I think that it will be for the convenience of the Committee to take the Amendment No. 4 at the same time, that is to say, in line 28, to leave out paragraph (c).
I am much obliged, Dr. King.
First, I should like to say how delighted I am to watch the first workings of the new coalition. Undoubtedly, we are now seeing a political realignment which, I trust, will be for the benefit of the country. Incidentally, I disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who commented on the absence of the Liberal Party at the beginning of this debate. I thought that it was modesty on the part of Liberal Members, because they, forecasting the coalition which was about to take place, probably expected to get one or two of the offices which are so constantly being offered.
Order. This extraneous topic was brought into the debate on the previous Amendment. If the hon. Gentleman will now speak to his Amendment, I shall be grateful.
I shall do my best, Dr. King.
In moving the Amendment to remove the Opposition Chief Whip from the list of those about to be remunerated, I must say that I bear no ill will to the Opposition Chief Whip, for whom I have the greatest respect and affection. Indeed, I am emboldened to propose the Amendment only because I realise that it will be just a short time before it will have the effect of depriving an hon. Member opposite of remuneration which, in my view, is wholly undeserved.
There is no office known to the constitution as Opposition Chief Whip, and it is quite unjustified that one such should be created. The idea of remuneration for office arose simply from the fact that whoever held a Government office had officially to give up all outside remuneration of any kind, and he was, therefore, given moderately good remuneration in this House. This reason still applies. The Opposition Chief Whip, on the other hand, is not debarred from obtaining outside remuneration. He may be too busy to do so, but there is no official bar to his doing it, and an Opposition Chief Whip is perfectly entitled to obtain outside remuneration in other ways. Therefore, there is no need for the State to remunerate him. Moreover, as I have said, our own Chief Whip will not for very long be deprived of salary.
En passant, I am waiting with some interest to know what disease will be attributed to the man who has beaten the Foreign Secretary for the second time. I wonder whether a medical dictionary has been provided to the Prime Minister for this occasion and for similar future occasions when Conservative Members are returned to the House.
The second Amendment refers to the Opposition Chief Whip in the other place. If there is no justification for the Opposition Chief Whip receiving a salary in the Commons, there is far less for this occurring in another place. After all, the Opposition Chief Whip in the other place has nothing to do. His Peers are independent types and, in fact, the duties of the Opposition Chief Whip in the other place are very nearly nonexistent. They almost amount to circulating a document daily telling noble Lords what the business of the House is. Therefore, as I say, if there is little justification for the remuneration of the Opposition Chief Whip here, there is far less for doing the same in another place.
A little later, I hope to refer to another body of persons who are to receive wholly undeserved remuneration under this Bill, that is, the Assistant Whips—again, an office unknown to the Constitution.
This creation of vast numbers of offices has already been mentioned on the previous Amendment. I think that it was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury who offered as one excuse for lumping all this stuff together that the Government did not want to waste too much of the time of the House with legislation. Of course, they do not. As they have all these people in office, they cannot man Standing Committees properly, and, if they have to take all legislation on the Floor of the House, they cannot get it through. Naturally, therefore, they do not want to trouble the House with legislation. But the fault there lies with the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) said, only the late Sir Robert Walpole could really have enjoyed this spectacle of the proliferation of offices. The amount of patronage is staggering, and, in my view, it is an unedifying spectacle to see so many trotters getting into the public trough. It is time for the House of Commons to make a protest against this business of bribing practically everyone to support a peculiarly bad Administration.
I do not think that we shall yet suffer the humiliation, of office being offered to hon. Members on these benches to keep them quiet, but already nearly half the party opposite are in office of one kind and another, and paid office at that, and I do not doubt that this will be extended by degrees as the Government situation gets more and more difficult. It is for that reason that we wish to be careful about what we are doing now. One of my hon. Friends said that he hoped that the Chief Secretary knew what was in the Prime Minister's mind about this. I am sure he does. What is in the Prime Minister's mind is as clear as daylight. What the right hon. Gentleman wants is a good, subservient, disciplined Reichstag which will do what it is told from time to time. That is what we shall get.
