§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £25,000 be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for Grants to assist in the provision of Laboratory Facilities, with a view to the Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Disease."
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Some explanation is due upon this Vote. Probably my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln will be able to answer the question about these laboratories. I notice from the Estimate that in 1914 an Estimate was taken for £50,000 for this particular purpose, but in 1914 no money at all was spent. Now I find that in the Estimates for the current year they have taken half that sum, namely, £25,000. If they were unable to spend any money at all in 1914, it is obvious that they will be in an even worse position to spend money in the current year. For example, we know to what extent the medical service in this country is depleted by the special demands of the War. We know that not only the staff of ordinary practitioners but also the staff of specialists has been largely depleted, and that many pathologists and men capable of dealing with these particular laboratories have been drafted into the ranks of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In consequence of that it seems almost a truism that there will be practically nobody left in this country to run these institutions. In these circumstances it is surely encouraging waste rather than anything else to put £25,000 on the Estimates for the purposes of pathological laboratories. Would it not be better to eliminate the sum altogether? I believe assistance has to be given to the local authorities in the matter. By eliminating the sum no tempta- 1038 tion will be held out to local authorities to act on these schemes, which cannot be usefully prosecuted at the present time. I suggest to the Treasury that this Vote might quite well be omitted.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not think so. I hope to be able to convince my hon. Friend that it is not so. This is a new scheme which was started last year for the first time, and was one of the features of the first Budget statement of the Minister of Munitions. The money, it is true, was not spent last year, because we were not in a position after all to set going the valuable machinery which we hoped to obtain by the expenditure of this money. There is no doubt that local pathological investigation of disease would be of the utmost value in arresting the spread of disease and improving the well-being and the good health of our people, and it is very desirable that this should be started with the least possible delay. Therefore this year, when the Estimates were being prepared, we pointed out to the Local Government Boards for England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the National Insurance Commissioners, all of whom were interested, that it was no use pushing into the Estimates as large a sum as £50,000, which was the first agreed sum, because the possibility of such a sum being spent was very remote; but we were most anxious to make a start because we regarded it as highly desirable, and the desirability had been increased in consequence of diseases resulting from the War, and therefore it would be a great pity to start the negotiations over again which led to the starting of the scheme, and that we ought to take a small Vote in the hope that the medical and expert knowledge necessary for the carrying on of this scheme would be utilised. If we are once again disappointed the money will not be spent, just as it was not spent last year. For the first time in the history of the country, so far as I am aware, the Treasury and all the spending authorities are in harmony in their desire to prevent the expenditure of money for which we do not get a good return, and my hon. Friend need have no doubt that if suitable and satisfactory arrangements for the investigation of disease under this Vote cannot be obtained, once again the money will not be spent.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am rather inclined to agree with the hon. Member opposite 1039 that this is not a very good time to take this money. There are one or two questions I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman. The Vote is for £25,000 for pathological laboratories, and in the footnote it is stated that the money will be allocated, in accordance with a scheme made by the Treasury, to the English, Scottish, and Irish Local Government Boards, for the purpose of distribution by those Departments with the approval of the Treasury. That is all in accordance with the Vote. Then, however, the footnote goes on to say that if the local authority is unwilling to arrange accordingly—and I think it is very possible that the local authority may be unwilling to arrange accordingly under the special circumstances of the year—a share of the Grant can be allocated to the National Insurance Joint Committee for distribution to the insurance committee of that area.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I thought it was quite clear. I did not intend to convey that this was to be given to the insurance committee for any purpose except the same for which it would be given to the Local Government Board. It brings a new element into the matter, and it is a way of giving an increased Grant to insurance committees for this purpose. I do not know whether that is quite right. Under this scheme there is no possibility of the £25,000 being surrendered to the Exchequer. If the Local Government Boards do not take it, which is apparently contemplated by the footnote, it goes to the National Insurance Committee for the same object. I do not think that is quite right. I think it ought to be surrendered.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If, under this scheme, any money is handed to a local department it will not be surrendered to the Treasury, but it will be surrendered if it is not allocated to the local authority. The hon. Baronet is not quite accurate in saying that under no circumstances will this be surrendered. It is only when the money gets into the hands of the local authority for the carrying out of some scheme which has been approved that the money will not be surrendered, but carried on till next year.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I suppose that is because it says a share of the Grant may be allocated to national insurance. There 1040 is no obligation to allocate it, though I do not know that application will not be made by the National Insurance Committee. I understand it will be surrendered unless it is allocated either to the Local Government Board or to the National Insurance Committee. Then I want to know what happens to the £50,000 which was voted last year?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
My right hon. Friend has not told us whether there is any hope at all that any of this money is going to be spent, and I rather want to draw attention to the fact that they took £50,000 last year to spend for this purpose, and did not spend a single penny of it. This year, when they are pleading the need for economy, they take £25,000 for the same purpose. July has come. My right hon. Friend does not pretend to tell us that any progress has been made with negotiations or arrangements for schemes so that he has any hope of their being carried out, and I do not know of any worse way of swelling the Estimates than for the Treasury to sanction Grants for a purpose which may seem to them to be good unless they have some definite prospect that the schemes for which the money is taken are really going to be put in hand during the year. There are various other Estimates to which I could refer, but this seems to give an option of raising the general question. One of the ways in which the Estimates are swelled is by this process of taking money in some vague hope that something may be done during the year with it, and not a penny of it is spent, and sometimes that happens year after year. I should like an assurance that this scheme is really going forward, and that my right hon. Friend has some hope that he is going to spend the money which he takes, otherwise it would be much better to drop it out of the Estimates.
