from the noble and learned Lord an explanation of the reasons for this provision. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 9, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


This matter is a little complicated and a little technical. As your Lordships know, if you want to know what the law is you find an Act which deals with it, Act A. Then you have to look to see whether there are other Acts which have amended, or perhaps repealed, Act A. Whether that is sensible or not (I have always thought it was not), that is, in fact:, what you do. So there may be a chain of Acts amending one another. There has been one exception to this general way of dealing with Statutes. There was a Naval Discipline Act in 1922. This was a further Naval Discipline Act amending earlier Acts, and one section of it stated: A copy of this Act with every such enactment and word inserted in the place there assigned, and with the omission of any portion of this Act directed by any such amending Act as aforesaid to be repealed or omitted from this Act, shall be prepared and certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments and deposited with the Rolls of Parliament, and His Majesty's Printers shall print in accordance with the copy so certified all copies of this Act which are printed after the commencement of such amending Act. That is a curious provision. If you have an Act and you amend it, the Stationery Office, when they next reprint, are, as it were, to take advantage of any Amendments that there have been and to reprint the Act as amended.

Then 33 years passed and in 1955 the Members of another place were considering the House of Commons Disqualification Bill—this was the Bill which did not become law. One of the things that everybody was unhappy about was the phrase "office of profit under the Crown". Everybody said that it is difficult to know exactly what that term means and what it does not mean. So the matter was remitted to a Select Committee for consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Spens, whom I see here, was, if I remember rightly, as Sir Patrick Spens, Chairman of that Committee. There appeared before that Committee the then learned Attorney General, the present noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who suggested that it should be possible to specify in a Schedule all the different offices of profit under the Crown. The Committee accepted that proposal.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Spens, the Committee's Chairman said, "Well since, obviously, future offices will be created in the future, ought we not to make provision for altering the Schedule by an Affirmative Resolution, so as to save the necessity for a new Act?" The Committee agreed with that proposal. Following that, as I understand it, another member of the Committee suggested that, as it is important to all prospective Parliamentary candidates and their agents to know for certain whether or not some particular office was an office of profit under the Crown, it would be convenient if, instead of their having to hunt through the Acts and all the statutory instruments, each time the Act and Schedule were reprinted the Schedule was reprinted up to date. And the Committee accepted that view.

So it came about that when the then Attorney General, now the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, introducted the revised Bill in another place it included this provision which, after some slight amendment, one now finds in the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, requiring the reprinting of the Schedule up to date. That was the position when the present Bill was introduced in another place and it did not contain any provision of this kind.

But it was then pointed out, I think by the Public Bill Office, by Parliamentary draftsmen and others, that if no alteration were made on this point, as the present Bill is also amending other parts of the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957, one would now have the Stationery Office reprinting with the Schedule up to date, but with other parts of the Act not up to date. Anybody who looked at the First Schedule would say, "This has obviously been printed up to date as Parliament has altered it since." But other parts of the Act would not be so up to date, and this would be something of a trap.

There were, therefore, altogether some five alternatives. One was to leave the trap as it was, which seemed obviously unsatisfactory. The second was to introduce a new type of Consolidation Bill, repealing the Act of 1957 and consolidating with the present Bill: that course obviously was not appropriate. The third was to repeal the reprinting provision contained in the 1957 Act; but that would have been a rejection of the view which Parliament had taken in 1957, that it was a great help, and indeed of importance, to Parliamentary candidates and agents to be able to have an up-to-date list in that way. The fourth alternative—and this was very seriously considered—was whether it would not be the right solution to ask the Stationery Office to include a note saying, "The Schedule has been reprinted up to date, but there have been alterations in other parts of the Act and they have not been shown—so look out!" That was considered, but I think the noble and learned Viscount will agree with me that it would be very undesirable to start a practice by which the Stationery Office include notes, whoever may have authorised them, on reprinted Acts of Parliament.