It could be argued that paying the Opposition Chief Whip to try to wreck proceedings from time to time is a step in favour of the independence of the House, and that might be true. On the other hand, it is a wholly unconstitutional step, and it is creating an office which is unnecessary and undesirable. Frankly, I do not approve of paying the Leader of the Opposition. It seems pure nonsense to pay somebody merely to stop government going on. It is the plain duty of all good citizens to endeavour to check legislation, and it should be a pleasure to do it for very little. I have never approved of paying the Leader of the Opposition, and I approve still less of paying the Chief Whip of the Opposition. The office of Leader of the Opposition was not recognised by the constitution at the time, and I think that the whole idea of paying him was genuinely wrong. However, I suppose it is now too late to reverse it. At least, we can refrain from extending these malpractices.
If we are to pay the Opposition Chief Whip, where in the end shall we stop? Why not pay those immediately junior to him who correspond to the Officers of the Household on the Government side? Why should we not remunerate the whole shadow Cabinet, who presumably have opposite functions to those on the Government side? All of this seems to be a step forward on a very dangerous and slippery path, and I hope that the Government will be able to check it here. Although in a year or two they will need this remuneration in both Houses for some faithful followers, I hope they will be able to exorcise these two particular offices from the Bill.
There was something in the speech by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) that appeals to me. I do not know whether that will persuade him to withdraw the Amendment or not, but I think that his arguments might be carried a little further. I look upon the Opposition Chief Whip as a natural political enemy. Indeed, I am not sure that I do not regard all Whips as in that category, although I realise that they have their functions to perform.
The hon. Member drew attention to a point which should be taken into consideration. He said that there is nothing to prevent the Opposition Chief Whip taking directorships. If the Opposition Chief Whip follows the precedent that has been set by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer we may have the curious situation of the holder of that office operating in the Dunlop Rubber Company, on the banking front, on the insurance front and, who knows, next week on the whisky and beer front. He would be able legitimately to argue that he was only following the precedent set by other distinguished members of the Opposition Front Bench.
There is one difference. The Opposition Chief Whip is not remunerated, because he holds no office under the constitution. The Government Chief Whip holds an office, and he is therefore quite rightly paid, and I take no exception to that. But I cannot see any reason whatever why the Opposition Chief Whip should not hold directorships. He is not in a position to influence Government policy.
I appreciate that, but the most important point made by the hon. Member was that the Opposition Chief Whip could follow the example of nearly all the array of ex-Ministers who have obtained very lucrative appointments in the City. If the Opposition Chief Whip reads the speech by the hon. Gentleman, it will be an incitement. The Opposition Chief Whip may say to himself "The ex-Minister of Defence has gone to a company which has contracts with the Ministry that he previously held". There is also the ex-Foreign Secretary. There are many others who are joining boards and obtaining very large sums of money—though I do not know exactly what efficiency they bring to those organisations.
I do not know whether it is within the constitutional possibilities that it might be said to the Opposition Chief Whip that it is absolutely essential that he does not follow the example of those who have given him such a distinguished lead. There is a lot to be said against ex-Ministers going from positions of responsibility and becoming directors of boards in which their specialist knowledge is put at the disposal of private interests. If that were the only point in the Amendment, I should look upon it rather temptingly.
The hon. Member referred to the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is one of the largest and wealthiest landowners in Scotland with his 69,000 acres and more, and it is wrong to give him an extra salary—maybe on the grounds of efficiency, though there is doubt about that. Surely there would not be discussions in the councils of the Conservative Party as to the successor if there were 100 per cent. approval that the present Leader of the Opposition—
I am not responsible for everything that everyone on the Front Bench does. I am not consulted on these occasions. I think, however, that that timber firm will have received very useful and valuable advice from my right hon. Friend.