§ Mr. WATT
I regret that I must strenuously oppose this Vote. The memorandum of the Civil Service Estimates contains these words:The sum voted for Pathological laboratories in July, 1914, has not been spent, and a reduced provision of £25,000 has been included for 1915–16.Scotland has been deprived this year of her statutory right under the Small Holdings Act to £185,000. The reason assigned by the Treasury for that deprivation of Scotland is that we have not spent the money in the past and that we have accumulated funds. Again and again the 1041 Scottish Members have appealed to the Treasury and have had interviews with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but without avail. Not a shilling will they give us because we have accumulated funds. The excuse given is that these are war times and economy is the order of the day, and if we cannot spend the money we got before we will get no more. And here, with £50,000 for pathological laboratories in hand, the right hon. Gentleman asks for £25,000.
§ Mr. WATT
I admit that is a little better, but in face of the inability to spend it last year it is quite needless that we should give £25,000 this year. I hope the hon. Baronet, who is on the side of economy, will see what the Committee is doing and will take a course accordingly. I cannot vote for this in face of the fact that my country has been treated so badly in the way of Estimates.
§ Mr. HOGGE
In considering this and other Estimates we are trying to fulfil the injunction given us by the Government to effect economies. We represent the greatest contribution that has been made to economy in any of the Estimates which have been brought before the House of Commons this year. We have suffered the deprivation of £185,000 because the Treasury says we cannot spend the money. I should be prepared to furnish my right hon. Friend with as much proof of our ability to spend that money on that purpose as he has furnished to us of his ability to spend £25,000 on this purpose. Further, if he wants any particular pathological research in connection with national insurance schemes, with which this was originally associated, there is under a previous Grant the opportunity for any amount of pathological research. In all tuberculosis sanatoria there is opportunity for research work in pathology, and it is one of the easiest things possible for pathological experts in these circumstances to conduct similar experiments without the establishment of separate sanatoria. There are in all our big cities universities with large pathological departments and pathological chairs, where they could easily do any particular work which was required. There is therefore no real reason why we should spend this £25,000. I hope we shall divide the House 1042 on this, or that, as an alternative, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the money will himself withdraw the amount and save the Committee the necessity of a Division.
§ Mr. ROCH
It has been a complaint of the Treasury as long as I have been a Member of the House that while they always get encouragement to spend they never get encouragement to save, and I am a little disappointed that on the one occasion when I have seen a request for thrift and any assistance given to the Treasury my right hon. Friend has not consented to withdraw this Estimate; for, as far as I understand, it is not devoted to any practicable scheme at all. It is only flung at large to be spent if anyone is good enough to spend it. I am rather afraid, if that is the case, that an opportunity will be taken to spend it whether the scheme is good or not. I appeal to my right hon. Friend, on this unique occasion in the history of Parliament, when the Department is being appealed to for thrift for the first time almost in his own experience. There is a tide in the affairs of men, and even of my right hon. Friend's career, which, if taken at the flood, would lead him on to fortune. Do not let him neglect such an opportunity.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I regret that I must do my best to persuade the Committee to resist the moving and eloquent appeal just made by the hon. Member (Mr. Roche). When this scheme was started last year, and when it was explained to the House by my right hon. Friend, the present Minister of Munitions, it was welcomed as a scheme that would give quicker diagnosis and better treatment of disease in every part of the country. It was a great disappointment to us that it could not be started last year. We did not spend the £50,000 voted last year. We hope that the Committee will not include or ask us to include a corresponding sum in the Vote this year. It was after consultation between the Departments that it was decided to include a sum of £25,000 this year. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones) will be gratified to know that we are asking the Committee to vote this sum to-day, because we hope and believe that it will be spent in this financial year. Nothing has been said in this Debate by the advocates of economy against the scheme itself. If, however, we are to accept the appeal of hon. Members, the only result would be that the money would not be voted now, and a Supplementary Estimate would have to be made. No more frequent cry is heard from the House of 1043 Commons in these days than that projects are not financed at the right time of the year, when the Estimates are under discussion, and that they have to be included in Supplementary Estimates. The preferable course would be to vote the money now, and on that ground I hope the Committee will vote the sum for which we ask.
