If I may say so, Dr. King, I think that that would be a wise decision.
This subsection enables the salaries mentioned in Schedule I to be reduced in the case of certain Ministers, and those Ministers are listed. They are, a Minister of State, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the holders of the offices of Lord President of the Council, Lord Privy Seal, Chancellor of the Duchy or Paymaster-General Prime Minister and the Leader of the Liberal Party—and, indeed, of any member of the Liberal Party in this House—will be extremely inconvenient to the Committee.
I say that because, quite obviously, a new departure is made by this subsection. In the past, the House of Commons has always specified exactly what the salary of each Minister shall be whether he has a seat in Parliament or a seat in the Cabinet or not. But, as I have pointed out, a new departure is being made by the subsection, and the only person who can give the reasons for that departure is the Prime Minister himself, and it would have been courteous to the House if the right hon. Gentleman himself had explained those reasons to the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has left the explanation, apparently, to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who cannot be expected to know the Prime Minister's mind in this matter—unless it be the fact that the hon. Gentleman is the one Mem- ber of the Government who knows the Prime Minister's mind. Of course, the Committee in its turn, in its unfailing courtesy would, I am sure, gladly agree that the Chairman should report Progress so that the Prime Minister could attend to give that explanation.
It is rather interesting, and perhaps a little strange, that when deciding upon which Ministers should have their salaries reduced below the maximum stated in the Schedule, the name of the Foreign Secretary was not included. It is a fact that he has not been able to give quite the whole of his time to the affairs of State. Some of it has been spent in losing the Leyton by-election.
By contrast—I come specifically to the question of Ministers of State—the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, has had to answer for the Government's policy on foreign affairs in this House throughout this Parliament. If ever a Minister of State deserved the maximum salary stated in the Schedule, it is he. We have a very strange inversion of what has gone on in the past. We are entitled to an explanation from the Government of what their proposals are for dealing with this strangely inverted position.
I do not propose to spend a lot of time on the first Amendment, because, having raised the issue which arises upon it, the next thing to which the Committee is entitled is an explanation from the Government which we can examine and discuss. I hope I have made the point clear that we want to know the mind of the Government on the question of reducing salaries below the maximum of certain officers of State. I come to the broad question of Ministers of State. They do not enjoy the full glow of the limelight to which Ministers are accustomed. Neither do they work hard in the shadows as sometimes Parliamentary Secretaries and Under-Secretaries do.
Ministers of State are sort of twilight creatures. In the present Government, however, we find that some Ministers of State are given a considerably elevated position and greater responsibility than Ministers of State have been given in the past. I have mentioned one example, the Minister of State, Foreign Office. Then we have the case of the noble Lord whose name I find difficult to pronounce because I am not Cornish, Lord Caradon—[An HON. MEMBER: "Caliban?"] I must have failed, for I did not realise that that was the pronunciation.
It is clear that some Ministers of State are given greater responsibility than was customary in the past. That is why, in the First Schedule, we find that the maximum salary of a Minister of State can be £8,500. We are entitled to know which Ministers of State are to be paid the maximum and if there are to be Ministers of State and other Ministers of State.
That also is a matter to which we are perhaps entitled to an explanation. It makes complicated the various grades of status of Ministers if, leaving out the Prime Minister, of course, some Ministers of Cabinet rank are to be paid £8,500 and some are to be paid less than that amount because they remain twilight creatures. Coming down to Parliamentary Secretaries and Under-Secretaries, who are to have £3,750, that does not seem the right differential. They should have at least half the salaries of Ministers because they sometimes do twice as much work.
It may be that I shall have to ask the indulgence of the Committee for permission to speak again, this being Committee stage, after having heard the Government's explanation. We would have the greatest saving of time if we could have that explanation soon. Then we could see what is in the mind of the Government, for we shall never know, unless the Prime Minister comes here to tell us, exactly what is in his mind. As to the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Government have to face the fact that with a majority of three, which is now their overall majority, they have not a workable majority, whereas, when they have a majority of 21 thanks to the Liberals, they have a working majority. Therefore, henceforth the Liberals will be keeping the Government in power.
It is a disgraceful thing that the Liberal Party gives such partial attention—partial perhaps in both senses of the word—to its Parliamentary duties and that the Leader of the Liberal Party is not here and only belatedly has an hon. Member of the Liberal Party come in to sit at the far end of the bench.
On a point of order, Dr. King. Am I permitted to move that the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again?