However, if the hon. Member for Rugby is arguing that the Opposition Chief Whip is not giving value for his money at the present time, there is a case for it. I understand that the Opposition Chief Whip has the job of bringing in people to vote against the Government. In the last Division he managed to get only 35 sheep into the pen. If the Opposition Chief Whip were being paid by results I would be justified, if I were in order, in moving a reduction of his salary already.
What is the performance of the Opposition Chief Whip since the election? We had understood that this was to be an Opposition that would make things very difficult for the Government. I have been surprised. I thought that we would scrape through by majorities of two or three. I looked with some anxiety at which side of the table the Government Whip was standing when the figures were reported. But, in fact, we have had tremendous majorities in the context of the present political situation.
Here, therefore, is an Opposition Chief Whip who is clearly not getting paid by result. I hope that the hon. Member for Rugby will press the Amendment to a Division so that we can see exactly to what extent the Opposition Chief Whip is successful this time.
I hope that it will not be necessary for the Amendment to be pressed to a Division. I hope very much that the Government will accept it. The Government should be concerned with saving public money and this is one way in which they can do it. Another way, of course, would be to stop forthwith the salary of the Foreign Secretary. I hope that that will be done; but I want to address myself strictly to the Amendment.
The Amendment should be accepted by the Government both on the ground of public economy and on constitutional grounds. The ground of public economy is obvious and I want to say something about the constitutional aspect. I am very glad, Dr. King, that you saw fit to call me after the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) because he and I at least hold in common the fact that neither of us has always been in full harmony with the views held by our respective Whips. Indeed, in the last Parliament, I was for more than a year without the benefit of the Whip. The view that the hon. Member and I take of Whips in general is that they are more or less necessary evils.
This does not, however, stop the Whips from being very charming people and I yield to no one in my admiration, affection and regard for the present holder of the appointment of Opposition Chief Whip. But now that Parliamentary salaries have been raised to a reasonable level, to put it mildly, surely it is quite unnecessary to remunerate the Opposition Chief Whip.
On constitutional grounds, I think it regrettable that any Opposition Whip should be placed in the pay of the State. There is too great a tendency—certainly there is too great an appearance of it—for Parliament to become a cosy colloquy between the two Front Benches. For that reason, I warmly support the Amendment and I hope that the Government, on grounds both of constitutional propriety and public economy, will accept it.
I want to take up the remarks made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). We are always getting arguments about remuneration of hon. Members and whether the Opposition Chief Whip should be remunerated by the State or at liberty to accept office outside the public service. The hon. Member made the usual "cracks" about my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) because of the wonderful directorships my right hon. Friend has recently been given. I know that my right hon. Friend will serve these companies well and bring great renown to them.
I can understand the jealousy on the Government benches on this matter. No one is likely to offer the present Chancellor of the Exchequer any employment at all when he leaves office. By the time he has destroyed the country's economy, which I confidently expect him to do in the next six months, no one will want him, even on the Government side.
I object to contentious Measures of this type being discussed on a Friday. I have been a frequent attender of the House of Commons on a Friday and the less Government business done on that day the better pleased I am. It is quite wrong that a Bill of this nature, with extremely contentious Clauses, should be discussed on a Friday, and when there are only 140 hon. Members present. I hope that, if the Committee stage is not concluded today, we shall not see it discussed again on a Friday, but on an earlier day in the week.
The proposal to pay the Opposition Chief Whip has not been recommended by any outside body. No doubt hon. Members have studied the Lawrence Report with care. It contained no recommendation about remuneration of the Opposition Chief Whip, of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords or of the Opposition Chief Whip in another place. The question was held by Sir Geoffrey Lawrence to be outside his terms of reference. He mentioned the argument for and against the proposal, but did not make any recommendations.
I hope that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will tell us whether there have been discussions between the Government and the Opposition on this and any attempt to find agreement regarding remuneration of the Opposition Chief Whip. It is absolutely wrong that this sort of proposal should be made unless there is complete agreement about it between both sides.