§ Colonel YATE
Is there any reason why any balance of this money remaining unspent at the end of the year should not be surrendered to the Treasury?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
It will be surrendered. The only money that is not surrendered to the Treasury is money actually given to the Insurance Committees, or to the local authorities under some scheme that has been approved. If the money has not been granted for some practical, applicable scheme, it will all be surrendered to the Treasury.
§ Mr. MORTON
I think we have a right to complain when we compare what is being done under this Vote with the way in which the small-holding scheme has been treated in Scotland. There, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, a sum of £185,000 has been withdrawn from us on the ground that it could not be spent. The facts were otherwise; we wanted more money and not less. We have been told that some Treasury clerk struck out our £185,000. If that is so, why did not the Treasury clerk strike out this Vote? We are told that they got £50,000 voted last year and did not spend it, and it was given up to the Treasury. That may be equally said about this £25,000 which they are trying to get on this Vote. A great part of this year has already gone, and there is no evidence at all that they are spending the money. All this sort of thing proves that the unfair and unjust way they treat Scotland is not the way they treat other parts of the United Kingdom. We are entitled to ask whether any of this £25,000 has been spent, and what is going to be done with it during the year. It is all very well to say that it may be spent. It is one of those Votes which, in my opinion, is not necessary. You can pick out hundreds of them, amounting to millions of money, that are not wanted as compared with what we want in Scotland in regard to small landowners. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will insist on this £25,000 being withdrawn as an improper use of the 1044 people's money, which it is quite unnecessary to spend at the present time, and because the spending of it is absolutely the reverse to carrying out the promise we have had in regard to economy.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I regret that I cannot accept the reply of the right hon. Gentleman. He speaks of a scheme having been started. What is the scheme? Where is the scheme? Who has devised the scheme? Which is the authority that is to carry out the scheme? He told us nothing about it. Here is a memorandum on the Civil Service Estimates, dated 10th March, and this is now the 15th July. I find in a footnote to this Estimate the following statement:—The money will be allocated in accordance with a scheme made by the Treasury.Has any scheme been made? Three months out of the twelve have gone since that memorandum was penned, and no scheme has been made. I know that the Treasury has been very busy on more important work, and I would not divert them from that more important work to a scheme of this kind. Why should we ask the Treasury to go into this particular scheme when they have to finance a great War? The footnote goes on to say that the money will be allocated to the English, Scottish, and Irish Local Government Boards. That, to some extent, diminishes the point made by some of my hon. Friends that Scotland is being unfairly treated in regard to this matter. I am willing to admit that Scotland is going to get its share under this Vote. The footnote proceeds:The money will be allocated, in accordance with a scheme made by the Treasury, to the English, Scottish and Irish Local Government Boards for the purpose of distribution by those Departments, with the approval of the Treasury, as grants to county councils or sanitary authorities who are willing to provide or arrange for the provision of laboratory facilities with a view to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.These are to be merely Grants to local authorities; that is, to county councils and to town councils. In other words, a large proportion of the expenditure for this purpose will have to be provided by the county councils and the town councils. If this scheme is carried out we are going to provide not only for taking £25,000 out of the Imperial Exchequer, but we are going to impose a burden which will fall upon the local ratepayers.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes, we are going to encourage them to spend money. We are 1045 preaching economy, but practising the other thing. We are encouraging them to practise the other thing, which is tenfold worse. The Memorandum goes on to say:The scheme may provide that if in any area the local authority is unwilling to arrange accordingly, a share of the Grants can be allocated to the National Insurance Joint Committee for distribution to the insurance committee of that area towards the provision of such facilities and aids.Therefore we have an alternative scheme. If the main scheme for the provision of these laboratories is not to be carried out, partly at the expense of the local authorities and partly at the expense of the Exchequer, then this money is to be distributed in a vague and indefinite way, at the instance of the National Insurance Joint Committee, among the various insurance committees throughout the country. Apparently a new scheme. Apparently the first scheme in contemplation has not yet been considered. The Treasury has done nothing. I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board is here, and he may be able to say, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has not been able to say, whether anything has been done. Apparently, as he can say nothing, nothing has been done, and we are left to the risk of having this money spread about by the National Insurance Joint Committee. I think that, after a footnote like that, the Committee is bound to refuse this Vote. We were told only yesterday by the Prime Minister that the Cabinet was setting up a Committee for the purpose of considering retrenchments in the public service. Therefore I think this Committee of Supply may be performing a very useful function and setting a very good example to the Cabinet Committee which is now contemplated by refusing this particular Vote. As the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Roche) said, we have had few opportunities of dealing with these Votes. The reproach is constantly cast at the House of Commons that there are many schemes for the expenditure of money and no protest against expenditure on the part of the Committee of Supply. Now that we have seen the error of our ways, now that instead of pleading for extravagance we are asking for economy, surely it is the least that the Treasury can do—the Treasury which is understood to be the watch-dog of the public purse—to encourage the House of Commons in this admirable spirit of economy. I admit that the Treasury has done something by reducing the Grant from £50,000 to £25,000, and for the very 1046 reasons which have induced the Treasury to insist upon that reduction, it is the duty of this Committee to refuse the Vote altogether, and I should be very glad to join with the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) in dividing the Committee.