So the best alternative was thought to be that which is now contained in Clause 5 (2), so as to provide that Subsection (2) of section 5 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957 (reprinting of Schedule 1 as from time to time amended) shall apply to provisions of that Act other than Schedule 1 as it applies to that Schedule. That is the reason for that provision in the circumstances which arose and it was, it is suggested, the sensible thing to do. For those reasons the Government do not feel able to accept this Amendment.


While I would not perhaps go so far as the noble and learned Lord in saying that one could have five alternatives, no doubt there were five choices; and I am very grateful to him for the explanation he has given as to why the Government chose the particular solution that is now embodied in subsection (2) of Clause 5. It is obviously convenient that as the 1957 Act is amended by this Bill, the 1957 Act, when it comes to be reprinted, should be reprinted in the form in which it will have effect as amended. That, I entirely agree, is a suitable and desirable course. Of course, the Bill as drawn makes provision for the reprinting of this particular Act, unlike other Acts, if it should happen to be reprinted in the future, in the form as amended. It may be that that is a matter of drafting, as there is no provision either in the 1957 Act or in this Bill for making further amendments to the 1957 Act by Order in Council. So one may take it that subsection (2) is merely to secure that any reprint of the 1957 Act will be of the 1957 Act as amended by this Bill. I make no apology for having put down this Amendment, because we have obtained an explanation of a provision which was rather obscure. I must say that the answer we have been given by the noble and learned Lord is satisfactory. Therefore. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Before the Amendment is withdrawn, I should like to take this opportunity of saying that although the method which has been adopted here apparently has only one precedent in this country, it is by no means a novel device. On the contrary it is quite a usual thing to provide that, when Statutes are amended by subsequent legislation, they shall automatically be reprinted in a form containing the Amendments which have been made. That is of enormous convenience, because it saves the tedious search to find out whether, in fact, amendments have been made and to try to fit them into the original Statute. I hope that this precedent will be extended to many other pieces of legislation in this country. It will be a great convenience to everybody; it will make for certainty in legislation, and it will probably make for better and more accurate drafting.


I should like to ask one question of the noble and learned Lord. Having heard the various choices which were open to Her Majesty's Government, it seems to me that they have chosen the best of the five. The question I should like to put to him is: Will there appear somewhere on the face of the document, when the 1957 Act is reprinted, either the date of the reprint or a note stating that the Act is reprinted as amended—something which shows that it is not the original 1957 Act?


Yes; I understand that that will, in fact, be done.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to ask one question on Clause 5. During Second Reading we had some discussion with regard to the position of Ministers of State. I think that it is now clear that Ministers of State will in future count in the total number prescribed by Clause 3 (2) of this Bill, whether or not they are appointed at a salary. Does the same apply to a Secretary of State? I raised this question on Second Reading, and I do not think the noble and learned Lord answered it. I think I am right in saying that the Secretary of State for Wales was appointed, but not, in the Government's view, at a salary, and it was for that reason that the law was, in the Government's view, not broken by accepting the limit of eight prescribed by Statute. Could that happen again, with the Bill in its present form?

As I say, I raised this question in my Second Reading Speech, when I drew attention to the fact that the problem arose not only in relation to Ministers of State but also in relation to Secretaries of State. As the noble and learned Lord did not, I think, answer me on the point on that occasion, I put it to him again. If by this Bill, which increases the total, we are, as we have been told, stopping the adoption of a device to evade the clear intention of Parliament by appointing Ministers of State without a salary, is there also something to prevent the appointment of Secretaries of State not at a salary, and therefore not counting in the total? I should be grateful, in view of what has happened in regard to the Secretary of State for Wales, for an explanation from the noble and learned Lord on that point.


I think the answer to that question is this. The limit is a limit on the number of Ministers who may sit and vote in another place. It falls short of being universal, because it relates to the holders of listed offices which do not amount to a universal category. The list has the following relevant features. First of all, it includes Ministers in charge of Departments and Ministers not in charge of Departments. Secondly, all (he former are mentioned by their titles individually, except Secretaries of State who are mentioned generically. Constitutionally, they all hold the one office of Secretary of State. It happens that there is statutory provision for paying salaries to each of the individual Ministers in charge of Departments mentioned in the list, and to eight Secretaries of State. The Bill will extend these powers to the new Ministers and to a ninth Secretary of State.