After the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) it is quite impossible for the Committee to make up its mind on this important issue, which is a constitutional issue. The Prime Minister abrogates to himself these powers. He has a difficult team to lead and has to distribute awards where he wants them distributed. He can say to a Minister who threatens him, "I will reduce your salary, or I will raise it if you are a good boy."
It would be a very grave constitutional precedent if we were to allow this to go through without having a statement from the Prime Minister on what he is trying to do under the Bill. It is an affront to Parliament if we are to he expected to continue our discussions this morning without having the Prime Minister present to give an explanation.
I beg to move that the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
I am sure the Committee has enjoyed the witty speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). The climate of opinion has changed. That automatically changes the mood of the House of Commons. Many who formerly took a passing interest in this Bill now have a deeper interest in it.
You, Dr. King, have agreed that we may discuss these two Amendments together, so I shall move from the general matters raised by my right hon. and learned Friend to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to the second Amendment. That Amendment would strike out the words "Minister of State", but would leave intact "Chief Secretary to the Treasury". It is a little unfortunate that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury seems in this operation to have been down-graded. The Chief Secretary has occupied a position on the Treasury Bench for a longer period than has the Financial Secretary.
When the position of Chief Secretary to the Treasury was created by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, the occupant was a Cabinet Minister. His duties were related to keeping the pressing demands of Departments off the back of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His existence in those circumstances was justified. It seems to me that by retaining the office but changing the duties of the Minister concerned the right hon. Gentleman is playing the part in Government once played by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Therefore, before the discussion on the Clause ends we should have some enlightenment from the Government as to what is the exact rôle of the Chief Secretary.
The First Schedule, containing an omnibus number of single payments of £8,500 a year to a large number of Ministers, is quite wrong. It confers upon the Prime Minister a patronage. This is an operation which Walpole would have enjoyed. One of the sad things as the years pass is seeing the growing patronage directly in possession of the Prime Minister. This is a negation of Parliament itself. In the end it cannot lead to good government. It must lead to the negation of good government—bad government. On that pleading, my right hon. and learned Friend was right to complain that this rather fluid flexible pattern putting, if you like, a Minister of State who may for a period of time be discharging nebulous duties on level terms with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at £8,500 a year, is wrong.
I repeat what I said on Second Reading. One of the most deplorable things about this Administration is the elaboration of posts. There are so many Ministers of State. There are now four Ministers of State in one Department where formerly there were three. There are three Ministers of State in another Department where formerly there were two. This process goes on and on. If it is allowed to continue, we may reach the time when a new Parliament will be elected and all the Members will be members of the Government and the Prime Minister's duty will be to nominate those who are to serve as private Members.
This is the beginning of a most dangerous operation. I should like to see the position regularised. I would much rather that the vain boasts made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign, that he would streamline the Government had resulted not in a greater number of cooks—[An HON. MEMBER: "Crooks?"]
If I may take the second point first, I did not hear the word "crooks". My attention was otherwise directed. If the word was used, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it.
Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend below the Gangway has made the remark and he was rather surprised that he had misheard what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) had said. There is no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Withington did not say "crooks".
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is attempting to associate himself with the word which I have asked should be withdrawn. I hope that, if an hon. Member did use the word "crooks", and if it was not the hon. Member who was speaking but was some other hon. Member, he will withdraw it.
I think that there is some misunderstanding here. I am slightly deaf in my right ear, because of troubles during the war. I made a mistake. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) used the word which you deplore, Dr. King. I was so surprised that I mentioned it immediately, because it seemed to be so appropriate to what he was saying.
On the other hand, if I misheard my hon. Friend and used the word which the Chair deplores in mishearing my hon. Friend, I withdraw the word which I misheard my hon. Friend say.
It is on the First Schedule that my complaint rests, stipulating salaries of £8,500 a year spread over a vast number of Ministers and Departments, with the decision to alter the figure resting solely with the Prime Minister. I was going on to say, as I said on Second Reading, that I would have much preferred a more streamlined operation consisting of Ministers and Deputy Ministers, on the basis that the Parliamentary Secretary is a rather unsatisfactory position, in any case. Ministers who assist the main Minister, the Secretary of State, could, as Deputy Ministers, discharge that function without the elaboration of titles or descriptions now applying to people on the Treasury Bench.
I said at the time that I would like the two simple straight payments, namely, £12,000 for a Minister of the Crown and £6,000 for a Deputy Minister. I bitterly regret that Parliamentary life and the structure of Government should be complicated by the type of Schedules which are attached to the Bill.
