HC Deb 06 July 1915 vol 73 cc338-42

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question again proposed, "That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, of expenses incurred and allowances payable in pursuance of any Act of the present Session to provide for the compilation of a National Register."


An appeal has been made by the hon. Gentleman behind me just now to make a statement to the Committee as to the expenses of the Bill, though this is not really the time to do so. It is done on the Clause itself, for which this Resolution is only the authorisation. It is really a formal stage which authorises the expenditure connected with the registration to be made out of the public Exchequer instead of out of the local rates. The suggestion in the Bill is that the cost should be divided between the Treasury and the Local Government Board, the scale to be settled between those Departments. The expenditure usually incurred in connection with the Census is somewhere about £200,000, spread over a period of four years, and is mainly expended in paying collectors and distributors; whereas in this case there is every reason to believe that a great part of the work, if not the whole of it, will be done by voluntary agency. Therefore the cost will be infinitely less than what has been customary in the case of the Census. All that we ask to-night is that the Committee will authorise the moneys to be paid out of the Exchequer, and when he Committee stage is reached Members can then discuss the whole of the question of the scale and whether or not the payments shall be made in the manner suggested and authorised by this Resolution.


I beg to move, at the end, to add the words, "Provided that the expenses for the year 1915–16 shall not exceed the sum of £50,000 for England and Wales, £25,000 for Scotland, and £12,000 for Ireland."

The right hon. Gentleman has not given us any indication as to how much less the cost of the register will be than the cost of taking the Census. I think it only fair that we should put into the Resolution some limit beyond which we ought not to go. The right hon. Gentleman has just told us that the total cost of the Census is £200,000, spread over four years. We got the particulars exactly yesterday at Question Time. I asked the right hon. Gentleman what was the total cost of the Census in England and Wales in 1911, and in reply he said that the cost of the Census in the year 1911–12 was approximately £147,000. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Mr. Watt) got in his supplementary and asked:— Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the National Registration Bill will cost as much as the Census of 1911? Mr. W. Long: I should think it will cost infinitely less. Therefore I propose that he shall have a limit of £50,000, which, at any rate, is not infinitely less than £147,000. Then I asked the same question of the Secretary for Scotland, and he replied:— The total cost of the Census of 1911 in Scotland was £37,243. My hon. Friend (Mr. Watt) intervened once more, and asked:— Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the expense of the National Registration Bill will be smaller in amount compared with the Census of 1911? Mr. McKinnon Wood: I should hope it would be considerably smaller. Consequently, I gave them a limit of £25,000, which is considerably smaller than £37,000, but even that is, perhaps, a little too generous. I asked the same question of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he replied as follows:— Mr. Birrell: The expenditure involved in the making of the Census of Ireland in 1911 was £18,946 4s. 10d. My hon. Friend (Mr. Watt) again asked a supplementary question:— Mr. Watt: Can the right hon. Gentleman say how that compares with the expense to be incurred in connection with the National Registration Bill, and will he say whether the expense of the latter is to be considerably or infinitely less? Mr. Birrell: I shall be very much disappointed if it is not considerably less."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, July 5, col. 19.] Consequently, I have given a limit of £12,000 in the case of Ireland. I consider I have been very generous indeed in all these limits, and if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the limit of even a few thousand pounds more than this, I should be willing to fall in with any such bargain. But until we hear what he has to say I beg leave to move.


I hope my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. Under the Resolution the money that is to be expended has to be provided by the Treasury. I certainly should not expect anyone to go to the Treasury and say that the object of the limit proposed by the House was that we should expend anything like £25,000 for Scotland or that £12,000 should be spent in Ireland. I am not sure that £50,000 would be sufficient in England. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Long) thinks it will. I beg my hon. Friend to leave it to the Treasury without any suggestion of limits, which I think, both at one end and the other, are quite mistaken. Perhaps later we shall have an opportunity of giving him a more exact account of what the cost will be. We do not yet know definitely what it will be. We shall be glad to tell him later, and I can assure him I shall exercise the utmost economy.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out "£25,000," and to insert instead thereof "£10,000."

I am very much impressed by the reasoning of my right hon. Friend, especially in regard to Scotland and Ireland. He has suggested, and I think with absolute fairness, that my hon. Friend's limit in regard to Scotland is much too ample and generous, and this in a still greater degree applies in the case of Ireland. In these circumstances, having received that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think we are bound to bring forward an Amendment to my hon. Friend's Amendment, and I propose, that for £25,000 in the case of Scotland, £10,000 be substituted, and for £12,000 in the case of Ireland, £2,000 be substituted.

I think I can justify up to the hilt these figures. My hon. Friend, in the course of his very interesting speech, quoted the figures of the Census of 1911. In the Census of 1911, so far as my recollection serves me, the figures for Scotland were one-fifth of those relating to England and in relation to Ireland it was in somewhat the same proportion. In these circumstances the figure of £10,000 for Scotland seems to me to be quite adequate and to be a much better approximation to the case than that mentioned in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. We know this Bill is not to apply to Ireland at all. The Clause applying it to Ireland is merely a make-believe Clause, and under these circumstances it is quite reasonable to allow £2,000 for Ireland. There may be a little notepaper used by the Lord Lieutenant, and sundry other things may be done at Dublin Castle, but the authorities of Ireland will never be asked to do anything in the matter.

Question proposed, "That the words 'twenty-five thousand pounds' stand part of the proposed Amendment."


I infinitely prefer the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle) to that moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. Clough), but I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle) should even suggest that this Committee should vote any sum for expenditure in Ireland which he was convinced already will not be incurred. I confess to a feeling of disappointment that we have had no information given to us or any reason advanced beyond that of giving a blank cheque to the Chancellor of the Exchequer why we should encourage my hon Friends to withdraw either of their Amendments. It is certainly an unfortunate thing at a time like this, when every official of the Government is urging on the country the necessity for the exercise of thrift, that the Government should be responsible for a proposal which will really allow them to spend any amount of public money which the Treasury will think fit to allow. I certainly suggest that we ought not to allow a Motion of this kind to pass unless we have a much clearer indication of the sort and amount of expenditure that is proposed.

It being after Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Two minutes after Eleven o'clock.