This is, however, quite irrelevant to the question of whether they count against the limit. For example, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales cannot be paid until the Bill authorises payment of the ninth Secretary of State. But he counts against the limit, and has always so counted against the existing limits. He is one of the 26 Members of another place who already count against the limit of 27 in respect of senior ministerial offices, and he is one of the 65 who already count against the limit of 70 in respect of the full list of ministerial offices. Therefore I would respectfully suggest that the noble and learned Viscount was inaccurate when he said that the Secretary of State for Wales was appointed without salary so that he would not count against these limits.

As regards Ministers not in charge of Departments, the list includes several mentioned individually; for example, the Lord President, the Lord Privy Seal, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Parliamentary Secretaries of named Departments. It also includes two generic groups: Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State and Ministers of State. But their position, I think, is clear, and the effect is that every member of the Government who is in another place, but not in charge of a Department, whatever his title, old or new, and whether or not he is paid, counts against the limit on the number of Ministers who may sit in another place.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Interpretation and short title]:

3.14 p.m.

VISCOUNT DILHORNE moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "Machinery of Government" and insert "Ministers of the Crown". The noble and learned Viscount said: Your Lordships will remember that, in the course of the Second Reading debate, we had a considerable discussion with regard to the Title of the Bill. I do not propose to repeat to your Lordships—I do not think your Lordships would wish me to do so—the observations that I made then to show that the present Title of the Bill is a complete misnomer. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Horsbrugh, supported me in that view.

I have put down this Amendment to change the Title of the Bill, because I think that the Title I propose is the right Title for the Bill, whether it be good or bad. The first clause of the Bill deals with the position of three Ministers. Looking at the Statute Book, one finds that usually when new Ministries are created one has a separate Act of Parliament dealing with each of them, like the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Act, 1919, the Ministry of Civil Aviation Act, 1945, and the Ministry of Defence Act, 1946. Of course, it was not until the passage of the Ministry of Defence Act that the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was created Minister of Defence. There are a series of other Acts of a similar character relating to particular Ministers.

Now we have Clause 1 of this Bill dealing with three Ministers of the Crown and their Departments. Clause 2, in particular, is very similar in the ground it covers to a Section 1n the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937; and so, indeed, is Clause 3, although what preceded Section 3 in the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, was altered by the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957. So when I look at those three clauses, and also at Clause 5, it seems to me that the right Title for this Bill will be, "Ministers of the Crown Act". It will, I think, be a great convenience to people who have to refer to this measure to know it by that Title which has a link with the Act of 1937, and, indeed, with the Act of 1957.

I do not propose to take up any more time upon this matter, but I do suggest, for the reasons I advance to-day and, indeed, for the reasons that were advanced during the course of the Second Reading debate, that this is the right Title for this Bill. The noble and learned Lord did his best to defend the present Title. I somehow felt that he was rather speaking to a brief on that occasion, as Lord Chancellors sometimes have to do. I hope that, on reflection, he will agree with me that it would be an improvement to this Bill to change the Title to "Ministers of the Crown". I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 25, leave out ("Machinery of Government") and insert ("Ministers of the Crown").—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


I do not think it would be possible to improve such a very good Bill as this, but at the same time, of course, I recognise that almost any Bill can have any one of about six different Titles, and that what the Title is is really entirely a matter of personal opinion. Here is a Bill constituting three new Ministries, and making various changes to the limits in the number of Members of another place who can there sit and vote. It is a Bill dealing with the machinery of Government; at the same time, of course, it is also dealing with Ministers of the Crown and, unless one wishes to be pedantic, either one Title or the other would be perfectly appropriate. I still think that, on the whole, "Machinery of Government" is perhaps rather better, but the Government have a lot to do and we do not want to lake up time on something which really does not matter at all, and on that footing they are prepared to accept the Amendment.