This sort of policy has been followed before. During the post-war Labour Government, there were allegations of "gerrymandering" with constituencies. I think that the late Lord Dalton was mixed up in criticism that certain constituencies were being created which gave bias to the Government of the day and damaged the chances of the Opposition winning the subsequent General Election. For example, the university seats were ruled out. However, I shall not follow that line too far, otherwise I shall get out of order. But I quote it as an example of the great damage that can be caused to public life and to Parliament if there is no agreement between the Government and the Opposition on these matters.
I hope that the Chief Secretary will at least say that the matter will be considered and that further stages of the Bill will take place on a day other than Friday so that a greater number of hon. Members are present. If he will give an undertaking of that nature it might be possible to defer a final decision on this Amendment. It is important that an attempt should be made to secure agreement and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will undertake that it will be made.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has done us a service by making clear precisely what is the basis of the Clause. He related the suggested arrangements to the present position, and it is clear that the Bill and the Ministers of the Crown Act—originally the Machinery of Government Bill—have been designed to deal with the situation as it now is. The hon. Gentleman said that he thought that it was rather strange that the present Leader of the Opposition should be paid a salary when he thought that there was no material need for it.
However, the Government are endeavouring to make long-term constitutional arrangements to deal with what is essentially a temporary situation. The Ministers of the Crown Act was designed to allow the employment of a large number of Ministers in a situation in which the Government required the support of all its supporters. The Amendment dealing with variable salaries for certain members of the Government was also clearly designed to introduce some patronage and to emphasise the seniority of some members of the Government.
The payment of a salary to the Opposition Chief Whip is also designed as a temporary expedient. We know that the Government are acutely dependent on the co-operation of the Opposition for getting through their legislation. I do not in any sense mean that the Government are trying to buy over the Opposition by paying the Chief Whip a salary, for that would be ludicrous, but, certainly, the Opposition Chief Whip will have to spend more time in the normal channels of communication between the two sides of the House because of the Government's small majority. The Government have clearly thought it right that, if there is to be this emphasis on channels of communication and far more discussion than usual on the business coming before Parliament, that should be paid for and those services recognised.
But, here again, this is being done because of a temporary situation and it is very dangerous that we should make provisions which will last a long time but which are meant to deal with a situation which is only temporary. The Government will accept that on Second Reading we gave the Bill a fair trial, as we did the Ministers of the Crown Act on Second Reading. We accepted that it would be unfair to deprive the Government, which had been elected by the people, of the tools which they wanted to do the job, but we bitterly resented the fact that these arrangements would last for a long time although the situation was temporary.
However, we are now faced with an entirely new situation and we have the right bitterly to resent the fact that we are having these provisions pushed on to us when, in a very short time, we may be the Government and have to work these proposals in new circumstances. No one can deny that it is more than likely that we will have another General Election in a very short time and, as things are looking, it is more than likely that the Conservative Party will soon be in power again.
For that reason, we have to disregard the facilities and co-operation which we were prepared to give the Government when they wanted these tools to do the job which they wanted to do. It is completely ridiculous that we should now be asked to make these arrangements which will be with us for a very long time, but which are to meet an extremely temporary situation. For that reason, I hope that the Amendment will be accepted.
I hope that the Chief Secretary will accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) and will undertake to think about this matter again between now and Report. The increased remuneration of Members has rather altered the position. I do not want to enter this argument, but I would be lacking in my duty if I did not remind the Committee of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) said during the Committee stage of another Measure:
… the payment of the Opposition Chief Whip is relevant to what I am saying. I admit that my opposite number in the last Parliament thoroughly deserved it".
I think that we would all feel that, if it was a question of personal deserts, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House certainly deserved it.
I suspect that I would have done in this Parliament and I am sure that my successor would have done, also. I am still not sure, however, that it is other than what my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) described as an absurdity, because one just does not know where to stop."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 1777.]
