§ Resolution reported,
§ "That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of a salary not exceeding five thousand pounds a year to the Minister of Munitions; and of such salaries and remuneration as the Treasury may determine to the secretaries, officers, and servants of the Ministry of Munitions, and of all expenses incurred by the said Ministry, to such amount as may be sanctioned by the Treasury, under any Act of the present Session for establishing, in connection with the present War, a Ministry of Munitions of War; and for other purposes incidental thereto."—[Sir John Simon.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
Sir H. DALZIEL
I gave notice last night that I would ask a question in connection with this matter to-day. I am anxious to know first in regard to the amount stated to be paid to the new Secretary of State, and I want to know whether we are to understand that the new Minister of Munitions is to get the whole of this £5,000? There have been rumours that behind the back of Parliament an arrangement has been made that the amount of remuneration that is fixed for particular offices in the Cabinet has been altered, and that any decision that may be come to by Parliament as to the value of the work performed in a particular office no longer stands good, but that outside that Members of the Cabinet themselves place a value upon the services of any particular office. I think it is a legitimate question to ask whether the House of Commons is to understand, in sanctioning this £5,000 to this new office, that any portion of it is mortgaged by consent at the present time. It is not only a question of this particular case, but it sets a precedent which might give rise to a good deal of discussion in future. It seems to me that it would be ridiculous for the House of Commons to solemnly meet and pass, say, £2,000 for the post of, say, Minister of Education, and then outside by an arrangement with the rest of 192 the Members of the Government for that amount to be raised to something over £4,000 a year. I should be glad, therefore, to know whether we are to understand that the whole of the £5,000 is to go to the Gentleman who is appointed to this office. I hope that the House, and certainly the occupant of the post, will not imagine for a moment that in any observations I am making I am in any way doubting the amount that is being passed, because for my part I think no money could be too much to pay to the new Minister for the responsible work he has in hand.
The Resolution provides for the appointment of two Under-Secretaries. The salary is not mentioned. There is a precedent for the salary of an Under-Secretary of any Department being fixed by the House of Commons, and for my part I think that this fixing of salaries for Under-Secretaries who are practically officials in the House ought to be a matter rather for the House of Commons than for the Treasury; or, if that were not possible, that we should at least have some definition on behalf of the Treasury as to what they propose to pay to this particular post. I observe that provision is made for two Under-Secretaries in this new Department, and that they are both to be Members. I imagine that there is to be one for this House and one for the other House. I would only make the suggestion, with regard to the appointment which we have not yet had announced, the second Under-Secretary, that consideration as far as possible should be given to the appointment of a man with great experience in business, and especially in regard to the making of big contracts. I think that the question of any political ideas which he may have, or of any party to which he may belong, might very well be set aside at the present time. The public outside, in the particular emergency in which we find ourselves, are asking for men of experience in business. I do not know whether the Home Secretary is able to give us the name of the additional Under-Secretary who is to be appointed; but I hope, if he cannot, that he will convey that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman who will make the appointment. I hope that I may have an assurance with regard to these points.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir J. Simon)
I will deal first with the second of the two matters to which my right hon. Friend referred, and which he mentioned at the end of the Debate yesterday. I would 193 point out that it is entirely in accordance with our established practice to provide that the Treasury should fix the salary of Under-Secretaries. The two instances which would, I am told, illustrate that would be the case of the Under-Secretary of the Board of Education and the case of the Under-Secretary of the Local Government Board. Of course, it is quite understood that the Treasury, in fixing such salaries, does not in any way remove the matter from, the survey of the House of Commons, because, of course, these questions come before the House on the necessary Votes to which they refer. My right hon. Friend asked whether an announcement would be made as to the second Under-Secretary in contemplation. I am not authorised to make that announcement, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) will, I am sure, make that announcement at the earliest possible moment. I will certainly make it my business to convey to him the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman has made as to the character of the choice which will be made. There was one other matter which my right hon. Friend mentioned first. He spoke as if this Resolution was authorising and fixing a salary of £5,000 a year. It is not quite so. My right hon. Friend will agree that it is authorising not more than that sum. That, again, is in accordance with practice and in accordance with what is proper; but certainly, if there were any question about it, we should be prepared to contend that whoever undertakes the duties of Minister of Munitions is worth the full salary of one of those on the higher scale of Cabinet payments.