I would thank the noble and learned Lord for what he has said. I do not agree with him that it does not matter at all what this particular Bill is called. I think I could pray in aid some observations that he made when sitting on these Benches, about the need for Bills to be in proper form when they are passed. I do not want to say anything which will detract from my recognition of the fact that Her Majesty's Government have now indicated their first acceptance of an Amendment to any Bill in your Lordships' House in the present Parliament. I hope that this is a precedent which will frequently be followed, because, of course, the Amendments which we put forward are Amendments which are always well worthy of acceptance. I welcome this. I had been gaining the impression that the riding instructions given to the Chief Whip, and to the Ministers in charge of Bills here, were not to accept any Amendments at all. I am glad no find that that impression is negatived by the acceptance of this Amendment, the importance of which I, for one, would not seek to minimise.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?


I rise not to delay the acceptance of this clause as amended, but merely to ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to consider a point which I think he may not have considered and which slightly troubles me. It is the first subsection of Clause 6 which provides as follows: Any reference in this Act to any enactment is a reference thereto as amended by or under any other enactment including this Act. Strictly, that seems to me to make nonsense in certain places. If he will look, for instance, at Clause 3 of this Bill, the noble and learned Lord will see that this Bill makes Amendments to the House of Commons Disqualification Act, 1957; and that is a reference to an enactment. But if we are to treat that reference to an enactment as embodying the amendments that this Bill makes, then this Bill has already made them when it mentions them. I have little doubt that this subsection will do little harm, and may in certain eventualities do some good; and I am convinced it must have been put here with some purpose. Nevertheless, it does not seem to me strictly to make sense. As far as I know, it has never been considered by any court of law, and I should be grateful if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would perhaps consider the point to see if there is anything in it.


This is a new point. Clause 6 (1) is, I feel sure, in a very common form in which we have all been very used to seeing it. Whether this ingenious suggestion has ever been made before and, if so, what the answer is, I do not know; but I shall be glad to consider it.


I do not know that this really is in a common form. I do not think it can do any harm, but it does add a little to the obscurity in reading the Bill. I shall be grateful if the noble and learned Lord will look at it, because I do not think it is common form. I cannot myself remember any precedent for it, although I may be wrong. I should like to know—perhaps the noble and learned Lord can tell me later; I do not want to hold up the passage of this Bill—what was the object of this unusual form here. I do not think it ought to become a precedent unless there is good reason for it.


I am delighted to find this new-found zeal on the part of noble Lords opposite for clarity in legislation. I have drawn attention to obscurities in the past, but I must say I never got very much satisfaction. I hope we can work together now to ensure that future legislation is made much more clear.


If I may speak again, I am sure that I have seen this in exactly the same form in other Statutes, but I have said I will make inquiries and I shall certainly do so.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendment.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of December 10), the Report of the Amendment received.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(The Earl of Longford.)


My Lords, I should just like to say a few words on the Third Reading of this Bill because it is, indeed, an important measure. It was described by several noble Lords in the course of the Second Reading debate, and, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, as a measure of constitutional importance. I do not think that anyone with experience of the workings of another place could really quarrel with that description—it is a Bill of great constitutional importance. Although efforts have been made to minimise its effect and to treat it as a complex and technical measure and no more, it is in fact a great deal more; and I do not myself think it would be right to pass a Bill of this kind without saying a few words in the course of the Third Reading debate.

During the Second Reading debate there was some controversy between the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal as to the proportion of Members of the Labour Party in the other place who were now Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries in the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, suggested the number was about 50 per cent.; the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal suggested it was no more than one-third. I saw in the Press, in the Daily Telegraph, that in this controversy, as in so many others, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was right, and that it is nearly 50 per cent.


My Lords, may I interrupt at this stage? Of course, no one reads the columns of "Peterborough" more carefully than I do and I am always very grateful, as we all are, for favourable attention there; but it was stated in the passage from which the noble Viscount has drawn his wisdom that there were 298 Labour Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. There, of course, it was totally wrong, so I hope the noble Viscount is not basing himself entirely on the excellent Peterborough.


My Lords, I have no reason to question the general accuracy of the gentleman to whom the noble Earl refers as "Peterborough", but I think that that difference and, as the noble Earl suggests, that error, has not much altered the balance, and that it is nearly 50 per cent., which were the words I used. I think it is much more nearly 50 per cent. than one-third, which is what the Lord Privy Seal suggested.