I want to deal precisely with the two Amendments. I think that there is a slight misunderstanding as to the situation. With regard to Ministers of State, no new flexibility is introduced—quite the reverse. The position with regard to Ministers of State under the previous Administration was that this flexibility existed with no upper limit, and, therefore, the Prime Minister of the day had power to fix what he thought was the relevant salary for a Minister of State, for perfectly wise and good reasons, up to any figure he chose.
It was obviously right that the salary of the Minister of State should have some reference to the responsibilities. The Minister of State appointed to carry out certain functions attracted the salary which normally went with those functions. This gave a certain amount of flexibility which was right and sensible.
There were three different rates of salary given to Ministers of State—£3,750, £4,500 and £5,000. So far as I am aware, speaking offhand, I do not think the figure of £5,000 was exceeded, and it is on that figure of £5,000 that the new figure is based in accordance with the formula for dealing with the increases recommended in the Lawrence Report. However, it is right to say that this flexibility did exist. It has served a useful purpose, and it continues to do so.
I fully understand the attitude of the House this morning. I accept it. Had I been sitting in the place to which I had become accustomed for a number of years—and I am sure that it will be a long time before I have the pleasure of returning to it—I would have felt equally entitled to make speeches which are more useful to the House, being more full of go and determination than the present Opposition have lately shown.
Nevertheless, I hope that hon. Members will realise that this is a new piece of legislation. We do not want to trouble the House with legislation too often. Legislation has to provide for quite a long-term situation. Therefore, this flexibility which applies to all Governments should be continued and, as hon. Members opposite know, the previous limit of £5,000 was introduced under the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1964. Therefore so far as Ministers of State are concerned, there is no change in the flexibility, and I think that the Committee will agree, once it has given the matter a little more serious consideration, that it is right that that flexibility should be continued. I certainly agree with regard to other offices which have been referred to. That flexibility was not there before, but it is right that it should be there.
For example, reference has been made to the office of Chief Secretary. I hope hon. Members will not mind my referring to it as an office. It does not matter who happens to occupy the office for the time being. Under the previous Administration there was no salary attaching to the office of Chief Secretary and therefore anybody holding that office who had to be remunerated had to have another office to go with it. It was, in fact, the office of Paymaster-General to which the salary was attached. Therefore, one had the unreal situation in which duties were carried out for no remuneration and a sinecure was paid for. We add the two together and we get a given amount of duties and a given amount of remuneration. There is no need to continue that state of affairs. It was merely an expedient which had to be adopted. It was not thought worth while introducing legislation to deal with it, but now that we are having new legislation we think it is right to put the matter in order.
I have been asked about the responsibilities of my office, but the hon. Gentleman has made a mistake in assuming that there is any change in the responsibilities and duties attaching to the office of Chief Secretary. I am now talking about duties and responsibilities. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will feel that it is right that the flexibility which was useful before should be continued. The House has already accepted the fact that a £5,000 limit should be imposed, with the exercise of this discretion, and it would be in the interests of all of us that this flexibility should be continued.
I am trying to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman so long as you will allow this discussion to continue, Dr. King. My pleasure is to help hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, whether or not the matter is directly relevant to the Amendment under discussion. As the hon. Gentleman has asked me this question, may I repeat that I carefully used the word "responsibilities". I thought the question that he asked related to responsibilities and duties. Whether one is a member of the Cabinet or not has nothing to do with responsibilities. It is not for me to say precisely what any predecessor of mine in this important office had to do from time to time.
I have not found the remarks of the Chief Secretary very helpful. I do not intend to be provoked by him on the subject of the duties of the Opposition, how effective we are, and so on. With regard to the rôle of the Chief Secretary and Paymaster-General, I was responsible at the time and I thought that it was a good thing that the Chief Secretary should also hold the office of Paymaster-General because he had the control of expenditure.
I do not agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who referred to the Minister of State as a "twilight creature". He was Minister of State for some time and he was certainly not a twilight creature. There has been a tremendous inflation. I was "the" Minister of State as recently as 1951. Since then more and more have arrived. Here we are on a point of principle. I raised the question on the Second Reading of what was then called the Machinery of Government Bill. We also raised it on the Second Reading of this Bill.
Whatever may have been the form in the past, I think that it is completely unsatisfactory that it should be within the discretion of the Prime Minister of the day to attach a rate of salary to an individual. It ought to be attached to the office, and I think that the principle under which £3,000 was paid to the Minister of State and £5,000 to the Minister in charge of the Department, whether in the Cabinet or not, is right. That should be the principle today. I do not like the idea of the sliding scale, or of the Prime Minister being able to vary the amount at his discretion. I do not believe that it was exercised before. In any case, I think it is undesirable and there is no defence of it.
