Cabinet Ministers.

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport. – in the House of Commons on 17th June 1935.

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Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, arising out of the reconstruction of the Cabinet, he has any statement to make regarding those Ministers whose public duties are not designated?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I assume that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind the appointment of two Ministers without Portfolio. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will be specially concerned with League of Nations work, and I believe that his appointment will materially strengthen the contribution which our country can make in international affairs, especially in the maintenance of world peace. As regards the appointment of my right hon. and Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), the right hon. Gentleman will recall that the advantage has been recognised previously of including in the Cabinet one or more Ministers who can concentrate their whole attention on important questions of policy free from Departmental responsibilities and preoccupations. In my opinion, in view of the work of the Government, there is occasion for an additional appointment of this kind.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

May I also ask a question in reference to the offices of Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council? Before the Government was reconstructed, the right hon. Gentleman was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House. Now, as we understand, the Home Secretary is Leader of the House—[An HON. MEMBER: "Deputy Leader."]—in the absence of the Prime Minister. We would like to know what actual duties are attached to the office of Lord President of the Council now, and why it was necessary to appoint the Lord Privy Seal as Leader of the House of Lords. I should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the salaries attached to the Ministers without Portfolio; whether they will have offices; whether they will have a staff, and whether the expenses connected therewith will be put in a Supplementary Estimate for the House to consider? If not, may I be allowed to say that I am not questioning the advisability of appointing Ministers without Portfolio, but that the House and the country are entitled to know, first of all, approximately what their duties are, and, secondly, what they will cost?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I will do my best to answer these various questions, and I will start at the end. No definite conclusion has yet been come to as to salaries, but, of course, there will have to be Estimates for them. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), I think that his salary will come on a sub-head of the Treasury Vote, and, if that particular Vote be asked for, we shall be perfectly willing when the time comes, on one of the Supply days, to meet the question and give such explanations as the House may desire. The salary of my right hon. Friend who undertakes the League of Nations work, will, I think, appear on the Foreign Office Vote. With regard to the duties of the Lord President, it is a rather long subject to go into by way of question and answer, and it will come up much more easily on the Estimate, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, of all the offices which I have held, I have never had more work to do and had less pay—and it is quite rightly desirable that I should give all the information I can give to him—than I had as Lord President. It is one of the hardest posts that I have ever occupied. The Lord Privy Seal is an office that has often been used to give a Minister a high position, and that is why I have coupled it—and I have no secrets in Cabinet making from the House—with what is a very dignified and a very important position, and that is, to act as Leader of the House of Lords.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

If it be true—and I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman—that he was overworked as Lord President, then I think that he was really sweated as a Minister in the late Government, because everyone knows that he put in an immense amount of time as Leader of the House in the necessary absence of the Prime Minister. We shall, of course, have to pursue this matter in order that we may get a little more information than the right hon. Gentleman has been able to give to us, and we shall put down the necessary Votes at the convenient time.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is a fact that the real reason for these extra appointments is to give two Conservative posts?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

No, Sir. This, as so often happens, is said to be the real reason, but it is an entirely false reason.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the case in 1921 when I myself was the victim, and when a special Bill had to be introduced and passed through the House to appoint a Minister without portfolio; and have the Law Officers now given him advice different from the advice which they gave in 1921 to the effect that the salary of a Minister without portfolio could not be paid on a departmental Vote?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

In order to give a definite answer, I should require notice of the question. It is perfectly obvious that, if I am in error in saying that it will be put on a Departmental Vote, there is no difficulty in giving a separate vote for it, and we shall have no difficulty.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Seeing that this rearrangement of the Government has raised, not a Departmental issue with regard to one Member of the Cabinet, but a general reconstruction of the Cabinet, and that to discuss it on one Vote will tie the House to that one point, will the right hon. Gentleman provide facilities for the Opposition to raise the whole question of the allocation of duties to these offices and the payment arising therefrom? The question arises that if you take it on one Vote you may quite well defend it because that Minister may be of particular value, whereas one may not agree to the expenditure on the Cabinet as a whole. I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will not consider granting to the Opposition greater facilities than a Departmental Vote to discuss the general issue? Will it not be necessary, even for the appointment of these Ministers who have not been allocated special duties, for a Supplementary Estimate to be introduced, seeing that to the extent of their salaries it will involve an expenditure greater than the original Estimate?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

If I understand the question of the hon. Gentleman, it is that he would like a wider discussion on the allocation of offices with reference to the salaries.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Yes, and to the duties too.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

Yes. That, of course, is a subject to which I have given a good deal of attention, and I can hold out no hope of time for such a discussion in the next few weeks. With regard to the question of putting down a Supplementary Estimate for the purpose, it would, of course, limit the discussion, but I think there is ample precedent for the course we are pursuing. I cannot hold out hope at the moment that we can give anything more.

Photo of Mr Joseph Batey Mr Joseph Batey , Spennymoor

The Prime Minister said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was to be appointed to deal with the policy of the Government. Does that mean the general policy of the Government, or a particular policy, say, in connection with distressed areas? Is it to deal with the policy of the Government with regard to distressed areas?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I cannot say anything more than I have said on that subject to-day. The hon. Gentleman must remember that this moderately new system has really only been working a few days.