I do not myself believe that anyone can regard such a high proportion of members of any particular party being members of the Government in another place as something which does not affect both the Constitution and the operation of Parliament. It is indeed a serious matter, and here we have this Bill giving statutory effect to what has been done, abolishing the limit of 27 which was prescribed by the 1957 Act. There was nothing in the 1957 Act to suggest that that limit was imposed for the purpose of securing adequate representation of Her Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House, but I suspect myself that, whether or not that was one reason for it, another reason was to prevent Parkinson's Law from operating with regard to Government posts.

During the Second Reading here we had it prayed in aid that there were fewer Parliamentary Secretaries than there had been before. What has happened? We have got more Ministers of State. When we had this limit of 27, that was some check on the upgrading of ministerial posts. I do not know—one does not know exactly—what are the present various functions of all these Ministers of State, but I shall be very surprised if the functions of some of them differ materially from the functions previously discharged by Parliamentary Secretaries. I am sorry that this limit of 27 goes, because I think it served a useful purpose in preventing the increase in status of various ministerial offices without an extra burden of ministerial duties. This Bill, in my view, makes an important constitutional change, the far-reaching effects of which it may not be very easy to discern at the present moment. But it also does one further thing, and for this I can commend the Bill. Whatever the limits it prescribes, it is now clear that it prevents the: same kind of operation from being conducted as was conducted immediately after October 15.

I said on Second Reading of this Bill, and I said in the debate on the Address that, as I saw it, Section 2 of the 1957 Act was a statement of the intention of Parliament that there should be a limit, and an effective limit, on the number of Ministers in the House of Commons. I have put twice to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether or not he agreed that that was the clear intent of Parliament. I have had no answer except to say that what was done was lawful. That was not the question I raised. My question was as to the intention of Parliament as evinced by the Statute, and my contention has not been denied. Now, at least, from what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, we are sure that the same device cannot be operated again; that it will not be possible in future to get round this enlarged limit by the device of appointing Ministers without a salary. That is an improvement.

I think it is right to say that when the 1957 Act was passed, or, indeed, when the 1937 Act which also contained a limit on the number of Ministers in Parliament was passed, no one contemplated that anyone would seek to evade the clear intention of Parliament by adopting a device of this kind. But I welcome the Bill because it will stop that kind of thing from happening again. I am not able to give support to the great enlargement of the number of ministerial offices, or to the great enlargement of the number of Ministers in the House of Commons. But for the part of it that will stop this device from being repeated, I think this Bill deserves the support of your Lordships' House.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, before the Government reply, may I ask that this point about the proportion of Government people to Back-Benchers in the House of Commons be cleared up? I was not dogmatic on the point in my speech on Second Reading because I have not been able to count the numbers there and I was not sure about it; but there is a conflict between the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and my noble friend the Leader of the House. Since my noble friend has all the resources of Government research behind him and he or somebody else will know what the figures are, I should like to know the total number of ministerial Labour M.P.s and the total number of Government office men—Ministers, Whips and Parliamentary Private Secretaries must all be included for this purpose—and whether these are paid or unpaid and the percentage they bear to the whole of the Labour Members of the House of Commons. I think that as a matter of history and fact it would be useful to have this information. I should be glad to have it as I have not been able to check for myself what the facts are.


My Lords, may I answer that point before the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor replies to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne? As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth says, all the resources of the Government are available. We have them, but do not always have them here and at this moment available. I can give most of the answer with certainty, and I do not think I shall be wrong about the rest. The limit is 91 Ministers in the House of Commons. Up to now, 31 Parliamentary Private Secretaries have been appointed, and this makes a total of 122. More than half the Members of Parliament are Labour Members and I think the total number of Labour Members in the other place is 316. I hear somebody say it is 317. It might be 317. But if one takes it as 316, which is more favourable to the noble and learned Viscount, that gives a proportion of slightly less than 40 per cent., which is nearer one- third than one-half. That is the actual position.


