HC Deb 04 June 1909 vol 5 cc1552-61

Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [24th May]: "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution, ' Thatit is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of remuneration and expenses incurred under any Act of the present Session to provide for the establishment of Trade Boards for certain trades.' "

Question again proposed. Debate resumed.




The hon. Member would have a right to continue the Debate if on the previous occasion he had simply moved the adjournment and if it had been accepted. The hon. Member spoke before the adjournment, and therefore his right to continue the Debate is gone.


On page 990 of the Official Report I find I only spoke about ten lines, entirely devoted to the question of adjournment, and I beg humbly to submit as my Motion was agreed to I have the right to speak.


I think the rule is quite definite that if the hon. Member says anything beyond merely moving the adjournment of the Debate that debars him from continuing the Debate on a subsequent occasion. I have a copy of the hon. Member's speech.


I rise to oppose this Motion. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) is that a sum of, I think, fifteen thousand pounds should be voted for this particular work. I think there are two grounds upon which that sum—


Order, order ! The hon. Member made even a longer speech than that of the hon. Member fox the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). His speech occupies almost a column.


May I point out that on that occasion I only spoke to the Motion for adjournment.


The hon. Member seconded the Motion for the adjournment and spoke a column too long.


I desire to state some reasons why this House should have more information on the expenses pro- posed to be incurred by this Resolution. I notice that under Clause 18 of the Trade Boards Bill that "there shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament any expenses, up to an amount sanctioned by the Treasury, which may be incurred with the authority or sanction of the Board of Trade, by Trade Boards or their Committees, in carrying into effect this Act" for certain purposes. It appears that those purposes are very wide, and include quite a number of items. There is not only the payment of new officials for the purpose of carrying out the Bill, which is, in itself, a serious matter, but I notice that all Bills of the present Government involve the establishment of new officials, new salaries, and new expenses. We are rapidly arriving at the stage which has been reached in France, where something approximating to one-fourth of the male population are employed in the service of the Government as officials or employés of one kind or another. That seems to be the tendency of the legislation of the present Government. This Bill is another step. It proposes to authorise the payment of expenses of the official Members who are nominated, and who are not paid officials of the Government, to serve on those trade boards. That is a very wide power, and will involve very considerable expense. The thing goes further. The Bill proposes to authorise the payment of expenses of unofficial members of those trade boards. Under these circumstances it seems to me that the estimate which was made with so much modesty when the President of the Board of Trade proposed this Resolution is very wide of the mark. It is like all these far-reaching proposals, which are made to appear to cost very little when they are made to the House, but behind them is an unlimited range of expenditure and a serious increase of the burden of the taxpayer of this country. It appears to me that we ought to have a much clearer explanation of how this estimate has been arrived at. I am sure that when the careful estimate is laid before the House, and the explanation of the Government is given of what expense is going to be incurred, the cost will be found, even in the first instance, to very largely exceed £15,000, when they add, as the Bill gives power to do, any other trades to those in the schedule.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Churchill)

No, no.


Subject only to a Provisional Order. Very well. A very great increase of the expense will be incurred under the Bill. All the proposals of this Government involve increased expenditure. Although the Government, when they came into office, made promises of economy, every one of their proposals have involved great expenditure, and I, for one, cannot accept as satisfactory or final an estimate of £15,000 which they make for carrying this Bill into effect. I do not think it is treating either the House or the country in a frank manner to bring up a measure of this kind, and not to lay before the House a full statement of what they propose to do and what expenditure will be incurred. We do not even know how many officials will be engaged or what legal expenses will be incurred. Powers are given to prosecute and for enforcing fines for the purpose of carrying this Bill into effect. All this will involve expenditure. To say that the Government, even in the first year, will carry this Bill into effect at a cost of £15,000 is quite absurd. I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in pressing for a much clearer explanation than has yet been given to the House.


I do not want to delay the House, but I must say that I think there is a great deal in what my hon. Friend has said as to the extremely vague character of the commitment which the Government are asking the House to agree to. We are asked to agree that it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of expenses that may be incurred at any future time under this Trade Boards Bill; and I think if hon. Members will look at the Bill they will see that the total amount of these expenses may amount, even in the first year—certainly in the second or third and succeeding years—to a very large amount, that has not in the least been estimated with any sort of pretence to accuracy by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. It does seem to me that the House is asked to agree for all future time to defray out of public money the expenses of a scheme of this magnitude. We ought, at any rate, to have some idea of what the Government thinks will be the total amount of the cost. The expenses which we are asked to make ourselves responsible for at this moment are the expenses apparently of setting up Trade Boards in regard tab four trades which are given in the schedule of the Act, and I understand that it has been suggested by the front bench that these expenses will amount to something like £15,000 a year. Well, it appears to me that that is rather a sanguine estimate, because if one looks at Clause 18 one sees what is indeed obvious, that there will necessarily be an enormous increase of officials of every kind. We are to pay expenses of official members of trade boards and of officers appointed by the Board of Trade under this Act, representative members of trade boards, and members (other than official members) of district trade committees, and the expenses of all kinds of persons carrying out a novel function which has not yet been thoroughly described, and I should like to ask as to Sub-section 1 of Section 18, whether the Treasury has any views as to the amount up to which they will sanction the expenses for which we are asked to make ourselves responsible '? The House will see that the Bill provides that there shall be paid out of the moneys provided by Parliament any expenses which may be incurred "up to the amount sanctioned by the Treasury." Since we are being asked to make ourselves responsible for all these amounts, it seems to me that it will be essential for the House to understand up to what amount the Treasury will sanction expenses of this kind. The Treasury has a clear responsibility put upon it in this matter, and we ought to have an explanation from the Treasury of how they propose to deal with the matter. My real objection to this Resolution as it stands is that we are being asked, and everybody knows that we are being asked, to commit ourselves to expenditure which will certainly increase enormously. The Bill is a vague Bill. It empowers the Board of Trade to include any number of trades subject only to the rather illusory safeguard of laying an order upon the Table.