Because this is a point of principle, I wish to test the view of the Committee on it and I shall ask my hon. Friends to divide.
So far as I remember, I do not think that when I was a Minister there was ever any variation at all. I believe that in my time as a Minister the position was quite clear—the £3,000 level or the £5,000 level. Whatever has happened in the past, it is a matter of principle and it is right that we should test the opinion of the Committee about it.
I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I should like to say that one is grateful for the explanation. The Chief Secretary has told me several things that I did not know when I was a Minister of State.
However, I must say that the hon. Gentleman's defence of the provisions of the Bill is most unsatisfactory. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) has pointed out, when we are embarking on an exercise of the kind that we are embarking upon we ought to try to get the thing right, even though we were satisfied in the past. Surely it is a sound principle that it should be Parliament and not the Prime Minister who controls these matters.
As there seems to be no intention whatever of the Government acceding to that view, I shall not withdraw the Amendment. I had been prepared to withdraw it if the Government had said that they would consider the matter further. I hope that the Committee will support me.
I think that another word ought to be said about the absence of the Prime Minister. I am well aware that it is part of the small change of Parliamentary persiflage to demand, "Where is the Minister? Why is he not here?" and so on. I am also aware that a Prime Minister is, rather more than other Ministers, entitled to suppose that the House of Commons will take it for granted that he has many other things to do. But this is a rather special case.
I have not yet understood whether it is known how often the power now asked for for varying the salaries of Minister of State was exercised or in what circumstances. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) that it should not happen in future even if it has been happening in the past. All we have been assured of is that it has been useful in the past. We ought to know how and when and in what circumstances it was used before we can attach any importance to so vague a precedent.
There is a second reason why there is a rather special justification to expect the presence of the Prime Minister here today. This is that when the earlier Measure, the Ministers of the Crown Act, which changed its name—it was called the Machinery of Government Bill in this House—went through it will be well remembered that the need for a particular number of Ministers, and particularly the need for and the nature of Ministers of State, was defended by almost if not quite all the speakers from the other side, including the Law Officers, very specifically and plainly upon the assertion that it must be what the Prime Minister wants, that the number and nature of Ministers and particularly of Ministers of State was to be entirely on the ipse dixit of the Prime Minister. That was going further than had ever been gone before in that direction, and it was that which landed us with the number of Ministers and of Ministers of State that we have now and with the indefinition, if there is such a word, of Minister of State.
The whole thing is a request for additional powers or an increased strengthening of existing powers for the Prime Minister himself as such. In these circumstances it seems to me that although my hon. and right hon. Friends were perfectly entitled to speak as they did, amusingly and without that solemnity and seriousness with which matters of principle are very often treated, yet the absence of the Prime Minister on this occasion is more than a matter for persiflage and would in itself be quite a sufficient reason for a token vote in favour of the Amendment.
|Albu, Austen||Hobden, Dennis Brighton, K'town)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Horner, John||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Paget, R. T.|
|Bence, Cyril||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Howie, W.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Boston, T. G.||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Probert, Arthur|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Randall, Harry|
|Boyden, James||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rankin, John|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Redhead, Edward|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jackson, Colin||Rees, Merlyn|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull W.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dell, Edmund||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Diamond, John||Kelley, Richard||Rowland, Christopher|
|Doig, Peter||Kenyon, Clifford||Short, Peter (Stepney)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lawson, George||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|English, Michael||Ledger, Ron||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Evans, loan (Birmingham, Yardley)||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, S. C. (Cambsrwell, Dulwich)|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||MacColl, James||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Foley, Maurice||MacDermot, Niall||Small, William|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Steele, Thomas|
|Ford, Ben||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Freeson, Reginald||MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Stonehouse, John|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Grey, Charles||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mayhew, Christopher||Wallace, George|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mellish, Robert||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Millan, Bruce||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Molloy, William||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Hannan, William||Monslow, Walter||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hazell, Bert||Newens, Stan|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Oakes, Gordon||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. McCann and Mr. Harper.|
|Bell, Ronald||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Hordern, Peter|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grant-Ferris, R.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Blaker, Peter||Gresham-Cooke, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hastings, Stephen||Maude, Angus|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Chataway, Christopher||Higgins, Terence L.||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
as near as I can count, only about 7 per cent. of the Tory Party. The quantity of Tories is small, the quality I am not allowed to comment upon. In these important matters the Liberal Party is playing its part. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) need not complain about the interest taken in this important matter or about how the Liberals vote, if they vote either for or against the Government, because they think for themselves and do not do as a dying breed does—always vote for the Tories.