My Lords, I believe, as I said on the Second Reading debate—and I do not propose to repeat myself—that this is a very important and a very bad Bill. Therefore, I cannot pretend to welcome it on any grounds whatsoever. But I quite agree that it should now have its Third Reading on the obvious grounds that, however bad it may be, it principally concerns another place which has, in fact, passed it. I think the most serious innovation made by this Bill is that it makes an important constitutional change without the Government's having sought any prior agreement between the Parties. I gave that as a principal objection in my speech on the Second Reading debate in which I strongly supported the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I rise only because for once I could not agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne that this Bill should be welcomed on any grounds whatever.


My Lords, may I add one point which has not been mentioned? We often hear this Parliament spoken of as the "Westminster model"; and we must remember I think that almost anything we do here is watched and sometimes slavishly copied by many countries all over the world. Many of your Lordships have seen the way in which our methods of Parliament have worked in other countries. In many cases it is almost touching to see the slavish way in which they copy almost every office we have in the House. Now this Bill will be watched, too.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that in this country the growth of the strength of the Executive since the war was largely due to secrecy. My Lords, I hardly think that is true. We see all over the world to-day a great growth in Executive strength. I am not arguing for weak democratic Government; I believe that democracy must be strong. But there are cases where the Executive has been given very much too much strength—sometimes through the Army, sometimes through a one-Party system, and sometimes by limiting the franchise; and there is another simple way, and that is to get control of the Members of an elected Chamber. I want to give this warning because I think that what we do here is watched carefully, and that is something that we should never entirely forget.


My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House made a statement just now that more than half of the Members of the other place are Labour Members. Is he not slightly mistaken there? I was under the impression that, owing to the unfortunate effect of the three-cornered fight in the Election, fewer than half were Labour Members.


My Lords, it is easily cleared up. We have an overall majority of four. That must mean that we have 317 Members and everybody else put together has 313. It is certainly the fact that we have an overall majority of four.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, may I first say a word about the loophole about which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, was concerned? For the reasons which I have ventured to give in Committee, I think that what it amounts to is this. In future a Minister who is not in charge of a Department, and any Minister who is in charge of a Department and is in the list, will be caught by the limit on the number who may sit and vote in another place. This will be so whether they are paid or whether they are not paid. A loophole is deliberately left, because the only category not caught by the list is that of Ministers in charge of new Departments. Such Ministers will be able to sit and vote in another place, even if the full complement allowed by the limit is already taken up. Such Ministers, of course, will cease to be exempt from the limit as soon as their offices are included in the list, which may be done either by Act of Parliament or, in certain cases, by a Transfer of Functions Order.

For reasons which I ventured to suggest on Second Reading, there is still the fact that this Bill does not raise any constitutional issue. I did not say that it was my opinion that the control of the Executive by Parliament had been reduced by secrecy—I did say that it is a general view. Of course, what is essential for any Opposition is to criticise and to be able to criticise; and they can get to a state of affairs, particularly on Defence matters when they know so little of the facts that it becomes impossible for an Opposition to criticise, unless, having recently been in power themselves, they know the facts.

So far as the control of the Executive by the Legislature is concerned, as I ventured to point out on Second Reading, the proportion by which new Ministers have been added to those in the previous Administration by this Government is exactly the same as the proportion by which the previous Government increased the number of Ministers compared with the previous Administration. What no one has pointed out, in any of the discussions on this Bill, is why the last Government increased in that proportion the number of new Ministers over those whom it had been thought necessary to have in the previous Administration. After all, it is not as if they were a Government that were bursting to do things. I am not suggesting that conserving things might not be a proper thing to do. It is not as if, whether there had been years of stagnation or not, the last Government's record for activity was outstanding. But it seems to me to be natural when, after a long period out of office, we have the Party of change coming in and bursting to carry out as soon as possible the many changes which during the course of the Election they had declared their intention of carrying out, that they should want some increase in the machinery of Government to enable them to do that. And that is the main purpose of this Bill. For these reasons, I trust that the Bill will be read a third time.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.