My right hon. Friend formed the view—and no one is better qualified to express a view on this subect—that this was not a very desirable thing to do. That being the feeling of the Opposition of the day, it is a matter on which the Government might have further thoughts.
I always respond to a request to give a matter further thought and I could hold out some hopes of a revision of attitude if it were not for the fact that we have already given the matter considerable thought and that the arguments put forward have been the very arguments particularly considered. Had any hon. or right hon. Gentleman put forward any new argument, that would have been full justification for reserving final judgment, but I am sorry to say that I see no reason for that at this stage.
The cautious attitude which the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) now applies to the Amendment was not reflected in any of the speeches on Second Reading, not even his own. I thought that the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on Second Reading commended itself to the whole House at the time, and it was more in keeping with the 700th anniversary of Parliament than some parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise). I regard this as a Parliamentary and not a party matter. I regard it as an important question when one considers how to get Parliament, one of our most precious institutions, to function as near perfectly and as economically in time as possible—usefully and economically.
On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend said that while this was not part of the Lawrence Committee's recommendation—it could not be, because it was outside the Committee's terms of reference, although it referred to all the arguments in favour of what the Government are now doing, which is near as a committee can go without going outside its remit—he said:
This is not part of the Lawrence recommendations, but I have always held the view that Opposition Leaders and Chief Whips in both Houses render a great service to Parliament as well as to their parties. They provide a direct service to Parliament.
My right hon. Friend went on to describe the very long time—from half-past nine until the House rose every day—during which certainly the Government Chief Whip, but also the Opposition Chief Whip, had to perform duties and he added:
It is perhaps ironical, but it is nevertheless right, that those of us who, like my right hon. Friend in another place—the noble Lord—and myself, did work without a salary for all those years, should now recommend a salary for our successors although they are members of another party."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th December, 1964; Vol. 704, c. 733.]
That is the sort of spirit which ought to imbue this discussion, not the kind of spirit which the hon. Member for Rugby attempted to introduce when he referred to the Reichstag and to patronage. With deference to the hon. Member, how the allegation of Reichstag or patronage can
be justified, when the Government of the day are proposing that the chief executive officer of the Opposition, the most important part of the machine for bringing down the Government, should be paid, passes my imagination.
It occurred to us that it might conceivably be thought to embarrass the Opposition Chief Whip in the most minor degree if he thought that his salary was being paid by a Parliament in which he was not a member of the majority side, and that the Government of the day, therefore, through the exercise of their majority in the House of Commons, could increase or reduce the salary of the Opposition Chief Whip if they were annoyed or—as was the case today, having regard to the number of Opposition Members voting against the Government in the Division—gratified with him. To avoid that we are specially providing that Parliament shall not vote the salary of the Opposition Chief Whip, but that it should be a charge on the Consolidated Fund. So there is nothing that the Government can do to vent their spite on the Opposition Chief Whip.
There is no question of spite. We know that Parliament has to function. We know that it is a vital and important institution, and we want it to function well. We want the Opposition to function well. We cannot call upon a man to devote the whole of his working hours to an institution, day after day, and deny him a reasonable livelihood. It is for that reason that we say that we need the best qualified man on the Opposition side, as well as the best man on the Government side, to fill the position of Chief Whip. To achieve that we want to avoid putting anyone into a situation in which there is a conflict between what he wants to do and what he can do—between serving this Parliament efficiently and earning an adequate livelihood to support his wife and family.
There is no reason why the Amendment should be pressed; indeed, as the hon. Member for Rugby said, I hope that the question will not be put to the vote. There are good reasons for its not being voted upon. I do not want to argue upon the basis of the number of Members who happen to be here at any particular time. I do not regard this as a contentious matter. The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams), who has sent me a courteous note of apology because he is not able to be here to listen to my speech, suggested that this Bill should not be taken on a Friday. This is not a party matter; it is a Parliamentary matter, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral will accept it in that way.