That is a mistake.


Well, it is in the Bill.


Provisional order machinery has been provided by the Committee.


That, no doubt, makes a difference. But still there is no doubt that it is the whole intention of this Bill that the Board of Trade, in their discretion, may include a trade or any number of trades. It is quite clear that if that policy is carried out the expenses will be very great, and I must say that I do think there is great force in my hon. Friend's contention that we are being asked to make ourselves responsible for all the expenses that may be incurred under this Bill. It seems to me that we are entitled to a clearer estimate than is presented to us by the right hon. Gentleman, and I am fortified in that view by the attitude taken up by no less an authority than the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself in regard to a similar Resolution affecting a Bill of this character, involving expenses which had not been set forth with clearness—viz., the Aliens Expenses Bill. On the 7th of June, 1904, the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to a Resolution exactly of this character, said:— Surely the House will not commit itself to all this mad enterprise, by which bills would be run up to an unknown amount. That merely is what we are doing. We are being asked to back a Bill—to make ourselves responsible for what at this moment is quite clearly and admittedly an unknown amount. If the Trade Boards Bill is to be worked at all it appears to me that it will involve a very large amount indeed, and the House would do well to insist, as my hon Friend suggests, upon a somewhat clearer estimate than the very vague one of £15,000.


The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. G. S. Bowles) has in the course of his remarks reminded the House that similar Resolutions to this are required in a great many Bills; in fact, in regard to a regular class of Bills which assign administrative functions to different departments. He has shown us, in his comments, by the procedure of the past, that the procedure we are now adopting is perfectly usual, and, as everyone knows, a regularly well-recognised procedure adopted by every Government. that bring in Bills of a particular class. He has also shown that the comments that may be made in respect of proposals are also not very much different, whichever party may be answerable for the Bill, and whichever party may be in opposition. I think that the House will realise that it is not possible always, or indeed usually, when a policy is decided upon by Parliament to charge administration on a particular Department, to say exactly what officials will be required or what expenses will be incurred, what 4tationery will be used, or what letters written. It would not be a practical way of doing business if the House were to insist upon having cut-and-dried details of that character. Tf that be true of many Bills it is particularly true of this Anti-Sweating Bill, because here we are embarking upon an unknown and difficult field. We cannot tell how rapid may be our progress. But I am quite sure that if for £12,000 or £15,000 —we hope it will not reach the maximum for at least two years—we can make any effective inroad upon this great evil of sweating, there is no one in this House to-day who would not feel that the expenditure would be justified.

I should like, however, to say that if the field on which we are embarking is difficult and unknown, it is not undefined, because since the Bill passed its second reading the Committee upstairs has made progress with its examination, and an Amendment has been carried which prevents the extension of the Bill to trades not in the schedule, merely by an order which acquires validity by lying on the Table for 30 days. Substituted for this is a provision that in itself gives more Parliamentary control, a much more regular and formal procedure—the Provisional Orders Bill procedure. The hon. Member for Norwood recognises that as a very real limitation. I do not think that the expenses will exceed the amount which has been stated within any reasonable period that we may at present take into our calculation. If it happens in the future it will be by consent of Parliament—by Parliament allowing the principle to be applied to other trades, having seen the successful application to the trades in the schedule. It will only be because Parliament will be able annually to supervise the items presented, and is satisfied that no waste or undue expenditure has been, or is to be, incurred. That is all I desire to say now, because I have already spoken on the subject. I have on previous occasions acknowledged the courtesy of hon. Members opposite in the matter. And the Government have been very anxious to act fully up to the spirit shown on both sides of the House, for really there is very little difference of opinion on the subject. There was no division on the second reading. Therefore, I would venture to appeal to the House, in view of the general feeling, that we should be allowed to get our resolution.

If we do not it is doubtful whether there will be an opportunity between now and the next meeting of the Committee to get the money resolution. Perhaps what has been said will reassure the hon. Member for Norwood, whose hereditary zeal in the cause of public economy commands the utmost respect. I hope now the House will permit us to take our Resolution.