§ Mr. KING
If there is a Division I shall vote in favour of economy, especially as a protest against the accusation which was made by the Prime Minister yesterday, when I suggested that Supply was an occasion when Members of all parties would be willing to unite at this time in favour of economy. The Prime Minister put me down by saying that he had no such experience of Members of all parties uniting for economy, and he pointed with a sweeping gesture to the Treasury Bench as the only part of the House where economy was preached That bench is the only part of the House where economy is not preached and where economy is not practised. As a protest against this unfortunate mistake on the part of the Prime Minister, I shall vote in favour of economy if this matter goes to a Division. If the Prime Minister wants to know that he is capable of admitting a mistake—and he is not often—and if he wants to be proved as capable of mistakes, he ought to be sent for now, and he ought to hear the protests made on all sides against this Vote in the interests of economy and the feeble defence put forward from the Treasury Bench. If that were done I am sure that the Prime Minister would insist on the Vote being withdrawn.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I hope the committee, even after the hon. Member, is not going to reject this Vote for the purpose of scoring off the Prime Minister's remark yesterday. I cannot imagine any more false economy than to reject a Vote of this sort. The money spent upon protecting the health of the country is the most productive expenditure that we can possibly have. It brings in money's worth many fold, besides what it brings in the happiness and well-being of the people. It is particularly important that there should be pathological laboratories for improving the treatment of disease throughout the country. To refuse this small sum for that purpose would be quite as foolish as if a farmer were to refuse to call in the veterinary surgeon when his stock were ailing, or if he refused to manure his field, or if we in our own homes were to 1047 say, "This is war time and we cannot afford to call in a doctor to attend to our families." This expenditure is absolutely necessary not only in the interests of the general health of the country, but also because we have to remember that a large number of our soldiers are coming back from the War afflicted with various forms of disease contracted in their heroic struggle. The least we can do is to vote this small sum of money, which is necessary to help in the inquiries that are essential for the protection of their health as well as the protection of the health of the general population. I could have wished that the scheme had been more forward and more definite. However, we have had perfectly sufficient reason given why it has not been possible to do that, and to say that we are unwilling to vote money for this important national purpose would, I think, be a very ill-judged move. I think that if we vote this money the Departments concerned will do their very best to expend it judiciously, and if they do not find it possible to do that they will not waste it, but it will be saved to the country in the long run. I hope, therefore, very sincerely that we shall not be guilty of false economy by refusing this small sum of money.
§ 5.0 P.M.
If there is a Division on this Vote I shall certainly vote in favour of the exclusion of this sum. We have never had any scheme put before us. As far as I can understand, it is not in existence yet. We do not know what kind of pathological research it is intended to undertake. Already we have more than a hundred laboratories throughout the country where pathological research, which takes the form of torturing living animals, is constantly prosecuted. We have in connection with our universities funds provided for this purpose, and under the National Insurance Act a sum of £60,000 or £70,000 is put aside each year for this very purpose. I understand that if the money is not spent in the way indicated in the footnote it will be paid over to the Insurance Commissioners. Why should that be necessary? The insurance funds provide large sums year after year for this purpose. To my mind it is absolute waste at a time like this to dip our hands into the National Treasury for the purpose of handing money over for obscure experiments, most of which are of no use. I have 1048 the strongest possible objection to a large sum of money like this being spent for such a purpose, and I shall certainly vote against it if the proposal goes to a Division.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last on the other side could hardly have listened to the Debate, because he spoke as if there was a scheme or project in existence and as if by refusing to vote this money we would stop that scheme from being carried on. There is no scheme in existence, and last year when we did vote £50,000 the only result was that the £50,000 was surrendered and spent in reduction of debt. That being so, as the year advanced, no scheme was carried out. We were told that a scheme was going to be adopted, but no scheme has been adopted. Surely, then, it would not be out of place, instead of voting £25,000, which may be, and probably would be, surrendered later on, to vote against the money being granted now. If the money is voted now, possibly later on the Government may invent some more or less reasonable excuse to have the money spent, and the result would be that the money would be certain to be spent in a foolish and extravagant manner. In these circumstances I can see no possible course but to vote against this money being granted.