My right hon. Friend asked, "Are we to understand or not that there is some arrangement between the Members of the Cabinet as to sharing the salaries which Parliament allots to them?" Really I am as anxious as anybody that Parliament should have its proper control over everything which properly appertains to it, but if any such arrangement were made it would be purely a domestic matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear," and "No!"] I suggest, moreover, that there is something a little invidious in inquiring into such matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear," and "No!"] After all, if one of us in this House, who happened to be possessed of more worldly goods than another, thought it right to assist another Member not in the same position it would be misunderstanding the real relations 194 which I hope will always exist between the House of Commons and its various Members if that were made a matter for public discussion. I would only say about it that of course the statutory salary which attaches to a given office remains the salary of that office, and is the sum, neither more nor less, which is payable to the holder of that office. He gets neither less nor more, but the way in which he is minded to dispose of that sum, I suggest with every desire to have public discussion on public matters, is not a matter which concerns hon. Members.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I think that the speech we have heard from the Home Secretary is really most extraordinary. Here the House is asked to-day to vote a salary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs of £5,000 a year. The House does not grudge that salary. We know that he is well worth that salary, but in point of fact we know that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to receive that salary, because he is going to divide it with Gentlemen whose salary Parliament has fixed at £2,000. We understand that the Lord Chancellor who receives £10,000 is also to divide his salary with Members of the Cabinet who receive £2,000. If we are to take it as a precedent because a man happens to be possessed of more worldly goods than another man, then it is an argument at once why every Member of Parliament who is a Minister of the Crown and who is in receipt of private income should not receive the salary which Parliament says is his due.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is a matter for the taste of hon. Members, It is not a matter which it would be out of order to discuss on the question whether the salary of £5,000 is necessary or not.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The point raised, I understand, is that, although the House is voting £5,000 a year to the Minister of 195 Munitions, in consequence of some private arrangement he will not receive the whole of that sum, or, having received it, he will pass on a certain amount of it to somebody else. That is a matter which I must leave to the taste of hon. Members to discuss or not. I think it is relevant and in order, as far as the point of Order is concerned.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is no doubt that he will receive the money. The question is what will he do with it when he has received it. That is the point which some hon. Members are anxious to discuss.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
Supposing, for the sake of argument, one of the Ministers receives his £5,000. Has this House any right to debate how he is going to spend it?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
You, Sir, have given your ruling on that point. As to whether it is good taste to raise this question or not, that is for me to decide according to my duty and my responsibility to my Constituents. We are voting public money. We are not voting private means to individual Members of Parliament. We are voting the money of the public for a specific object, and that is a wholly different matter. What is really happening is this: it is a question of the division of the spoil. It is for that reason, and for that reason only, that this extraordinary position has arisen, in which, although Parliament may decide that a Member is worth the full salary to which his office entitles him, he is not to receive that salary, because otherwise unanimity cannot be procured amongst the Coalition Government. The hon. Member who represents the Labour party (Mr. Duncan) seems to be averse to this question being mentioned now. I take it it is for the reason that one of his colleagues who would have received £2,000 a year is going to receive under this pooling arrangement another £2,400 a year. It is all very well for the hon. Member—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that the hon. Member is entitled to discuss the salaries of other Ministers. Strictly speaking, he is entitled to discuss what salary shall be allotted to this particular Minister; but to go into the question of 196 what balance will remain in the pockets of other Ministers after a certain arrangement has been carried out is quite beyond the question before the House.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I am credibly informed that the proportion each member of the Coalition Government will receive was worked out by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. At all events, I wish to place on record my protest against this pooling of salaries. The principle which the Home Secretary has laid down, that a member who happens to be blessed with worldly goods need not take his salary, is one which we must remember in future. If the office of Lord Chancellor is worth not £10,000 a year, but only something over £4,000, we must remember that when we come to reconsider these salaries in time to come. The Home Secretary seems to have forgotten, however, that we have no power to deal with the salaries of Secretaries or Under-Secretaries, as no increase can be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown. If Cabinet Ministers pool their salaries, are the Under-Secretaries also to pool theirs?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