I am somewhat disappointed at the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. He had an opportunity here and now of giving us some idea of the machinery he intends to put forward for the purpose of bringing this very excellent measure into working order. I was a member of the Home Rule Committee—


Home Work Committee. (Laughter.)


I am sorry for the lapse. I was in hopes that he would in a very few words—I did not want anything like a long statement—that in answering the hon. Member for Norwood, he would have given the House some information as to the machinery intended to be set up. We would have liked to know how many offices were to be, so to speak, dotted over the country—we might have had a map with red spots showing their locality—and what staff was to be employed. He could very easily have done that in explaining what the £15,000 was for. Again, it would have been of very great interest to this House to have explained what will happen immediately this Bill has passed. What (he might have told us) are the first definite steps 'that will be taken with this very great evil? How many inspectors will there be appointed What machinery will be required?


I do not think it would be possible to do that with any Bill. But the Bill provides for setting up Trade Boards. Then the Trade Boards have to state whether in these particular trades there is or is not to be a minimum rate of wages or not. After that has been settled there will be an interval before the Board of Trade decides to enforce it. It is quite clear at the outset that we could not give any Estimate of the number of inspectors to be appointed.


I should have liked to know something of the exact machinery; as to how the Trade Boards are going to be brought together in the first instance.


That was all given very fully in Committee.


I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not given us some little idea, some further details. There must be figures and estimates in existence which I think the House is entitled to have, so that it may have some idea of the machinery which is to be set up.


I quite understand that there may be some difficulty in the matter about giving us very exact estimates, and I also understand what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the difficulty of saying what the particular number of officials that have to be set up will be. The only point I wish to ask about is this—and it is a very important point, because all these schemes are likely to be overwhelmed by officialism—I wish to ask for information, not so much perhaps as to the number of officials but as to the scale of salaries. If you begin with low salaries you may be able to multiply the number of your officials and not spend a great amount of money. That is a point upon which the right hon. Gentlemen or the Under-Secretary might give us information. It does not affect the whole system or force the right hon. Gentleman to tell us exactly how the 15,000 was arrived at, but it will enable us to judge of the scale and class of officials he is going to set up, and what their qualifications and status may be. It is not necessary to go into a long account of the whole method by which the £15,000 is to be spent, but it will be very useful for the House, and it will check expenditure by starting with a comparatively low basis of salaries.


I think the Opposition is very usefully employed in discussing this Question. This is not the first occasion on which an esti-

mate of this kind was presented to the House, and on more than one occasion we have had to complain of want of detail. We have been left ignorant of the basis on which this estimate is framed and we do not know the limit or the extent of the probable expenditure that may be involved. I agree the right hon. Gentleman could not be expected to give us precise details of the expenditure, but he must have proceeded on some basis; he would not have stated that £15,000 would satisfy him for the first year unless he made some calculation of some kind, and I do not see why he does not afford us the information upon which he based his estimate.


The House will have full control. It is only asked to authorise the expenditure now. The details will be accounted for in the estimate in the fullest way.


I understand that; but we know what control means afterwards; it does not mean much after all. I suggest we ought to know what the right hon. Gentleman himself knows if he would be kind enough to tell us. I do not know whether the right. hon. Gentleman has the estimate now, or how his officials proceeded in coming to the conclusion they did, but if he can give us information on these matters he would satisfy us that due care has been taken, and that the House will not be asked to commit itself to expenditure in the first year which may be much in excess of £15,000.


I am quite willing to guarantee that.

Question put: "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 15

Division No. 153.] AYES. [12.40 p.m.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Higham, John Sharp Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Hooper, A. G. Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Barran, Rowland Hirst Horniman, Emslie John Redmond, William (Clare)
Brooke, Stopford Jardine, Sir J. Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Rogers, F. E. Newman
Cleland, J. W. Lewis, John Herbert Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Clough, William Maclean, Donald Scars, J. E.
Collins. Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W.) MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.) Seely, Colonel
Crosfield, A. H. M'Callum, John M. Stanley, Hon. A. Lyulph (Cheshire))
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Maddison, Frederick Strachey, Sir Edward
Duckworth, Sir James Marnham, F. J. Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Findlay, Alexander Massie, J. Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Menzies, Walter Summerbell, T.
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Mooney, J. J. Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Hart-Davies, T. Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Haworth, Arthur A. Norton, Capt. Cecil William Thorne, William (West Ham)
Verney, F. W. White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonsh.) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax) Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan) Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—.Mr.
Waterlow, D. S. Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank.
Watt Henry, A. Wodehouse, Lord
Acland-Hood, Rt. H on. Sir Alex. F. Kimber, Sir Henry Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Balcarres, Lora Magnus, Sir Philip Wortley, Rt Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Bowles, G. Stewart Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Younger George
Bull, Sir William James Peel, Hon. W. Robert Wellesley TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir
Carlile, E. Hildred Remnant, James Farquharson F. Banbury and Mr. Gretton.
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)