HC Deb 20 December 1912 vol 45 cc1863-4
8. Sir J. D. REES

asked the Prime Minister whether he will inform the House since when and by virtue of what authority the First Lord of the Treasury has abandoned to the Chancellor of the Exchequer all control over the administrative business of the Treasury; and whether he now holds that in such administrative business the Chancellor of the Exchequer is independent of the First Lord and superior to all the other Lords in the Commission of the Treasury?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

The words used by me on the 16th inst. in answer to the hon. Member were that "the administrative business of the Treasury is under the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer." I did not say that all control has been abandoned by me to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for such is not the fact. The position still remains what it has been for generations past, namely, that the First Lord of the Treasury takes no part in the ordinary administrative work of the Treasury, unless questions arise upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks it right to consult him.


Just one question in order to cure the constitutional delusion. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Gladstone, on the 18th February, 1877, in the House of Commons, speaking with an experience of twelve years as Chancellor of the Exchequer and eleven years as Prime Minister, stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's duties were merely administrative except on the occasion when he stands between the spending department and when the Prime Minister——


The hon. Member is giving information rather than seeking it.


Am I right?


I believe that is the fact.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the answer which Mr. Wilkins made on this very point before the Marconi Committee yesterday?


I am afraid I am not.