We are voting salaries not only for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but also for the two Under-Secretaries. Is it not therefore in order to ask whether this pooling arrangement is to apply also to these Under-Secretaries?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Their salaries are to be fixed by the Treasury by-and-by. The salary of the Minister of Munitions is being fixed by the House, and that is why the House is now discussing it.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Is not the House granting the authority to the Treasury to fix these salaries? Although Parliament may grant a certain sum, it may be altered because of this private arrangement between Members. I shall not carry the matter to a Division, but I wish to protest strongly against any arrangement of the kind.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I confess that I have listened to this discussion with surprise and pain. There is one question, and only one question, before the House, and that is whether the person to be appointed to this new office is to receive a salary which shall not exceed £5,000 a year. I submit to the House with 197 great confidence that no other consideration is relevant than whether or not the office deserves such a salary. If you are going into the sort of questions which my hon. Friend has raised, as to how a Minister is to dispose of his salary, or what his personal or private means may be, then there is an end to the decency of Parliamentary debate. As long as I am a Minister of the Crown—and I speak not only for myself, but for all my colleagues—I absolutely deny the right of the House of Commons to inquire for a moment how we spend the money which the State votes to us. If any other rule were adopted, or any other practice sanctioned, we should inevitably be led into the discussion of what were the private means of particular persons who accept office in the State. Five thousand pounds a year is a great deal to one person, but to another man it is comparatively little. For my part, I will never consent to hold office in this House under the Crown subject to the condition that the House of Commons, or any other body in this country, shall have the right to inquire how I spend the money which I receive. I have no concern in this matter myself; therefore I can speak quite freely. If my right hon. Friends and colleagues choose, by a domestic arrangement among themselves, to determine how their salaries are to be allocated, I submit that that is not a matter for the House at all. Let us come back to the question whether the holder of this office shall be entitled to receive £5,000 a year. That is the question, and the sole question before the House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I desire to express my great regret that this subject has been raised this afternoon. I have on one or two occasions ventured to make a protest against some action of the Coalition which I thought bad on grounds of public policy. I have made those protests in the interests of freedom of discussion in this House, and I hope the House of Commons will vindicate its right to freedom of discussion by discussing only questions of public policy. I do not go so far as the Prime Minister in excluding the discussion of this matter. I think that it might quite well have been discussed in ordinary times, when we had no great over-mastering interest such as the War. But at the present time the discussions in the House of Commons should be concerned with the policy of the Government in relation to the prosecution of the War, 198 and this domestic matter has no relation whatever to the prosecution of the War. I am glad to see that the Coalition have adopted one of the precepts of the Early Christians. I hope they may emulate their example in another direction, and that this also may be said of the Coalition: that you may know the Members of the Coalition Government by how they love one another.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I hope I am as good a Radical as any man in this House. I hope I am as anxious as any Member of this House to see the House maintain its control over the public purse. I should like the average Member here to try to visualise to himself the impression that this discussion is going to make upon the country. In this morning's paper there are the names of over one hundred dead, and there are thousands of British men who have been wounded, perhaps for life, in the course of the bloody argument in Flanders, yet at a time like this you have hon. Members who have been dignified by the Crown who can come here and raise these petty personal matters. For God's sake, Gentlemen, be Britons!
§ Sir R. COOPER
I cannot allow this occasion to go by without adding a word to express my feelings of horror at the direction in which this new Parliament is very fast; going [HON. MEMBEHS: "It is not a new Parliament!"] It is a new Government. If that is to be the temper in which Members of this House are going to approach every little detail concerning the actions of the Government, I can only express my humble opinion that we are living in a fool's paradise and are burying our heads in the sands. [Interruption.] I confess I do not in the least understand the temper that animates Members of this House at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]
§ Sir R. COOPER
The one purpose to which we have to apply ourselves is how to get through this War, a subject upon which I believe most hon. Members hold optimistic views. For my part, I cannot help expressing the opinion, in the hope that it may make some little impression, that we are faced with the fact at the present time that we are not winning this War, and if this is the manner in which every action of the Government is going to be approached, we ourselves will be doing the utmost that is possible to bring 199 defeat upon this country, in which case it does not matter one iota what salary we are going to pay to the new Minister of Munitions. I hope every Member of this House will—[HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed, agreed."] Unfortunately we are very far from agreement on this matter, judging from the cheers with which the remarks of the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir A. Markham) were met from different parts of the House. As one of the young and humble Members of this House I want to utter a protest against the spirit that has animated it every day Parliament has met since the new Session began. I hope for my part that every Member will unite in giving their fullest support to the present Government, leaving these domestic matters entirely in the background.
§ Question put, and agreed to.