§ Mr. L. JONES
Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I was very heartily in favour of the scheme for setting up these pathological laboratories when it was adumbrated some years ago by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The late Chancellor of the Exchequer never adumbrated any scheme whatsoever—not the details.
§ Mr. L. JONES
The late Chancellor of the Exchequer induced the House to vote £50,000, by describing in eloquent terms the good results which would follow the spending of the money. Personally, I think that it is not at all an unwise expenditure, and if I join in criticism of this Vote, it is that I see no prospect of the money being spent usefully. I have listened to the Debate and to the defence of my right hon. Friend, and I think it would be far better to withdraw the £25,000 and to bring it up again on a Supplementary Estimate, if he has got any definite scheme or plan. He says that he has often heard criticism in this House 1049 on the Supplementary Estimates. I have followed Supply closely in this House since I have entered it, and I have not heard any criticism in the House of Commons on Supplementary Estimates. Ministers of course desire to avoid Supplementary Estimates. Their objection to Supplementary Estimates is well understood. Once they have got their Vote for the year, they do not wish to raise awkward questions, by introducing Supplementary Estimates, and it is Ministers who object to Supplementary Estimates being introduced into the House of Commons. I have listened to the Debate, and it is quite clear that we are no nearer to the consummation of this scheme than we were sixteen months ago, and it would be better for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this Vote and bring up a Supplementary Estimate if it becomes necessary to do so.
§ Mr. MORTON
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is going to reply to these remarks by various hon. Members! I think that we are entitled to a reply, for courtesy sake if for no other reason. Ministers are here, or ought to be here, for the purpose of answering these criticisms and of telling us what is really going on. The hon. Gentleman above the Gangway just now told us what was done with our wounded soldiers who came back to this country, but he did not tell us, what he should have told us, that not a single penny of that £50,000 was spent on one of the wounded soldiers up to the 31st of March this year. To me, that spoiled the speech altogether. We have no evidence that wounded soldiers are going to get this £25,000. In all human probability, if it goes at all, it will go on useless extravagant salaries. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has not replied to the strictures that have been made, and unless he does so I do not think that he is entitled to the Vote.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
One word more. Although I have failed so far to satisfy the critics of the scheme, may I point out that a scheme brought forward last year to the extent of £50,000 was put on exactly the same principle. It was voted by the House of Commons. The House of Commons then said that they were anxious to see the scheme adopted, and that they were willing to vote the money in anticipation. This year, as there has been a delay in perfecting the scheme, we ask instead of voting £50,000 that they should vote £25,000. It is not a question of what is going to be done with the money. What 1050 is going to be done with the money is to invite the co-operation of the local authorities, or failing them, the National Insurance Committees in the investigation of disease in the localities. I can understand the objection of a thorough going enemy of research, who describes himself as an anti-vivisectionist, or an anti-pathologist. That is perfectly rational. But I am bound to say that I cannot understand the objection of hon. Members who approve of a scheme of pathological research being made, and are delaying the starting of this very valuable reform.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The £50,000 was granted by the House of Commons with a view to starting these pathological laboratories. Much to our disappointment, owing to our failure to get a successful scheme, as the co-operation of the local authorities was refused, we were not able to start it last year, but all the more likely are we to start it this year. Almost every Member of this Committee—those who like the scheme and those who do not like the scheme—who has spoken up to the present is opposed to this Vote. I still remain in hope that this money, or a substantial portion of it, would be spent on a purpose which I regard as very essential to the well-being of the community, but I cannot disregard the criticism of all those Members who have urged that this Vote should be withdrawn, and if that attitude is persisted in, the result is that, however forward we get in our negotiations with the Insurance Commissioners and the local authorities, and however desirable the scheme, we shall not be able to make any progress until next February, when the House will have an opportunity of considering it probably on Supplementary Estimates. If the Committee choose to take that responsibility, and prefer that this Vote should be postponed, then I have no choice but most reluctantly to ask permission to withdraw the Vote.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.