The right hon. and learned Member showed in his previous attitude that he was not affected by party loyalty in the slightest. He took the whole of his 35 right hon. and hon. Friends into the Lobby against the implementation of a principle that had been decided upon and agreed during the time that he was a member of the Cabinet. Notwithstanding that he was a member of the Government who considered and approved of that principle, he opposed it today and took all his 35 supporters into the Lobby with him. That is the sort of spirit that we commend, and I hope that we shall continue in the same spirit. This is not a party issue; it is a Parliamentary issue.
In all the circumstances, I hope that the hon. Member for Rugby will agree to withdraw his Amendment. The point made about economy was well made. It falls on sympathetic ears. Nobody could be more conscious of the need for economy than a person who holds the office of Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Secondly, I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Rugby—and I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman took the same view—that if we go as far as paying a salary to the Opposition Chief Whip, it is essential to know where to stop. I agree that that is always the difficulty. As a representative of the Treasury I can say that this point is always in our mind. If we agree to a certain request there is a tendency to regard it as a precedent, and we then have to consider whether we should not agree to a similar request just next door. In those circumstances, I want to make it clear—and I am grateful for having the opportunity to do so—that this is as far as the Government think the House should go.
I would not have referred to the Friday point or the "minority of 35" point, which have been raised by several speakers, if they had not been remarked upon by the Chief Secretary. It is not for spokesmen of the Opposition to say what is a party issue, and it is not for a Government, who depend upon a majority of three, to put it forward. The obverse of the principle that a majority of one is enough is that if there is a minority it does not matter how small it is; it is enough.
That brings me to the Friday point. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should face the realities of the life we lead here. Everybody knows that unless the occasion is of very great importance we cannot get many hon. Members here on a Friday. That is why Governments should be more careful than this one has been so far not to take too much important business on Fridays. Whether or not we agree that the Amendment is business of permanent and constitutional importance, that the Bill as a whole is cannot be debated.
I entirely agree with the implication of the argument advanced by the Chief Secretary. There are only two arguments on political questions; one is the argument of the "thin end of the wedge" and the other is the argument about the "ladder of progress". When the Leader of the Opposition was first paid there were all sorts of asseverations that we need not worry about the thin end of the wedge, and that the wedge would not go any further. Now the wedge is going a little further, and we are being asked to agree to it by somebody, incidentally, who took it upon himself to say what is and what is not a party issue, and to tell us that this is what is called a question of Parliament. I thought for a moment that he was going to quote from Simon de Montfort to that effect, but he had evidently lost that reference.
This is a Parliamentary matter, in a sense which not all Parliamentary business is, and we might remember—I have not looked this up, but I am sure that somebody will correct me if I am wrong—that the suggestion for the payment of the Leader of the Opposition came from the then Prime Minister. Was there any consultation of the Opposition before this Danaian gift was pressed upon them by the decision of the Government? We ought to know the answer to that On the face of it there is a sort of absurdity about the payment of the Leader of the Opposition. The title itself was originally a joke. It describes the holder of an office which is not part of the Constitution, and there is something slightly but plainly absurd about paying him. It seems to increase the absurdity a great deal if we go on to pay his Chief Whip, and I hope that the Committee will refuse to do so.
I cannot fully respond to what the right hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) has asked me, because I cannot state the full extent of any discussions that might have taken place. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) may be able to supplement my information, but as far as I am concerned no discussions took place relating to the salaries that we are now considering. Even if they did, the Government are responsible for what is done. All I am saying is that the arrangement which was understood to have been arrived at in the last Parliament was that regard would be had to the conclusions of the Lawrence Committee.
That Committee did not recommend precisely what we are now proposing. It could not so recommend. But it did draw our attention to the argument in favour of what we are now proposing. The Government accept responsibility for what they are proposing to the Committee. They take the view that it is right and proper, and that, in order that Parliament should function thoroughly well, these two salaries should be paid. I hope that this view will commend itself to the Committee.